Cathay Pacific says it expects to offer less than half of its usual capacity next year as airlines continue to suffer from the pandemic’s impact.
The carrier said the forecast was “the most optimistic that we can responsibly adopt”, adding it also depended on a successful vaccine being available.
Cathay Pacific said it expected to run at 10% of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity for the rest of 2020.
Passenger numbers in September fell 98.1% from the same month last year.
The numbers include the airline’s budget carrier Cathay Dragon.
“September rounded off what has been an incredibly difficult summer, traditionally the peak passenger travel season of the year,” said Cathay Pacific Group chief commercial officer Ronald Lam, in the airline’s monthly business update.
The airline said it expected to be operating at a quarter of its capacity for the first half of next year before passenger numbers start to recover in the second half of 2021.
“Among the multiple scenarios studied, this one is already the most optimistic that we can responsibly adopt at this moment,” said Mr Lam.
However, the forecast depends on the widespread availability of a vaccine by mid-2021.
The airline industry has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) tipping this year’s traffic to be 66% below the level it was in 2019.
The travel downturn has been particularly difficult for airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Air, which do not have domestic routes to soften the blow of international travel bans.
Cathay Pacific’s passenger numbers had seen only marginal growth from the previous month, even though the airline resumed routes to Cebu and Perth.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 47,061 passengers in September. Last year, the two airlines carried 35 million passengers on more than 81,000 flights.
The group’s freight business has not been as badly affected. It carried 109,453 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 36.6% compared to September 2019.
Cathay Pacific secured a HK$39bn (£4bn; $5bn) bailout plan from the Hong Kong government earlier this year.