Pressed Cathay Pacific to bring more planes back to Hong Kong | aviation

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The airline says it will be returning planes to Hong Kong in a bid to rebuild the city’s hub status.

Cathay Pacific Airways, which has been hit by strict quarantine rules that have caused passenger numbers to drop by 98 percent, is preparing to bring back more planes to rebuild Hong Kong hub status as restrictions ease, the chief executive said the airline.

“Approximately a third of our passenger fleet is still parked in the desert and not used,” Cathay chief executive Augustus Tang told Reuters on the sidelines of an airline industry meeting in Doha. “We’re getting ready for them to start getting ahead of the curve again.”

Rival Singapore Airlines has seen a surge in demand since quarantine rules were eased in Singapore. It was back at 61 percent of pre-COVID-19 capacity in May, occupying 78.2 percent of seats in its best month since the pandemic began.

Cathay, on the other hand, operated just four percent of its pre-COVID capacity in May and occupied 60.5 percent of its seats.

The requirement for crew members on passenger flights to quarantine in a hotel for three days after flying to destinations outside mainland China means they can only offer few frequencies to potential transit passengers.

Passengers traveling to Hong Kong are also required to spend a week in hotel quarantine upon arrival, limiting demand.

Tang said it’s encouraging that Hong Kong has gradually reduced the required quarantine period, which was once up to three weeks for passengers from destinations like the United States and Britain.

“It’s moving in the right direction and momentum is building, so we’re pretty optimistic that we’re going to see more and more of that opening,” he said.

Cathay currently has 45 passenger destinations back in service, up from 30 at the start of the year, and plans to have up to 70 available by the end of the year if demand improves, he said. Compared to the 108 passenger destinations it operated before the pandemic.

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