Home » Aviation, Breaking News » Cathay Pacific’s overall traffic down but transit route, special cargo shine

Combined Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon traffic figures for December and for the whole of 2019 show decreases in the volume of passengers and cargo carried compared to the corresponding periods of 2018, according to a recent release from Cathay Pacific group.

The sister airlines carried a total of 2,994,830 passengers last month—a decline of 3.6% compared to December 2018. Passenger load factor increased by 1.2 percentage points to 85%, while capacity decreased by 1.3%.

For 2019 as a whole, the number of passengers carried declined by 0.7% against a 5.1% increase in capacity as compared to 2018.

The two airlines carried 177,561 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 2.9% compared to the same month last year. The cargo and mail load factor declined by 1.3 percentage points to 66.4%. Capacity was down by 3.8% while cargo and mail revenue freight tonne kilometers (RFTKs) dropped by 5.7%.

For 2019 as a whole, the tonnage fell by 6.1% against a 0.3% reduction in capacity and a 6.7% decrease in RFTKs as compared to 2018.

Demand for travel into Hong Kong continued to be weak in December with inbound passenger traffic seeing a year-on-year decline of 46%—unchanged from November, Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial Officer Ronald Lam said.

“The sentiment for travel into Hong Kong was particularly weak on our regional routes such as mainland China, Taiwan and Japan.”

Added Lam: “On the brighter side, our long-haul routes performed well with better load factors. Outbound traffic, meanwhile, was down 4%—a further improvement over the previous few months, but still significantly below what we would expect for a peak holiday month.”

With the overall weak performance of its inbound and outbound traffic, Cathay Pacific has remained heavily focused and reliant upon lower-yield transit traffic via Hong Kong, which grew by 15% compared to the same time in 2018.

Overall, passenger load factor in December improved by 1.2 percentage points from last year to 85%, partly due to a 1.3% reduction in capacity.

“2019 was an incredibly challenging year for both the Cathay Pacific Group and Hong Kong. Our full-year load factor remained above 82% despite being 1.8 percentage points lower compared with 2018. Intense competition, particularly during the non-peak period, along with our greater reliance on transit traffic, [has] continued to place significant pressure on yield,” said Lam.

“Looking ahead, advance bookings for Chinese New Year appear promising with the boost in transit passengers; however, we continue to see a significant shortfall for the period after Chinese New Year, especially from inbound traffic.”

On the cargo side, overall volume in December was on par with November “and we enjoyed good all-round support from and to all the regions in our network all the way through to the final week of the year,” said Lam.

The group’s mainland China and Southwest Pacific routes were the outstanding performers, recording both month-on-month and year-on-year improvement in sales.

“Our focus on specialised cargo solutions continued to offer positives; we carried more mail and Fresh LIFT cargo, backed by strong demand for e-commerce and seasonal produce towards the end of the year. We also celebrated our first ever freighter flight to South America, carrying seasonal cherries from Chile back to Asia,” said Lam.

With the group’s second-half performance expected to be significantly below that of the first half, “we anticipate 2020 will continue to present us with a highly challenging operating environment,” the executive predicted.

“We remain agile in our operations, ensuring our capacity is best aligned with demand. As announced last month, we are reluctantly reducing our overall seat capacity in 2020 by 1.4% year-on-year as opposed to our original plan of 3.1% growth in light of the immediate commercial challenges we are facing.”

Photo courtesy of Cathay Pacific

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