CATHAY Pacific is getting set for a double celebration later this year when it will mark the airline’s 60th anniversary and 30 years of service to the Bahrain market.
“There will be a series of events marking these two milestones as we are keen to thank the travel agents and the customers who have supported us all these years,” says Tom Wright, the Bahrain-based general manager, Middle East, India and Africa.
The celebrations will showcase the airline’s past and present, the passengers down memory lane, while offering the highest standard of services, says Wright, who has served the airline for the past 20 years in various capacities. He comes to Bahrain following a five-year stint in the US as the senior vice president, The Americas.
The main events of the airline’s 60th anniversary will be held in September, while the Bahrain milestone will be celebrated in November.
Wright says the airline had a successful 2005 with the capacity increasing 12 per cent and the revenue going up 19 per cent. “This is very significant because the revenue growth has overtaken the capacity increase. We were also able to cut costs by two per cent, without taking into account the fuel expenditure,” he says.
“The fuel remains a major issue for all airlines and Cathay is no exception. Fuel costs which account for almost 30 per cent of the airline’s running expenses, increased by 67 per cent last year and it’s still going up. The present surcharge levied by the airline does not cover the costs and ultimately the cost will have to be passed on to the passengers.”
Cathay was chosen airline of the year by Air Transport World. “This is the second time the airline has won this prestigious award and we are very proud of this achievement,” he says.
The airline has performed extremely well in the region with an overall seven to eight per cent increase in revenue and passenger numbers. Wright says the Middle East remains an important area for growth for the airline but has ruled out any immediate plans for expansion. “We are studying how best we can serve the growing regional market and what new services we can offer. With all the developments taking place in the region and the increased investment flow, it’s a very exciting time in the region and Cathay sure wants to be part of this growth. There is a major business traffic flow between China’s Pearl River Delta, the ‘Workshop of the World’, and the Middle East. Investments from and into China is also increasing. We see this as a great opportunity and as a Hong Kong-based airline we can take advantage of this,” says Wright.
The leisure travel from the region to Hong Kong and other Far Eastern destinations is also increasing as there has been a perceptible shift in the tourist traffic from the region. “Cathay is ideally suited to serve this market and is offering several tailor-made packages for the regional traveller. The Disneyland Hong Kong is a major attraction for families from the region,” he says.
With newer airlines in Asia and the Middle East entering the fray, competition is fierce in the market, concedes Wright. “We welcome good competition as it helps us to improve our services, which are already one of the best in the industry,” he says.
Wright sees India is a major market and says the airline is keen to fly extra services to India out of Dubai and Hong Kong.
Commenting on the advent of low-cost carriers, the industry veteran says they serve a purpose and could act as feeder services in the region for international airlines such as Cathay.
He rejects the notion that as web-based travel services increase the travel agents’ role will diminish. “Worldwide, though people have moved to buying tickets on the Net for domestic travel, they still prefer travel agents for international flights. Travel agents who provide a complete solution are here to stay,” he says.
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