Cathay Pacific: the marketing of an airline, 1974 style

By David Flynn, October 27 2014
Cathay Pacific: the marketing of an airline, 1974 style

This month Cathay Pacific celebrates 40 years of non-stop flying between Hong Kong and Sydney, beginning with the CX101 service which touched down on 22nd October 1974.

You may think brands partnering with pop stars, creating 'experiential events' to bring the brand to life and providing opportunities to engage directly with the public is all quite new to the world of modern marketing.

But back in 1974 when Cathay Pacific Airways was getting ready to launch the first of its three-times weekly non-stop service between Sydney and Hong Kong, the airline did all of these things – and more.

In the lead up to the first flight on 21 October that year, on a Boeing 707 jet, the airline enlisted a group of its own pilots and flight attendants to tour Australia with leading Cantonese pop star and actress Frances Yip and, curiously, a 22-man Gurkha pipe band.

The promotion began in Perth and travelled to Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra and Brisbane, before arriving in Sydney.

Earlier that year, Hong Kong 'Cantopop' star Frances Yip had recorded a Cathay Pacific branded album “Discovery” with a title track about flying with the airline, while others tracks portrayed destinations on the network – with Australia represented by Waltzing Matilda.

They were all part of a Cathay Pacific show in which Frances sang, the flight attendants took part in fashion shows wearing their national costumes and the British and Australian pilots spoke reassuringly about working with the ‘Oriental’ airline.

Legendary Aussie adman Leo Schofield was then the copywriter for the advertising campaign and recalls that 40 years ago, it was important to talk up the credentials of flight crew.

“Australians were used to flying with Qantas or British Airways" Schofield explains. "So we wanted to reassure them that Cathay Pacific pilots were just as reliable and skilful in the cockpit, and had attentive flight attendants as well."

"So we wrote the line – ‘You’ll fly with people who care – experienced Australian and British pilots and flight engineers, charming Asian hostesses.’”

And while they were in Sydney in preparation for the first flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, those charming flight attendants and pilots worked hard.

Along with the promotional tour, fashion shoots and interviews, they were photographed and filmed for the airline’s advertising campaign.

Australian Captain Hal Dyball – now retired and living in Sydney's eastern suburbs – was one of the pilots whose face was consistently seen in newspaper advertisements, on posters and TV and cinema ads.

“In those days, I couldn’t go to the movies without seeing myself on the big screen,” he laughs.  “I not only appeared in the filmed ads, but also saw my face on posters on the windows of travel agents all over Sydney.”

Watch one of the original Cathay Pacific TV advertisements below

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, promotion of the new Sydney service included Australian fashion parades and cricket clinics taught by none other than Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh.

The inaugural Hong Kong-Sydney flight included leading dignitaries of the day as well as a number of journalists, and similarly the return flight from Sydney (crewed by then First Officer Hal Dyball and others from the promotional tour) saw journalists and the Daly-Wilson Big Band booked to continue the celebrations in Hong Kong.

And how much did that flight cost? In 1974, an economy return ticket from Sydney to Hong Kong in 1974 could be bought for $541.90.

While that was a grand sum in the mid-70s, today the same ticket can be booked from as little as $857.

That's not only a barely $300 increase in 40 years, it represents a far smaller portion of the average weekly wage.

Also read: Memories of a 'hostie' as Cathay Pacific celebrates 40 years of non-stop flying to Sydney

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 45

May I respectfully ask how much Cathay Pacific is paying AUSBT for all these articles *cough cough advertorials cough cough*?

While they are fascinating and 40 years of nonstop service to Sydney is worth mentioning it just seems to be an awful lot of extra publicity which, at least to me, goes beyond normal editorial interest.

Perhaps it is just me and the recent glut of articles about Cathay Pacific (either 40 years related or not) is just a coincidence.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Are you suggesting that hard-hitting recent articles like "Cathay Pacific: Service Makes All The Difference" might indicate that ausbt's copious journalistic ethics have been compromised? I'm shocked!

