Cathay Pacific won’t regain pre-pandemic capacity until “late 2024”

A Cathay Pacific plane on the tarmac at Singapore-Changi Airport on September 13, 2022 (AFP/Archives/Roslan RAHMAN)

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said on Monday that it does not expect to regain its passenger capacity before the Covid-19 pandemic before the end of 2024.

Hong Kong imposed some of the toughest health restrictions in the world during the pandemic and only dropped mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals in September. These restrictions have heavily impacted the economy of what was once one of Asia’s cities most connected to the rest of the world.

Cathay Pacific is “on track to achieve its goal of returning to one-third of its pre-pandemic capacity levels on its passenger flights by the end of 2022,” Group CEO Augustus Tang said in a statement.

If that target is met, it would represent a doubling of capacity from August, the month before the lifting of more than two years of mandatory quarantine policy.

Returning to full capacity will still take time. The company hopes to be operating at around 70% “by the end of 2023, with a goal of returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024”.

The number of flights to Hong Kong has increased since the government ended mandatory quarantine in September, but the airport is far behind its competitors.

Hong Kong airport handled 755,000 passengers in October, about 13% of what it handled before the pandemic. Rival financial center Singapore, for its part, welcomed 3.42 million passengers in September, a return to 63% of its pre-pandemic level.

Singapore Airlines, which already plans to reach 76% capacity by the end of the year, carried 1.46 million people in September, compared to 265,845 passengers for Cathay Pacific.

While travelers to Hong Kong no longer need to quarantine, they are banned from bars and restaurants for the first three days and must undergo several PCR tests.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory, even outside, and various social distancing measures are maintained. Hong Kong authorities have repeated that they will only gradually reopen the city and have rejected calls for the lifting of remaining restrictions.

© 2022 AFP

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