Q&A: Cathay Pacific – Asian connection

Asian airline Cathay Pacific has been operating flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg for 28 years and last year introduced a seasonal flight from Cape Town, with healthy flight loads on both routes. Ashish Kapur, Cathay’s Country Manager for South Africa, joined Business Traveller for a chat and update on the airlineʼs African presence.

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Q: What’s the Cathay Pacific view on Africa and where does it fit into the airline’s strategy?

A: Africa is a continent with dynamic trading hubs, rapidly growing economies and also a popular tourist hub. We recognize the need for direct connections from Asia into Africa, especially during the African summer which is the tourism peak. Hence, this seasonal flight to Cape Town has been a great introduction to meet the growing demand. While we operate out of Johannesburg and Cape Town, almost 20-30% of our bookings originate from other cities in Africa. This is immense potential that is displayed by offline markets in the country and definitely an opportunity for growth.

Q: Any new African routes in the pipeline?

A: We have recently launched our flight out of Cape Town to capitalize on the opportunities the market beholds. It is a promising market and we aim to maximize potential from our current routes before we look at expanding our network in the country further.

Q: Would you consider expanding the seasonal Cape Town service to year-round?

A: The South African market has been very welcoming. Our trade partners and customers have shown great excitement about the non-stop flight into Hong Kong. Whilst we are keen to operate the Cape Town service year-round, currently we are focusing on maximising the potential from our existing routes.

Q: What’s your view on the state of aviation in Africa?

A: The African international aviation space has been growing rapidly and we are happy to be a part of it. In the last few years, there has been a phenomenal increase in the number of international carriers entering and expanding their services in the African market. As per IATA’s reports, the African aviation market is expected to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions within the next 20 years, with an annual expansion rate of almost 5%. The international airlines operating in the region connect Africa to every part of the world. This has led to expansion of the aviation sector in the region and we are sure it will grow exponentially in the future.

Q: Which aircraft does Cathay Pacific use on its Johannesburg and Cape Town routes, and why?

A: Our fleets are known to be one of the youngest in the world. We have deployed the A350-900 from Cape Town and the 777- 300ER out of Johannesburg. We have a three-cabin configuration option for our customers to choose from – business, premium economy and economy. From Cape Town we operate one of our latest products in the fleet, which offers the passengers a whole new experience when they are flying. Our award-winning seats, all-new in-flight entertainment with a wealth of new content, and wi-fi connectivity on-board, ensures our passengers have a pleasant and comfortable journey.

Q: How much business travel do you see on your Johannesburg route, in terms of a rough percentage of the traffic?

A: We see a very healthy mix of business and leisure traffic with high demand for business travel into Hong Kong, China and Japan.

Q: Predominantly, what types of industries are making use of this flight between Hong Kong and South Africa?

A: We have strong penetration into industries like automobile and perishables, and witness a surge of traffic for the trade fairs in China.

Q: Have there been any recent changes to the business class offering on the Johannesburg flight?

A: We are progressively rolling out our new business class service that improves customers’ experience both on the ground and on board. We have launched a contemporary dining experience – a new à la carte menu with cabin crew conducting one-on-one menu discussions and taking individual meal orders. Most courses are hand-delivered, creating a quieter and calmer cabin environment, particularly on late night flights. Customers can select from multiple courses or opt for a light express alternative. Last year, we launched our new inflight dining concept, Hong Kong Flavours – Hong Kong favourites inspired by a dynamic food culture and vibrant heritage. We recently introduced The Sanctuary by Pure Yoga at the Pier Business Class Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. The lounge is a 65m2 area divided into two zones where customers can practice yoga and meditate

Q: Where would you like to see Cathay Pacific’s African presence in 10 years’ time?

A: The Cape Town service is an extension of our vision to capitalise on the right markets and grow our network in a sustainable manner. Similarly, in the next decade we aim to expand our services to other countries across Africa.