Cathay has resumed flights to Sri Lanka and Chennai and gone daily to Perth.Back to Forum
Cathay Pacific, has resumed direct flights between Hong Kong and Chennai after a four-year hiatus operating 3 times weekly plus the airline resumed Sri Lanka with the inaugural flight, CX 611, which arrived on Friday evening operating three days a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with a mid-haul A330 featuring 34 flat bed seats in business class.
Also returning to daily flights between Perth and Hong Kong from today less than two months after its last increase from three to six times a week. In response to the hugely increased demand Cathay will roster it largest aircraft the B777-300 on the route which feature 57 flat bed seats in business class and Premium economy.
I have a number of friends who work with Cathay and I have flown with them for the over 50 years and live in Hong Kong thus I though I would make a short revue of where the airline and Hong Kong aviation is in its recovery.
I hope is of some interest….
It is very encouraging to see the airline continuing with its announced route re-launches with many more to come over the next few months but Cathay is still facing significant hurdles and challenges in order to achieve is goals of a full recovery and moderate expansion by year end.
At the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic places such as Hong Kong were hit even harder than other large markets with the average of daily flights of Cathay Pacific felling by 93% in early 2020 as HK does not have of course a more resilient domestic market on which to rely.
The airline by end 2020 was in significant danger of running out of cash (going broke) and in order to reduce its cash burn axed almost 6,000 jobs in October 2021, including some 600 pilots. Also it was necessary to close all overseas pilot bases such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States which closed in late 2022. It also needed a loan from the HK government. (which it has largely repaid)
Even more significantly the group could no longer afford to support its large Dragon Air subsidiary and that was also closed and many senior staff and pilots made redundant.
By mid June 2021 the airline was reduced to operating less than 30 flights a day and operations of subsidiary Hong Kong Express were paused. The airlines large freight divisions were operating and providing much needed cash flow.
From August 2022 it became possible to operate a few more flights daily but it was not though until January 2023 when the Hong Kong government finally opened the SAR for business that any significant recovery could commence.
From January 22 when about 80 flights a day were being operated a remarkable recovery to a high of 260 daily flights by mid December 2023 was achieved.
The number of daily flights fell marginally at the very and of December due to pilot sickness and insufficient back up numbers but is now climbing again but pilot numbers are still very tight.
A plan to hire more than 5,000 employees, including 1,500 cabin crew 400 pilots and more than 800 cadet pilots was announced in October and is ongoing with some 1200 new hires achieved to date plus the required number of cadet pilots needed to fill the first training schedules. An increase in cabin crew salary, bonuses and conditions is attracting experienced crew from across Asia and the numbers goal I was told recently are likely to be met.
Senior pilots it seems are proving the most difficult to recruit which has recently lead management to increase salaries and inducements offered in order to attract pilots and their families to 9and back to) Hong Kong – doubling the schooling allowance for families to HK$150K p.a. per child, further increasing the housing allowance and family medical cover plus offering income guarantees and significant bonuses.
Without sufficient pilots the goal of operating a full 2019 schedule plus new routes by year end cannot be achieved but pilot numbers are increasing and I was told by a senior training captain this week ( a friend) that the number of good applicants has recently increased significantly with still some pilots that were made redundant or left when salary’s were reduced during the pandemic returning.
Cathay it seems is on track to post a profit for 2023 of something like US2.5 billion which is a remarkable achievement from the dire situation that existed just 12 months ago.
The shortage of workers across the aviation industry in Hong Kong is significant and must be solved if its airlines, airport and associated industries are to reach their goals and potential.
According to HKIA there are at least seven major airlines that want to return to Hong Kong but are ‘on-hold’ due to the lack of manpower of their ground handling contractors.3 Feb 2024
Like MEB3, the likes of CX and SQ Al have also been very successful hub and spoke airlines. So the sooner they resume/ramp up/double down on some of their spokes like Oz and india, the better.
Else, as they say out of sight, out of mind.
Several of my india and Oz (not SYD and MEL based) when talking about travel don’t even bring up CX name as they just havent been top of mind post pandemic like the others have.3 Feb 2024
MJ – I don’t disagree but the schedule is filling fast now.
The eighteen flights a day to Australia now is getting closer to the full 2019 schedule of as I recall 24 daily.
Daily again to both Brisbane and Perth. Adelaide restarting 5 times a week next month.
