Cathay Pacific says it can see better times ahead. On Wednesday (Nov 17), the Hong Kong based airline said it expected the second half of the year to be significantly better.
This comes after the Hong Kong flagship carrier reported a loss of US$977 million in the first half of 2021. Airlines collectively lost $6.9 billion in the April-May period in 2021 compared to $14.4 billion in the first quarter of the year, according to data from the International Air Transport Association. Leading the recovery were U.S. carriers, with an aggregate net profit of $96 million, that benefitted from a huge domestic market with one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world. Every other region was in the red, with European airlines absorbing $4.6 billion in losses.
IATA earlier this year forecast a $48 billion loss for member airlines in 2021.
The turnaround in fortune for Cathay is boosted by exceptional demand for air cargo. This almost put the airline back to cash break-even for the four months from July to October.
Flights carrying cargo have so far generated 17 times more revenue than passenger runs in the first half of 2021.
Air freight operators worldwide have been lifted by the strong demand from consumers and log jams at seaports. Passenger traffic remains weak though. Cathay says demand for student travel which had been robust, has now tapered off again.
Cathay passenger flights were 18.9% full on average in January-June 2021. In October, it was still operating at just 10% of its pre-crisis capacity. Australia’s reopening to international travel is one bright spot however. The airline says it is steadily ramping up its flight to the country as booking recover.
Even so, it expects its annual loss for 2021 to be substantial as the recovery from the pandemic remains an unknown. On Friday (Nov 19), it was reported that the airline fired three cargo pilots who were infected with COVID-19 during a layover in Frankfurt, over an unspecified “serious breach” of crew rules while overseas.