Hong Kong transport chief urges Cathay to explain flight cancellations

Hong Kong media reported that the flagship carrier cancelled up to 70 flights during the peak Christmas and New Year holiday travel period due to “higher-than-expected pilot absences caused by seasonal illness.


Technicians undertake examination work on a Cathay Pacific aircraft at Xiaoshan International Airport in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in June 2023. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

January 9, 2024

HONG KONG – Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung expressed great concern over recent flight cancellations by Cathay Pacific Airways, and the bureau has instructed the Civil Aviation Department to monitor the airline’s arrangements and follow-up on developments.

Hong Kong media reported that the flagship carrier cancelled up to 70 flights during the peak Christmas and New Year holiday travel period due to “higher-than-expected pilot absences caused by seasonal illness.”

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“I urge Cathay Pacific to explain to affected passengers the relevant arrangements after flight consolidation as soon as possible, and (to) provide appropriate support and follow-up measures, such as arranging (for) affected passengers to transfer to other Cathay Pacific flights or flights of other airlines, so as to minimize the impact on passengers”, the transport bureau chief said in a social media post on Monday.

Lam said that, with Hong Kong’s aviation industry moving toward normalcy, Hong Kong-based airlines need to increase their capacity to meet the demand, and they must responsibly handle flight allocations and manpower arrangements.

“As an international aviation hub, it is extremely important for Hong Kong to provide passengers with high-quality and stable services”, Lam said.

He said that he has asked Cathay Pacific to review flight allocation and manpower arrangements carefully, and to maintain good communication with employees, ensure stable and reliable services for passengers, and make flexible plans to allocate resources for dealing with possible emergencies.

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Hong Kong International Airport’s website showed that the carrier had cancelled 21 flights as of 11:30 am on Monday, exceeding the average number provided by the company.

The carrier’s statement on Sunday said that it plans to cut 12 flights per day on average for the rest of January until February, focusing on routes with multiple daily flights where possible, to ensure normal operations during the Lunar New Year travel rush. Affected passengers will be offered convenient alternative flying times or a refund.

“We have taken measures to ensure Cathay Pacific’s flights will operate normally for the coming Chinese New Year travel peak. Hong Kong people traveling out and visitors coming in to Hong Kong can be assured that their travel will go ahead as planned”, Cathay Group Chief Executive Officer Ronald Lam Siu-por said in the statement.

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Cathay Pacific said it has reviewed its flight schedules and increased pilot standby levels to enhance the resilience of its operations.

The airline group added that its operations had been stretched over the Christmas travel peak period, which had led to operational disruption. In addition to reviewing flight schedules and enhancing pilot standby levels, the airline will make necessary changes to ensure future operational stability.

It is understood that some short-haul flights with fewer passengers on routes to Taipei, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and mainland cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as flights to Bangladesh and Dubai, may be canceled through next month.

The cancellations are being made to ensure that available pilots do not reach their 100-hour flying-time limit within 28 days, as required by the Civil Aviation Department, thereby ensuring there will be enough manpower available to handle the expected travel rush during the Lunar New Year holiday.

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