Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways has signalled its intent to start reversing its near-total grounding of aircraft because of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to start increasing its number of passenger flights in the last week of June, the flag carrier said on Tuesday.

The airline said it hoped to add more long-haul destinations, make flights more frequent, and reinstate some major Asian cities to its daily schedule for the first time in several months, "subject to government travel restrictions", reports the South China Morning Post newspaper. Cathay scaled its operations back to a skeleton schedule of three percent of services in early April, and that was extended until June 20. The newly announced increases would take that up to 5 percent.

Global airline industry

Flight timetable
Flight timetable (Representational image) Pixabay

The global airline industry has been rocked by the pandemic, which triggered a collapse in air travel demand amid severe travel restrictions and tough quarantine measures. Cathay, which has 236 aircraft, currently operates long-haul flights to London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Sydney twice a week, but will increase that to five times a week.

Amsterdam, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Melbourne were among the long-haul destinations set to return three times a week, the airline added. "We will continue to monitor the developing situation and further adjustments may be made as necessary," the SCMP report quoted the flag carrier as saying. Earlier this month, Cathay's budget unit HK Express extended its total grounding until June 18, has been on hiatus since March 23.

In a bid to cut costs, most of the Cathay Pacific Group's 34,200 staff have taken three weeks of unpaid leave. Also, 433 cabin crew in the US and Canada were told they would be laid off, while about 200 pilots in the UK, Australia have been furloughed.