Cathay Pacific Group has published an update on planned capacity increases over the next two years, with the aim of reaching pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024.

Subsidiary Cathay Pacific was particularly badly hit by regional travel restrictions as a result of Covid-19, with capacity down 98 per cent as recently as May this year.

But the group – which comprises Cathay Pacific and HK Express – has been gradually ramping up its schedules, and now expects to reach one-third of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity levels by the end of 2022.

This will rise to 70 per cent capacity by the end of 2023, before the group’s operations finally return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024.

Cathay said that recent measures by the Hong Kong government to ease travel restrictions had led to it adding around 3,000 passenger flight sectors between October and the end of the year.

Hong Kong to end hotel quarantine for international arrivals

The group said that it remained “remains confident about the long-term prospects for the aviation sector in Hong Kong, as it looks forward to the complete removal of all travel constraints by the HKSAR Government to facilitate the full resumption of travel activities both to and from Hong Kong that can enhance the city’s hub connectivity”.

Commenting on the news chief executive officer Augustus Tang said:

“The Group is on track to achieve its target of operating up to one-third of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity levels by the end of 2022. This represents a doubling of the capacity that we offered in August and is approximately eight times the average capacity the airline operated in the first half of 2022.

“As the Covid-19 situation eases, airlines around the world have been rebuilding their capacity. This requires the global aviation ecosystem, including airports, suppliers and our own airlines, to undertake a substantial amount of preparation with regards to crew and ground employees, aircraft reactivation and recruitment.

“This is a challenge faced by airlines, industry suppliers and airports around the world and one which takes time and robust planning to overcome.

“We are taking a measured and responsible approach to managing our own road to recovery, with a need to address challenges that are unique to Hong Kong. The city’s borders were closed for much longer than other markets and importantly, aircrew in Hong Kong were uniquely under quarantine constraints that weren’t lifted until September.

“Despite all this, our recovery trajectory is in line with other carriers that don’t benefit from a domestic market in terms of the time taken since borders began to open.

“Importantly, we have sufficient pilots, cabin crew and operational employees to support our current flight schedules, and we are confident that our ongoing recruitment plans will ensure this remains the case throughout the recovery.

“The short-term bottlenecks lie in the recertification of pilots who have not been flying regularly for a long period of time and the reactivation of aircraft. We have been bolstering our capabilities to expedite this process.”

Last month Cathay announced plans for a “substantial increase” in flights to London Heathrow in November and December, alongside the resumption of its first class service on the route.

Cathay Pacific to resume first class flights to London