Cathay Pacific To Increase Aircraft Belly Cargo Capacity Amid Chinese Aviation Bounce Back

Cathay Pacific will significantly up its belly cargo capacity as the Hong Kong-based carrier ramps up operations to China. The airline is set to double the number of flights to China in the coming days following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Let’s take a closer look below.

Cathay returning to China

As Simple Flying reported last week, Cathay Pacific has boosted its mainland China schedule in light of China’s easing of restrictions.

As a result, the carrier will offer significantly higher capacity in the belly, providing a welcome boost to its cargo division. From January 14th, Cathay will operate 61 return flights per week between Hong Kong and 13 mainland China cities – including Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (PVG), and Guangzhou (CAN) – up from its current 27 weekly flights from Hong Kong to the Mainland and 50 flights per week from the Mainland to Hong Kong.

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Cathay Pacific said,

“Cathay Pacific welcomes the Hong Kong SAR Government’s latest measures to facilitate quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland, as well as the lifting of transit restrictions, effective 8 January 2023.”

Cathay Pacific aircraft tails
Photo: Heychli/Shutterstock

In fact, the airline has already acted swiftly to increase flights to China. On January 8th, the day China lifted most of its travel restrictions, Cathay Pacific upped frequencies between Hong Kong and Beijing to 10 flights per week and between Hong Kong and Shanghai to 21 flights per week.

The airline is also resuming five weekly pairs to Guangzhou, four weekly returns between Hong Kong and Xiamen and six weekly flights between Hong Kong and Chengdu.

China shutdown hits cargo revenue

China’s strict COVID measures, which persisted for almost three years, inhibited Cathay Pacific Cargo’s ability to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. However, the airline oversaw a successful expansion of its European cargo sector but ultimately projected a “subdued” peak season. As reported by Air Cargo News, the airline’s tonnage decreased by 11.1% – along with a 21.9% decrease in capacity and a 30.9% decrease in RFTKs – over the first 10 months of 2022 compared to the previous year, but things are looking up for 2023.

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Chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said,

“In terms of cargo, global economic headwinds and anti-pandemic measures on the Chinese Mainland continue to impact trade flows and production.

As the belly capacity provided by our passenger flights increases over the months ahead, we are extending the reach of our network and increasing the choice of schedules for our air cargo customers.”

Cathay Pacific Cargo is currently in talks to induct more freighters to its fleet, although any new additions wouldn’t arrive until 2025 at the earliest. The cargo division currently operates with a fleet of 20 Boeing 747 freighters.

The recovery continues

Cathay Pacific was one of the hardest-hit airlines over the pandemic due to Hong Kong’s stringent COVID restrictions. As of November 2022, Cathay Pacific had only recovered 21% of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity but is now ramping up flights amid the lifting of restrictions.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900
Photo: Cathay Pacific

The airline’s most recent estimate projects reaching 70% of its pre-COVID capacity by December 2023 and a full return to capacity in 2024, but this will likely be revised in light of China’s international reopening.

Have you traveled with Cathay Pacific this year? Do you see the airline returning to its pre-pandemic capacity sooner than expected? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Air Cargo News

  • Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-367(ER) B-KPM

    Cathay Pacific
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    CX/CPA
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    Hub(s):
    Hong Kong International Airport
    Year Founded:
    1946
    Alliance:
    oneworld
    CEO:
    Augustus Tang
    Country:
    China (Special Administrative Region)