When most travellers think of Cathay Pacific they think of Hong Kong. While that’s perfectly understandable – after all, the airline is based in the Asian metropolis and serves as the country’s de facto flag-carrier – Cathay Pacific takes the rest of the world under its wings.
More than two out of three Australians flying with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong continue onto other destinations in the airline’s network. “Two thirds, even more, move beyond Hong Kong," reveals Cathay Pacific's General Manager for the South West Pacific region, Rakesh Raicar.
The top five countries visited by Australians flying Cathay Pacific are China, the USA, Japan, the UK and Korea, Raicar tells Australian Business Traveller, drawing a direct line between those destinations and their roles as key trading partners for Australia.
China of course leads the pack, with Cathay Pacific and its regional sibling CathayDragon flying to some 28 cities through the mainland – including a solid flights 17 per day into Beijing and 18 to Shanghai. “There are so many frequencies that it’s very easy to connect,” Raicar says.
However, Virgin Australia’s push into Hong Kong – beginning with Melbourne-Hong Kong flights, and potentially extending to Sydney or Brisbane by year’s end – is eating into Cathay’s share of the pie, Raicar admits.
“There is no doubt about it. It's a basic fundamental law that more competition is going to dilute any other airline's business.”
“That said, Hong Kong is a very competitive market and Cathay is used to operating in a highly competitive environment. So based on our network and the kind of product and services that we have, I’m quite confident that we’ll be fine.”
Raicar cites the number of daily flights as one of Cathay’s strengths for the Australian business traveller. With four daily flights from Sydney and three from Melbourne, passengers can choose a flight time that suits their schedule.
Treating Hong Kong as a hub rather than an end destination also works in Cathay’s favour. “Because we are a network carrier, we are not only dependent on Hong Kong.”
That network will this year expand to Washington DC – which will be served by the airline's new Airbus A350-1000 – Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin and a new mainland China destination in Nanning.
And with Cathay already at the limit of 70 flights per week permitted between Hong Kong and Australia’s four major gateways of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, the airline will cater to growing demand by using larger aircraft rather than adding extra flights.
Sydney is likely to see its one remaining Airbus A330 flight upgraded to an Airbus A350-1000 in the second half of this year, with almost equal capacity to the Boeing 777-300ER jets rostered onto the airline’s three other daily flights.
All other Airbus A330s out of Australia will be replaced by either Airbus A350 or Boeing 777 jets over the next three years.