Cathay Pacific warms to seasonal flying as Christchurch becomes latest destination

Two months into 2017 and Cathay Pacific has announced the introduction of two new routes - both seasonal markets that show a notable change in strategy of the airline’s traditional network development. Alongside its Hong Kong – Barcelona link that will run from July to October 2017, the Asian hub carrier will introduce a new seasonal service between Hong Kong and Christchurch from December 2017.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the new service will operate for a three month period between December 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018 and will complement Cathay Pacific’s current seasonal double daily flights to Auckland as well as strategic partner Air New Zealand’s daily service between Hong Kong and Auckland.

It will operate three times per week, departing Hong Kong on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and flown by one of the airline’s new Airbus A350 fleet, providing a welcome boost for tourism to Canterbury and the South Island. The Asian carrier has served New Zealand since 1983 but solely into North Island.

Cathay Pacific believes the new service will meet customer demand for travel to New Zealand throughout the southern hemisphere’s peak summer months, as well as provide a convenient option for South Island-based travellers looking to fly on Cathay Pacific to Asia and beyond via its Hong Kong hub.

“We are an airline that puts the needs of our customers at the heart of every decision we make. Christchurch, and indeed the South Island as a whole, is a magnificent part of the world, so we are really excited to be able to connect this new and breathtaking destination direct with our Hong Kong home,” said Paul Loo, director corporate development and IT.

The route will be backed by the existing strategic alliance partnership between Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand between Hong Kong and New Zealand, which, subject to continuing regulatory approvals, will now be extended a further five years until 2022. “We are pleased to extend our alliance with Air New Zealand, which has allowed our two airlines to maximise synergies and better meet our customers’ needs,” said Loo.

Air New Zealand chief strategy, networks and alliances officer Stephen Jones confirmed the planned extension of the alliance and the value it has accrued through the partnership which has stimulated travel between New Zealand and Hong Kong and importantly grown inbound tourism from this market with visitor numbers up 130 percent since the alliance was first signed.

“By extending our alliance we hope to further grow these services and continue to deliver a range of benefits to the travelling public,” he said.

The alliance was launched in December 2012 and as part of the arrangement Air New Zealand suspended its flights between Hong Kong and London (an extension of its services from Auckland) from spring 2013 in favour of a marketing partnership on Cathay Pacific’s flights on the route. It has permitted the airlines to codeshare between Hong Kong and Auckland.

Hong Kong Airlines has recently added its own flights on the route launching daily flights from November 2016 using an Airbus A330-200 configured with 283-seats, including a 24 seat Business Class cabin. The HNA Group subsidiary boosted daily capacity by up to 50 per cent, complementing the daily offer from Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific (the latter offers a second daily rotation between December and March to meet seasonal demand).

International visitor arrivals to New Zealand are on the rise with official figures from Statistics New Zealand showing almost 3.5 million arrivals in 2016, a 370,000, 11.8 per cent uplift on 2015, the only double-digit year-on-year growth and the eighth annual increase over the last ten years. The data shows there has been a steady increase year-on-year in the number of Hong Kong and China travellers visiting New Zealand rising up 23.4 per cent and 14.9 per cent, in 2016 respectively.

Cathay Pacific has seen modest growth over recent years with a main impetus on the European market where it has added non-stop flights to Manchester (2014), Dusseldorf (2015), London Gatwick (2016) and Madrid (2016). This year, alongside its two seasonal routes it will also commence a four-times-weekly service to Tel Aviv, Israel from later this month.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…