India is still a work in progress with at present only 4 destinations operating but Hyderabad and Kolkata are restarting in march/April
Mumbai Deli Chennai Bengaluru (Bangalore) Hyderabad Kolkata4 Feb 2024
CX is one and half year late from its main competitors SQ, Emirates and Qatar to restore closer to full schedule. So it will be uphill task to get back passengers.
Now that even business class passengers became very price sensitive and products are all similar; a higher price from own base will be possible in a limited way. Most airlines understand this but still want to maximise from loyal customer base.
The loyalty sticks among economy passengers more than business class for self paying passengers. As most business class passenger fares are paid by companies, we try to stick to one airline for status. A few times I bought business class tickets with my own money, I always search and buy best offer as additional time required for a transfer is not a major factor during vacation.
In AP region, days of commanding higher prices are gone as more and more airlines from India and China expand their operations in addition to ME airlines.
1 user thanked author for this post.4 Feb 2024
I am still of the opinion that most will pay more to fly with a ‘major -high quality’ airline. But how much more is the question open to debate ?
It may be of interest that Cathay business class fares HKG to LHR are some 12% cheaper than BA thus here the ‘quality’ product is the cheaper.4 Feb 2024
And yet they sitll only run the meagre 4 weekly to Manchester despite all fingers pointing towards restoring the daily service they had pre-COVID
Even Hainan, who were 4 weekly pre-COVID, have increased PEK-MAN to daily.4 Feb 2024
One of the problems airlines are facing with direct Europe to Asia flights is the closure of Russian airspace. Flight rotations, i.e. base to base, are now taking much longer thereby affecting aircraft utilisation and crew duty times… and prices.I don’t think M/E airlines are affected as much..5 Feb 2024
cwoodward in his fantasy world re Cathay again – saying Cathay quality product cheaper than BA.
Clearly there is a demand for BA over Cathay as otherwise BA would not be full every day for their 2 flights. Cathay random service and in Asia who knows if an old plane with no flat bed – as other posters say a premium economy in business.
No point arguing with woodward!6 Feb 2024
Hard to compare like for like on that Christ. CX arguably has a bit of overcapacity into LHR especially during January when it’s seasonally quieter. BA has 2 787’s to fill during the winter, a much easier proposition. I can attest on last minute pricing for myself during January I was able to get a First seat on BA for less the CX J and in fact BA J, I’ve found on some days BA F is often cheaper than J, and on the 787 F is definitely better than J. Many are angry and to a degree petulant when it comes to CX at the moment, living in HK I think we can attest to the fact when you annoy the cities population, it takes some time to turn that sentiment around. Throw in a new CX seat and routes coming back, I would wager CX’s fortunes in 1 year are back to what one comes to expect from anything Swire related. Everyone loves a whinge now and then, for Hong Kongers (ex politics) it’s always about HSBC, CX and recently Messi!6 Feb 2024
Your post re flights from HKG to the UK is a nonsence Christ -it is not factual BA do not have 2 daily flights and why you post this just misleading readers here
Cathay are puttting at the moment five large aircraft now normally scheduling the B777-300 into the UK on most days of the week -the loadings are heavy.
This against the 1 daily smaller B787 of BA (and a second normally 3 days a week )the loadings are not heavy to the point that BA are discounting from time to time.
Most travellers check the airlines schedules prior to booking a flight and this gives full detail of the aircraft and seating detail. Cathay seldome change the aircraft type on schedued routesthus your inference that folk are being mislead is just not corect or factual. Also you neglect to mention that the A330 aircraft cabins are in the process of being refurbished to two cabin types flat bed for mid haul and recliners for short ( the 2 hours to Manila- HCM etc)
Neither do you mention the groups 64 new aircraft that are steadly arriving.7 Feb 2024
Flew Cathay MEL HKG in January and I must say the old seat remains very comfortable. What is not so good is the crew. My flight had a lot of very young make crew with a pretty poor grasp of English. Another airline on a slippery slope7 Feb 2024
MartynSinclair makes a good point above.
The effect on flight times from Europe (leaving aside Finnair) is minimal for SE Asia.
It’s really NE Asia which sees longer flight times and especially for Finnair and this has disrupted its entire business plan.
Also consider the extra fuel burn.
Yes the Gulf carriers are benefitting for now.7 Feb 2024