Cathay Pacific released strong February 2023 traffic figures and hailed the “positive momentum” at the start of the year, driven by an increase in mainland China movements.
In the figures, released on 16 March 2023, Cathay Pacific reported they had carried over 1.1 million passengers in February this year. This is a huge increase of 3,467% compared to passengers carried in February 2022.
The Hong Kong-based carrier’s Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs – a measure of passenger demand) increased, year-on-year, by 4,720%.
The airline increased capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), by 2,562% year-on-year. Load factor also increased by 38.6 percentage points to 86.2%.
As the airline moves into 2023, it’s seeing an increase in all indicators of positive results for passenger travel. Comparing January and February 2023 to 2022, the carrier increased the number of passengers carried by 3,737%, increased capacity by 2,071% and increased RPKs by 4,227%.
Cathay Pacific’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Lavinia Lau said: “We are pleased to see that our positive start to 2023 continued in February.”
Lau cited strong travel demand across the company’s entire network, but especially to the Chinese Mainland. This is a result of the easing of COVID restrictions in China, Hong Kong, Macau and wider east Asia.
Travel demand also increased with the first Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year Holidays for almost three without significant COVID restrictions.
“Passenger numbers further improved after the Lunar New Year holidays; we carried more than 1.1 million passengers last month averaging almost 40,000 per day,” Lau added.
“Travel demand overall remained strong across our network, especially traffic to and from the Chinese Mainland via the Hong Kong hub.”
“We also saw strong demand on our Taipei and Kaohsiung routes in the last week of February after the lifting of all travel restrictions on Hong Kong and Macau residents.”
Uplift in Cargo
In a change in trend, the airline also saw an increase in cargo demand. Comapred to February 2022, it carried over 100 thousand tonnes of cargo in February 2023, a year-on-year increase of 59.6%.
For February’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs), the airline saw an increase in 153.9% year-on-year. However, the airline reported a decrease in cargo load factor to 66.7%.
The cargo load factor decreased by 13.7 percentage points to 66.7%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), increased by 206.1% year-on-year.
The airline cited the increase as due to the removal of stricter aircrew quarantine measures, seen prior to 2023.
On the matter of cargo, Lau said: “… tonnage grew 9% in February compared to January, reflecting the gradual recovery in demand following the Lunar New Year holidays.”
The cargo operations saw “steady” inbound demand from the Americas, Europe and other destinations in Asia and the Pacific. With a focus on the carrier’s specialist solutions – Cathay Fresh and Cathay Pharma.
Cathay’s cargo offering saw some changes in February with the launch of a rebrand to operations, known as Cathay Cargo. It was also the first operator to use the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) Logistics Park in Dongguan, linking air and sea cargo freight movements.
“The change aligns with the Cathay Group’s overarching ambition to ‘Move Beyond’, and reinforces our cargo business’s commitment to offering leading-edge services to our customers,” Lau said.
Focusing on the coming year, the airline has reported “good progress” on continuing to re-open and rebuilding its network since the pandemic.
Lau added: “By the end of March, the Cathay Group will be operating approximately 50% of pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity, covering more than 70 destinations.”
The airline is increasing its schedule to previously key markets, such as the United Kingdom and Japan. Cathay Pacific expects to operate five return flights a day in April to London. Japan will see an increase in 120 return flights per week in the summer peak periods.
As airlines such as Cathay Pacific continue to shake off the restrictions imposed since the Pandemic, and demand remains significant, we can expect to see a continued and exponential network increase across Asia and beyond.