Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong International) is trimming its schedules by an average of 12 flights per day through to the end of February to avoid significant flight cancellations over the peak Chinese Lunar New Year period. The pre-emptive decision comes as the airline grapples with a significant pilot shortage.

"We have taken measures to ensure Cathay Pacific’s flights will operate normally for the coming Chinese New Year travel peak," reads a statement from the airline. The cancellations will mainly be on routes with multiple daily services, allowing Cathay to transfer booked passengers onto same day services.

The carrier is under some scrutiny in Hong Kong after a spate of flight cancellations since December 24, 2023, including 40 flights over four days. However, cancellations peaked on January 7 when the airline axed 27 flights at short notice.

“Given our January pilot rosters were already set in mid-December, the lack of adequate reserve levels persisted into January,” Cathay's statement reads. “In order to stabilise the current operation, we needed to cancel further flights across the first two weeks of January.”

After slashing its workforce during Covid-19, local news outlets say Cathay Pacific is now experiencing significant difficulties recruiting pilots, especially senior pilots. The Hong Kong Free Post outlet says Cathay only recruited 100 new pilots in 2023. According to The Straits Times, around 1,000 of the airline's 4,000 pilots were made redundant during the pandemic, while a further 1,000 resigned, effectively reducing Cathay's pilot pool by 50% over the period.

In the six months to June 30, 2023, the airline posted a net profit of HKD4.26 billion Hong Kong dollars (USD545 million), its first profit in three years. According to the ch-aviation PRO airlines module, Cathay Pacific's fleet of 190 aircraft fly to 91 airports in 32 countries.