60 year-old Cathay innovates for the future

SREEKRISHNA BHAT reports from Cathay Pacific’s biggest party in Hong Kong, that the airline is entering a new phase
Cathay Pacific’s 100th aircraft, an A330-300. By 2010 the airline hopes to have 180 planes

THE Hong-Kong based Cathay Pacific has announced a major upgrade programme covering seats across all three classes in its long-haul flights.

The programme, termed ‘Future Innovations’, was unveiled at a glittering event marking the 60th anniversary of the airline at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong on September 22.
The new cabins will feature state-of-the-art seats that are bigger, wider and more comfortable, including a fully flat bed in Business Class, helping Cathay Pacific retain position as one of the world’s premier carriers, said a spokesman. The rollout of the products will begin in January 2007.
Opening the ‘On Diamond Wings’ anniversary celebrations, Cathay chairman Christopher Pratt said the airline is entering a new phase with the acquisition of Dragon Airlines. “This will provide unrivalled linkage between China, the world’s fastest growing aviation market, and rest of the world,” he said.
Cathay hit a century by acquiring its 100th plane recently. Pratt said by 2010 Cathay will have 180 aircraft flying to most major international destinations.
The anniversary event was attended by more than 3,000 people, including Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The highlight of the evening was the ‘Walking On Air’, Cathay Pacific’s historical uniform fashion show presented by the airline’s crew themselves.
The airline was founded by American Roy C Farrell and Australian Sydney de Kantzow in 1946. It initially operated passenger and cargo flights with two DC3 aircraft ‘Betsy’ and ‘Niki’, primarily to Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai.
In 1948, one of Hong Kong’s major trading companies, Butterfield & Swire (today known as Swire Group) took 45 per cent share in the company. Under its leadership the company entered a period of rapid growth.
Today Cathay flies to 90 destinations with its fleet of 100 wide-bodied aircraft to destinations in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe and Africa.
The airlines’ passenger fleet comprises Boeing 747-400s, 777-300s, 777-200s, Airbus A340-300s and A340-600s and A330-300s. The freighter fleet is made up of Boeing 747-400s, Boeing 747-200s and three Boeing converted freighters.
The new upgrade programme will be installed on all the airline’s new deliveries and also retrofitted on Cathay Pacific long-haul aircraft already in possession. The installation programme will run through to mid-2009. The upgrade will improve seat and cabin comfort and provide a better all-round flying experience to passengers in all classes, said the company. The product upgrade is the result of a detailed assessment of Cathay’s inflight needs in the coming years, he said.
The new first class cabin will have more space and more privacy, creating a feel of a private relaxation suite. The business class product features a new seat that transforms to a totally flat bed. Simple seat controls allow full adjustment, including lumbar support, while a two-way massage function aids blood circulation. The new economy class seat features a fixed back design which allows passengers to recline without intruding on those seats behind. In addition, the seat frame and structure has been designed to maximize knee and shin clearance.
Pratt said: “I believe that Cathay Pacific’s distinguishing qualities are the very same ones that have transformed Hong Kong into the unique, dynamic and cosmopolitan major world city of today. Namely, a willingness to embrace change and to see it not as a threat but as an opportunity, and a belief that given equality of opportunity we can beat anyone.”
The airline’s chief executive Philip Chen presented mementos to 11 members of the airline’s Marco Polo Club who have each flown more than three million miles with Cathay Pacific.