Cathay hopes to start non-stop NY flights soon
HK carrier still seeking Russian nod to fly over its airspace
[HONGKONG] Cathay Pacific Airways hopes to keep up with two US rivals by launching non-stop Hongkong-New York flights but is still seeking permission from Russia to fly over its air space, a spokeswoman said.
Cathay spokeswoman Maria Yu on Tuesday said the carrier hopes to launch the flights as soon as it gets clearance to fly the polar route over Russian territory.
But Ms Yu disputed a local newspaper report that the company plans were being delayed by the negotiations with Russia -- saying that executives never announced the timetable for the new services.
Although Cathay did not announce plans for the non-stop New York flights until US Carriers Continental Airlines and United Airlines had their services ready to go, Ms Yu said demand for the flights "has always been very high".
Cathay now flies to New York with a stop in Vancouver -- a journey that takes 18 hours, which could leave Cathay at a disadvantage in attracting high-paying business travellers who prefer nonstop services.
The non-stop flights will be about two-and-a-half hours faster, Ms Yu said.
Cathay is also planning to launch new services to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Bangalore, India; Ms Yu said.
In a separate development, a Cathay spokeswoman said the carrier plans to double its fleet size to as many as 150 jets in six to eight years.
The airline is looking to buy and lease the new planes, growing its fleet to between 140 and 150 aircraft, said spokeswoman Rosita Ng.
"That is just a tentative plan," said Ms Ng. "We will revise the plan as suitable, according to passenger demand and economic demand."
Cathay now operates 70 aircraft and plans to add 11 more this year.
The airline aims to fight the effects of a US economic slowdown by adding new routes and cutting costs, said David Turnbull, the company's deputy chairman and chief executive.
"We have to rely on new things, like India and the Middle East," said Mr Turnbull. The airline is looking to begin services to several new destinations in these regions, he said.
"We have the rights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Maybe we'll start flying there later this year," Mr Turnbull said. The airline may also add flights to Bangalore, India, where it also holds traffic rights. -- AP, Bloomberg