Cathay Pacific expects to cut passenger capacity by a further 60 per cent and burn through US$245 million per month if Hong Kong’s crew quarantine regulations go ahead in February.

The new rules, reported last week, are expected to take effect next month. In what may be a world first, the Hong Kong government proposed 14 days of hotel quarantine, in addition to a week of medical surveillance, for locally-based flight crew.

The Hong Kong flag carrier has already been battered by a year of travel restrictions and sluggish international demand. The inherent absence of a domestic network sees Cathay Pacific continue to underperform compared with many of its peers.

In 2020, Cathay Pacific and now-defunct subsidiary Cathay Dragon, carried 86.9 per cent fewer passengers compared to the year before. The airline also slashed capacity by 78.8 per cent during the same period.

Cash burn would increase significantly under the new measures, potentially reaching HK$1.9 billion (US$245 million) each month. Any gains from cost-containment efforts, including previous job cuts, would effectively be erased.

“We are seeking more implementation details, including timing, from the authorities, so that we can plan ahead to minimise the impact on our air crew, as well as our passenger and cargo services,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson told Business Traveller.

The airline is reportedly looking into a voluntary scheme to keep long-haul routes running. Under the arrangement, pilots and flight attendants would fly for three weeks before returning to Hong Kong for 14 days of quarantine, according to Reuters.

Ronald Lam, chief customer and commercial officer at Cathay Pacific, commented:

“The new [crew quarantine] measure will have a significant impact on our ability to service our passenger and cargo markets. 

“At this stage, our preliminary assessment is that the new measure may result in a reduction of current passenger capacity of around 60 per cent, a reduction of current cargo capacity of around 25 per cent, and a further increase in our cash burn of approximately HK$300-400 million per month, on top of our current HK$1-1.5 billion levels.”