Hey guys, the Qantas and Virgin forums over at are relatively unpopulated which is why I keep having to come here. If everybody would just move over there, we wouldn't have to keep reading these sh*tty articles to get the useful discussion. Just a thought. (I'm Jorgen over there btw)


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 672

Nobody is forcing you to read these articles Hugo. Why not just read the articles you want to and ignore the ones you don't?

14 Feb 2012

Total posts 37

For the same reason people have to watch TV shows that offend they have something to complain about.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2556

Alatar144: you can indeed ask, and I will happily answer – "not a penny." The articles are being run because I considered them to be of interest to AusBT's readership - something underscored by traffic to these articles and their sharing on social media.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

I think it's a great article David. It's nice to remember those days of travel and what it was like. I think it would be great to have more of these kinds of articles.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 45

Thanks David, always good to hear why. May be good to emphasise that reasoning when an awful lot of similar themed articles come out at the same time.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

27 Oct 2014

Total posts 1

I felt compelled to join up and respond to this post if only because of all the negative votes it's been given. In my view, this is an entirely legitimate question and alatar144 is not the only person who has wondered to himself/herself why AusBT seems to have so much CX-focused content.

Being based in HKG and a member of the Marco Polo Club, I fly with them whenever I can. So I appreciate the contacts AusBT obviously has with people like Alex McGowan, Rupert Hogg etc because it makes for more in-depth and timely converage of the latest product/routes developments. But I have to admit that these retrospective-type articles we've been seeing recently seem a little over the top and - dare I say it - a slightly distasteful hark back to the colonial era. Why do we see the CX history books on the pages of AusBT rather than on itself?

I'm prepared to accept, as David has suggested, that AusBT is not getting anything for these articles.  And I'm sure that they're popular with the readers. Also don't forget that where AusBT has travelled free courtesy of an airline (including CX), that is always acknowledged at the bottom. So I think it's fair game - AusBT is the middle man between an airline happy to supply and readers happy to demand!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 701

I'm sure AusBT aren't paid to promote any airline too brushwing - although I think it's whitewashing to suggest they aren't influenced in any way by the relationships (provision of free review travel, preferred status for information release, individual relationships with PR people and executives at different airlines etc) they have with airlines. Naturally airlines look to make the most of the symbiotic relationships that exist between review sites and themselves, and it's impossible to not be influenced in some way (even if it just a small influence, people are human beings after all).

Personally I think AusBT are reasonable in their coverage of CX, and airline history is of interest to many flyers. There's only one airline where some articles get a bit overly gushy - but even then I suspect that has much to do with the airline having a very close non-financial relationship (not brown paper bags!).


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 191

I for one am VERY interested in what CX is up to, as Qantas doesn't fly internationally out of Perth any more. So CX has become my airline of choice to travel to Europe or North America, due to the great J seats. 


Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

using the RBA inflation calculator (with only 2013 data).

That $541.90 CX airfare is equivalent to $4,049.58 in 2013 dollars

Much cheaper to fly now!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 789

Good times. For some great footage of CX in action back then, (and SYD in the 70s) watch the movie "The Man from Hong Kong" (it's on YouTube). If you're impatient start from the 16m30s mark. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 135

I've really enjoyed these articles, and I'm sure when other airline's anniversaries come up there will be similar stories for those airlines. I think this is a great site with plenty of great information and articles that I, the reader, am not being asked to pay for, so you won't hear any complaints out of me! 


31 Aug 2013

Total posts 12

Advertorials are only an issue if people are too stupid to recognise them for what they are. Corporations also provide material like this all the time for marketing purposes, and that's not a problem, because I always just know at a gut level that it's part of marketing -- "reportage" doesn't sound like that.

And, there's nothing distasteful with the colonial era. See it for what it is.

These articles are of great interest for me, because I'm a branding buff and a fan of the 70s, and you can see how little Cathay's branding and marketing elements have changed. There's always been a > wing somewhere (even going back to the 50s) and the copy on the chinese version of the ad is incredibly familiar.

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