Cathay: Hong Kong’s signature

For aviation enthusiasts, it is often a sport to score as many different aircraft types as possible when booking a flight. People flying from A to B usually have no idea what kind of machine they are taking off. Factors such as price, number of transfers and travel comfort are often decisive. The choice can of course also fall on a specific airline, for example one from your home country. Or the country you are going to. Going to Hong Kong? So why not choose Cathay Pacific Airways?

‘With our Hong Kong signature kitchen you immediately get in the mood’, says Paul Johannes, Head of Marketing and Sales for Europe. ‘You should literally be able to taste the city on board.’ Don’t think of the kind of food served by the local Chinese, it’s Chinese the Dutch way. In Economy you can choose between two different meals and a midnight snack is served later, in the other classes you can choose a lot. “But no matter where you sit, our starting point is that the experience is first-class everywhere,” assures Paul. The drinks are also good during the long flight. Not only soft drinks and fruit juices are available, also wine and different types of beer. If you fly Premium or Business, even the celebratory champagne is possible. Of course, coffee and tea are also served. Cathay partnered with JING Tea to serve teas from China, Japan, India and Sri Lanka on board.

A top product

Have you never flown in an Airbus A350-1000? Then Cathay offers the opportunity! The airline received its first aircraft of this type on June 19, 2018. The first destination the machine was deployed to was Dulles Airport, Washington. Since 1 December of the same year, Cathay was the first to fly at Schiphol with the A350-1000 instead of the Boeing 777-300ER. “It’s a top product,” continues Paul. He praises the machine, which can cover 14,800 kilometers and is powered by Rolls Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, as durable and efficient. “Passenger comfort was the main focus when the cabins of this new aircraft were designed. From nose to tail does it have wifi. So all passengers on board our A350 can surf, stream and send messages. All our customers can also enjoy themselves during the long flight with a very extensive IFE (In-flight entertainment, red). Technological advances for reduced jet lag, LED mood lighting and fifty percent quieter cabins in perceived levels of external noise ensure the best possible experience.”

Chairs and classes

The A350-1000 is equipped with 334 seats. ‘In addition to the improved Business Class and Premium Economy Class, since we have flown this aircraft, there has been a brand new Economy Class,’ says Paul with pride. Business Class has full-flat seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. In Premium it is 2-4-2 and in Economy 3-3-3. Premium Economy in particular seems to be very popular with Dutch customers.” Paul mentions another nice detail: “All seats in the aisle have armrests that can be lowered. So you can easily turn to the side if one of the people next to you has to pass.’

Lots of interest in Hong Kong

Before the outbreak of the corona pandemic, Cathay flew to Amsterdam almost daily. Paul: ‘It’s now three times a week. Fortunately, growth is back. We now come to London up to four times a day. Madrid and Milan are restarted, Zurich will be added again in December. There are still flights to Manchester, Paris, Tel Aviv and Frankfurt, but here, like Amsterdam, the number of flights per week varied during the pandemic.

We can see from the bookings that there is again great interest in coming to Hong Kong. All planes are completely full, people want to fly again. Visiting family, doing business, each other face-to-face Meet.’ A test follows upon arrival. If you get through this successfully, you will receive a code for the first three days. This means that you are not allowed to enter a restaurant yet. You can pick up food. ‘When the three days are over, that’s it live normally againsays Paul. He is full of enthusiasm for the city he himself lived in for five years. “You can always be busy if you want,” he says. You can shop, hike, relax on the beaches, climb the Big Buddha, see the Symphony of Lights, take the tram up to Victoria Peak, too much to mention. Asked whether it is still a pleasant place to be despite the tense relationship with China, he replies: ‘The core is still there. It’s a trading town, it’s in its DNA.’

Paul Johannes © Cathay Pacific

Latest acquisition

From Hong Kong you can also go in all sorts of interesting directions. Inside China or further to, for example, Bangkok, Seoul or Tokyo. “We want to maximize our hub function from our home port to the rest of East and North East Asia and the South West Pacific,” continues Paul. ‘That preferred carrieris heading east.’ The transfer to Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong International Airport, is an experience in itself. ‘There is a lot to do and see. If you fly Business, you are also welcome in our lounges, which are also built around the signature concept.’

From the A350-1000, you can then transfer to a machine of the same type or to a Boeing 777-300ER or one of the smaller Airbuses. “Our latest addition to that segment is the A321neo,” says Paul. It’s also a great place to be, with WiFi everywhere, top entertainment, plenty of storage space and LED mood lighting. Business Class is equipped with cocoon seats. An additional toilet should ensure fewer long queues. “It’s a very efficient device,” says Paul. ‘Significantly less CO2 emissions per seat and almost fifteen percent less noise than existing aircraft.’

© Dltl2010, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


China has more airlines than just Cathay Pacific Airways. ‘Competition is here to stay, we welcome competition, came with it, says Paul. ‘We do everything we can to make a flight as smooth and comfortable as possible from the time of booking to disembarkation. In relation to the long waiting times at Schiphol, we are working with the airport to see how these pain points can be reduced for our passengers. Schiphol is very transparent about the problem and the cooperation is good. When our aircraft was grounded at the beginning of the covid era, we took the opportunity to further improve our product. Sustainability is high on our agenda. We recently purchased 38 million gallons of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) for use in 2025. Our commitment is to fly 10 percent on SAF by 2030 and by 2050 just zero.

The use of plastic is eliminated as far as possible, waste is recycled. For over seven years, Cathay has partnered with Feeding Hong Kong and Food Angel, two local charities in Hong Kong. The former collects and redistributes packaged food from their inbound aircraft. The other buys fresh food and ingredients and prepares meals for senior citizens in Hong Kong. In 2021, Cathay donated more than 113 tons of food to both charity partners for distribution to people in need of food assistance in Hong Kong.

© Cathay Pacific

Boeing 747

Anyone who thinks they can still fly the Boeing 747 at Cathay as a passenger is missing out, because that option presented itself for the very last time on October 8, 2016, in the form of a farewell flight with registration number B-HUJ. As Cathay Pacific flight 8747, the Jumbo flew over Victoria Harbor as a farewell to an era. During the 21 years that ‘Uniform Juliet’ flew with Cathay, she achieved a number of milestones. On 6 July 1998, she landed as the first commercial passenger aircraft at Chek Lap Kok International Airport. That same year, she became the first to complete a transpolar flight from New York’s JFK Airport, the longest non-stop passenger connection at the time. She was also the ‘press plane’ during US President Bill Clinton’s visit to China in 1998. Shortly after her farewell flight, she was flown to Bruntingthorpe Airport in the UK, where her decommissioning took place in 2017. Not just for enthusiasts flight marks for sale, but also pens and card holder sets. Cathay still uses the Jumbo for freight, six of the 400-ERF type and fourteen of the next generation, the 8-F.

Preoccupied with growth

Paul doesn’t want to think about covid shutting down the world and thus the aviation world including Cathay again. The company hopes to be back at seventy percent of the level before the corona crisis by the end of next year. ‘we are back, busy with growth. Recruitment is hard at work recruiting four thousand new people, both pilots and flight attendants.’ Not only local recruitment takes place, but also far beyond. So if you have ambitions…

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