Nicholas Ionides/SINGAPORE

Cathay Pacific Airways has reported a record net profit of HK$5 billion ($641 million) for 2000, with traffic growth on the back of the Asia-Pacific economic recovery more than compensating for higher fuel costs.

The result is more than double 1999's net profit of HK$2.18 billion, which ranked Cathay as the second most profitable carrier in Asia and ninth in the world, and catapults the Hong Kong-based airline back into the echelons of the industry's best performers. These figures follow Cathay's first loss in 35 years in 1998, when it was hard hit by the Asian economic downturn, which began in mid-1997.

Cathay's sales rose 20% last year to HK$34.52 billion, operating profit was up 88% to HK$5.28 billion and passenger load factor rose 4.8 points to 76.2%, with yields also up - results in marked contrast to some posted by other airlines in the region over the past two months. Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways all suffered due to higher fuel costs, while Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways also reported sharp profit falls.

Taiwan's EVA Airways also showed a strong net profit last year, the figure doubling to NT$2.51 billion ($77 million) on sales up 13% to NT$54.53 billion.

Source: Flight International