Hong Kong’s flag carrier saw 18.2 per cent, or fewer than 1 in 5 seats, filled across its network last month as Covid-19 cases spike worldwide.

Cathay Pacific carried an average of 1,243 passengers daily in October, down 98.6 per cent compared to the same time last year. The record fall in demand outpaced capacity reductions, which decreased by 91.6 per cent.

“For the first time since May, we saw a month-on-month drop in capacity following an already very difficult summer,” said Ronald Lam, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer at Cathay Pacific. “Much of the demand for student travel that we had been relying on throughout the summer season tapered off in early October.”

In a stark contrast to its cargo business, which operated at full capacity, Lam said demand for UK and continental Europe flights declined rapidly following a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

Last month, Hong Kong added a handful of countries, including the UK, to its list of “high-risk” locations. Inbound travellers must undergo pre-flight tests and hotel quarantine upon arrival. Since November 13, the Hong Kong government has extended hotel quarantine to travellers from all countries outside China, according to its website.

Although domestic demand has seen a rebound around the world, Cathay Pacific’s reliance on international traffic leaves it particularly exposed. In response, the carrier announced it had shut down regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon and would cut 5,900 jobs. 

Lam expects the carrier to fly less than 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.