Cathay Pacific Expects ‘Busy’ Christmas Travel, Weak Cargo

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293), Asia’s largest international carrier, expects a “very busy” Christmas travel season that will help offset a continued cargo slowdown.

“The Christmas season is looking quite ok,” Chief Executive Officer John Slosar said today in a Bloomberg TV interview in Hong Kong. “All flights are very busy.”

The carrier, based in Hong Kong, boosted passenger numbers 3.8 percent from a year earlier in October, as economic growth in China and the rest of Asia spurs demand for business and leisure travel. That helped the carrier withstand an 18 percent plunge in cargo tonnage caused by U.S. and European retailers ordering fewer goods ahead of the holidays shopping season.

“Somebody canceled Christmas as really the cargo volume hasn’t been there,” Slosar said. Demand will continue to be “soft” into the first few months of next year, he said.

Freight volumes surged in 2010 as U.S. and European retailers rushed to rebuild inventories following the end of the global recession.

The carrier, which gets about a third of sales from cargo, will boost freight capacity as much as 20 percent next year as it adds new Boeing Co. 747-8 freighters following production delays. Passenger capacity will increase 13 percent, the airline told analysts last month.

Cathay gained 0.6 percent to HK$13.64 at the close in Hong Kong trading. The stock has lost 36 percent this year, compared with a 17 percent decline for the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

The carrier also last week agreed to give Hong Kong-based staff a 5 percent pay increase next year, along with a one-month bonus. The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, which represents more than 5,800 cabin crew, accepted the offer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Li in Hong Kong at sli31@bloomberg.net; Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong at Jwang513@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net

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