Swire Group

Festive cheer for Cathay, Dragonair

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am

With the festive season looming, Santa Claus is unlikely to forget Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair, which are expecting strong growth in passenger numbers that should help offset a slowdown in cargo volume.

James Tong Wai-pong, Cathay Pacific general manager for revenue management, said the 'leisure market is still going strong with positive growth in advance bookings for both individual and group travellers' during Christmas and the New Year.

He said there was also a rise in advance bookings among business and first-class travellers that was expected to outpace the capacity boost from new aircraft deliveries. Cathay Pacific is due to take delivery of six Airbus A330s and five Boeing 777s next year, as well as five Boeing 747-8 freighters.

'Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia are the most popular destinations for holidaymakers from Hong Kong during Christmas,' Tong said. 'We also enjoy good growth on United States routes. Looking further ahead in January and February, growth is strong on China, Africa and Philippines routes.'

He said bookings by premium travellers to Europe, including London, were 'robust' despite worries about a possible recession and growing concerns over the euro zone. There was also 'significant' growth in the number of economy reservations on flights to South Korea.

Dragonair expected a 'strong performance' from leisure travel in the holiday periods. Destinations in Taiwan, Southeast Asia and mainland trunk routes to Beijing, Shanghai and other locations such as Chengdu and Chongqing would 'perform well'. But pointing to possible headwinds, one analyst said with just over three weeks between January and Chinese New Year 'some people may only plan one leisure trip rather than two'.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair have seen mixed fortunes this year with a 2.3 per cent rise in the total number of passengers carried to 22.85 million in the 10 months to October, while cargo volumes dropped 7.7 per cent to 1.37 million tonnes.

Cathay Pacific Cargo director Nick Rhodes said the holiday season was unlikely to bring Christmas cheer for the airfreight business. 'It looks unlikely that we will see the usual year-end peak,' he said. 'Business from Europe and North America into Asia is slowing down.

'Business from Southeast Asia is relatively steady. Demand from Indonesia, Hanoi and the Philippines is encouraging and providing support to various destinations,' he said.

Rhodes noted that while the city's overall cargo throughput was down - falling 2.3 per cent to 3.98 million tonnes in the 12 months to October - transshipment cargo volumes rose by 5 per cent. This trend was likely to continue as cargo volumes from the Pearl River delta shrank and transshipment from all over Asia, particularly western China, increased.

But he said: 'Compared with this time last year we are already operating 15 per cent less freighter flights' on the transpacific and 25 per cent fewer freighter flights to Europe.

Citi expects Cathay Pacific's earnings to fall 56 per cent this year to HK$5.1 billion, down from HK$14 billion in 2010, with a 30 per cent drop in net profit to HK$3.6 billion in 2012.