Cathay Pacific, which recently reported a record first half operating loss, carried a significantly higher number of passengers for July, as transit passengers lifted passenger volume for the month. 

Together with its regional arm Cathay Dragon, the carrier carried nearly 43,000 passengers in July, a 58.5% month on month increase. This was, however, a 98.7% decline year on year, reflecting the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on travel demand. 

Cathay group customer and commercial chief Ronald Lam attributes this uptick to an influx of transit passengers through Hong Kong. 

“We increased our passenger flights by a slight amount to approximately 7% of the normal capacity, up from about 4% in June, and gradually resumed some services to Chengdu, Xiamen, Frankfurt and Toronto,” Lam says. 

July’s RPKs saw a 67% month-on-month increase, despite being about 98% lower year on year. Capacity, measured in ASKs, fell 93% compared to July 2019, but nearly doubled month on month. 

Despite the incremental improvement in passenger traffic figures, Cathay and Cathay Dragon saw passenger load factor decrease month on month, to 23.4%. Comparatively, that figure was 27.3% in June. 

Lam says demand “tapered down” toward the end of the month, following the resurgence of coronavirus cases in various parts of the world, including in its home base of Hong Kong. 

“As a result, passenger volume increased at a lower rate than capacity for July, and load factor further dipped to 23.4%. There were a few services that performed better than expected comparatively, notably Xiamen,” notes Lam. 

Given the risk of new waves of outbreaks, Lam says the carriers have readjusted their planned capacity reintroduction in the coming months. 

While it was previously reported that the two carriers will operate at about 10% capacity for August, Lam says this has been adjusted down to 8%. 

“We expect that our airlines will operate a similar level of passenger flight capacity in September,” he adds. 

The Cathay group reported a record HK$8.7 billion ($1.13 billion) operating loss for the six months ended 30 June, as it was hit severely by the impact of the pandemic.