Cathay Pacific reports impressive growth in May 2023

A Cathay Pacific A321 in flight over the city.
Photo Credit: Swire Media Ltd Expiry date: Perpetual

Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for May 2023, showcasing impressive progress as it continues to rebuild flight connectivity at the Hong Kong international aviation hub.

The airline has experienced substantial growth in both passenger traffic and cargo shipments, demonstrating its resilience and recovery in a challenging global aviation landscape.

Passenger Statistics and Growth

In May 2023, Cathay Pacific carried a remarkable total of 1,417,906 passengers, marking an astounding increase of 2,345% compared to the same period last year.

This surge in passenger numbers can be attributed to the gradual resumption of travel activities as pandemic restrictions ease globally.

The revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) also witnessed a substantial rise of 1,664% year on year, indicating a significant boost in passenger demand.

Interior view of Cathay Pacific Hong Kong airport lounge 'The Deck'
The Deck – Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific

Moreover, the passenger load factor experienced a noteworthy increase of 24.7 percentage points, reaching an impressive 85.1%. The airline’s capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), expanded by an impressive 1,152% year on year.


Stellar growth in 2023 so far

Throughout the first five months of 2023, Cathay Pacific has witnessed a substantial growth trend.

The number of passengers carried during this period skyrocketed by 3,281%, surpassing the growth in capacity (1,786%) and revenue passenger kilometres (3,062%) compared to the same period in 2022.

These statistics demonstrate the airline’s remarkable recovery and its ability to adapt to changing market dynamics effectively.

Cargo Performance and Outlook

Cathay Pacific’s cargo business also experienced positive growth in May 2023. The airline transported a total of 109,834 tonnes of cargo, showcasing an increase of 18.8% compared to May 2022.

It’s important to note that during the previous year, cargo capacity was significantly reduced due to stricter aircrew quarantine measures. However, in May 2023, the cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) increased by a notable 73.4% year on year.

Photo Credit: Swire Media

Despite the overall positive growth, the cargo load factor experienced a slight decrease of 14.2 percentage points, settling at 61.5%.

This decrease can be attributed to the increased capacity in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), which expanded by 113.6% year on year.

Over the first five months of 2023, the tonnage of cargo carried by Cathay Pacific increased by 28.2% compared to the same period in 2022. Additionally, the capacity and revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) witnessed substantial growth rates of 154.6% and 107.2% respectively.

Travel Business Highlights

Lavinia Lau, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer of Cathay Pacific, expressed satisfaction with the airline’s travel business performance during May. The company continued to gradually increase passenger flight capacity, adding more frequencies to popular destinations such as the United States, South Asia, and Japan.

Although there was a temporary reduction in demand following the Easter holiday peak, it rebounded towards the end of May, especially during the Buddha’s Birthday holiday weekend.

Notably, travel to Japan and Thailand gained significant popularity during this period. Additionally, transit traffic through the Hong Kong hub showcased encouraging numbers, with considerable demand to and from the Chinese Mainland.

Cargo Business Insights

In terms of the cargo business, Cathay Pacific experienced relatively stable market volume in May 2023. The demand for high-tech products and shipments of new consumer goods remained lower than expected due to elevated inventory levels.

However, the e-commerce market remained relatively active, and the transportation of aircraft engines showed improvement as passenger services resumed.

Looking Ahead

Cathay Pacific anticipates a promising peak summer season with a potential boost from students returning to Hong Kong after the school term ends.

The airline has also announced plans to rebuild its network, including the resumption of the seasonal Christchurch service from December 16, 2023, to February 29, 2024, with three return flights per week.

Furthermore, service resumptions to Johannesburg and Chicago are scheduled for August and October 2023, respectively.

Recognition and Future Goals

Cathay Pacific takes clear pride in its commitment to providing an excellent customer experience. Recently, the airline received the prestigious “World’s Best Inflight Entertainment” award at the 2023 World Airline Awards organized by Skytrax.

This recognition reflects the airline’s dedication to delivering outstanding inflight entertainment options to its passengers.

Cathay Pacific also achieved a notable eighth position overall in the World’s Best Airlines category. Additionally, the airline ranked in the Top 10 on

These achievements demonstrate the resilience and determination of the Cathay Pacific team to provide a premium customer experience.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 takes off from LAX Airport.
Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As for the cargo sector, the upcoming summer months are traditionally slower, and significant demand is not expected until the end of the third quarter.

Cathay Pacific foresees more intense competition as cargo demand lags behind supply. To address this, the airline will focus on rebuilding capacity by expanding its widebody passenger network and optimizing freighter schedules accordingly.

Additional freighter capacity will be allocated to Toronto and Miami to meet growing market demands.

Cathay Pacific’s overall performance has rebounded strongly, leading to improvements in cash flow. In 2022, the Group generated overall operating cash, and this trend has continued into 2023.

Furthermore, a one-off non-cash gain of approximately HK$1.9 billion is expected to be recognized in the first half of 2023 as a result of a deemed disposal of the interest in Air China Limited.

These positive developments, along with the anticipated consolidated profit for the first half of 2023, demonstrate the airline’s resilience and commitment to success.


Cathay Pacific has demonstrated significant growth and resilience in May 2023, with impressive increases in both passenger traffic and cargo shipments.

The airline’s commitment to rebuilding flight connectivity and providing excellent customer experiences has yielded positive results.

As travel restrictions continue to ease, Cathay Pacific remains dedicated to meeting the evolving demands of the aviation industry and exceeding customer expectations.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 7 Min Read
7 Min Read
You Might Also Enjoy