Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong, with its head office and main hub located at Hong Kong International Airport, although the airline's registered office is on the 33rd floor of One Pacific Place. The airline's operations include scheduled passenger and cargo services to 114 destinations in 36 countries worldwide, including codeshares and joint ventures, with a fleet of 132 wide-body aircraft, consisting of Airbus A330s and A340s, Boeing 747s and 777s. The airline also operates fifth freedom flights from Bangkok and Taipei, its major focus cities. Its wholly owned subsidiary, Dragonair, operates to 29 destinations in the Asia-Pacific region from its Hong Kong base. In 2009, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair operated 56,000 flights, carrying nearly 25 million passengers and over 1.52 million tonnes of cargo and mail.
The airline was founded on 24 September 1946 by American Roy C. Farrell and Australian Sydney H. de Kantzow, with each man putting up HK$1 to register the airline. The airline made the world's first non-stop transpolar flight flying over the North Pole in July 1998, and it also operated the maiden flight to arrive at the new Hong Kong International Airport. The airline celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006; and as of October 2009[update], its major shareholders are Swire Pacific and Air China. It is reciprocally one of the major shareholders of Air China. Cathay Pacific currently holds the title of the world's third largest airline, measured in terms of market capitalization, according to the International Air Transport Association. In 2010, Cathay Pacific became the world's largest international cargo airline, along with main hub Hong Kong International Airport as the world's busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic.
Cathay Pacific is a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, with its subsidiary, Dragonair, as an affiliate member. The airline was awarded the title 2009 Airline of the Year by Skytrax. Cathay Pacific is one of the seven airlines to be ranked as a 5-star airline by the independent research consultancy firm Skytrax.
Cathay Pacific was founded in Hong Kong on 24 September 1946 by American Roy Farrell and Australian Sydney de Kantzow. Both men were ex-air force pilots who had flown the Hump, a route over the Himalayan mountains. Each man put up HK$1 to register the airline. Although initially based in Shanghai, the two men moved to Hong Kong where they formally began Cathay Pacific. They named it Cathay the ancient name given to China, derived from "Khitan", and Pacific because Farrell speculated that they would one day fly across the Pacific (which happened in the 1970s). The Chinese name for the company comes from a Chinese idiom meaning "Grand and Peaceful State".
According to legend, the airline was conceived by Farrell and some foreign correspondents at the bar of the Manila Hotel. On Cathay Pacific's maiden voyage, Farrell and de Kantzow flew from Hong Kong to Manila, and later on to Shanghai. They had a single Douglas DC-3, nicknamed Betsy. The airline initially flew routes between Hong Kong, Sydney, Manila, Singapore, Shanghai, and Canton, while scheduled service was limited to Bangkok, Manila, and Singapore only.
In 1948 Butterfield & Swire (now known as Swire Group) bought 45% of Cathay Pacific, with Australian National Airways taking 35% and Farrell and de Kantzow taking 10% each. The new company began operations on 1 July 1948 and was registered as Cathay Pacific (1948) Ltd on 18 October 1948. Swire later acquired 52% of Cathay Pacific and today the airline is still 40% owned by the Swire Group through Swire Pacific Limited.
The airline prospered in late 1950s and into the 1960s by buying its archrival, Hong Kong Airways, on 1 July 1959. Between 1962 and 1967, the airline recorded double digit growth on average every year and the world's first to operate international services to Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka in Japan. Eighteen years after the airline was founded, it carried its one millionth passenger and acquired its first jet engine aircraft Convair 880 in 1964. In the 1970s, Cathay Pacific installed a computerised reservation system and flight simulators. In 1979, the airline acquired its first Boeing 747 and applied for traffic rights to begin flying to London in 1980. Expansion continued into the 1980s, with nonstop service to Vancouver in 1983, with continuing service on to San Francisco in 1986 when an industry-wide boom encouraged route growth to many European and North American centres. On 15 May 1986, the airline went public and listed in the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
In January 1990, Cathay Pacific and its parent company, Swire Pacific, acquired a significant shareholding in Dragonair, and a 75% stake in cargo airline Air Hong Kong in 1994. During the early 1990s, the airline launched a programme to upgrade its passenger service. Also, the green and white striped livery was replaced with the current "brushwing" livery. Later, the airline began a US$9 billion fleet replacement program during the mid-1990s that resulted with it having one of the youngest airline fleets in the world. In 1996, CITIC Pacific increased its holdings in Cathay Pacific from 10% to 25%, while the Swire Group holding was reduced to 44% as two other Chinese companies, CNAC and CTS also bought substantial holdings.
