Cathay Pacific will reduce flights between Australia and Hong Kong, slash its services to mainland China by 90% and suspend several international routes including London Gatwick, Rome, Washington DC, New York Newark and Cape Town, as the deadly coronavirus continues to disrupt air travel on a global scale.
Cathay Pacific's worldwide capacity will be wound back by around 30 percent through until at least the end of March 2020, said airline CEO Augustus Tang, "due to the drop in customer demand into and around the region and more widely across the markets to where we fly."
The Oneworld member is particularly exposed to the impact of the epidemic, which has now infected more than 40,000 people and killed over 900: the airline's international routes are funnelled through its Hong Kong hub, while Cathay Pacific and its regional arm Cathay Dragon maintain an extensive network of 368 flights per week to 23 destinations across mainland China.
"Due to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent reduction in flight demand, Cathay Pacific Group is reducing capacity across its network inclusive of flights to and from Australia and New Zealand," a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman told Executive Traveller. "The schedule reduction equates to approximately 37 per cent of flights from 1 to 28 March 2020."
The spokeswoman added that "alternate flight arrangements will be offered to Cathay Pacific passengers whose journeys have been affected. Please visit cathaypacific.com for more information."
While Cathay Pacific has yet to widely share more specific details on its coronavirus-induced cuts, an update sent to members of the airline's Business Plus corporate loyalty scheme and sighted by Executive Traveller (see extract above) outlines the full set of 'planned frequency changes' and the dates they will take effect.
The airline also notes that its schedule changes "are subject to ongoing review and may be adjusted as the current situation continues to develop."
Cathay Pacific's reduced flights to Australia, New Zealand
After examining Cathay Pacific's schedule with an eye on the Business Plus member update, Executive Traveller can highlight some specific impacts to the airline's Australian flights – although it's important to remember that, as Cathay itself has noted, this is all "subject to ongoing review."
Cathay's long-standing four daily flights between Sydney and Hong Kong are being sporadically whittled back to around three daily flights over the coming weeks, with more disruption on the week commencing March 9, when the timetable is reduced to almost two daily flights; the subsequent weeks slowly bring things back towards three daily flights, but still with a few days on and off.
CX138/139 appears to be the only flight pair that continues operating as normal to the end of March, so it's the best bet for travellers to book onto, with CX161/162 the most affected during March but also CX100/101 and CX110/111 often pulled from the schedule.
Melbourne's three daily flights to Hong Kong are also highly changeable to the end of March, down to two and sometimes just one flight per day. The flight most often removed from the schedule is CX134/CX135.
Cathay Pacific's Brisbane timetable is cut to one flight per day from March 1, with both CX156/157 and CX150/155 swapping in and out, although from March 28 the timetable shows only the daily CX156/157 flight.
Adelaide will drop to two return flights per week from March 4 to March 28, specifically CX174/CX177 on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Perth appears to be reduced to four flights per week of CX170/CX171 across most of March, with five flights per week from March 21 and looking further ahead, a daily CX170/171 service from April (which is also being downgraded from the current Airbus A350-1000 to the smaller A350-900).
Across the pond, Cathay will reduce Auckland-Hong Kong to five flights per week from March 1.
Cathay Pacific's reduced flights to mainland China
In an unprecedented scything, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have axed flights to almost all of mainland China with the exceptions of Beijing, Shanghai (both Pudong and Hongqiao airports), Xiamen and Chengdu.
Even so, these will all see a vast reduction in frequencies. While Cathay Pacific will retain its current roster of 21 flights per week to Beijing and Shanghai, Cathay Dragon's regular schedule of seven daily flights to Beijing goes back to just two flights a day, while Xiamen shifts from three return flights to just one.
All other destinations within mainland China will see no flights until the end of March, under Cathay's current plans.
Cathay Pacific's reduced flights within Asia
Almost all Cathay flights between Hong Kong and Taipei are being suspended, following the Taiwan government's decision to impose quarantines or travel bans on foreigners who have visited the mainland, Hong Kong or Macau over the past 14 days (Taiwan’s China Airlines and Eva Air have also slashed their flights to Hong Kong, from an average of almost 30 daily flights between them to around five).
Through until at least the end of March, Cathay Dragon will host just four flights per week on the once-popular corridor while Cathay Dragon will suspend all flights. Cathay Pacific's daily Hong Kong-Taipei flights which continue to Tokyo and Osaka will remain, although those that continue to Nagoya and Seoul have been put on ice.
Cathay's Hong Kong-Singapore services have also been slashed from seven daily flights to four, with Singapore Airlines also dialling back its own flights on this route
Fights to Thailand have been halved, with Manila down from seven daily services to two, and no flights to Clark or Davao City in the Philippines. There are also reduced flights to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
Cathay Pacific's reduced flights to the rest of the world
Most of Cathay Pacific's European network remains unaffected across February, except for the suspension of all flights to London Gatwick, Rome and Milan, although the first week of March will see fewer flights to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Madrid, Manchester and Zurich, as well as Tel Aviv in the Middle East.
From early March, all cities with a single daily service – Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Manchester, Tel Aviv and Zurich – will find that flight appearing only on selected days each week: for example, Amsterdam, and Zurich scale back to six days, with Paris and Frankfurt at five days.
In the US, Cathay Pacific flights to Washington DC and the New York-adjacent Newark are being suspended from mid-February; LAX and San Francisco will drop from three daily flights to two; while Chicago and Boston will also see fewer flights each week.
Malé, gateway to the Maldives, is suspended until the end of March, as is Cape Town, with Johannesburg seeing fewer flights from March 2. The daily Hong Kong-Dubai flight is also being suspended, although the Hong Kong-Dubai-Bahrain flight will continue.
India will see slightly fewer flights to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Columbo, Hydrabad and Kolkata from February, and Delhi from March.
Additional reporting by Chris Chamberlin