Swire Group

Cathay seeks more flights to Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 May, 2011, 12:00am

Cathay Pacific Airways is eyeing additional flights to Taiwan to cope with rising passenger demand even though the number of Taiwanese visitors to Hong Kong fell in the first three months of this year.

Hong Kong and Taiwan are negotiating a new air pact to increase the number of flights between the two sides by an estimated 56 per week.

John Slosar, Cathay's chief executive, said: 'In the context of new flights, we would certainly be interested in getting another daily flight or two.'

He said the airline had added back all the flights that it cancelled from late 2008 because of the loss in traffic caused by direct cross-strait flights and the economic downturn.

Slosar, speaking after the company's annual general meeting yesterday, said Taiwanese travellers liked to stop in Hong Kong 'although there is a lot more direct traffic'.

Cathay operates 108 round trip flights between Hong Kong and Taipei. Subsidiary Dragonair also operates services to Taipei and Kaohsiung, with 42 return flights a week to Taiwan's second city.

Figures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board last year showed the number of visitors from Taiwan rose 7.7 per cent to 2.16 million despite the continued expansion of cross-strait flights.

This followed several travel trade promotions that increased the number of travellers from Taiwan.

But tourism board figures for the first three months of this year showed the number of people visiting from Taiwan fell 5.5 per cent year on year to 507,404 because of direct cross-strait flights and competitive air ticket prices.

Slosar said Cathay continued to be affected by the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation leak in Japan.

He said the carrier's seven daily flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo were cut to three or four for most of last month.

The airline has some flights and will operate six daily flights to Narita up to the end of the month.

There is also a reduced flight schedule to other destinations in Japan including Osaka, Sapporo and Nagoya at least to the end of this month.

Slosar said average passenger loads were down to about 50 per cent but were normally much higher, although he hoped there would be a recovery in the summer.

Earlier this month, he said Japan accounted for 7 to 8 per cent of airline revenue before the disasters.

On the outlook for this year, Slosar said it was 'shaping up to be a normal year after an abnormally strong' 2010.

He pointed out the spring months of April and May tended to be weak while summer 'tends to be stronger'. He said the disruptions in Japan and the Middle East 'was nothing we can't recover from'.

He thought that while 2011 was not 'as strong as it was in 2010', there was no sign it was going to be 'systemically' weak.

This came after the latest traffic figures showed the number of passengers rose 1.7 per cent in the first four months to almost 8.7 million, while cargo volumes fell 0.3 per cent to 562,805 tonnes.