Cathay Pacific has announced further flight capacity cuts throughout its network for the months of February and March amid the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In its traffic figures for January, the airline revealed that along with its subsidiary Cathay Dragon, it has cut passenger capacity by 40 per cent for February and March. The airline said cuts to flight capacity were “likely” in April as well.

Earlier this month, the airline said it would reduce capacity by around 30 per cent across its network over the next two months. Cathay suspended its fights to London Gatwick, Rome, Washington DC, Newark, Male, Davao, Clark, Jeju and Taichung.

Ronald Lam, the airline’s chief customer and commercial officer, said: “This was the most challenging Chinese new year period we have experienced. As the novel coronavirus outbreak in mainland China intensified towards the end of the holiday period, travel demand dropped substantially.”

He added that the airline is seeing continued cancellations of bookings.

As of writing this story, the coronavirus has infected a total of 73,433 people worldwide, killing 1,866, according to South China Morning Post.  There are 61 cases in Hong Kong and one death, according to the newspaper.

A number of carriers worldwide have reduced flights or suspended routes to Hong Kong due to a drop in demand amid the spread of the virus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The airline said it carried a total of 3,010,012 passengers last month – a decrease of 3.8 per cent compared to January 2019. Passenger load factor for January fell by 1.3 percentage points to 84.7 per cent.

Lam noted that while the airline had a positive start to 2020 with “satisfactory” passenger traffic volume through the first three weeks of the year, “performance deteriorated rapidly” in the last week of January as the coronavirus situation became more severe.

He added that inbound passenger traffic to Hong Kong was down 40 per cent year-on-year and noted that this was an improvement over the 46 per cent declines seen in November and December last year.

Despite the decrease, outbound traffic grew by 1 per cent in January. Lam said this was a result of the Chinese New Year holiday starting earlier this year.

He added that lower-yield transit traffic through Hong Kong, which the airline remains “heavily reliant on”, also grew by 7 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Last year, Hong Kong’s flag carrier suffered a fall in passenger traffic numbers due to ongoing protests in the city.

Lam said the first half of 2020 was “expected to be extremely challenging financially” and that financial results for the first half of 2020 will be “significantly down” compared to the same period last year.