Cathay Pacific expands in Europe

1 Apr 2014 by Alex McWhirter

Cathay Pacific is finally boosting its flight service both to the UK and mainland Europe.

In recent times, most Asian carriers' services to Europe have stagnated owing to expansion by their Gulf rivals.

But from winter 2014/15, both Manchester and Zurich are expected to be added to the Cathay Pacific network.

Manchester, which has been rumoured as a Cathay Pacific "possible" previously, is likely to begin next January. The city will see a four times weekly service by B777-300ER.

Zurich should come online in December and will be served daily by a B777-300ER, which will represent more than a doubling of capacity. Currently, the sole daily non-stop flight is operated by Swiss, using a smaller A340-300.

The news was broken today by Hong Kong-based consultancy Aspire Aviation

Cathay Pacific has yet to make any official announcement, so schedule details and whether or not the flights will operate non-stop have yet to be revealed.

But this will represent a welcome development for Manchester (the city is reputed to have the second largest UK Chinese community outside London) and the UK's north-west region.

It means that, in absence of direct flights, travellers must route via London or hubs in mainland Europe or the Gulf — a procedure adding hours to the journey time.

But southern Europe has not been neglected. Right now, Cathay Pacific has begun opening up new destinations following an alliance it recently struck with Doha-based Qatar Airways (see news, February 25).

At the time of the deal, analysts were puzzled as to why Cathay would want to codeshare on a single route to the Gulf. But back in February that was all the information the airline was prepared to divulge.

Now all is becoming clearer. With little publicity, Cathay Pacific has begun codesharing through, not just to and from, Doha.

Using fellow Oneworld member Qatar Airways enables Cathay Pacific to serve cities which would not be economically justified as "standalone" destinations.

Codeshare service, using Qatar Airways, was launched to Athens and Geneva on March 30. On April 10, similar services will be added to Barcelona, Madrid and Venice.

It is a case of "if you can't beat them, join them". The Gulf carriers have been so successful in Europe because their hubs allow them to service both main gateways and secondary cities.

And Cathay Pacific, unlike its Asian counterparts, is savvy enough to utilise this advantage.

At the moment, the majority of flights via Doha are operated by Qatar Airways (using the CX-Cathay Pacific code) but this will surely change in times to come.

Alex McWhirter

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