On 1 July 1997, administration of Hong Kong was transferred from the UK to the People's Republic of China. Most of the airline's aircraft were registered in Hong Kong and bore a registration beginning with "VR". Under the terms of an agreement within the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG), all registrations were changed to the prefix "B" by December 1997 , which is used by the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Cathay Pacific aircraft formerly carried a painted Union Jack on the tail but these were removed several years prior to the 1997 takeover.
In February 1999, Cathay Pacific co-founded the Oneworld Alliance. The same year, they completed their new headquarters, dubbed Cathay City, which is located at Hong Kong International Airport. Previously the airline's headquarters were at the Swire House, which was a complex named after the airline's parent company. The airline was hurt by the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, but recorded a record HK$5 billion profit in 2000.
On 5 July 1998, Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport witnessed its last commercial departing flight, Cathay Pacific Flight 251 to London Heathrow Airport, after over 73 years of operation. The next day, Cathay Pacific Flight 889, from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, piloted by Captain Mike Lowes and First Officer Kelvin Ma, was the maiden flight to arrive at the new Hong Kong International Airport, located at Chek Lap Kok, west of Hong Kong. This flight was also the world's first non-stop transpolar flight from New York to Hong Kong. The flight, dubbed Polar One, takes approximately 16 hours to travel between Hong Kong and New York, saving about three to four hours on journey time, compared to the one stop service via Vancouver. It is Cathay Pacific's longest non-stop flight, as well as one of the longest non-stop flights by distance in the world at 8,055 mi (12,963 km).
The airline operated the first commercial non-stop transpolar flight from Canada on 19 May 2000, with Cathay Pacific Flight 829 from Toronto to Hong Kong. The flight flew directly over Hudson Bay and passed within 50 nautical miles (93 km; 58 mi) of the North Pole, it took just 14 hours and 59 minutes and saved almost three hours from the normal route, which included a technical stop in Anchorage. It is Cathay Pacific's second longest non-stop flight with a distance of 7,809 mi (12,567 km).
Branding and publicity efforts have revolved primarily around the staff and passengers of Cathay Pacific. The airline's first campaign focusing on the passenger was "It's the little things that move you". The airline's latest advertising campaign is "Great Service. Great People. Great Fares." Another application, Meet the Team, introduces some of the staff through profiles, revealing many behind-the-scenes stories many of which contain inspiring facts about their career life.
Cathay Pacific serves 115 destinations in 36 countries and territories on five continents, with a well-developed Asian network. The airline serves a number of gateway cities in North America and Europe, with easy connections with its Oneworld and codeshare partners, American Airlines and British Airways via Los Angeles and London, respectively. In addition, the airline serves 10 French cities via a codeshare partnership with French national rail operator, SNCF, from Paris. The airline also has access to over 17 destinations in China through its subsidiary, Dragonair.
Cathay Pacific suspended its flight operations to and from Colombo on 26 March 2007 due to security concerns, following the closure of the Bandaranaike International Airport. The services between Hong Kong and Colombo via Bangkok and Singapore have subsequently resumed on 30 March 2008. In 2008, the airline increased services to Auckland, Brisbane, Chennai, Delhi, Dubai, Mumbai, Perth, Singapore and Sydney, while reduced services to Toronto and Vancouver. In 2009, the airline increased services to Jakarta and Shanghai, while services to Paris were increased from 29 March 2009 to 31 August 2009 and from 18 December 2009 to 6 January 2010. In addition, Jeddah will be Cathay Pacific's second destination in Saudi Arabia from 25 October, while services to Brisbane and San Francisco are temporarily reduced from September to 17 November and October, respectively. In late 2009, services increased back to Toronto and Vancouver at a frequency of twice daily. Cathay Pacific announced it will launch daily passenger service to Chicago operated by Boeing 777-300ER on 1 September 2011 and increase service to New York with a fourth daily flight beginning March 27, 2011. The airline also launched its four weekly service to Abu Dhabi by Airbus 330-300 on 2 June 2011; the airline's second destination in the United Arab Emirates complimenting existing service to Dubai.
