Cathay Pacific is reportedly aiming to take over slightly more than half of the routes previously flown by the Cathay Dragon, with the rest assigned to low-cost carrier HK Express.
However, some key routes may also be opened up to rival Hong Kong Airlines and newly-minted competitor Greater Bay Airlines, which plans to launch in mid-2021 with a fleet of Boeing 737 jets and helmed by former Cathay Dragon CEO and 40-year Cathay veteran Algernon Yau Ying-wah.
Cathay Dragon, formerly Dragonair, operated as Cathay Pacific's regional arm but was scrapped in October 2020 as part of an extensive cost-saving exercise aimed at ensuring the parent airline's survival as it weathers the global pandemic and "adapts to the new travel reality."
"The reality is that in these difficult times we must focus on a single world-leading premium travel brand in Cathay Pacific, complemented by a single low-cost leisure travel brand in HK Express," Cathay Pacific Group Chairman Patrick Healy said at the time.
Cathay Dragon's network covered around 50 destinations across Asia, with around half of those being in mainland China.
Healy said the group would seek regulatory approval from the Hong Kong Government "for a majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes to be operated by Cathay Pacific and HK Express".
Some of those, such as Kuala Lumpur, have already been reassigned to Cathay Pacific.
According to Hong Kong's Apple Daily, Cathay Pacific has applied for around 25 former Cathay Dragon routes with a heavy emphasis on the larger cities in China: the list is said to include Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Taipei, Penang, Tokyo and Kolkata.
The South China Morning Post has previously reported that Hanoi, Fukuoka and Kaohsiung will also come under Cathay's wing.
With Cathay Pacific roping off destinations which typically enjoy premium traffic, HK Express is said to have its eye on cities with a more price-sensitive and predominately leisure market, including Guilin, Ningbo, Medan, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap plus several other destinations in Japan.
Unlike Cathay Pacific, HK Express flies its single-aisle Airbus A320-series jets in an all-economy configuration.
Cathay Pacific declined to comment on specifics of the Cathay Dragon network carve-up, with a spokesperson telling Executive Traveller only that the group would "continue to strengthen our network and maintain the international hub status of Hong Kong by harnessing Cathay Pacific’s strengths and unparalleled customer experience, while leveraging the potential of its low-cost carrier, HK Express."
Cathay Pacific will also inherit all of the Cathay Dragon fleet, including 16 factory-fresh Airbus A321neo jets sporting a new regional business class seat.
Two A321neo aircraft have already been delivered to Cathay Pacific, with four more headed for the Hong Kong hangars in 2021 and 10 to follow in 2022 "and beyond," the airlines says.
Cathay Pacific has yet to advise when the A321neos will take flight, and on which routes: an airline spokesperson told Executive Traveller "we will announce details at the appropriate time."