Cathay Pacific looks to increase presence in Australian market


Cathay Pacific chief executive John Slosar says the airline will look to increase its presence in the Australian market once economic conditions stabilise.

Speaking to The Australian after his address to a business lunch in Hong Kong, Mr Slosar said he wanted to offer additional services into Australia in the longer term.

“Economies go up and down, and the economy either co-operates or doesn’t co-operate, so we will stage our growth to fit in with that as opportunities arise,” he said.

“Long term, we certainly want to serve more places at more times in Australia.”

Cathay Pacific already operates flights out of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns.

More immediately, Mr Slosar signalled the company intended to join in competition for the growing premium-economy market, with the airline set to begin offering the new class later this year.

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Cathay Pacific will also be upgrading its business-class seat. Mr Slosar said the new design would better cater for “side sleepers” than traditional business-class flat beds.

The company, which has on order 95 aircraft with a combined list price of $HK200 billion ($24.6bn), is also looking at increasing its services to Latin America and Africa, and it has increased services to the US.

Mr Slosar said he believed China’s growth as a travel destination would be the key theme of the coming decade in travel, and said current predictions of a cooling economy in China would likely be as inaccurate as similar predictions of the past few years.

“Somehow China has dealt pretty well with the cards it has received in the game, and somehow it has made the right things happen,” he said.

“Betting against their ability to do that and betting against the industriousness of the Chinese people has never been a good bet. That’s one of the reasons why we think there’s a lot more to do in China.”

Meanwhile, Mr Slosar said the company would not be abandoning its “people and service” advertising campaign — which features the slogan “the team who go the extra mile to make you feel special” — in the wake of a sex scandal that rocked the company last month.

Photographs featuring a Cathay pilot and flight attendant in compromising positions in the cockpit of a plane were widely distributed on the internet and in newspapers last month. The pair have since left the airline.

“There is speculation, which I’ve seen in the press, that said as a result of our YouTube interlude we may be phasing out our ‘people and service’ campaign. Let me just say that is complete rubbish,” Mr Slosar said.

“It has been a fantastically successful campaign and we will be rolling out phase two fairly shortly.

“We have taken a little bit of a breather, because that’s what you normally do in these sorts of circumstances, but by no means are we changing the course of our strategy.”