Hong Kong last week announced it would end onerous rules that required crew members on passenger flights to quarantine in a hotel for three days on return to the city. In August the airline's passenger capacity was only 16% of the same month in 2019 before the pandemic, meaning it expects that to double by the end of the year. "While we will continue to add back more flights as quickly as is feasible to strengthen the network connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub, this will still take time as we build operational readiness and undertake a substantial amount of training and aircraft reactivation," Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement.
The onerous crew quarantine rules had made rostering difficult and were a major impediment to the airline returning to more normal operations. Cathay's passenger capacity was at just 12.4% of pre-pandemic levels in the month of July, although its cargo capacity was at 51% in part because cargo crews were no longer required to quarantine. Before the passenger crew rules were lifted, Cathay forecast it would reach 25% of pre-pandemic capacity by the end of the year.
"We expect that this year's peak season may not be the same as last year's," Cathay freight executives said in an email update to air cargo clients. The fourth quarter is typically the peak season for air cargo because of consumer electronics product launches and the busy Christmas holiday period. Many air freight carriers reported record revenue in the peak season last year.