Asian carrier Cathay Pacific has confirmed an anticipated expansion of its European network, facilitated by the arrival of its new Airbus A350-900 airliners. The Hong Kong-based carrier is to introduce new direct links to Brussels, Copenhagen and Dublin in summer 2008, albeit it appears its recently launched flight to Dusseldorf may be dropped to support the revised network.
New year-round four times weekly flights will be introduced between Hong Kong and Brussels (from 25-Mar-2018) and Dublin (from 02-Jun-2018) and a three times weekly seasonal summer flight between Hong Kong and Copenhagen will be introduced between 02-May-2018 and 12-Oct-2018.
Cathay Pacific says the new services will provide new trade and tourism opportunities between Asia and Europe and meet customer demand for non-stop travel to these vibrant cities, while at the same time providing Europe-based passengers with more convenient access to key destinations in Asia and Southwest Pacific through the airline’s home in Hong Kong.
“We’re excited to offer the only direct flights between Hong Kong and Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen. These are all fantastic destinations and attract business and leisure travellers from the world over,” says Rupert Hogg, chief executive officer, Cathay Pacific. “We listened to our customers’ demands for more options and greater flexibility and have responded by building direct air links with these great cities.”
Cathay’s expansion in Europe has been a long time coming, according to a recent insights analysis from CAPA – Centre for Aviation. Regional expansion occurred a few years ago, says the report ‘Cathay Pacific: depressed results but there may be rays of hope. Time to regain the initiative’ from Aug-2017, but these were mainly to secure slots and traffic rights, and 777-300ER deliveries have facilitated strong growth and more of a focus on North America. However, Europe has seen a build-up in capacity with ASK growth of 13.8% in 2015, 8.3% in 2016 and 9.7% for the first half of 2017.
Following the recent launch of services to Manchester in Dec-2014, Zurich in Mar-2015 and Dusseldorf in Sep-2015, Cathay has more recently added flights to London Gatwick (from Sep-2016) and the Spanish cities of Madrid (from Jun-2016) and Barcelona (seasonal from Jul-2017 to Oct-2017) as its European expansion continues. With the commencement of the new routes, the airline’s network will cover 15 European destinations served direct from Hong Kong.
The three new summer 2018 routes will all be served by new A350-900 equipment and the CAPA report says Europe’s big expansion is anchored by the arrival of the type, more efficient and smaller than the 777-300ER and thus better suited for thinner European points. Cathay has taken delivery of more A350s than any other airline and now operates a fleet of 18 aircraft with four more due to arrive before the end of this year. It received its first aircraft in Jun-2016 so has been receiving one aircraft every four weeks on average. It will complement these with larger A350-1000s of which it has 26 on order and scheduled to join its fleet from 2018.
“New European destinations were expected to feature more prominently in A350-900 deployment but Cathay has had to find other markets as Europe is at over-capacity (largely because of Gulf airlines) and there is lingering negative sentiment from the outbound Asia market due to safety concerns in Europe,” says the CAPA report.
Cathay’s promotion of its latest expansion makes mention of its most recent new routes into Spain and the UK, but does not highlight its flight to Dusseldorf introduced in Sep-2015 using a 777-300ER with suggestions it could be cut in favour of the new markets.
The Hong Kong – Dublin link will be the first direct link from Asia into the Irish capital, a market where it held around a 9% share of indirect flows at the start of the decade, but has seen this eroded to 7% last year following the expansion of the Gulf hub carriers into Dublin. It is a similar story in the Hong Kong – Brussels market where its share has slipped from 3% to 2% and Hong Kong – Copenhagen where its share has fallen from 7% to 5%.
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The new non-stop flights will raise the stakes against the Gulf carriers, that have been in part responsible for hurting Cathay Pacific’s business through offering cheaper flights and influenced Cathay post a HK$2.05 billion loss in the first half of this year. They will also provide a stimulating effect on the routes as per all new direct flights.
Currently around 40,000 people per year travel between Hong Kong and both Brussels and Dublin with an estimated 55,000 flying between Hong Kong and Copenhagen, but these numbers will certainly grow with the opening of the new direct service.
For the Irish route an estimated 4,000 Irish people live in Hong Kong, according to the Irish Embassy in China, while trade between Ireland and China is worth more than €8 billion per annum and almost 100 Irish firms have operations in China, employing a total of 100,000 people there further supporting the route.
In Belgium, the direct route holds a huge potential for Belgian business travellers who place Hong Kong as the number one most wanted destination. Currently, 11% of Belgian export is going to Asia and the trend is on the up and will help underpin the route.
Similarly, Hong Kong has been on the top of the list of unserviced destinations from Denmark and Copenhagen Airport officials are confident the seasonal flight could be extended year-round particularly as a large number of the most important Danish companies have interests and commerce in Hong Kong and indirect demand on the route has increased 44% in just three years.