Cathay's downbeat outlook follows a forecast by the company in November of a "substantial" annual loss, even though the carrier said at that time its second-half results were expected to improve sequentially. Air China Ltd reported disappointing metrics during the month of December, as many Chinese airlines struggled with capacity constraints. However, following the easing of pandemic-related travel restrictions, Cathay Chief Executive Ronald Lam on Friday noted a trend of continuous improvement in operations and financial performance for the airline and its subsidiaries in the second half of 2022.
Airlines have boosted January international seat capacity to and from China by 9.5% over the last week as they ramp up flights after its border opening, according to aviation data provider Cirium, though flights remain at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels. Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd added more than 52,000 seats as its border with the mainland opened, putting it ahead of China's Xiamen Airlines, Juneyao Airlines Co Ltd and others in the 160,000 round-trip seat additions, schedules data from Cirium analysed by Reuters showed. Chinese airlines are expected to be the early winners of the country's international reopening, analysts said, having kept most widebody planes and staff ready while foreign carriers struggle with capacity constraints after previous border openings.
Hong Kong has asked Japan to withdraw a COVID-19 restriction that allows passenger flights from the financial hub to land only at four designated airports, saying the decision would affect about 60,000 passengers. India, Italy, Taiwan and the United States require mandatory COVID-19 tests on travellers from China after Beijing's decision last month to lift stringent zero-COVID policies that fuelled a surge in infections across mainland China. Hong Kong, home to more than 7 million people, is recording around 20,000 coronavirus cases a day but lifted its COVID curbs on Thursday for the first time in three years.