Cathay Pacific will operate at full capacity from Sydney from November 1 in response to moves by the New South Wales government to lift quarantine restrictions.
The airline has been operating at reduced capacity since March 2020 but will return to 10 flights a week to and from the NSW capital after quarantine restrictions were lifted for Australian citizens, residents and their families.
CX 101/100 will operate daily between Hong Kong and Sydney while CX139/138 will fly on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
The Cathay capacity increase comes after Singapore Airlines last week opened sales on its 17 weekly Sydney flights to eligible travellers. Thai Airways International has also announced it will resume Sydney flights.
Any increase in capacity is good news for the Hong Kong airline, which has been hard hit by Hong Kong’s strict COVID restrictions.
The impact of the restrictions was underscored by September passenger numbers that remained 94 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
But there was a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered carrier from a 180 percent jump in passengers compared to last year, thanks mainly to student travel.
Cathay recorded 131,774 passengers last month and experienced its busiest day — September 17 —since March 2020.
In a sign of how badly COVID restrictions have hobbled the airline, however, that highlight translated to just 6562 passengers.
Traffic measured in revenue passenger kilometres rose 158.7% year-on-year while capacity increased by 40.4 percent but was still 87.4 percent down on September 2019 levels.
The passenger load factor rose by 20.9 percentage points year-on-year to 45.8 percent.
Chief commercial officer Ronald Lam said student traffic from the Chinese mainland contributed strongly to the performance of the passenger business.
“As was anticipated, demand for student travel to the US was strong at the beginning of the month but tapered down before being overtaken by growing student traffic from Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland to the UK,’’ he said.
“Besides, passengers travelling within Asia via Hong Kong was also a key driver for demand. In contrast, passenger demand for flights into Hong Kong remained very weak due to the strict quarantine requirements.”
Lam said student traffic to London continued into October.
“Meanwhile, we are continuing to monitor and assess the potential opportunities for demand from the relaxation of quarantine requirements for travellers flying to various markets, most notably the US.”
Freight traffic also improved with the 130,997 tonnes of cargo and mail carried last month up 19.7 percent on the previous year but down 24.1 percent compared to September 2019.
“Cargo demand continued to grow as we stepped into the traditional cargo peak season,” Lam said “To meet this demand, we operated our freighter fleet at peak capacity throughout September, further supplemented with additional cargo-only passenger flight operations, which surged 20 percent compared to August.
“Overall, we managed to operate approximately 70 percent of our pre-pandemic cargo capacity when compared to September 2019.”
Lam said cargo demand continued to be robust and driven by the movement of new consumer products as well as the urgent need for inventory replenishment due to supply chain constraints.