Cathay Pacific’s Share Buyback Signals Hong Kong Aviation Recovery

Closeup of a Cathay Pacific A350 taking off
Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific

Last week, Cathay Pacific Airways announced its plan to repurchase the remaining 50 percent of preference shares held by the Hong Kong government. This move signals a significant milestone in the airline group’s post-pandemic recovery.

This analysis explores the government’s response, highlighting the positive impact on Hong Kong’s international aviation hub status.

Cathay Pacific Government Investment

In 2020, the government recognized the aviation industry’s challenges due to COVID-19. Consequently, the Hong Kong government invested HK$27.3 billion (US$3.5 billion) in Cathay Group.

This included preference shares (HK$19.5 billion) and a bridging loan (HK$7.8 billion). The financial measure sought to safeguard Hong Kong’s position as a leading aviation hub.

The government has welcomed Cathay Group’s buyback plan, expressing gratitude to its appointed observers for their contributions to the airline’s board.

This repurchase signifies Cathay Group’s improved financial health and confidence in its future.

Hong Kong’s Aviation Hub on the Rise Again

The government emphasizes the importance of strong air service providers for Hong Kong’s aviation hub status.

Their investment in Cathay Group proved crucial during the pandemic, and the airline’s operational and financial situation has demonstrably improved.

Impressive Traffic Growth at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)

The government analysis highlights the significant growth in air traffic at HKIA since travel restrictions eased.

Passenger traffic surged by over 260% year-on-year, reaching 45.2 million between April 2023 and March 2024.

Flight movements also saw a substantial increase of over 90% to 310,000 during the same period.

Furthermore, visitor arrivals surpassed 18 million in the first five months of 2024. Both passenger traffic and flight movements are expected to fully recover by year-end, reaching pre-pandemic levels.

HKIA: A Global Leader in Cargo Transportation

Hong Kong maintains its dominance in air cargo, with HKIA handling 4.5 million tonnes in 2023. This solidifies its position as the world’s busiest cargo airport for 13 out of the past 14 years, benefiting from the booming e-commerce sector.

Exterior of Cathay Cargo Terminal building.
Photo Credit: Cathay Cargo

Looking Forward: Strategic Hub Expansion

The Hong Kong government remains committed to strengthening the city’s position as an international aviation hub.

This includes ongoing communication with local airlines to strategically plan flight routes that align with Hong Kong’s economic and social development goals.

Cathay Pacific Recent Network Expansions

The analysis cites specific examples of Cathay Group’s recent route expansions to Xi’an, Qingdao, and Riyadh, demonstrating the airline’s alignment with government initiatives.

A Cathay Pacific aircraft is refuelled with SAF.
Photo Credits: Cathay Pacific

Leveraging the “Air Silk Road” and Three-Runway System

The government recognizes the growth potential associated with China’s “Air Silk Road” initiative and the newly completed Three-Runway System at HKIA.

Their strategy focuses on bolstering existing major routes and exploring new possibilities along the Belt and Road, targeting destinations in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia.

Additionally, the Airport Authority will actively encourage airlines to launch new flights and collaborate on promotional efforts to attract more leisure and business travelers to Hong Kong.


Cathay Pacific’s buyback signifies a robust recovery within Hong Kong’s aviation sector.

This, coupled with the government’s proactive measures and strategic planning, paints a positive picture for the future of Hong Kong as a leading international aviation hub.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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