For Cathay Pacific, the worst may be yet to come

Nirender Lehar

Following a year of never-ending force majeures, from Hong Kong unrest, to coronavirus outbreak in its main market China, to then a global COVID-19 pandemics, Cathay Pacific says it has not reached the rock bottom and expects even worse days ahead. 

Amidst the global COVID-19 outbreak and tightening travel restrictions, Cathay Pacific operated just 10% of flights in March 2020, the airline revealed on April 16. However, the Hong Kong-based carrier expects the upcoming months could be even worse, warning that its passenger flights could be down to just 1%. 

Cathay Pacific to operate bare skeleton schedule

While the airline saw a drastic fall across all of its operations, including cargo and mail services, passenger traffic was hit the worst in March 2020. Cathay Pacific tried to mitigate the drop by reinstating 13 flights for inbound passengers ‒  something it had achieved for a brief moment in the third week of March. 

However, towards the end of the month, it was hit by yet another blow, when  Hong Kong introduced arrival restrictions on all non-resident visitors, including passengers arriving on transit flights. On each of the last two days of March, Cathay Pacific’s passenger numbers fell to under 1,000 passengers per day, which constitutes approximately 1% of its usual passenger traffic. 

The airline sees no signs of impending situation improvement. While the airline is trying to appease passengers by giving out perks such as free and unlimited ticket changes for a year, no situation improvement currently reflects in advanced bookings, according to the group’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam. 

“We still do not see an improvement in our advance passenger bookings and we are anticipating average daily passenger numbers to remain below 1,000 throughout April,” Lam said, as outlined in the company’s statement. “On a typical day we would normally expect to carry some 100,000 passengers; earlier this week, this had dropped to 302 only on one day.”

“We are doing everything we can to reduce our expenditure and preserve cash for the coming months,” according to Lam. “We are exploring all options to ensure that the Cathay Pacific Group rides out this current storm, and is able to compete vigorously and to help Hong Kong recover when we emerge from this crisis.” 

Two Cathay Pacific airliners allegedly collide on ground

With passenger numbers on a free fall, Cathay Pacific has been parking excessive aircraft. Of a fleet of 155 aircraft it had as of December 31, 2019, around two-thirds are currently grounded, data indicates. 

However, parking planes in dozens comes with its own challenges, on top of which it appears Cathay has endured new problems. Pictures circulating on social media indicate that two airliners belonging to the airline have been involved in a collision on the ground. 

The images posted on social media show the damaged sharklet of an Airbus A350XWB in Cathay’s colors. Another aircraft seen in the pictures is the Boeing 777-300, registration number B-KPD. This could mean that the collision might have taken place at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), as this is the last place where the Boeing 777 was seen, after arriving from Sydney, Australia, on April 13, 2020. 

The incident would not come as a surprise, keeping in mind how crowded airport spaces on the ground are becoming. A similar incident happened in Dubai International Airport (DXB), where British Airways A350XWB collided with a parked Emirates Boeing 777 on April 14, 2020.


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