Cathay Pacific warns of ‘several’ more flight cancellations in January
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Cathay Pacific warns of ‘several’ more flight cancellations in January

Cathay Pacific warns of ‘several’ more flight cancellations in January

The pandemic and the government’s strict rules on quarantine have forced the airline to dramatically pare back services

Cathay Pacific Airways warned of several flight cancellations to and from Hong Kong in January as operational and travel restrictions continue to affect its schedules.

The airline said it is reviewing its passenger flights and apologised to customers. The year-end holiday season is typically a busy time for Cathay and Hong Kong as an aviation hub, but the pandemic and the government’s strict rules on quarantine have forced it to dramatically pare back services.

On Monday, Cathay services from New York to Hong Kong were banned until January 2 after three passengers on a flight on that route were found to have Covid. Cathay’s ability to serve even a skeleton schedule has been hampered as aircrew are forced into a so-called closed-loop system which keeps them away from home for several weeks. That’s prompted the airline to relocate some pilots to Los Angeles.

Cathay already cut flights in December, again citing operational and travel restrictions. Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive officer of Qatar Airways, which holds a stake of about 10 per cent in Cathay, recently said Hong Kong’s Covid policy was “killing” the airline, according to the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, OAG chief economist John Grant warned that continued border closures in Hong Kong could “utterly destroy” Cathay and the city’s position as a hub.

The airline said at the start of the month it had healthy levels of liquidity, largely thanks to cargo operations offsetting the lengthy slump in passenger traffic. In its latest figures, the carrier said it flew 70,047 passengers in November, an increase from a year earlier but down 97 per cent from the same month in 2019. It’s operating about 12 per cent of its pre-pandemic flight capacity.

The numbers “reflect the airline’s substantial capacity reductions in response to significantly reduced demand as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place in Hong Kong and other markets,” Cathay said at the time.

Cathay’s shares have fallen 11 per cent this year, among the worst performers on Bloomberg’s Asia Pacific airlines index.

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