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Cathay to see record-breaking full-year loss

written by Hannah Dowling | December 17, 2020

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)vc

Cathay Pacific has said that it is anticipating to see its highest ever loss in the second half of 2020, on account of low travel demand, restructuring charges and maintenance on its fleet.

It comes after its first record-breaking loss of HK$9.87 billion ($1.27 billion) reported in the first half.

Prior to the announcement, analysts have forecast a full-year loss of HK$18.3 billion for the Hong Kong carrier.

Cathay’s previous record annual loss was HK$8.7 billion in 2008, amid the global financial crisis.

“We are still not seeing any meaningful improvement in our passenger business,” Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said in a statement.

The airline reported a 98.6 per cent fall in passenger numbers in November, though a smaller 26.2 per cent decline in cargo carriage.

“Given the slow speed of recovery, we expect to operate about 9 per cent of pre-COVID-19 capacity in December and slightly above 10 per cent in January 2021,” Lam said of the passenger business.


It comes following Cathay’s announcement made in October that it would be forced to axe nearly 6,000 jobs, including all of the positions at its regional offshoot Cathay Dragon, which will be shut down and operations absorbed.

As part of the airline’s restructuring plan, which is expected to cost HK$2.2 billion, the remaining pilots and flight attendants were forced into signing new contracts with significantly poorer pay and conditions.

Optimistically, the airline is forecasting to operate at just under 50 per cent of its normal passenger capacity in 2021, and intends to see only 25 per cent or less its normal capacity in the first half of the year.

The airline is banking on a possible recovery in travel demand in the second half of 2021 as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out more widely.

Despite receiving a US$5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, the airline continues to bleed US$194 million to US$258 million per month.

Analysts have previously warned that airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will struggle to bounce back from the crisis, as neither has a domestic travel market to rely upon, and international borders remain restricted.


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