Cathay Pacific to Park 40% of Fleet Overseas

Hong Kong flag carrier says it will continue to place its fleet into long-term storage as it reports sustained drops in passenger numbers due to COVID-19

Cathay Pacific Group will move around 40% of its 153-strong fleet into long-term storage, reflecting the airline’s continued substantial capacity reductions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The firm – which comprises Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon – released its traffic figures for last month. They showed that the two airlines together carried a total of 35,773 passengers, a decrease of 98.8% compared with August 2019.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 is the airline group's most popular aircraft. It holds a fleet comprising 68 examples. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) fell 98.1% year-on-year, while passenger load factors dropped by 60% to 19.9%.  

Ronald Lam, Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer said: “It is clear that we are facing a long and uncertain road to recovery. The entire aviation industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the environment will continue to be extremely challenging for many years.”

Despite taking actions to reduce its costs, the group is still burning cash at a rate of HK$1.5bn (£150m) to HK$2 billion (£200m) per month and will continue to do so until the market recovers.

The carrier's new Airbus A350s are likely to be spared storage due to their relative fuel efficiency benefits. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Lam added: “Given that we will be operating just a fraction of our services in the foreseeable future, we will continue to transfer some of our passenger fleet – approximately 40% – to locations outside of Hong Kong in keeping with prudent operational and asset management considerations.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has now pushed back its forecast for passenger recovery by a year to 2024, demonstrating just how slow a return to pre-pandemic levels will be.