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- 9F, Central Tower, 8 Scenic Road
Hong Kong SAR, China
- Main hub
- Hong Kong International Airport
- Hong Kong
- Business model
- Full Service Carrier
- Joined Alliance
- Association Membership
- Codeshare Partners
- Air China
Air New Zealand
As the national carrier of Hong Kong SAR and based at Hong Kong International Airport, Cathay Pacific is majority-owned by logistics corporation Swire Pacific with significant shareholdings from Air China parent CNAC. Using a fleet which includes widebody Boeing and Airbus aircraft, Cathay Pacific’s extensive network consists of services throughout Asia, Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Cathay Pacific is a founding member of the oneworld alliance and wholly-owns short-haul operator Dragonair.
Location of Cathay Pacific main hub (Hong Kong International Airport)
Cathay Pacific share price
1,669 total articles
230 total articles
As Jetstar Hong Kong prepares to launch, Hong Kong Airlines weighs transforming Hong Kong Express into an LCC, Spring Airlines moots a Hong Kong base and other LCCs evaluate Hong Kong as a hub, the market has been left wondering about Cathay Pacific's response. Cathay and its Dragonair subsidiary account for about half of Hong Kong's capacity.
Cathay effectively has no public response. While deep down it is watching the market and undoubtedly weighing possible reactions, from a business perspective it says LCCs will not impact its business while to the general public its push has been to offer a limited number of discounted web-only tickets, "Fanfares", as a reminder that it can offer fares on par with LCCs.
Any airline can cut fares, but few can do so profitably. Fanfares account for less than 1% of seats, relatively isolating Cathay from any pricing detriments, but reminding the carrier this is no response to LCCs either taking existing traffic or creating new demand Cathay will be unable to tap. Structural change is needed.
Australia needs to urgently negotiate expanded international air capacity which is constraining access to services from some of the country’s most important markets in Asia along with the United Arab Emirates. Capacity for several Asian markets, including China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, is fully utilised by carriers from those countries which are important source markets for both tourism and trade.
The Australian Government is being criticised for not negotiating new bilateral capacity to keep pace with demand. Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff said at the Australian Airports Association convention in Nov-2012: “These agreements provide the framework in which we can go out to the international market and attract new air services to meet the increasing demand for travel to and from Australia. The Government needs to lead from the front on this issue. Our bilateral agreements need to provide plenty of capacity for future growth in passenger numbers.”
Air NZ has returned to “growth mode” adding capacity to North American routes, resuming daily operations to Tokyo and Shanghai and strengthening its short-haul network.
After restoring its long-haul network to profitability and reporting a 300% increase in underlying profit for the first half of FY2013 Air NZ is focusing on developing a partnership-based Pacific Rim network.
The carrier has forged an alliance with Cathay Pacific on the Auckland-Hong Kong route and consolidated its China mainland capacity to Shanghai, dropping Beijing. Capacity to North America has been increased partly taking advantage of being handed a monopoly on the trans-Pacific after Qantas pulled its Melbourne-Auckland-Los Angeles service in May-2012, redeploying the A330 capacity in the Australian domestic market to support its domestic battle with Virgin Australia.
Closer to home, a new short haul fleet of A320s and ATR72-600s are arriving to drive domestic growth and keep a menacing Jetstar at bay.
The Seychelles attracted 4,500 Chinese tourists in 2012, so it and flag carrier Air Seychelles look with envy to the Maldives, which in 2012 had 230,000 Chinese tourists. Air Seychelles hopes to attract a greater number of Chinese visitors not only from its flights departing Hong Kong, the first of which left on 25-Mar-2013, but via traffic feed across mainland China from a pending partnership with Cathay Pacific that it hopes to announce in coming weeks. In exchange for feed, Air Seychelles' link will enable Cathay to sell the Seychelles, finally giving it a presence in China's booming demand for luxury tropical getaways. And the Cathay partnership may be extended to Air Seychelles' part-owner Etihad Airways.
Air Seychelles links Mahe to Hong Kong via Abu Dhabi, effectively giving Etihad Airways – which owns 40% of Air Seychelles – an Abu Dhabi-Hong Kong flight via codeshare in absence of its own service to Hong Kong due to aircraft shortages. This use of open air service agreements, at Air Seychelles/Etihad and globally, is only in its early days. A MoU between the Seychelles and Australia could also in the long-term allow Air Seychelles to expand Etihad's footprint in Australia at a time when competitor Emirates is dominating the continent and the UAE-Australia bilateral capacity is capped.
Hong Kong is no Singapore for low-cost carriers – in early 2013 LCCs account for 5% of all seats at Hong Kong, compared with 27% of seats in Singapore. But Hong Kong is on the verge of a possible rapid structural change that could see LCCs account for approximately 15% of seats in Hong Kong in 2015.
The spike in LCC presence is predicated on a number of factors, including the successful launch of Jetstar Hong Kong, the continued expansion of mainland China’s Spring Airlines and the mooted re-launch of Hong Kong Express into an LCC. The fast ascent of LCCs will level off around the middle or latter part of the decade when almost all slots at Hong Kong airport will likely become utilised, leading to the possibility of a period of almost no growth until the completion of a much-needed third runway, which will not open until around the turn of the decade. Singapore in contrast has enjoyed many years of rampant LCC growth.
As the Hong Kong slot shortage comes closer into view, airlines are participating in an effective slot grab, growing routes or maintaining unprofitable capacity in order to secure slots and hope the services will later be sustainable.
Cathay Pacific has lost its ability to move faster than the changing North Asian market, and this is reflected in an 84% drop in 2012 profits to HKD916 million (USD118 million). Although this is a profit, unlike global peers, it was achieved with a paltry 1.8% operating margin.
Cathay’s solution is to offer consistency in what it has done, rather than focus on what it can do differently. When the market rebounds, it will do so with a new competitive landscape that gives no guarantee past traffic can be regained. Even Cathay management seems unconvinced by its own explanation for why it does not have a low-cost carrier subsidiary. But LCCs are just part of the changing environment: Cathay needs strategic partners and a wider long-haul network, neither of which show signs of eventuating in the short-term.
Cathay is a cautious and conservative airline; it has relied on delivering benchmark quality to distinguish it. While this has advantages, the quickening pace of North Asian aviation will demand that Cathay break out of its shell. At the least, this will let Cathay counter competition while a more enduring effort will let it overtake the competition.
Cathay Pacific Fleet Summary: as at 26-May-2013
Cathay Pacific projected delivery dates for aircraft being purchased directly from manufacturers* as at 27-May-2013
Cathay Pacific fleet as at 26-May-2013
Cathay Pacific fleet breakdown for aircraft as at 26-May-2013
Cathay Pacific average fleet age
Cathay Pacific owned vs leased for aircraft (at 27-May-2013)
Most popular aircraft types
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