Cathay Pacific axes flights to select airports in some of world’s busiest cities, including London, New York and Washington

Danny Lee
·3-min read

Cathay Pacific has scrapped seven loss-making international routes from its schedule, including to Washington, Brussels, London, and New York.

An internal memo described the move as permanent, with an insider saying all of the services were losing money.

However, a source said while the axed routes would definitely not return next year, they could be reinstated once global travel returns to normal. Industry officials have forecast that might not be until 2024, and long-haul routes would recover last.

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The decision means the airline will no longer fly to the US capital, as well as Newark airport near New York, and London Gatwick. Flights to Seattle, and Dublin have also been cut, as has Cathay’s service to Male airport in the Maldives.

Cathay is still flying to London Heathrow, and JFK in New York, which are the two busiest airports in those cities.

Some of the routes were among the first to be temporarily halted during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, except Dublin, which was suspended in the midst of last year’s anti-government protests.

“As we have previously announced, we expect to operate well under 25 per cent of 2019 passenger capacity in the first half of 2021 and below 50 per cent for the entire year,” a Cathay spokeswoman said.

“After careful consideration, we believe it is unlikely we will operate flights services to these destinations in the near future. We remain in a very dynamic situation and we will continue to review our flight network.”

In September, the airline’s CEO, Augustus Tang Kin-wing, said the restructuring of routes would be high on the agenda for its strategic review, which led to 5,900 workers losing their jobs in October, and the closure of its regional airline Cathay Dragon. Pilots and cabin crew were also hit with massive pay cuts.

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The bulk of the routes that have been cut so far were serviced by Cathay Dragon, which flew to more than 50 destinations at the height of its profitability.

Cathay expects to resume flying to most regional destinations once flown by Dragon. The two brands overlapped on only 17 routes, and the regional airline did most of the group’s flying to mainland China. Before Covid-19, the Cathay group flew to 93 destinations worldwide.

Most of the axed flights were launched when Rupert Hogg was CEO. He pursued a mantra of rapid growth to bolster the airline’s ability to connect passengers from one part of the world to another, via Hong Kong, and oversaw one of the biggest expansions of the airline in a decade.

Cathay Pacific was one of the first and hardest hit by the coronavirus. The airline racked up losses of HK$9.87 billion (US$1.27 billion) in the first six-months of this year, leading to a government-led HK$39 billion bailout.

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