Cathay Passenger Traffic Just 1% Usual After ‘Drastic’ Drop

(Bloomberg) -- Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. expects passenger numbers to stay below 1,000 a day this month compared with the usual 100,000 as it operates at just 3% of normal capacity.

The Hong Kong-based airline said it is impossible to predict when demand will improve as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is intensifying. One day this week, Cathay and Cathay Dragon carried only 302 passengers.

The company’s dire outlook came as it released figures for March that showed “drastic decreases” in passengers. The airline and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 311,128 passengers last month, down 90% from March 2019. Revenue passenger kilometers tumbled 84.3% and passenger load factor dropped to 49.3%. For the quarter, passengers were down 52% from a year earlier.

“Passenger demand dropped rapidly and tremendously in late March following the introduction of arrival restrictions on all non-resident visitors to Hong Kong, including transit passengers,” Cathay’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement. “On each of the last two days of March we carried fewer than 1,000 passengers only.”

In April 2019, Cathay and Cathay Dragon carried 3.1 million passengers.

Cathay’s shares rose 0.9% in Hong Kong on Thursday, taking their advance from a March 23 low to 18%. They are still down 22% this year though.

“In April and May, we will be operating a bare skeleton passenger flight schedule,” Lam said. “We are doing everything we can to reduce our expenditure and preserve cash for the coming months.”

The airline said earlier this week it will no longer impose fuel surcharges on most flights from May 1. Cathay was already struggling from the impact pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year, and has warned that it faces a substantial loss in the first half of this year.

Cathay made an unaudited loss of more than HK$2 billion ($258 million) in February alone due to disruption from the coronavirus.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.