Cathay Pacific is gradually rebuilding its network following Hong Kong’s continued easing of travel restrictions.

The carrier started 2022 operating limited flights to 29 destinations, but is targeting a doubling of this figure by the end of the year, having reached 45 destinations this month.

Strict travel rules imposed by the Hong Kong authorities have seen Cathay’s traffic plummet over the last two years, and figures released for May 2022 show passengers numbers still down 98 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

But chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said that recent demand for inbound flights to Hong Kong “saw substantial growth, driven by pent-up demand out of North America, the UK and Europe”.

Flights have also resumed to Delhi and Mumbai, but the carrier continues to operate only limited frequencies into the Chinese mainland “to comply with ongoing capacity restrictions”.

“The first quarter of 2022 saw a tightening of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements as Hong Kong continued to fight against Covid-19,” said Lam.

“Such measures have restricted our ability to operate beyond only a fraction of our passenger services and have significantly reduced our cargo capacity.

“However, with the recent adjustments to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, we have been able to resume more flight capacity in the second quarter.

“Given a strong underlying cargo performance coupled with our cost-management measures implemented over the past two years, our consolidated losses in the first half of 2022, while substantial, are expected to be lower than the consolidated losses reported in the first half of 2021.”

This month the Hong Kong government agreed to extend the drawdown period of Cathay’s HK$7.8 billion loan facility for 12 months to June 2023, which Lam said was “greatly appreciated and will provide us with flexibility to manage our liquidity position”.

“Looking ahead to June and beyond, as travel demand continues to improve over the coming months, we will increase passenger flight capacity as much as is practicable under the confines of ongoing restrictions.

“Cathay Pacific started the year operating flights to 29 destinations and we target to double that by the end of the year. As of June, we are already halfway towards reaching this target with 45 destinations resumed.

“We will be keeping a close eye on the opening up of travel activities in nearby countries, such as Japan and South Korea, and will look to operate flights to capture potential demand wherever possible.

“We also expect transit traffic to improve and become more diversified, in particular between the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as well as North America and Southeast Asia.”