The Cathay Pacific Airline Group recorded a loss of HK$575m, the first since 2008, in the aftermath of the global financial crash.
While the loss was most keenly felt in the passenger business, the Group’s cargo revenue also decreased by 13.2 per cent in 2016 to HK$20,063m.
However, cargo capacity increased by 0.6 per cent, load factor grew by 0.2 percentage points to 64.4 per cent and tonnage was up by 3.1 per cent. Competition, the industry-wide issue of over-capacity and the suspension of Hong Kong fuel surcharge meant that yield fell by 16.3% to HK$1.59.
GM cargo sales and marketing Mark Sutch said: ‘Last year was full of challenges, one of the reasons for that was the very slow start to the year in January and February. The start of 2016, was down because the previous year had seen the US West Coast port strike, which was a boost for air cargo, but it was also challenging in its own right. The market was slow. Load factors were suppressed, but in the second half of the year, we were able to grow this and there was a strong peak that didn’t fizzle out – in fact, in Europe it went on right up to Christmas.’
There are grounds for optimism in 2017. Sutch added: ‘We started strongly in January helped by an early Chinese New Year, and it has carried on. In fact, if you take the first two months of this year, there’s a definite improvement and March looks good too. There is a feeling that if this continues in April, then you can set the scene for a pretty good year, certainly a substantial improvement on last year. The market is particularly strong on transpacific routes and inbound to India.’
‘The joint venture with Lufthansa is working well and we’re seeing some good loads. We’ve re-signed some capacity agreements, with some improvement in yield, which is also encouraging.’
Last year will also be remembered for the introduction of two freighter-only routes, which Sutch says are performing well.
‘Portland is good, and we are keeping an eye on capacity,’ he said. ‘Often you go somewhere because of a particular product or purpose and then other people see a gateway to develop their businesses, and that is happening. Additionally, we are expecting some consumer product releases later in the year, which boost tonnages.
‘Brisbane West Wellcamp is performing to expectations, and we are working on some quarantine operating procedures for agricultural exports into China, which once approved we anticipate will also lead to further growth.’