Cathay Pacific Cargo operates a fleet of over 20 freighters to more than 40 destinations around the world, in addition to utilising the cargo space on its passenger aircraft. The cargo subsidiary was established in 1981 with a twice-a-week Hong Kong–Frankfurt–London service operated jointly with Lufthansa. The cargo division ranked fifth in the freight category of the 2008 The World's Top 25 Airlines by Air Transport World.
Since its conception in 1946, the airline had operated many types of aircraft. The first two aircraft were two World War II surplus Douglas DC-3s named Betsy and Niki. Betsy (VR-HDB), the first aircraft for Cathay Pacific, is now a permanent exhibit in the Hong Kong Science Museum. Niki (VR-HDA) was lost, but a similar DC-3 was purchased as a replacement. It was refurbished and repainted by the airline's Engineering Department and maintenance provider, Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company, and it now wears the second Cathay Pacific livery from the late 1940s. This aircraft received Niki's old VR-HDA aircraft registration and is now on public view in the car park outside the Flight Training Centre of Cathay City.
Food and beverages served on flights from Hong Kong are provided by Cathay Pacific Catering Services (CPCS) facilities in Hong Kong. CLS Catering Services Limited, a joint venture with LSG Sky Chefs, provides the inflight catering from Toronto and Vancouver airports; while Vietnam Air Caterers, a joint venture between CPCS and Vietnam Airlines, provides the inflight catering for flights from Ho Chi Minh City.
StudioCX, Cathay Pacific's in-flight entertainment system, equipped with personal TVs (PTVs) in every seat, offers the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies, popular Asian and Western TV programmes, music and games. In addition, the airline provides a range different newspapers and magazines from around the world, including the airline's award-winning in-flight magazine Discovery. Passengers with visual impairment can request for Hong Kong's South China Morning Post in Braille to be available on board.
On medium- and long-haul aircraft featuring the new cabin designs, StudioCX provides Audio/Video On Demand (AVOD) for every passenger and offers up to 100 movies, 350 TV programmes, 888 CD albums in 24 different genres, 22 radio channels and more than 70 interactive games. Panasonic's eX2 system is installed on aircraft with the new seat configuration, and is available on all Boeing 747-400s, 777-300ERs and A340-300s, and selected Airbus A330-300s. All passengers on regional aircraft are offered up to 26 video channels, 22 audio channels and 15 games on a cycle basis.
On 22 January 2007 and 18 December 2008 respectively, Cathay Pacific launched more methods to check-in for flights. Among them were self-check in utilizing a kiosk at Hong Kong International Airport and select destinations globally. Another checking in via a mobile phone. Worldwide, only a limited number of other airlines offer these options. Cathay Pacific later announced, on April 17, 2009, the airline's first ever Mobile Boarding Pass application, dubbed CX Mobile, was launched. Passengers can use the application to check flight arrivals and departures, check-in for their flights, read about the destination they are flying to using City Guides. CX Mobile has become a hit with passengers, making Cathay Pacific into one of the industry leaders in offering mobile services to users of smart phones.
Cathay Pacific is also now following a trend among many airlines to improve its brand image to customers and shareholders with social media, and is ranked fourth worldwide. The airline now utilizes range of social media tools including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Youtube and blogging to share ideas with customers. In addition, it has launched a virtual tour to enable passengers to experience Cathay Pacific's new cabins and services without even having to step aboard the aircraft.
As of 4 January 2011, the cargo division of the airline, Cathay Pacific Cargo, has become the first airline operating out of Hong Kong to fully switch to e-air waybill. This eliminates the need for all paper documents when issuing air waybills. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) selected nine countries/territories and airlines in which to run the e-AWB pilot programme, including Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific.
