Cathay publishes traffic figures for November, prepares for 2020 challenges

The Cathay Pacific Group today released combined Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon traffic figures for December 2019 that show decreases in the number of passengers carried and the amount of cargo and mail uplifted compared to the same month in 2018.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 2,994,830 passengers last month – a decline of 3.6% compared to December 2018. Passenger load factor increased by 1.2 percentage points to 85%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometers (ASKs), decreased by 1.3%. For 2019 as a whole, the number of passengers carried declined by 0.7% against a 5.1% increase in capacity as compared to 2018.

The two airlines carried 177,561 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 2.9% compared to the same month last year. The cargo and mail load factor declined by 1.3 percentage points to 66.4%. Capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs), was down by 3.8% while cargo and mail revenue freight tonne kilometers (RFTKs) dropped by 5.7%. For 2019 as a whole, the tonnage fell by 6.1% against a 0.3% reduction in capacity and a 6.7% decrease in RFTKs as compared to 2018.

Weak Hong Kong and outbound travel

Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “Demand for travel into Hong Kong continued to be weak in December with our inbound passenger traffic seeing a year-on-year decline of 46% – unchanged from November. The sentiment for travel into Hong Kong was particularly weak on our regional routes such as mainland China, Taiwan and Japan. On the brighter side, our long-haul routes performed well with better load factors. Outbound traffic, meanwhile, was down 4% – a further improvement over the previous few months, but still significantly below what we would expect for a peak holiday month.

“Given the overall weak performance of both our inbound and outbound traffic, we remained heavily focused and reliant upon lower-yield transit traffic via Hong Kong, which grew by 15% compared to the same time in 2018. Overall, our passenger load factor in December improved by 1.2 percentage points from last year to 85%, partly due to a 1.3% reduction in capacity.

A challenging year

“2019 was an incredibly challenging year for both the Cathay Pacific Group and Hong Kong. Our full-year load factor remained above 82% despite being 1.8 percentage points lower compared with 2018. Intense competition, particularly during the non-peak period, along with our greater reliance on transit traffic have continued to place significant pressure on yield.

“Looking ahead, advance bookings for Chinese New Year appear promising with the boost in transit passengers; however, we continue to see a significant shortfall for the period after Chinese New Year, especially from inbound traffic.

Strong performances from mainland China and Southwest Pacific routes

“On the cargo side, our overall volume in December was on par with November and we enjoyed good all-round support from and to all the regions in our network all the way through to the final week of the year. Our mainland China and Southwest Pacific routes were the outstanding performers, recording both month-on-month and year-on-year improvement in sales. Our focus on specialized cargo solutions continued to offer positives; we carried more mail and Fresh LIFT cargo, backed by strong demand for e-commerce and seasonal produce towards the end of the year. We also celebrated our first ever freighter flight to South America, carrying seasonal cherries from Chile back to Asia.

Challenges continue into 2020

“As previously reported, our second-half performance will be significantly below that of the first half. We anticipate 2020 will continue to present us with a highly challenging operating environment. We remain agile in our operations, ensuring our capacity is best aligned with demand. As announced last month, we are reluctantly reducing our overall seat capacity in 2020 by 1.4% year-on-year as opposed to our original plan of 3.1% growth in light of the immediate commercial challenges we are facing.

“Our commitment to our customers remains resolute. In 2020, we look forward to taking delivery of the first of our modern Airbus A321neo single-aisle aircraft and continuing to prepare for our upcoming Boeing 777-9 aircraft. Customers can look forward to a further enhanced experience on the ground and in the air, as new aircraft are a great platform to showcase the best of what we offer. We will also continue to invest in our digital transformation to enable customers to enjoy a seamless and personalized journey, giving them more reasons to choose to fly with us.”