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Cathay focuses on regional freighter flights as long-haul remains constrained

By Damian Brett

Cathay Pacific Cargo has ramped up its focus on regional services as its long-haul operations are still constrained by flight crew quarantine requirements.

The Hong Kong-based airline in February saw its cargo traffic decline by 53.3% to 240.5m in cargo tonne kms as its long-haul freighter operations were limited.

In January, the carrier axed freighter flights to Europe and reduced to capacity to several other long-haul destinations as the Hong Kong government introduced stricter crew quarantine requirements.

In February, the airline operated around 25% of its pre-Covid cargo flight capacity.

The airline said that stricter requirements for cross-border trucking between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong, as well as the surge in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong also reduced demand from its home market.

“Furthermore, the anticipated market recovery from Asia to long-haul destinations was slower than expected post-Chinese New Year,” Cathay Pacific added.

Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said that the cargo business had been focusing on regional operations.

“In order to mitigate these headwinds, our teams focused on regional routes and we saw encouraging demand on these services,” Lam said.

“Of particular note was the demand for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) shipments, which was strong throughout the month and continues to be so. As of the end of February, we have delivered over 13m RAT kits to Hong Kong.

“We will continue to support the Government’s anti-pandemic efforts with the delivery of important medical supplies.”

“We are re-deploying freighters to North Asia and the Indian sub-continent to maximise opportunities within the region while our ability to operate long-haul services remains constrained.

“Nevertheless, we are continually looking to increase our long-haul cargo flight capacity where possible, and we have resumed freighter services into Atlanta, Houston and Miami in the US.

“Our total Hong Kong export volumes will likely remain under pressure throughout the month. Despite this, overall demand from other markets is strengthening and we will look to capture as much of this opportunity as possible.”

The carrier has yet to confirm when it plans to restart operations to Europe.

Earlier this month, Cathay Pacific Group reported its 2021 results, confirming it faced an attributable loss of HK$5.5bn for last year and is looking to increase “cargo capacity as much as practicable”.

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