MIAMI – Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) will reduce long and short-haul passenger flights to Hong Kong next month to prepare for a potential aircrew shortage over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

According to the Post, about a third of inbound flights to the city operated under the airline’s “closed loop” arrangement in December will be changed to cargo-only flights. Flights between mainland China and Australia are unaffected because they are not part of the closed-loop system.

The airline told various news outlets that it was consolidating its passenger flight schedules for next month, including “canceling a number of flights to Hong Kong,” citing operational and travel restrictions in the city as the cause of said consolidation. Outbound flights are likely to resume as usual next month, with approximately 620 scheduled.

Cathay Pacific passenger flights into Hong Kong are currently manned entirely by volunteers due to the city’s rigorous quarantine regulations. They are confined to their hotel rooms between flights for the three-week stints and must quarantine for up to 14 days after coming home.

Cathay Pacific Airbus 350-1000 B-LXA. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

What Can Booked Travelers Expect

The airline said it was rebooking affected customers on other flights or routing them through airports where it would still be operating in December to guarantee they could keep their hotel quarantine bookings on the same day.

Travelers traveling into Hong Kong must book a hotel for 14 or 21 days in advance, and the city’s 11,500 rooms are sometimes sold out months in advance, making last-minute adjustments difficult.

Since the outbreak, Cathay has received a HK$39bn (US$5bn) government bailout, lost 5,900 employees, closed its regional sister airline, and seen a 99 percent drop in daily passenger flow.

As with many airlines post-pandemic, CX remains bolstered by strong air cargo traffic and cost-cutting measures, which enabled it “come close to” breaking even between July and October. The airline said it is still projected to report a significant deficit in 2021.

Featured image: Cathay Pacific Airbus 350-1000 B-LXB. Photo: Ervin Eslami/Airways