HONG KONG (AP) — Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said it was ready to rebuild as Hong Kong opened up to global visitors despite reporting wider losses in 2022.
The airline reported an annual loss of 6.55 billion Hong Kong dollars ($834.4 million) for the year ending Dec. 31 — an 18.5% increase in losses from 2021 amid strict entry restrictions into the city during the first half of 2022.
However, Cathay saw revenue grow 12% to 51 billion Hong Kong dollars ($6.5 billion), and also posted an operating profit of 3.55 billion Hong Kong dollars ($452 million) for the first time since 2019, as quarantine requirements in Hong Kong were relaxed in the second half of 2022.
“2022 was another challenging year for the Cathay Pacific Group due to the travel restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cathay CEO Ronald Lam said in a statement. “However, we were very encouraged to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel in the second half of 2022, and the positive momentum has continued into 2023.”
Cathay attributed the significant loss in 2022 to results from its associates, including Air China, that “reflected the continuing impact of the COVID crisis on our Chinese mainland investments,” Cathay Chair Patrick Healy told a news conference Wednesday.
In 2022, Cathay held about an 18% stake in state-owned Chinese carrier Air China, which said earlier this year that it expected losses of up to 39.5 billion yuan ($5.7 billion) — more than double its losses in the year before.
Cathay said it would be operating at about 70% of pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity by the end of 2023, and aims to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024.
Cathay has been slower to recover than regional rivals such as Singapore Airlines after Hong Kong aligned with mainland China’s restrictions and stance on COVID-19. The city was among the last places in the world to ease masking requirements in March, and for most of 2022 had required incoming travelers to serve a mandatory quarantine.
Lam, however, said the airline had recovered faster than others with a capacity climb from a single-digit percentage to a rebound of 70% at the end of 2022.
“If you compare that pace with any airlines or any city in the world, in fact we are not falling behind. We are faster than many parts of the airlines, just that our starting point was different,” he said.
The airline is also struggling with a shortage of crew members as well as dissatisfaction by many flight attendants over pay cuts and less rest time. In a statement, the company said that it recognized difficulties in crew rosters, resourcing, schedules and customer support hotlines and said it would do its “utmost to minimize such issues as we continue to rebuild.”
“We are focused on reconnecting, and this means reconnecting Cathay Pacific with Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area, and the Chinese mainland as well as reconnecting our home city to the world,” Healy said.