Asian carrier Cathay Pacific is to further expand its operations in Europe with the introduction of a link between Hong Kong and Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region and host city for this year’s World Routes. The new seasonal route, which complements its recently established flights to Madrid, has been made possible by the introduction of the Airbus A350-900 into the airline’s fleet, allowing it serve new long-haul markets more efficiently.
Cathay Pacific will offer a four times weekly service between its Hong Kong International Airport hub and Barcelona from July 2, 2017, subject to final government approval, continuing through the peak travel months until October 27, 2017. This will be the first ever non-stop offering between Hong Kong and Barcelona.
“Barcelona is a great city for its tourism and rich culture that attracts visitors from around the world. We’re excited to offer the first-ever direct link between Hong Kong and Barcelona, which follows the launch of our Madrid service last year,” said Ivan Chu, chief executive officer, Cathay Pacific.
“This new summer service reflects our commitment to grow the Cathay Pacific network and offer customers more choice. This further strengthens Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s most important aviation hubs,” he added.
Cathay Pacific says that alongside providing business and leisure passengers with the fastest, most direct option to Spain’s second most populous city, the new service will also provide passengers from the Iberian Peninsula easier access to key destinations in Asia and Southwest Pacific through the airline’s hub in Hong Kong.
The airline made its debut in the Spanish market in June 2016 when it introduced its four times weekly Hong Kong – Madrid link. In the first five months of operation, Cathay Pacific carried an estimated 50,000 bi-directional passengers, according to the AirVision Market Intelligence tool from Sabre Airline Solutions, approximately 138 PPDEW (Passengers Per Day Each Way).
The direct service has helped support demand not just between Hong Kong and Spain, but also supporting flows onwards at each end of the route. This includes a very sizeable market between Taipei and Madrid and Wenzhou and Madrid which accounted for a reported 6.8 per cent and 6.6 per cent of all passengers during the first five months of operation: local traffic between Hong Kong and Madrid accounted for 17.2 per cent of the traffic, while Fuzhou – Madrid (3.4 per cent) and Sydney – Madrid (3.3 per cent) made up the top five city pair markets.
The data shows that in the last year, around 140,000 passengers were flying between Hong Kong and Spain, a market that Cathay Pacific was the second largest operator with a 20.6 per cent share, behind market leader, Emirates Airline, with a 21.3 per cent share. The Hong Kong – Barcelona market had an annual flow of 62,000 O&D passengers, approximately 85 PPDEW and is actually larger than Hong Kong – Madrid which had flows of around 54,000 O&D passengers or 74 PPDEW.
Cathay Pacific has placed fresh impetus on the European market in the past couple of years adding non-stop flights to Manchester in 2014, Dusseldorf in 2015 and London Gatwick and Madrid in 2016. Ahead of these recent route launches the Hong Kong carrier already offered non-stop flights from the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris and Rome, although in 2015 it suspended its flights to the Russian capital.
Over the past ten years (2007 – 2016) Cathay Pacific’s European air capacity from Hong Kong has risen 30.2 per cent. It had grown 18.2 per cent until 2011 but year-on-year capacity declined 5.4 per cent, 2.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent over the subsequent years. This market returned to growth in 2015 with capacity up 13.5 per cent and was followed by a 7.9 per cent capacity growth in 2016.
The London market is its largest with a 39.8 per cent of the non-stop European capacity from Hong Kong last year: its Heathrow operation alone accounted for more than a third of its European capacity with a 38.4 per cent seat share. However, new markets has seen Cathay Pacific’s dependence on the London market decline from a ten-year high of 47.5 per cent in 2014.