After months of sometimes violent protests that have gripped Hong Kong, the latest traffic figures from Cathay Pacific make for grim but unsurprising reading. The airline group, that includes Cathay Pacific and regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon witnessed an 11.3 per cent drop in passenger numbers in August compared to the same month last year.
Passenger load factor – the average of how full many seats were filled on each plane – dropped by over 7 percentage points to 79.9 per cent, while the amount of cargo carried also fell by 14 per cent. Cathay Pacific’s new chief commercial officer, Ronald Lam described August as an “incredibly challenging month” and said September would be just as bad.
“Overall tourist arrivals into the city were nearly half of what they usually are in what is normally a strong summer holiday month, and this has significantly affected the performance of our airlines,” Lam explained.
“Our inbound Hong Kong traffic was down 38% while outbound was down 12% year-on-year, and we don’t anticipate September being any less difficult,” he continued.
Cathay has been particularly hit by a significant drop in visitor numbers from mainland China – hardly surprising given the rhetoric coming out of Beijing. The airline plans to cut capacity in the short term, although Lam says he remains optimistic in the medium term.
“Customers can look forward to the imminent launch of new First Class and Business Class cabin products as well as a brand new dining proposition to be rolled out in our Economy cabins. Of course, already in place on all cabins on long-haul flights is a greatly expanded inflight entertainment offering,” Lam said of Cathay’s continuing investments.
Cathay Pacific posted a profit of $293 million USD in March after suffering two years of heavy losses. The airline group has been through a painful turnaround programme but recent problems could derail efforts to keep Cathay in the black.