Cathay Pacific to expand flight routes to Chinese mainland, enroll more mainland employees: CEO
Published: Apr 28, 2024 07:33 PM
An aircraft of Cathay Pacific

An aircraft of Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific CEO emphasized the importance of the Chinese mainland market to the carrier and said that it will continue to expand flight routes in the mainland. 

Through efforts such as recruiting more flight attendants from the mainland and expanding Mandarin language services, the carrier will improve service levels and unlock development opportunities from the huge demand in the mainland market.

Cathay Pacific CEO Ronald Lam made the remarks in an interview with the Global Times recently, noting that he is "very satisfied" at Cathay's recovery in 2023.

As an airline headquartered in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific's routes to the Chinese mainland and international markets were significantly reduced during the pandemic, when it was hit harder than most of its peers in the world.

However, as the impact of the pandemic subsided, Cathay Pacific's "bottoming out" was described as "rapid." 

According to the recently performance report, in 2023, Cathay Pacific achieved revenue of HK$94.485 billion ($12.07 billion), a year-on-year increase of 85.1 percent, and its net profit reached HK$9.789 billion, the first profit after three consecutive years of losses.

Within its passenger transportation business, Cathay Pacific realized revenue of HK$55.951 billion in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 308.8 percent. In 2023, it carried a total of 18 million passengers, at an average of 49,300 passengers per day, a year-on-year increase of 541.4 percent.

"We set a goal at the beginning of 2023 to restore the number of passenger flights to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels within that year, and this goal has been achieved," Lam said.

As of mid-April this year, the number has continued to rise to about 80 percent, he said, adding that it holds plans to return to full pre-epidemic capacity by the first quarter of 2025.

Lam added that currently, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express, a subsidiary of the group, cover 18 mainland destinations, with more than 210 flights between Hong Kong and the mainland every week. In March this year, Hong Kong Express officially opened the Beijing Daxing-Hong Kong route.

Hong Kong Express is a low-cost airline owned by Cathay Pacific Group. Recently, Hong Kong Express announced that it will open a new flight route to Sanya in May. This well-known tourist city has become Hong Kong Express's third mainland destination after Ningbo and Beijing Daxing airport.

Cathay Pacific Airways and Hong Kong Express will pursue differentiated operations in the mainland market. Lam said that Hong Kong Express is currently limited to only a few destinations in the mainland and has room to expand its footprint. 

"We hope that it can increase routes from Hong Kong to some second- and third-tier cities or tourism and leisure cities in the mainland," he added.

While continuing to increase domestic routes and destinations, Cathay Pacific is making efforts to reshape its brand image by improving services after last year's "blanket incident."

In January this year, Cathay Pacific's first intake of more than 100 flight attendants from Chinese mainland completed training. 

Lam said that currently, there are nearly 300 flight attendants with mainland background serving on Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express flights.

"300 is just a starting point, and the feedback we have received so far is very positive. We will continue to expand the number of mainland flight attendants," Lam said. 

It is expected that this number will grow to nearly 500 at the end of this year; and by 2025, the number of mainland flight attendants will reach 1,500, accounting for about 15% of the total flight attendants in the Cathay Pacific Group, second only to the number of local flight attendants in Hong Kong.

In addition to recruiting flight attendants, Cathay Pacific also recruited trainee pilots from the Chinese mainland for the first time in 2023. It is expected that by 2025, approximately 4,000 of Cathay Pacific Group's 30,000 employees will be from the mainland.

Global Times