Cathay Pacific has reduced its capacity forecast for the year-end — amid ongoing travel restrictions — as the embattled carrier’s passenger numbers in August hit a new high for the year. 

The Hong Kong-based airline now only expects to operate at 13% pre-pandemic capacity — its current operating capacity — till the end of the year. This is compares to an earlier forecast of 30% capacity disclosed in July. 

Hong Kong International

Source: Terry K/

“[Operational] and passenger travel restrictions remain in place, continuing to constrain our ability to operate more flights. As such, we now only expect to maintain similar passenger capacity levels to August 2021 for the remainder of the year, whilst remaining responsive to any unexpected changes in travel restrictions,” says Cathay chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam. 

In traffic results for August, Cathay saw passenger numbers surpass 100,000 for the first time in more than year, helped mainly by robust student traffic between China and the USA. 

For the month, the Oneworld carrier flew around 135,000 passengers — more than triple the number a year ago, and more than twice the number month on month. 

Still, August’s passenger numbers were a mere 4.7% of the levels reported in pre-pandemic 2019, underscoring Cathay’s long road to a full recovery. 

Capacity, at just 13% pre-pandemic levels, rose nearly 69% year on year. Compared to July, it jumped 81%. 

Meanwhile, traffic nearly quadrupled year on year, helped by a significant uptick in traffic to and from Mainland China, as well as to North America. 

As for cargo, Lam notes that demand “continued to be buoyant” during the month, which is usually a quieter month for the airline’s cargo business. 

Cathay carried more than 124,000t of cargo and mail during the month, 22% higher year on year. Cargo capacity inched up 17% year on year, and 9% month on month. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, capacity fell nearly 34%. 

Lam notes: “For cargo, market indicators suggest a strong peak season driven by the need for inventory replenishment, against a backdrop of ongoing air capacity constraints and disruptions to supply chains due to seaport congestion. We are planning for this, whilst remaining vigilant regarding changes to the Covid-19 situation that could impact operations.”