Yes, people often speak of "old Cathay". Personally, I think it's a great name. I remember, before I really became interested in planes, that there were certain great names in aviation that I had heard of - KLM, Qantas, Pan Am, SAS . . . and Cathay Pacific. It's a very evocative name, suggesting the mystery of the orient, adventure, mystique, the romance of travel . . .
(okay, barf bags out . . .
There is a hotel in Manila called, quite imaginatively, the Manila Hotel. It's one of Asia's swankiest hotels and in that hotel is a bar called the Tropicana. Legend has it that in this bar sometime in early 1946, Time and Newsweek journalists, among others, were chatting to Roy Farrell and Syd de Kantzow about possible names for an airline and one came up with Cathay Pacific. Kind of adds to the legend, wouldn't you say!