Cathay Pacific has been phasing in new cabin interiors and inflight entertainment since May 2007. The first aircraft with the new seats is a Boeing 747-400, which flew its first commercial flight as Cathay Pacific Flight 460 between Hong Kong and Taipei on 11 May 2007. At that time only the new First and Business Classes were installed; however this aircraft now has the new Economy seats, installed during June 2008. The rollout of the new cabins has been completed since November 2009 with the retrofit of the A340-300 fleet.
The New First Class seats can be converted into a fully lie-flat bed measuring 36 × 81 in (91 × 210 cm). The new seats include a massage function, a personal closet, an ottoman for stowage or guest seating, and an adjustable 17 in (43 cm), 16:9 PTV.
After receiving extensive criticism for its high-walled herring-bone configuration business class seating on long-haul flights, which many passengers felt was too narrow and confined, Cathay Pacific embarked on a total redesign of business class seating. The new design is more conventional, emphasising the passenger's sense of personal space while also retaining privacy.
The new business class seats will be fitted into all new Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-300ER deliveries, with existing A330-300 and 777-300ER aircraft to be upgraded to the new seating and cabin by February 2013, However,the current Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340 aircraft will not be upgraded to the new seating and cabin due to the impending retirement of those planes.
The existing Regional Business Class is provided on Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777s (excluding the 777-300ER) and selected Airbus A330-300s. Regional Business Class seats have 20 in (51 cm) width and recline to 45 in (110 cm) of pitch and feature electrical recline and leg rest. A 9 in (23 cm) PTV is located in the armrest provides 20 video and 22 audio channels but does not offer AVOD.
The new Economy Class seats, offered on aircraft outfitted with the refurbished long-haul interiors, were designed by B/E Aerospace. New features of these seats include a fixed back design (shell) that allows passengers to recline without intruding on those seated behind, a 9 in (23 cm) PTV providing AVOD, AC power located behind a larger tray table, a coat hook and a literature pocket that has been relocated to below the seat cushion to create more leg room. These seats are 17.5 in (44 cm) in width and have 32 in (81 cm) of pitch.
The previous Economy Class seats each feature personal 6 in (15 cm) PTVs with a choice of 25 channels. These seats are 17 in (43 cm) in width and have 32 in (81 cm) of pitch. These seats are being replaced with the New Economy Class seats on aircraft receiving the Cathay Pacific's new long-haul interior configuration.
Incidents and accidents
- On 16 July 1948, Miss Macao, a Cathay Pacific-subsidiary-operated Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (VR-HDT) from Macau to Hong Kong was hijacked by four men, who killed the pilot after take-off. The plane crashed in the Pearl River Delta near Zhuhai. Twenty-six people died, leaving only one survivor, a hijacker. This was the first hijacking of a commercial airliner in the world.
- On 24 February 1949, a Cathay Pacific Douglas DC-3 (VR-HDG) from Manila to Hong Kong, crashed near Braemar Reservoir after a go-around in poor weather. All 23 people on board died.
- On 23 July 1954, Cathay Pacific VR-HEU, a Cathay Pacific Douglas DC-4 (VR-HEU) from Bangkok to Hong Kong was shot down by the People's Liberation Army Air Force in the South China Sea near Hainan Island. Ten people died, leaving eight survivors. After the incident, Cathay Pacific received an apology and compensation from the People's Liberation Army Air Force. It was apparently mistaken for a Nationalist plane.
- On 5 November 1967, Cathay Pacific Flight 33, operated by a Convair 880 (VR-HFX) from Hong Kong to Saigon, over-ran the runway at Kai Tak Airport. One person was killed and the aircraft was written-off.
- On 15 June 1972, Cathay Pacific Flight 700Z, operated by a Convair 880 (VR-HFZ) from Bangkok to Hong Kong, disintegrated and crashed while the aircraft was flying at 29,000 feet (8,800 m) over Pleiku, Vietnam after a bomb exploded in a suitcase placed under a seat in the cabin, killing all 81 people on board.
- On 13 April 2010, Cathay Pacific Flight 780, operated by a Airbus A330-300, experienced engine failure due to contaminated fuel, forcing the plane to land at almost twice the speed of a normal landing at Hong Kong, suffering minor damage. 57 passengers were injured, and 10 were taken to the hospital with 1 passenger suffered from serious injury.