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Cathay Pacific diversifies in Europe, British Airways seeks China JV, as their partnership devolves

In a changing aviation world, as specificity and pragmatism become the norm for partnerships, every relationship is being reevaluated. Part of this is due to altered market dynamics, part to new aircraft types making thinner routes viable.

British Airways and Qantas moved to a different relationship when Qantas decided it needed to partner with Emirates; and now another of aviation’s old world partnerships, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, is showing signs of strain as Cathay reinforces its European network and BA seeks better access in mainland China.

For decades the airlines have used two of world’s pre-eminent hubs – at London Heathrow and Hong Kong – to transfer passengers beyond. While the relationship continues, it is having to evolve in order to meet the pressures of the new world.

Cathay has needed BA’s short haul Heathrow feed to sustain about two of its five London flights (a sixth will be added in Sep-2016 with a new London Gatwick A350 service) while BA has unsuccessfully sought Cathay’s access to other Asian markets, in particular mainland China, and Australia. Cathay has grown its online presence in Europe from six cities in 2010 to 10 in Sep-2016. More Hong Kong-Europe non-stops will open as the A350 fleet grows. Local partnerships, albeit small, are following in many ports.

BA’s mainland China presence is a strategic imperative, and Cathay is blocking favourable connecting flights. Instead BA is looking to grow its online China network and partner with a Chinese carrier; China Eastern and China Southern are the obvious picks. In tandem with this, British Airways is adding a second Shanghai flight using peak London Heathrow slots.

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