Cathay Pacific faces shareholder backlash at AGM

12 May 2016 by Clement Huang
Cathay Pacific’s chairman John Slosar has defended the airline’s decision to rebrand its regional sister carrier Dragonair into Cathay Dragon (see here). The Oneworld member held its annual general meeting in Hong Kong yesterday, and according to the Nikkei Asian Review, faced accusations by minority shareholders who called the rebrand a costly cosmetic exercise. Having announced the rebrand in January, Cathay Pacific revealed that it would embark on a HK$100 million (US$12.8 million) campaign to promote Cathay Dragon. “People in China already recognise [Cathay Pacific] as a shareholder of [Dragonair] so why spend hundreds of millions of dollars on rebranding?” asked a shareholder. “What's the extra value you can bring to shareholders?" The new Cathay Dragon livery  In response, Slosar said: “The purpose of that is really to make clear that Cathay and Dragon are part of the same family of airline. We find it necessary to improve their seamlessness not just in China but globally.” CX first class  Several shareholders also slammed Cathay Pacific for its recent cost-cutting measures, which according to one has led the airline to degenerate into a “not-so-premium” carrier. "The management has focused on raising passenger [capacity] instead of the yield. This is not good for the company," said the shareholder. “The comfort [of seats] is one thing, service is another.” In particular, critics singled out Cathay Pacific’s weekly “Fanfares” discount ticket sales, which they said has diluted the airline’s brand equity and represents a move more akin to those seen by low-cost carriers in the region. Nine-abreast economy class on Cathay Pacific Perhaps most worryingly is the revelation that Cathay Pacific is looking to squeeze more seats into its aircraft. While the airline currently offers nine-across economy seating on its B777 aircraft, Slosar has called the plan to implement a tight ten-across configuration “viable”. “There is always a trade-off between the number of seats on a plane and the premiums of those seats... because more seats probably mean more revenue, and more revenue probably means more profits,” he said, adding that recent seat innovations have improved overall comfort, regardless of the number of seats in each row. Clement Huang
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