Cathay Pacific Cargo signalled optimism at the start of the year, driven by the resumption of more services in its global network and the reopening of mainland China, which would further ease supply chain challenges.
In his Lunar New Year message, Tom Owen, director for cargo at Cathay Pacific, welcomed the recent developments in the aviation sector as he noted the stark contrast in the operating environment from a year ago.
"The contrast between this January and the same time last year could not be more marked. Back then, I was writing to apologise for the disruption because we'd had to suspend our long-haul freighter operations due to the restrictions placed on flight crew as Hong Kong managed the fifth wave of the pandemic," Owen said.
"Now, we are starting what always promised to be a challenging year commercially with the relaxation of restrictions as the Chinese Mainland reopens for travel and trade," he added.
"That, combined with the steady resumption of our wide-body passenger network, means we can start 2023 with a bit more optimism."
The Cathay Cargo executive noted that the airline is looking to return to around 80% of its pre-pandemic cargo capacity by the end of 2023 — although Owen said the early reopening of the Chinese Mainland "can only alleviate some of the global concerns about supply chains."
Emerging headwinds cited
Despite the positive start of the year, Owen warned of emerging headwinds as the global economy continues to face an uphill and as geopolitical tensions — especially in Europe — persist.
"As always, though, other headwinds are emerging," Owen said.
"The global economy remains generally weak, although we think that some of the countries most affected, which include several of our biggest markets like the US and Europe, should start working through their inflationary pain as we head into the second half of the year," he added, noting that it is anticipated that the additional wide-body capacity returning to the market may impact yields.
"But some of the markets, such as the Chinese Mainland, previously had less access to wide-body passenger bellies, and we anticipate that there will be pockets of opportunity across all the markets we serve," the Cathay executive further said, noting plans to strike a balance between capacity, yields and increased tonnages as Cathay works to "regain our market share, especially in the Greater Bay Area."
Owen also cited some of the improvements that Cathay is introducing as the airline seeks to become the world's most customer-centric air cargo service provider.
"This year, that means a new brand identity for the business, a new website, new sales tools to address the needs of our customers, improvements to our suite of special-handling solutions, enhancements to our service delivery, as well as more milestones ticked off on our digitalisation journey," he said.
Some of these improvements include the new Cathay Pharma solution as well as the facilities and technology at the new Pharma Handling Centre at the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal in Hong Kong.
"This is the newest facility of its type at our home hub and doubles our pharma and cold chain warehouse capacity, increasing the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a pharma centre," Owen said.
"Thank you for your continued support through the challenges of the past year: we are on the right path with much to look forward to," he added, ending his message with a greeting for the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit.