Cathay Pacific has revealed plans for a leadership transition, with current Chief Commercial Officer Ivan Chu taking over from John Slosar as CEO.

Slosar will move up to become chairman of Cathay Pacific, as well as Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co. (Haeco), and a basket of other Swire Group companies. Current chairman Christopher Pratt is retiring, after eight years in the role. The transition is due to occur in March 2014.

After joining the Swire group in 1980, Slosar became chief operating officer of Cathay in 2007, and CEO in 2011. He succeeded Tony Tyler, who moved on to become director general of the International Air Transport Association.

Chu joined Cathay in 1984, and has held roles with the carrier in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia.

Speaking at a conference in Sydney on Aug. 8, Chu highlighted growth opportunities for Cathay in the U.S. market and in second-tier Chinese cities, as well as the potential for expanding services – particularly cargo flights – to Australia.

Chu stressed that Cathay is taking its time to assess whether it should launch a subsidiary low-cost carrier as many other airlines in the region are doing. He also played down the challenge of the proposed Jetstar Hong Kong LCC, saying that fierce competition has always been a feature of the Hong Kong market.

He defended Cathay’s recent investments in cargo fleet and a new cargo terminal despite the current freight downturn, saying that these are long-term investments that will benefit Cathay when the market rebounds.

The new CEO will oversee some important fleet changes, as Cathay is phasing out the last of its Boeing 747-400s in favor of 777-300ERs, and is scheduled to begin taking delivery of Airbus A350s in 2016. Chu says the A350s will open up new opportunities for long, thin routes to North America and Europe.