Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) has grounded 40% of its passenger fleet for the foreseeable future, it revealed in its latest traffic figures for the month of August.

The beleaguered flag carrier’s flights were just 19.9% full in August, despite the resumption of flights from mainland China in the middle of the month.

Ronald Lam, chief customer and commercial officer, admitted in the report that the airline was “facing a long and uncertain road to recovery.” It is burning cash at a rate of HKD1.5-2 billion Hong Kong dollars (USD194-258 million) per month, he said, and “will continue to experience significant cash burn until the market recovers.”

A full restructuring plan could be unveiled in October, he added.

“Given that we will be operating just a fraction of our services in the foreseeable future, we will continue to transfer some of our passenger fleet - approximately 40% - to locations outside of Hong Kong in keeping with prudent operational and asset management considerations,” Lam explained without saying where.

Cathay Pacific currently operates a total of 152 aircraft, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, its Cathay Dragon (KA, Hong Kong Int'l) subsidiary operates 47, while low-cost unit HK Express (UO, Hong Kong Int'l) has 26. Some inactive aircraft have been ferried to Alice Springs for storage.

A source at Cathay Pacific told Reuters in mid-July that the company was considering sending “more than 50” of its widebody aircraft to less humid locations than Hong Kong Int'l for storage as it reviewed the size of its fleet.

“We are weathering the storm for now, but the fact remains we simply will not survive unless we adapt our airlines for the new travel market,” Lam warned. “A restructuring will therefore be inevitable to protect the company, the Hong Kong aviation hub, and the livelihoods of as many people as possible.”

Last week, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon said they would not apply for the latest round of government wage subsidies, increasing the likelihood that the group will cut its workforce as part of the restructuring, according to the South China Morning Post.

But other subsidiaries such as HK Express, cargo wing Air Hong Kong (LD, Hong Kong Int'l), Hong Kong Airport Services, and Cathay Pacific Catering Services will apply to the scheme, according to the company.