Cathay Pacific – No Smoke Without Fire


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There have been rumors circulating for a while that Cathay Pacific is planning to put through a few service changes that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with a premium airline and, last week, things came to a head.

Cathay Pacific’s finances haven’t been looking too good of late and the airline has been looking to see what it can do to cut costs and raise revenues to get itself back on track.

We already know that Cathay will be following the herd as it reconfigures its 777-300 aircraft with 10-across seating in Economy Class – so that’s the end of comfort in Cathay Pacific’s Economy Class cabin – and recent rumors have suggested that the airline would introduce “buy on board” meals on its short-haul flights while, at the same time, giving up on the idea of offering “dine on demand” in Business Class.

British Airways introduced ‘buy on board’ food in 2016

The rumors got stronger last week as a number of online sites cited a supposed leaked internal document which apparently confirmed the following three things:

  • ‘Buy on board’ service will be introduced on Cathay’s short-haul routes to Manila, Cebu, Ho Chi Minh City and the airline’s late-night flights on routes to destinations like Jakarta, Tokyo Narita, Osaka, Seoul and Singapore
  • ‘Dine on demand’ in Business Class is being scrapped
  • Cathay Pacific will start up routes to both Canberra and Cape Town in 2018 (no dates or schedules were mentioned).

That’s all pretty specific but, after Business Traveller wrote an article containing all that information, it then quickly took it down and replaced it with a retraction (here).

The main part of the retraction says the following:

Business Traveller would like to retract its earlier article reporting that Cathay Pacific would be introducing a “buy on board” menu on its short-haul services, dropping its “dine on demand” service, along with changes to its network and aircraft deployments.

The reporting was based on information that Business Traveller was led to believe was an internal document from Cathay Pacific. This was not the case, and as such the accuracy of the information included is questionable

Cathay Pacific then came out and said that ‘dine on demand’ was still being evaluated and, with reference to the ‘buy on board’ rumors, the airline said this:

The media report is categorically inaccurate. Cathay Pacific is a premium, full-service airline and there is no plans for what was rumoured

 Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Thoughts

Cathay Pacific’s denials have been strong (and some of the comments on various sites that posted the rumors have been amusingly angry as the fanboys leapt to the defence of their beloved Cathay)….but I’m not entirely sure I’m prepared to believe the airline just yet.

The document cited by Business Traveller may well not have been a leaked internal memo as was suggested but the information reported from it was strangely specific.

It’s one thing to claim something that’s quite general like the idea that Cathay is planning to introduce ‘buy on board’, but it’s a bit more serious and has a bit more gravitas when specific routes are named.

Also, the information that Business Traveller cited mentioned Cathay starting up routes to Cape Town and Canberra (a rumor which Cathay attempted to brush off) and, since Business Traveller’s retraction, the South China Morning Post has also reported that Cathay Pacific is set to announce a route to Cape Town.

Cape TownCape Town – Probably about to become a new non-stop destinations for Cathay Pacific

This new route is sounding a lot less like a rumor and a lot more like a fact waiting to be confirmed.

So…..

Whoever wrote the document Business Traveller’s saw was happy to name specific routes on which ‘buy on board’ would be rolled out and name specific routes that the airline will be starting up (one of which now looks pretty certain to happen).

I’m not convinced that the source is as far off the mark as Cathay would have us believe.

It’s certainly possible that Cathay Pacific genuinely doesn’t have any plans to introduce ‘buy on board’ but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the airline had seriously considered it. It may have even pencilled in a few routes on which to try it out.

Cathay is certainly right to point out that introducing a ‘buy on board’ offering does not go hand in hand with being a premium airline – that’s actually an amusing swipe at British Airways (intentional or otherwise) – so it’s possible that the airline considered ‘buy on board’ and then changed its mind when it realised the damage that it may do to its brand.

Or it may just be biding its time.

As far as ‘dine on demand’ in Business Class goes, I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t get ditched the next time Cathay thinks no one is paying attention (one Friday afternoon possibly?)

We’ve heard countless rumors about how the crews don’t like it/can’t deliver it properly and the fact that the airline is still being so coy about its intentions (over 6 months after the trials were run) leads me to believe that this idea is dead in the water.

Qatar Airways offers a ‘dine on demand’ service in its Business Class cabins without any trouble

Bottom Line

We haven’t heard the end of this and I’m still not convinced that we won’t see some form of ‘buy on board’ appearing somewhere in Cathay’s route network in the next 12 – 24 months.

I’m ready to call time of death on the idea that Cathay will introduce ‘dine on demand’ in Business Class – it’s not going to happen while the airline has more pressing things to worry about….like remaining solvent – so don’t get your hopes up on that one.

With SCMP reporting that the route to Cape Town is on the way I’m now just waiting for official confirmation…. and that means that I’m also expecting to hear a new route to Canberra announced too – watch this space.

All in all, Business Traveller’s source may not have been what it was claimed to be but I also don’t think that it was as far from the truth as some would have us believe.