Hong Kong’s flag carrier will cease operations to seven destinations across Asia, Europe, and North America indefinitely as losses pile up.
South China Morning Post reports that the axed long-haul routes were unprofitable, citing employees and an internal memo. The destinations, which include London Gatwick and Newark, just outside New York City, all launched in the last seven years.
Cathay Pacific will continue to operate to London Heathrow and New York JFK, the main airports in those cities. However, Brussels, Dublin, Male, Seattle, and Washington DC will see their only non-stop link to Hong Kong disappear.
Prior to the pandemic, the Oneworld alliance carrier operated flights to these seven destinations throughout the year with plans to expand. Seattle, for instance, was set to see an increase to five-weekly services during summer 2020, according to Routesonline.
But last month, Cathay Pacific saw a record 4 in 5 seats go empty as it battles the effects of travel restrictions and plummeting demand. The airline said it plans to fly less than 50 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.
“After careful consideration, we believe it is unlikely we will operate flight services to these destinations – Gatwick, Dublin and Brussels in Europe, and Newark, Seattle and Washington in North America – in the near future,” said Cathay Pacific in a statement to Business Traveller.
“Flight services to and from these destinations have been suspended for many months already due to shrinking passenger demand. We remain in a very dynamic situation and we will continue to review our flight network.”
The airline also confirmed it does not intend to resume flights to Maldives’ capital, Male, in the near future.
In recent years, Cathay Pacific took a novel approach to its route strategy following the arrival of its Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300ER fleet. The airline began to experiment with secondary airports in major cities and launched routes that were previously unserved.
“The capability and economics of these new-generation aircraft allow us to launch new routes, especially in the long thin category, and step up existing frequencies with more confidence,” said Lavina Lau, former General Manager Airline Planning at Cathay Pacific, in 2017.
For now, it looks like the carrier’s appetite for new, riskier routes has come to an abrupt end.