HONG KONG — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways said Wednesday that losses in the first half of the year narrowed as a relaxation in quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers.
But it cautioned that quarantine restrictions on its crew were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity.
The company reported losses of about $5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($637 million) in the first six months, down from 7.57 billion Hong Kong dollars ($964.5 million) in the same period last year.
Hong Kong relaxed strict quarantine rules from 14 to seven days in mandatory hotel quarantine earlier this year, and to just three days from Friday.
It still remains one of the few places in the world, together with mainland China, to require mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers. Such measures have limited recovery for Cathay and the city’s tourism industry, as travelers opt for other destinations that have opened up completely.
Cathay’s first-half revenue grew 17% to 18.6 billion Hong Kong dollars, driven largely by an increase in passengers following the easing of quarantine measures.
Passenger load factor — which measures how many passengers are taking up capacity — was about 59%, up from nearly 19% from the same period last year.
Cathay said that it aims to be operating at 65% of pre-COVID cargo capacity, and 25% of pre-COVID passenger capacity by December.
“In the short term, however, it is quite clear that Hong Kong has fallen far behind other international aviation hubs, and that our regional competitors have recovered much faster from the disruptions caused by the global pandemic,” Cathay Pacific Chairman Patrick Healy told a news conference Wednesday.
He also said that the city’s quarantine requirements on crew constrained its flight capacity.
“These ongoing constraints also restrict our ability to mount additional capacity despite growing demand,” he said. “Once all COVID-related restrictions on air crew can be lifted, we will then progressively be able to increase both cargo and passenger capacity in the months that follow.”
Cathay’s shares in Hong Kong were up 1% following its earnings release.
The city’s airline is lagging behind competitors like Singapore Airlines, which last month reported a net profit of 370 million Singapore dollars ($268.5 million). Singapore has lifted COVID-19 entry restrictions and does not require mandatory quarantine for tourists.