The Cathay Pacific Group said it is “exploring all options” as its latest passenger traffic figures for March show a drastic drop in the number of passengers it carried compared to the same month last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a severe decline in travel demand worldwide.

The Group said in a statement posted on its website that it remains impossible to predict when demand for travel is expected to return as the economic impact of the pandemic is “intensifying”.

“We still do not see an improvement in our advance passenger bookings and we are anticipating average daily passenger numbers to remain below 1,000 throughout April,” the Group added.

Cathay said its passenger numbers dropped to 302 a day earlier this week, when it normally expects to carry some 100,000 passengers on a typical day. Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 311,128 passengers last month, a decrease of 90% compared to March 2019.

The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) also fell 84.3% year-on-year. Passenger load factor slid by 34.6 percentage points to 49.3%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 73.2%.

The Hong Kong-based carrier said the trend reflected the capacity reductions for March this year. In April and May, the carrier will be operating a “bare skeleton” passenger flight schedule comprising 3% of its normal capacity.

Cathay Pacific to operate 3 per cent of its services in April amid coronavirus crisis

Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said the carrier carried 52% fewer passengers in the first quarter than it did in the same periods last year. The carrier’s load factor (an indicator that measures the percentage of available seating capacity that is filled with passengers) for the month dropped to 49.3%.

“Passenger demand dropped rapidly and tremendously in late March following the introduction of arrival restrictions on all non-resident visitors to Hong Kong, including transit passengers. On each of the last two days of March we carried fewer than 1,000 passengers only,” said Lam.

The Group said its drop in inbound passenger traffic was lessened in the third week of March when it reinstated 13 flights to help residents and students from the UK and the US returning to Hong Kong.