In a leaked memo, Cathay Pacific chief executive Augustus Tang Kin-wing told staffers than one day last week the Hong Kong-based airline only carried 582 passengers with a combined load factor of just 18.3 per cent. The huge slump in passenger numbers represents a 99.4 per cent drop compared to the 100,000 passengers that Cathay Pacific would normally expect to carry in a single day.
A couple of weeks ago, the airline said it would slash capacity by 96 per cent for both April and May but has already revised that up to 97 per cent. Instead of operating three-times-weekly to 12 international destinations, Cathay will now only serve cities like London, Los Angeles and Sydney twice per week.
Tang said Cathay’s fleet was all but “virtually grounded” while “a timeline for a recovery in our customer demand still remains impossible to predict” according to the memo sighted by SCMP.
The vast majority of the airline’s 32,000 strong workforce have already taken up to three weeks of voluntary unpaid leave but Tang warns that further leave options will need to be urgently explored. In other regions, Cathay has stood down or temporarily furloughed staff, while its Vancouver cabin crew has been earmarked for closure with the loss of nearly 150 jobs.
Several weeks ago, Cathay witnessed a small surge in new passenger bookings as Hong Kongers fled their international residences to return home as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in many countries. Since then, international travel has all but dried up apart from an ongoing repatriation effort.
The Hong Kong government recently banned all foreigners from transiting through the territory to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, piling even more pressure on Cathay’s dwindling fortunes.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.