HOPEFUL OF LHR
4 September 2003
Cathay Pacific Airways said it was confident of obtaining approval to fly the key transAtlantic route when officials from Hong Kong and Britain meet later this month.
Cathay, which has been seeking transatlantic rights for about four years, said it wants to fly at least once a day between London's Heathrow and JFK
in New York, which would allow passengers to fly around the world on the airline via Canada and Hong Kong. "It would be a first round-the-world flight by an Asian airline. The prognosis for a successful conclusion is quite good," said Andrew Pyne, Cathay's general manager international affairs and alliances.
In return for the transatlantic rights, Hong Kong is likely to give Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways permission to fly from Hong Kong to Sydney, where it could hook up with its low-cost carrier Virgin Blue. "That's the trade off," Pyne said.
The transAtlantic route could be a good money spinner for Cathay, which reported a record loss in the first half of the year after the SARS outbreak forced it to chops flights, ground planes and discount tickets. Officials from Britain and Hong Kong will meet on September 25 /26 but even if Cathay secures route rights, the flight is not likely to be running until spring as landing and take off slots at Heathrow airport are hard to secure, Pyne said.
Pyne also said the final green light was expected soon for Cathay's first flight to mainland China in 13 years. The airline wants to operate three passenger flights a week to Beijing before the end of the year. Cathay was awarded a license to fly to Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen by Hong Kong's Air Transport Licensing Authority in April. Progress on the other two routes hinges on the outcome of air service talks between Hong Kong and China that will take place soon, Pyne said. "We've always accepted that expansion to the mainland will take place very gradually. A new carrier on the market brings a certain amount of uncertainty," said Pyne, who didn't rule out code sharing with smaller rival Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd as a way to increase its exposure to the booming China aviation market.
Pyne also said that Cathay was interested in securing more flights to India and the Middle East, but said Cathay was not yet interested in flying to Baghdad.
So what do you all think?