Are the Middle Eastern airlines starting to have an effect on airlines other than Delta, American and United? Cathay Pacific has released a press statement confirming that it will cease operations between Hong Kong and Doha from February 2016:
Cathay Pacific Airways today announced that it will discontinue its daily flight between Hong Kong and Doha with effect from 15 February 2016. The airline said the service, which launched in March 2014, is being discontinued for commercial reasons.
The last Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Doha will be CX645 on 14 February 2016, while the last flight from Doha to Hong Kong will be CX640 the following day. Alternative arrangements will be made for passengers already booked on Cathay Pacific flights to and from Doha after the service comes to an end.
The airline goes on to say:
Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways will continue to work together as strategic airline partners within the oneworld alliance. The Cathay Pacific “CX” code will remain in place on Qatar Airways flights between Doha and Hong Kong, while the Qatar Airways “QR” code will remain on selected Cathay Pacific flights from Hong Kong to Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan. Effective 15 February 2016, the Cathay Pacific code will no longer go on Qatar Airways flights from Doha to other destinations.
So, is this a case of Qatar being in a better position to service these flights and Cathay ceding graciously to its OneWorld partner or has Cathay been run off the route?
In a statement, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said:
The resumption of our twice-daily services on the Hong Kong-Doha route will strengthen our competitiveness and leadership in one of the world’s key global aviation hubs. Next year will mark a decade of successful operations for Qatar Airways in Hong Kong and we are pleased to inform our Hong Kong-based passengers that they can look forward to our award-winning hospitality on board both daily flights departing from Hong Kong direct to our state-of-the-art home Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, from February 16, 2016 onwards.
Updated daily flights between Hong Kong and Doha from February 16, 2016 (all times local):
HKG-DOH QR815 01:20 05:20 Daily
HKG-DOH QR645 18:30 23:25 Daily
DOH-HKG QR640 01:50 14:25 Daily
DOH-HKG QR816 07:50 20:50 Daily
Both Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways fly A330 aircraft on the route with Cathay flying the -300 variant and Qatar opting for the -200 variant.
Cathay Pacific’s A330-300s feature one of the best business class seats around – a lie-flat seat set out in a reverse herringbone formation (which is what American Airlines based its 777-300ER business class seats on) – so they’re a big favorite with travelers. They also fly with a first class cabin which offers fantastic value for award redemptions.
Qatar Airways flies with so many variants of the A330-200 that it’s hard to know for sure which one you’re going to get on your flight. Only one of the variants flies with a first class cabin with the other variants just offering business class or economy….there’s no premium economy on offer.
If you’re not set on flying in first there is some good news….
Qatar Airways has been refitting its fleet with newer, more up-to-date cabins and it uses its upgraded A330s on the Hong Kong route. These aircraft come with business class seats featuring “six-way adjustable headrests, four-way adjustable lumbar support, a variety of personal stowage compartments, privacy dividers and fresh contemporary styling”
All in all this is a very strong business class product and a huge improvement on the cabin they were once passing off as a business class product on this aircraft.
I don’t find Qatar Airways to be any tighter or looser than Cathay Pacific when it comes to award inventory so I don’t expect to see much change with award availability on this route. However, Qatar is a fan of the occasional big sale and you can snag some great discounts if you know where and when to look (I’ll try to keep you updated!). That could be a big plus for travelers looking to get to Hong Kong in comfort and without paying the earth.
All-in-all this could be a positive move for fans of the OneWorld alliance. The premium cabin products aren’t that dissimilar when it comes to comfort and both airlines offer 8-across seating in their economy cabins (so not much difference there). We don’t appear to be loosing much with Cathay Pacific leaving the route but we may be getting more opportunities to grab some good discounts when Qatar, inevitably, comes up with another sale.
Featured image: Qatar Airways A330-200 landing at Hong Kong courtesy of Aero Icarus via Flickr