Cathay Pacific is bracing itself for a year that could be even worse after a terrible 2021 in which capacity was down 61.8 percent compared to 2019, the Hong Kong-based airline is bracing itself for a year that could be even worse.
Cathay is up against two major headwinds: airlines around the world are anticipating a slow recovery in Asia, as many markets in the region remain largely closed in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and Hong Kong authorities are being especially strict, tightening COVID-19 protocols for incoming flight crews and requiring all crew to quarantine at a designated hotel for three days, even if they are vaccinated, test negative for COVID-19, and have no symptoms.
Hong Kong officials openly blamed a returning Cathay pilot for introducing the omicron version of COVID-19 to the island city, prompting the new crew rules to be implemented at the start of the year.
In a Jan. 24 update, Cathay CEO Augustus Tang warned, “These actions will have a major impact on our passenger and cargo flight capacity.” According to him, passenger capacity in January was only about 2% of pre-pandemic levels.
Cathay Pacific may be confined to operating even less capacity in 2022 than it was in 2021 unless Hong Kong, which earlier this month barred all flights from eight countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, eases both passenger admission criteria and staff quarantine rules.
“Unfortunately, the capacity reduction would have an impact on Cathay Pacific’s business,” Tang added, “and we have been examining the potential impact of these actions on our operations and cost base.”
Cathay Pacific announced earlier this month that its January schedule will be “skeleton.”
“Until conditions improve, we are doing everything in our power to maximize capacity,” Tang said, adding: “We will strive to maintain passenger connectivity with key destinations, although at reduced frequencies …
While passenger flights to the Chinese mainland will remain largely unaffected, capacity to the rest of the Cathay Pacific network will see a reduction to ensure continued compliance with the latest government measures.
We will also leverage the capacity provided by our low-cost subsidiary HK Express to maintain connectivity with a number of regional destinations.”