Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Cathay Pacific makes it to 75 years

Cathay Pacific is the latest airline to mark a significant milestone in the midst of the pandemic which has wiped out years of growth and profit.

The Hong Kong-based carrier, which it grew from a one-plane freight operator to a major international airline with a big reputation for laying on luxury for premium passengers and as of June, a fleet of 191 aircraft, turns 75 today.

Last year Qantas, which turned 100, and Air New Zealand which turned 80, had much scaled-back celebrations of their birthdays and today Cathay Pacific released imagery from happier times to mark its milestone.

It also announced it would commit to using sustainable aviation fuel for 10 per cent of its fuel consumption by 2030 as part of a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The airline was founded in 1946 by American Roy Farrell and Australian Sydney de Kantzow, ex-Air Force pilots who served during World War II. Originally based in Shanghai, the operation moved to Hong Kong after the first few months.

Its first aircraft was a Douglas DC-3 and its first freight run carried 2000 day-old chicks between Sydney and Hong Kong. The aircraft, nicknamed Betty, is displayed as a permanent exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum.

By 1964 the airline had carried its millionth passenger — in 2019 it was carrying three million passengers a month.

Non-stop services to Auckland began in May 1983 initially used a Boeing 747-200 on the weekly service, featuring the old green and white striped livery, affectionately known as the ‘lettuce leaf sandwich.’

A daily service was launched in 1998 using the Airbus A340-300, while 2010 saw the airline introduce a second daily flight during the New Zealand peak summer period. Since 2013, Cathay Pacific built services to up three flights between Hong Kong and Auckland a day over summer.

It became the first carrier to run Airbus A350 flights into this country in 2016 and the next year expanded operations to Christchurch over summer.

Just before the pandemic, it operated its A350-1000s into New Zealand, an aircraft that can carry 334 passengers.

But during the past 18 months it has been pummelled by Covid, closed its Dragon Air subsidiary and laid off thousands of staff. It is down to one flight a week between Auckland and Hong Kong and this week has greatly wound back expectations of network recovery.

In June, Cathay said it aimed to restore its passenger flight capacity to 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

However, tightened border restrictions since then mean it expects that to be just 13 per cent.

In the last six months the airline has managed to staunch losses, cutting expenses and enjoying strong cargo revenue. However, its loss was around $1.2 billion and says this continues to the toughest period in its history.

Since the pandemic began, the airline has racked up losses of HK$29.2 billion ($5.3b) , including a HK$7.57 billion loss in the first half of this year.

Across the airline industry total capacity for this year is forecast to end at 3.7 billion seats, 36 per cent down on 2019.

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