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Cathay to Cut Flights Amid Travel Curbs, Crew Shortages

Hong Kong carrier planned to fly no more than 12% of its pre-pandemic passenger schedule because it could not find enough crew members

Cathay Pacific plans to hire 4,000 staff, including 700 pilots and 2,000 cabin crew, by the end of 2023.
Two years ago, Cathay Pacific underwent a restructuring, during which it closed down regional brand Cathay Dragon and laid off thousands of employees. File photo: Reuters.


Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said on Wednesday it would cancel some passenger flights in January because of operational and travel curbs at a time when the Asian financial centre has tightened quarantine requirements.

Cathay’s Australian website said it would fly only to Sydney from Hong Kong in January, with no flights to Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth, which had been destinations in December.

For December, Cathay planned to fly no more than 12% of its pre-pandemic passenger schedule, having cancelled many flights because it could not find enough crew members to serve its rosters.

“In light of the ongoing operational and travel restrictions that continue to affect our flight schedules, we are currently in the process of reviewing the number of passenger flights to and from Hong Kong in January 2022,” a statement on its website read.

“The new consolidated schedule will result in several flight cancellations. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience to your travel plans, especially during the festive season.”

Hong Kong has tightened travel rules since the Omicron variant emerged, and arriving passengers from many countries are limited to citizens and residents who are now subject to three weeks of managed quarantine even if fully vaccinated.

The Hong Kong government has a “zero-Covid” policy in line with mainland China as it hopes to persuade Beijing to allow cross-border travel.


Capacity Reductions

Last week, Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for November that continued to reflect the airline’s substantial capacity reductions in response to significantly reduced demand as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place.

Cathay Pacific carried a total of 70,047 passengers last month, an increase of 85% compared to November 2020, but a 97% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in November 2019.

The month’s revenue passenger kilometres rose 87% year-on-year, but were down 96% versus November 2019.

“The operating environment for our travel business continued to be extremely challenging in November,” chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said.

“Following the reopening of borders in the US and Australia, we increased our flight frequencies to cater for the rise in demand.”

He said Cathay managed to “capture pockets of travel demand within Asia” and resumed its Madrid and Milan services.

The airline carried 135,350 tonnes of cargo last month, an increase of 15.8% compared with November 2020, but a 23.9% decrease compared with the same period in 2019.


  • George Russell




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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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