Cathay Pacific Delays Expansion – Manchester & Boston Amongst Cities Affected

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Cathay Pacific has been having a tougher time of things recently. In 2015 it just about managed to fend off a cabin crew strike that would have caused chaos to its summer schedule, it was forced to cede the Hong Kong – Doha route to a OneWorld partner, Qatar Airways , it has been dealing with a dispute with its pilots since September and has been navigating a union action that has seen training captains refusing to train other pilots.

All of these things are starting to take their toll on the airline.

Cathay Pacific Delays To Boston & Manchester

A report in the South China Morning Post claims that Cathay Pacific has “drastically scaled back its expansion plans this year” with those scale-backs including the delay of increased frequencies due to be rolled out to destinations like Boston and Manchester (UK) as well as a delay to the new service between Hong Kong and London Gatwick.

boston-skyline-trenten-kellyBoston skyline – courtesy of Trenton Kelly via Flickr

Cathay Pacific commenced flights to Boston in May 2015 and operates the Hong Kong – Boston route 4x/week. In 2016, Cathay Pacific had planned to increase the frequency on this route to give passengers a daily service between the two cities but those plans have now been pushed back t0 2017.

Manchester (UK) is another city to which Cathay Pacific flys 4x/week and, just like Boston, was expecting to see frequencies ramped up to 7/week in 2016. The increased flights will now almost certainly not be added in 2016 with summer 2017 being the most likely target.

What Cathay Pacific Is Saying

In a letter to Cathay Pacific pilots sent in December last year, general manager of aircrew Dominic Perret called the labour stalemate a “lose-lose” situation and “frustrating for all of us”.

He went on to add:

Our growth plans for 2016 have recently been scaled back considerably, and there are a few reasons why we have made the difficult decision to do this. There are certainly operational reasons – we have built more slack into the system to help improve our poor on-time performance and to make the roster more stable.

Other reasons for our slower growth are clearly industrial – namely the campaign led by the HKAOA here in Hong Kong of contract compliance and the training captain ban.

The SCMP explains:

The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, representing 2,100 of Cathay Pacific’s 2,900 pilots, launched a work-to-rule action in December 2014 over a pay rise dispute. Although the issue was resolved, pilots vowed to continue the action because of other disputes, such as roster patterns.

The association also called on training captains to suspend training other pilots, thus affecting the airline’s manpower plans.

Under the work-to-rule action, pilots did the bare minimum as laid out in their contracts, including not working on their days off, as they typically did.

What Other Routes Will Be Affected?

The only other route which the SCMP mentions is the new Hong Kong – London Gatwick route.

The SCMP claims that the new Hong Kong to London Gatwick route has been affected by the troubles at Cathay Pacific and says:

[T]he launch of flights to London’s Gatwick airport [has been] pushed back to September, the Post learned.

But I think the Post may be a little off base on this one.

When, back in December, Cathay Pacific announced that it will commence a new 4 x weekly service between Hong Kong and London’s Gatwick Airport it also said that the expected start date was 2 September 2016 I posted about it at the time. So I’m not sure where the delay is supposed to be.

The new route is set to fly on this schedule…

CX349 HKG 00:55 – 07:10 LGW (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun)
CX344 LGW 12:35 – 07:25+1 day HKG (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun)

…and, most excitingly, is set to be operated by Cathay Pacific’s new Airbus A350 aircraft.

Cathay Pacific A350Image courtesy of Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific also has plans to offer a 4x weekly service between Hong Kong and Madrid from 2 June 2016 but, as Cathay Pacific has been taking reservations on that route since September last year, I suspect that route is safe from the cut-backs.

Bottom Line

None of this is terrible news but, at the same time, it’s not exactly great. Cathay Pacific is one of the few true premium airlines around and the labor issues its faced in the past 18 months could well have an effect on just how “premium” it remains.

Don’t think that this will only affect those wishing to travel on the affected routes – this could affect everyone who flies Cathay Pacific.

The airline has already admitted to considering adding more seats to its long-haul aircraft and sacrificing seat width in the process and that’s a slippery slope to start on. As I showed in my comparison of the various Economy Class seats available for trans-Pacific travel (Which Airline Seats For USA – Asia?), Cathay Pacific currently has some of the more generous Economy Class seat-widths in the industry – and I don’t want to see that lost.

The issues at Cathay Pacific may just be affecting expansion for the time being but, if the issues persist, it’s only a matter of time before the airline is forced to respond and we, as passengers, start to see cuts in what’s being offered. And who wants to see that?


  1. […] not been a smooth ride for Cathay Pacific recently with pilot issues (amongst other things) delaying routes and the deployment of their new Airbus A350. Now, in a recent schedule update, Cathay Pacific has officially pushed back the date on which […]

  2. […] Cathay Pacific has announced that it plans to increase the number of flights it offers between Hong Kong and Boston and between Hong Kong and Vancouver from Spring 2017. This is a significant step for the Hong Kong based carrier which has been plagued with issues over the past few years resulting in the airline scaling back some of its route …. […]

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