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Hong Kong SAR, China
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Cathay Pacific is the de facto flag carrier serving Hong Kong International Airport. The carrier is majority owned by logistics corporation Swire Pacific, with significant shareholdings from Air China parent CNAC. Utilising a fleet which includes widebody Boeing and Airbus aircraft, Cathay Pacific’s extensive network serves destinations throughout the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America. 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)
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347 total articles
Korean Air is at last taking the plunge into strategic partnerships as it weighs accepting a deep partnership, even a joint venture and an equity stake, from "frenemy" Delta Air Lines. It will be the first major partnership for Korean Air and the Seoul Incheon hub, and will finally give Delta the Asian JV it has lacked.
Korean Air quietly bet the house on an Asia-North America transfer business, but now needs a friend as airlines in mainland China and elsewhere add rapid growth to the trans-Pacific. In the space of five years Cathay Pacific and Air Canada have overtaken Korean Air, while China's airlines have gone from being collectively smaller than Korean Air to nearly three times as large.
Delta has brought back Korean Air's codeshares and in a possible peace offering is giving Korean Air more codeshare access than ever before. Korean Air receives critical behind gateway feed, and a reminder of what more can be achieved with Delta as a friend. From having no codeshares in 2015, in 2017 Korean Air is now Delta's largest non JV codeshare partner.
Delta Air Lines is rekindling its partnership with Korean Air. Delta has previously used heavy-handed tactics – cutting off codeshares, nearly eliminating reciprocal frequent flyer benefits otherwise enshrined in their SkyTeam alliances – to bully Korean Air into a JV. The attraction to Delta is a JV partner in Asia, which American and United have long enjoyed.
Korean Air, until recently, has failed to see the benefits of a partnership with Delta, which has a smaller trans-Pacific footprint. Although Korean Air felt the damage from all but losing its North American partner, what Delta needed to give Korean Air was time. It has helped that Delta is no longer pursuing a hub in Tokyo – a rival to Korean Air and Seoul.
A deeper Delta-Korean Air partnership, as hinted at by Delta management in Dec-2016, starts with both feeling competitive trans-Pacific pressure but jointly holding a position of strength, with a JV slightly smaller than United-ANA's, but much larger than American-JAL. Korean Air brings wider coverage to Southeast Asia, as well as North American gateways.
China has agreed to liberalise passenger flights and remove capacity restrictions with Australia, its largest outbound long haul market after the United States. This is a relief to Chinese airlines, which face bilateral constraints in North America and Europe. The result is already evident as Chinese airlines deploy more capacity and larger aircraft to Australia.
In North American and European markets the local governments hold back on traffic right expansion (let alone open skies). But for Australia it was the Australian government, which signalled some years ago that it wanted to liberalise once China was ready – a time that has now come.
Australia's view was progressive and detached from bygone days of national carrier interest; Chinese airlines hold 90% of the market to Australia. Elsewhere many governments still hold back on Chinese traffic right expansion so their local airlines can continue to grow. There are 15 Chinese airports that have nonstop flights to Australia with a total of 27 airport pairs – figures that should expand in 2017 as the market evolves further with the Virgin Australia-HNA partnership.
It may seem surprising that Asia's oldest aircraft fleet is operated by Cathay Dragon, part of the Cathay Pacific Group that is one of Asia's historically blue-chip, but now challenged, aviation companies. Cathay, according to the South China Morning Post, is midway through an RFP to acquire 23 next-generation narrowbody aircraft from 2019. Meanwhile its local rival HK Express has already received its first A320neo.
Cathay Dragon operates 42 passenger aircraft, including 23 narrowbodies with an average fleet age of 12.6 years. The A330s – including the world's oldest – push average fleet age to 14.5 years, the highest of major Asian airlines. The A320s alone would still be the oldest fleet; Korean Air has the second oldest fleet, but at a younger 9.8 years.
The aircraft order is overdue and Cathay missed an opportunity five to ten years ago to grow a larger footprint in mainland China. Now the Singapore Airlines Group – thanks to narrowbodies and LCCs – serves more Chinese cities than Cathay does in its own backyard. Although it is a buyer's market for new aircraft these are precarious times at Cathay, whose fiery unions lack confidence in management spending and direction. As Cathay restructures it appears that inevitably staff will have to make salary sacrifices, further challenging how to communicate the necessity of long term investments.
Delta-Korean Air joint venture creates trans-Pacific's second largest bloc. Cathay, EVA under threat
The unprecedented aviation market growth between Asia and North America is forcing airlines to re-evaluate their core strategy and reassess who is a competitor and who could be a partner. It seems probable that Delta Air Lines and Korean Air will form a joint venture, potentially making them the second largest trans-Pacific bloc.
The next two largest airlines without a deep partnership, EVA Air and Cathay Pacific, are having to confront significant change, without the support of partners. Delta-Korean Air brings United-ANA its closest rival yet, while the American-JAL JV – already smaller – needs bulking up.
Korean Air brings Delta a wider network in Asia than ANA or JAL offer to their respective JV partners, United and American. A Korean Air-Delta JV could result in more destinations and flights being added once they are able to sell jointly.
The rapid growth of mainland China's HNA Group is resulting in companies being added ahead of integration. HNA's two Hong Kong-based airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express, are increasingly overlapping with each other. That their roles are undefined and uncoordinated risks the two fighting each other – rather than combining their different propositions to address multiple segments of the markets.
Hong Kong Airlines is rapidly growing in Tokyo and Osaka, and launching a new service to Seoul Incheon – its 11th new destination in 2016. These are strong O&D markets and present a change from Hong Kong Airlines' previous staple of connecting traffic from mainland China over Hong Kong, or competing mainly against Cathay Pacific in key regional Asian markets from Hong Kong.
Following Hong Kong Airlines' entry to Tokyo and Osaka it will further increase services to the point where Japan becomes a larger market for it than mainland China. This is of some concern given Hong Kong Airlines' still evolving strategy for Japan, and weakening of the market through the appreciation of the yen.