Easter holiday, Sevens traffic help offset growing competition, rising fuel costs Cathay Pacific Airways says it flew 21.8 per cent more passengers in March than it did during the same month a year earlier, largely on an upturn in leisure travel during the Easter holidays. Hong Kong's largest carrier said the influx of tourists to the city for last month's Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament also helped its passenger numbers, which grew to 1.26 million last month. During the first three months, Cathay said it carried more than 15.5 million passengers, a 17.1 per cent increase over the same period last year. 'A good Easter and the Rugby Sevens contributed to strong continued passenger growth,' said Cathay general manager of revenue management, sales and distribution Ian Shiu. The carrier said it carried 96,860 tonnes of cargo last month, an 8.1 per cent increase over the same period last year. Mr Shiu said Cathay faced increasing competition on many of its routes, a situation exacerbated by rising fuel prices. 'Competition and pricing on both regional and long-haul services remained keen, even on routes with high loads,' said Mr Shiu. 'Rising fuel prices continued to erode the bottom line as surcharges only partially covered our additional costs.' Cathay recorded 14.4 per cent growth in its seat-kilometre capacity last month while total passenger volume grew by 22.1 per cent to 5.3 billion revenue-passenger kilometres. The passenger load factor rose 4.9 percentage points to 78.5 per cent across its network. Cathay officials said its thrice weekly Xiamen route, which was launched last month, was living up to expectations. Cathay's chief representative and manager in Xiamen, Raymond Ma Wai-man, said the carrier's load factor for both cargo and passengers on the route stood at between 80 per cent and 90 per cent. 'We have no plans to ask for more frequencies at this time,' he said.