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Cathay Pacific Group releases combined traffic figures for September 2020

19 October 2020

The Cathay Pacific Group today released its combined traffic figures for September 2020 that continued to reflect the airlines’ substantial capacity reductions in response to significantly reduced demand as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place in Hong Kong and other markets amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 47,061 passengers last month, a decrease of 98.1% compared to September 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell 97% year-on-year. Passenger load factor dropped by 48.8 percentage points to 24.9%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 91%. In the first nine months of 2020, the number of passengers carried dropped by 83.2% against a 74.8% decrease in capacity and an 81% decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2019.

The two airlines carried 109,453 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 36.6% compared to September 2019. The month’s revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) fell 30.4% year-on-year. The cargo and mail load factor increased by 9.8 percentage points to 75.3%, while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 39.5%. In the first nine months of 2020, the tonnage fell by 33.9% against a 34.9% drop in capacity and a 26.9% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2019.


Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “September rounded off what has been an incredibly difficult summer, traditionally the peak passenger travel season of the year. We continued to operate minimal capacity – just 9% in September – a marginal month-on-month increase from about 8% in August. This was despite the resumption of some services, notably Cebu and Perth. Daily passenger numbers remained low, averaging just 1,568, while load factor sat at about 25%.

“In September, we continued to rely heavily on student traffic to the UK. We launched three charter services from Hong Kong to London to cater to demand from transit passengers from the Chinese mainland, and another from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv for transit passengers from Shanghai. Demand from the Chinese mainland has gradually increased since the lifting of the ban in Hong Kong of ex-Chinese mainland transit travel in mid-August. Overall, transit passengers accounted for about 33% of our total traffic in September.


“Cargo demand has begun to ramp up across the network as we entered into the traditional peak season. Tonnage carried improved about 7% month-on-month, though this was still substantially below pre-COVID-19 levels. Our freighter fleet schedule has been stepped up and is now operating at peak season levels, with services notably increased on Trans-Pacific routes. We also operated a greater number of cargo-only passenger flights compared to August – 525 pairs in total – and continued to charter Air Hong Kong flights to complement our freighter and passenger schedules.

“In September, we began uplifting mail for Hongkong Post in our passenger cabins using our reconfigured Boeing 777-300ER “preighters”, which have had some of the Economy Class seats removed to provide additional cargo space. This aircraft was also deployed to run a new, temporary service to Pittsburgh serving the seasonal upsurge in demand.”


The 2020 summer season has been an especially difficult one for the entire aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has since downgraded its full-year 2020 passenger traffic forecast to reflect a drop of 66% and does not anticipate passenger travel will return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024. Meanwhile, cargo demand remains depressed and is only recovering at a slower-than-expected pace due to capacity constraints.

Lam said: “After carefully studying numerous scenarios facing the industry and our airlines, we expect we will be operating approximately 10% of our pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity for the rest of 2020 and under 50% for overall 2021.

“Among the multiple scenarios studied, this one is already the most optimistic that we can responsibly adopt at this moment. We assume we will be operating well below a quarter of pre-pandemic capacity in the first half of next year but will see a recovery in the second half of the year – only assuming the vaccines currently under development prove to be effective and are widely adopted in our key markets by summer 2021.

 2020VS SEP 2019  SEP 2020YTD  
RPK (000)    
 – Chinese mainland9,481-98.2%779,314-88.1%
 – North East Asia5,276-99.5%2,024,924-83.5%
 – South East Asia17,796-98.4%2,367,748-81.9%
– South Asia, Middle East  & Africa-100.0%1,449,874-81.4%
 – South West Pacific22,819-98.1%3,176,943-73.1%
 – North America88,558-96.4%5,585,296-79.8%
 – Europe157,768-94.3%4,051,129-82.4%
RPK Total (000)301,698-97.0%19,435,228-81.0%
Passengers carried47,061-98.1%4,514,910-83.2%
Cargo and mail revenue tonne km (000)668,278-30.4%6,077,220-26.9%
Cargo and mail carried (000kg)109,453-36.6%980,228-33.9%
Number of flights1,283-80.3%19,292-68.6%
 2020VS SEP 2019  SEP 2020YTD  
ASK (000)    
 – Chinese mainland41,256-95.4%1,350,587-84.5%
 – North East Asia34,534-97.9%3,071,749-80.3%
 – South East Asia91,329-94.5%3,960,314-75.3%
– South Asia, Middle East  & Africa-100.0%2,278,996-75.8%
 – South West Pacific153,259-89.4%4,761,427-65.7%
 – North America516,497-85.7%9,304,983-72.0%
 – Europe377,102-88.1%6,373,892-75.9%
ASK Total (000)1,213,977-91.0%31,101,948-74.8%
Passenger load factor24.9%-48.8pt62.5%-20.3pt
Available cargo/mail tonne km (000)887,471-39.5%8,542,575-34.9%
Cargo and mail load factor75.3%9.8pt71.1%7.8pt
ATK (000)1,003,011-63.5%11,499,933-53.7%

Source and photo: Cathay

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