HONG KONG — Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said Wednesday that losses eased in the first half of the year as an easing of quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers.
However, it warned that crew quarantine restrictions were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity.
The company reported losses of about HK$5 billion (US$637 million) in the first six months, compared to HK$7.57 billion (US$964.5 million) in the same period last year.
Hong Kong eased strict quarantine rules from 14 to seven days in mandatory hotel quarantine earlier this year, and to just three days from Friday.
It’s still one of the few places in the world, along with mainland China, to mandate mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers. Such measures have brought limited recovery to Cathay and the city’s tourism industry as travelers opt for other destinations that have fully opened up.
Cathay’s revenue rose 17% to HK$18.6 billion in the first half, mainly due to an increase in passenger numbers following the easing of quarantine restrictions.
Passenger load factor — which measures how many passengers are using capacity — was about 59%, up from nearly 19% in the same period last year.
Cathay said the company aims to operate at 65% of pre-COVID cargo capacity and 25% of pre-COVID passenger capacity by December.
“In the short term, however, it’s pretty clear that Hong Kong has fallen far behind other international aviation hubs and that our regional competitors have recovered much faster from the disruptions caused by the global pandemic,” Patrick Healy, chairman of Cathay Pacific, said at a press conference Wednesday.
He also said the city’s quarantine requirements for crew limited their flight capacity.
“These ongoing restrictions are also limiting our ability to provide additional capacity despite growing demand,” he said. “Once all COVID-related flight crew restrictions can be lifted, we will be able to gradually increase both cargo and passenger capacity over the coming months.”
Hong Kong-based Cathay shares rose 1% after the earnings release.
The city’s carrier is lagging behind rivals like Singapore Airlines, which reported net profit of S$370 million ($268.5 million) last month. Singapore has lifted COVID-19 entry restrictions and does not require mandatory quarantine for tourists.