Cathay Pacific and United Intend Transpacific Network Growth

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways and US major United Airlines have each indicated their intention to grow their transpacific networks with the addition of new services, reports Lucy Siebert, acting editor of our sister publication Routes News, from the CAPA Australian Pacific Aviation Summit in Sydney, Australia.

Speaking at the event Cathay Pacific’s chief operating officer Ivan Chu said the Hong Kong airline was looking to add new services to North America; our own sources suggest Newark Liberty International Airport is its preferred destination.  “We have recently added capacity into North America and we believe that economy is returning and soon we will be looking at more flights to the US,” he said.

United’s senior vice president financial planning and analysis John Gebo also stated his carrier’s commitment to the transpacific, particularly with its hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  “The transpacific is tremendously important to United.  It is critical to our network.  We have very strong transpacific gateways at San Francisco and Los Angeles, which allow direct connections.  We will continue to grow our services over time and China will be a big part of that.  Clearly it is an enormous market and one with lots of opportunity going forward,” he said.

No low-cost carrier launches - yet

While both United and Cathay Pacific are keen to grow the transpacific market, neither have plans to launch a low-cost carrier – although the executives would not rule out the possibility entirely.

When questioned about the impact of existing low-cost carriers in the Asian market, as well as the potential effect of Jetstar launching in Hong Kong, Chu said Cathay was monitoring the market closely.  “We’ve been studying the progress of low-cost carriers and we are not jumping into the market yet,” he said.

When asked the same question about the possibility of starting a low-cost subsidiary Gebo said: “I won’t suggest that we won’t ever do that, but not we are happy with the United brand.”  He added United was already competing with low-cost carriers on 70-90 per cent of its routes.  “We are perfectly happy to provide service to business and leisure on the United brand,” he said. 

The US carrier has previous experience in the low-cost market having launched Ted prior to its merger with Continental Airlines.  The airline within an airline was effectively just a brand that targeted low-cost holidaymakers and it operated for just under five years between February 2004 and January 2009 when its operations were reintegrated with United.