Cathay Pacific is axing Cairns-Hong Kong flights from October

By Chris C., April 26 2019
Cathay Pacific is axing Cairns-Hong Kong flights from October

Cathay Pacific will end its non-stop Cairns-Hong Kong flights from October 2019, leaving Brisbane as the airline's sole Queensland port.

A spokesman for Cathay Pacific confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the route, which has been in operation since 1993, is being “suspended… for commercial reasons."

The last Hong Kong-Cairns flight is scheduled for October 26, with the final Cairns-Hong Kong leg on October 27, although the airline indicated those dates are yet to be finalised.

“The operation and commercial landscape has changed, but we will keep a close eye on the opportunity of resuming service to Cairns on our own aircraft,” Cathay Pacific’s spokesperson added.

Cathay currently offers four non-stop return flights each week between Cairns and Hong Kong. Some Cairns services also extended to Brisbane to collect extra passengers – helping to fill the aircraft – running as Brisbane-Cairns-Hong Kong and vice versa during off-peak periods when passenger demand from both cities is lower.

Pulling the plug on all Cairns flights has implications for Qantas codeshare passengers, given the Flying Kangaroo only began codesharing on Cathay Pacific’s Cairns flights from October 2018.

As that codeshare agreement doesn’t cover Cathay’s Brisbane-Hong Kong flights, affected Cairns-based travellers are expected to be rerouted via Brisbane aboard Qantas, with the one-stop journey replacing their non-stop itinerary.

Passengers who booked directly with Cathay Pacific should contact Cathay Pacific to arrange alternative flights, which will likely include a domestic Qantas flight from Cairns to Brisbane, and a Cathay flight from Brisbane to Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific’s spokesperson reiterated that “Cairns will continue to be served through our codeshare partner Qantas,” as the airline codeshares on Qantas domestic flights from Cairns to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The Cairns cancellations will, however, mean that all Cathay Pacific departures from Brisbane will run as non-stop flights, rather than some overnight journeys from Hong Kong making an early call into Cairns as the sun is coming up, so that passengers can enjoy a bit more uninterrupted sleep before reaching Brisbane.

Read: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 premium economy review, Brisbane-Hong Kong

Also read: Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 business class review, Hong Kong-Brisbane

The fate of the Reef Lounge at Cairns Airport – the only lounge in the terminal’s international departures area, which is owned and operated by Cathay Pacific and also shared with passengers of other airlines and programs like Priority Pass – is not yet known.

Cathay's move follows the withdrawal of Virgin Australia partner Hong Kong Airlines from the Cairns-Hong Kong route in October 2018, leaving Cairns without any non-stop flights to Hong Kong.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

VA Platinum

21 Nov 2013

Total posts 20

Interesting. I was on the exact flight yesterday (admittedly I did BNE - CNS - HKG) and the plane was absolutely empty on the first leg from BNE and then 100% full on the second. Perhaps an exception rather than the rule?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Apr 2019

Total posts 1

Every time I fly CNS - HKG it’s always full.

No, that’s the rule. Always been about 1/3 full BNE-CNS then pretty full thereafter.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 320

A full plane doesn't always equal profit in the airline industry. It's all about the yields.

Perhaps the yield on CNS-HKG was too low (e.g the plane was mostly full on low-cost VFR (Visiting Family Relatives) and budget fares) and the plane may have been better utilised elsewhere on a higher yielding route?

Future Cathay Dragon or Jetstar route ??

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 319

Wouldn’t have happened if the Govt had relaxed cabotage restrictions for secondary airports in North Australia, if only we had a political party looking after the interests of regional Australia.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jan 2015

Total posts 16

Selling out Australian aviation jobs, conditions and safety standards for whose benefit?

Even the Americans under Donald Trump would never even consider such a retrograde act to throw standards out the window.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 387

Not surprising. I was on MI last year between Singapore and Cairns, and the Boeing B738 was only about 60 - 65 per cent full. The key is yields and these may well also have been pretty low per available seat.

Nothing against CNS, but it just doesn't have the population to support large numbers of international flights, and inbound tourism is seasonal.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

17 Nov 2014

Total posts 103

That is sad that this route is suspended.

Perhaps Cathay should deploy A321LR to CNS on Cathay Dragon instead?

This is what I expect too. A321neo (doesn't necessarily have to be an LR; I don't think the range is necessary) on Cathay Dragon would be the better alternative.

06 Dec 2018

Total posts 11

This is sad but reflective of the times. My observation is North Queensland has been in decline where jobs and fiscal participation is concerned. It is hamstrung by a State Government that is south-east centric and forgotten. The State Government spends little money on infrastructure in the north and won’t as it sails to $100 billion in debt. Cathay started in 1993, the glory days of North Queensland... when flights from Hawaii landed at Cairns. It wasn’t uncommon to see 747s lined up at Cairns, but those days have truly passed. Since the GFC and the mining boom collapse, the north has not recovered. Throw a few cyclones in the mix and with the devastation, it’s hurt the north. I’ve noticed Qantas over last number of years have many times discounted fares to get people up there. So sad Cathay is leaving.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 387

There's even apparently a campaign to create a new State of North Queensland. Just how one would resolve the long running dispute between Cairns and Townsville as to which is the 'capital' is beyond me. Maybe a Canberra type solution with a Parliament at Tully?

The 'glory days' may be past but on a recent visit to Cairns I saw many Asian tourists, including South Koreans and Japanese, the latter ever so polite as always. And there were many USA residents around, as cruise ships call regularly, so it's not all gloom.


13 Aug 2016

Total posts 67

Freeing up an aircraft to do another try at the se

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 214

Ive flown CNS/HKG/CNS on CX more times than I can remember and flights are always full I just don't get it, now the only full service airline via ASIA to the world is gone, what a pity. Well maybe Mr Oboud who is building his 5 star $1B+ Crystalbrook hotel collection of hotels in Cairns (Riley now open) with hundreds of additional rooms might know more than we?.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 387

Flights may be full, but yield per available seat is the key. Not much good on a legacy airline if it's only VFR traffic and backpackers on cheaper fares.

There is some talk in the region about Emirates doing a flight to Cairns.

As it is leisure travellers though surely Dubai to Brisbane/Sydney followed by a QF codeshare would be sufficient?


21 Jan 2014

Total posts 8

People and passengers need to understand airlines yields. Having a full flight does not mean it has made money. When you add the cost of fuel, landing and parking fees, taxes, wages etc, the revenue received from passengers fares and cargo underneath does not always equal profits. There are lots of flights not making money even though they might be full of passengers. Airlines owned by foreign governments will have the losses paid for by government ownership. Look at the likes of TG, MH, EY and may others, but privately operated airlines run as businesses do not have that advantage. Anyway, YIELD is the most important accounting factor. So do not assume, just because the flight was or is full, that the airline has made money. In fact, they may have incurred a loss, and these losses add up over time.

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