Cathay Pacific cuts 96% of its network as coronavirus causes global aviation contraction

Mar 20, 2020

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The airline did not mince words.

“Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon intend to operate a bare skeleton passenger flight schedule in April and May, though our freighter capacity remains intact,” the carrier said in a statement Friday. “Our ability to maintain even this skeleton schedule will depend on whether more travel restrictions are imposed by governments around the world which will further dampen passenger demand.”

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Coronavirus has created a rapid reduction in demand for passenger air travel, and airlines around the world have instituted sweeping cuts to their schedules in order to try to maintain some degree of financial viability with limited revenue coming in.

Cathay Pacific has been especially vulnerable. Coronavirus broke out in Asia before spreading to Europe and the Americas, and the Hong Kong-based carrier was already facing a demand slump due to widespread protests in the autonomous region that have been going on sporadically since last year.

As a result, the airline will fly at only 4% capacity in April and May, operating just three weekly flights each on a dozen routes including to London, Los Angeles and Vancouver. Its Cathay Dragon subsidiary will operate a further three weekly flights each on three additional routes.

Related: Some airlines have completely suspended service during coronavirus pandemic.

Cathay is far from the only airline to implement dramatic changes to its operations as a result of the pandemic.

Lufthansa Group, Europe’s largest airline conglomerate, has implemented widespread cuts across its network. Some other airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia have suspended all international flying, and still others, like Canadian carrier Porter, have temporarily halted all operations.

Related: U.S. airlines’ coronavirus-related waivers and schedule cuts.

Even U.S. carriers, which have had historically strong finances in recent years, have had to curtail large segments of their operations. That’s led some airlines to try different methods of maintaining revenue streams. American Airlines, for example, has started scheduling cargo-only flights for the first time since 1984. On the passenger side, American plans to fly only three long-haul routes during the peak of its coronavirus-related schedule cuts.

Featured photo by Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

More: These are the only long-haul routes American, Delta, Hawaiian and United plan to fly in April

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