Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has released its traffic figures for December 2023. The numbers show that the carrier is in a vastly stronger position than it was in the same month a year previously, indicating that the airline remains on a strong path to recovery.
The Cathay group of airlines, comprising Cathay Pacific and HK Express, carried a total of 1,779,457 passengers in December 2023, a mighty increase of 122.1% compared with December 2022. The month’s revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) increased 89.3% year on year. Passenger load factor decreased by two percentage points to 81.2%, while available seat kilometers (ASKs) increased by 94% year on year.
Across the entire year of 2023, the airline reached the milestone of carrying more than 20 million passengers. This compares very favorably with figures for 2022, during which it carried around three million passengers. In 2023, the number of passengers carried increased by 541.5% against a 326.8% increase in ASKs and a 396.8% increase in RPKs, as compared with 2022.
“December traditionally marks the peak travel season and we saw many customers take advantage of the extended Christmas holiday to travel, resulting in strong demand for travel services throughout the month,” said Cathay Pacific’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Lavinia Lau. “There was an overwhelming demand for travel to short-haul leisure destinations, with Japan and Southeast Asia being especially popular.”
“We saw good demand for travel from the United States and the Southwest Pacific in the first half of December. The demand for travel from the United Kingdom was particularly strong as it coincided with the peak period for international students returning to Hong Kong. Furthermore, our seasonal Christchurch service, which resumed last month, was popular not only among Hong Kong customers but also stimulated transit traffic to and from the Philippines and the United Kingdom,” she added.
The airline carried 128,546 tonnes of cargo in December 2023, an increase of 20.7% compared with December 2022. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometers (RFTKs) increased 14.1% year on year. The cargo load factor decreased by 6.5% to 60.8%, while available cargo tonne kilometers (AFTKs) increased by 26.3% year on year. In the full year of 2023, the tonnage increased by 19.6% against a 59.7% increase in AFTKs and a 40.3% increase in RFTKs, as compared with 2022.
“Our cargo business performed well in December, and finished on a high, primarily driven by the strong year-end demand for e-commerce products,” said Lau. “Additionally, there was increased demand for perishable goods for the holiday season. December also saw a pickup in our Live Animal solutions with significant numbers of racehorses being moved across our network in support of the Hong Kong international race events. In total, we carried almost 1.4 million tonnes of air cargo throughout 2023, compared with about 1.2 million tonnes in 2022, which was an encouraging result.”
Outlook for 2024
During the pandemic, Cathay Pacific was one of those hit hardest amongst the world’s leading airlines, in addition to which it had to withstand the protracted travel restrictions in the Chinese air travel market. Nevertheless, Lau remains confident about the company’s immediate future and the continuance of its remarkable recovery: “As a Group, we made significant progress in our rebuild journey in 2023. As we look ahead to 2024, we remain committed to working towards fully rebuilding our flights, to deliver the high-quality and reliable services that Hong Kong deserves. Despite the ongoing challenges that are affecting the entire global aviation industry, we are prepared to face them, as always, with determination.”
Lau added: “The Lunar New Year is approaching, and this will mark another peak travel period when people celebrate and visit loved ones. We anticipate strong demand from late January until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. Looking further ahead, we are also delighted to announce that our popular Barcelona service will resume in June, and we look forward to welcoming customers onboard.
“In terms of cargo, we expect demand to steadily pick up from the second half of the month with the e-commerce demand on the Americas and European lanes remaining solid and local demand strengthening up to the Lunar New Year holidays.”