Cathay Pacific cancels flights over Chinese New Year amid crew shortages 

Omid Behzadpour /

Cathay Pacific Airways has announced that it has been forced to cut a dozen flights a day on average until the end of February 2024. The drastic move comes as the Hong Kong-based carrier takes action to avoid multiple cancellations and other disruptions as the busy Chinese New Year travel season approaches, while it battles ongoing crew shortages. 

This latest move follows Cathay’s decision to cancel flights over the peak Christmas and New Year travel period because “its operations were stretched,” the carrier said in a statement. 

“Cathay has consolidated on average six flight pairs (12 sectors) per day for the rest of January and February, focusing on routes with multiple daily frequencies, where possible,” the airline said.  

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the airline canceled almost 70 flights during the Christmas and New Year holidays, with the airline citing “higher-than-expected pilot absences caused by seasonal illness”. 

On January 7, 2024, at least 10 departing and nine arriving flights were canceled by the carrier. Affected destinations included Taipei (TPE), Kaohsiung (KHH), Singapore (SIN), Shanghai (PVG), and Dubai (DXB). 

The airline has announced that it has reviewed its flight schedules and has also increased the number of pilots on standby to avoid disruption in the coming weeks. 

“We have taken measures to ensure Cathay Pacific’s flights will operate normally for the coming Chinese New Year travel peak,” said Cathay Group CEO Ronald Lam Siu-por. “Hong Kong people traveling out and visitors coming to Hong Kong can be reassured that their travel will go ahead as planned.” 

In November 2023, Cathay Pacific announced it intended to recruit 5,000 additional employees throughout 2024, having cut staff numbers drastically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cathay Pacific expects to end the first six months of 2023 profitably, its first six-month profit since H2 2021
EQRoy /

In December 2023, the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), which represents some of its pilots, said Cathay’s passenger operations had just 58% of the pilots it had on its role before the pandemic. 

The association’s Chairman, Paul Weatherill, said that the airline had set itself “unrealistic targets” to resume flight capacity. 

“There’s no real ability for the system to absorb these changes, they knock on and end up canceling more than just one flight,” he said. 

In a briefing to industry analysts in November 2023, the airline Cathay revealed its goal to rebuild its cargo and passenger capacities to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024. In October 2023, passenger capacity was at 62% of 2019 levels, and cargo operations were at 79%. 

Cathay was one of the world’s major airlines hardest hit by the pandemic due to the early imposition and late lifting of travel restrictions in mainland China – one of the airline’s most important markets. 

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