MIAMI – Cathay Pacific (CX) axes flights to select airports in some of the world’s busiest cities, including London, New York, and Washington DC. As with many airlines around the globe, such a move would help the carrier stay afloat as the pandemic continues to tread on.
In total, seven loss-making routes have been scrapped from the airline’s schedule. According to scmp.com, an internal company memo refers to the move as permanent. The cuts also include Gatwick, Newark, Maldives, Brussels, and Dublin.
A Slow Recovery ahead
A scmp.com source, however, said that while the axed routes would certainly not return next year, once global travel returns to normal, they could be reinstated. This could be three years ahead, as industry officials have predicted that normal air travel levels will not return until 2024, with long-haul routes being the last to recover.
Cathay is still flying to London Heathrow (LHR), and JFK in New York, which are the two busiest airports in those cities. Still, some of the routes were among the first to be temporarily halted during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, except Dublin, which was suspended in the midst of last year’s anti-government protests.
“As we have previously announced, we expect to operate well under 25 percent of 2019 passenger capacity in the first half of 2021 and below 50 percent for the entire year,” a Cathay spokeswoman told the news outlet. “After careful consideration, we believe it is unlikely we will operate flight services to these destinations in the near future. We remain in a very dynamic situation and we will continue to review our flight network.”
Cathay Pacific and the Pandemic
In September, CX announced it would place 40% of its fleet in long-term storage. The move came as the passenger load factor at the airline had fallen below 20% for the first time this year, representing a 60% drop compared to August 2019. In turn, Additionally, available Seat Kilometres (ASK), which measures capacity, dropped by 92% for August.
The airline also recorded a loss of US$1.12bn for the six months ending June 30 due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same month, the airline’s CEO, Augustus Tang Kin-wing, said the restructuring of routes would be high on the agenda for its strategic review, which led to the elimination of over 6,000 jobs in October, as well as the closure of its regional brand Cathay Dragon (KA).
Cathay Pacific was the recipient of a US$5bn government-led bailout in early June, after record losses of US$1.2bn in Q1 and Q2 2020. These measures helped prevent major layoffs despite the current economic climate.
However, a source close to the airline said at the time that “in principle, the restructuring should be done in one go. But the carrier cannot rule out future cuts if the pandemic is still not under control or vaccine productions are delayed.”
Hong Kong’s Flag Carrier
Cathay Pacific, with its headquarters and main hub located at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), is the flag carrier of Hong Kong. Prior to the pandemic, the airline’s operations and branches, including codeshares and joint ventures, had scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 190 destinations in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The carrier owns a fleet consisting of the Airbus A330, Airbus A350, and Boeing 777 wide-body aircraft. Two versions of the Boeing 747 are handled by Cathay Pacific Cargo. Its now-defunct wholly-owned subsidiary KA flew to 44 destinations in the Asia-Pacific region at the height of its profitability, also from its Hong Kong base.
Cathay Pacific does plan to resume flying to most of KA’s regional destinations. On just 17 flights, the two brands overlapped, and much of the group’s flying to mainland China was performed by KA.
Featured image: Luca Flores/Airways