Cathay Pacific to operate less than 50% of pre-pandemic capacity in 2021
Airline nearing completion of strategic review
Capacity could recover in H2 2021 if vaccine widely adopted
Passenger numbers fell 98.1% in Sept., cargo down 36.6%
Adds details of first half capacity forecast, passenger numbers
SYDNEY, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd 0293.HK said on Monday it expects to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity in 2021 as it nears completion of a strategic review that could lead to major job losses.
The airline said it planned to operate around 10% of its pre-pandemic capacity for the remainder of 2020, with most borders remaining closed.
The airline industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic as many countries imposed travel restrictions to contain its spread. Many of the curbs still remain in place.
"Among the multiple scenarios studied, this one is already the most optimistic that we can responsibly adopt at this moment," Cathay said in the release of its monthly traffic figures to the stock exchange.
The airline said it assumed it would be operating well below 25% of pre-pandemic capacity in the first half of 2021 but that there would be a recovery in the second half if vaccines currently under development proved effective and are widely adopted in its key markets by the middle of 2021.
In September, the airline's passenger numbers fell by 98.1% compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6%.
Cathay had in June said it was reviewing its strategy in light of the travel downturn, with "tough decisions" to be announced during the fourth quarter.
The South China Morning Post reported on Monday the Cathay board was expected to back a restructuring plan this week that included staff redundancies and pay cuts, citing unnamed sources.
In response, Cathay told Reuters it declined to comment on speculation.
Singapore Airlines Ltd SIAL.SI has announced plans to cut around 20% of positions, while Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd QAN.AX has said it will cut nearly 30% of its pre-pandemic staff, but Cathay has so far refrained from major job cuts.
Cathay has sent around 40% of its passenger fleet to less humid locations outside Hong Kong for storage.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
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