Cathay Pacific Has Only Recovered 21% Of Pre-Pandemic Passenger Capacity

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, had a total of 400,909 passengers in October 2021, an increase of 424.5% compared to the same period in 2021. Nonetheless, the airline is still deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that were imposed for a very long time. Compared to October 2019, Cathay carried 85.4% fewer travelers last month. In terms of capacity, the airline operated 21% of its pre-pandemic levels last month.

Slow recovery

The travel sentiment in Hong Kong has slowly been recovering following the Hong Kong SAR Government’s lifting of quarantine requirements for arrivals at the end of September. Ronald Lam, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer at Cathay Pacific, said that travel sentiment out of Hong Kong improved significantly in October.


“Demand for the first half of October mainly stemmed from flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Seoul. We then saw a surge in demand for travel to Japan when its quarantine requirements for arrivals were relaxed on 11 October,” Lam added.

Cathay Pacific increased its regional flight frequencies, in particular to destinations in Japan. The carrier also resumed services to Madrid, Milan, Bengaluru, Dubai, and Kathmandu last month.

Overall, Cathay Pacific operated 21% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity levels in October; passenger numbers increased to nearly 13,000 per day last month, up from over 8,800 in September. The average load factor onboard Cathay’s flights was 74%. Throughout the year, Cathay Pacific has carried 1.47 million passengers.

A Cathay Pacific aircraft comes in to land at Hong Kong International Airport on August 11, 2021.

Photo: Getty Images.

Cargo has a better recovery

In terms of cargo, Cathay Pacific operated about 63% of its pre-pandemic flight capacity last month. The airline is facing global economic headwinds and anti-pandemic measures on the Chinese Mainland, which continue to impact trade flows and production.

Additionally, as passenger services resume, cargo-only flights employing passenger jetliners are being impacted. Cathay operated about 10% less cargo capacity compared with the same time last year, as the company flew fewer cargo-only passenger services, it said in a statement.

A Cathay Pacific aircraft at Sydney's Kingsford Smith International airport on August 25, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.

Photo: Getty Images.

What’s next for Cathay Pacific?

Looking ahead for the remainder of the year, Cathay Pacific is looking to add about 3,000 passenger flights from October until the end of December. The company is on track to achieve its target of operating up to one-third of pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity levels by the end of 2022.

Regarding the cargo segment, Lam said,

“While the peak season this year will be subdued when compared to the unprecedented peak last year, we still expect to see increased tonnage driven by seasonal e-commerce events as well as the start of the perishables season in the Southern Hemisphere. As the belly capacity provided by our passenger flights increases over the months ahead, we are extending the reach of our network and increasing the choice of schedules for our air cargo customers.”

By the end of 2023, Cathay Pacific and HK Express anticipate they will be operating around 70% of pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity. They expect to fully bounce back from the pandemic by the end of 2024, ahead of the Asia-Pacific traffic forecast issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

What do you think about Cathay Pacific results so far? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-367(ER) B-KPM

    Cathay Pacific

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hong Kong International Airport

    Year Founded:


    Augustus Tang

    China (Special Administrative Region)


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