Cathay eyes NY, London flights
( 2003-09-03 09:59) (eastday.com.cn)
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, Asia's sixth-largest carrier by sales, will seek to fly between London and New York later this month when officials from Britain and Hong Kong meet for bilateral talks on air services.
Cathay wants to operate as many as two daily flights from London Heathrow air-port, so it can offer a service stopping there, New York and Vancouver from Hong Kong, Andrew Pyne, general manager of international affairs and alliances, said.
The talks will take place on September 25-26.
"The real significance is to make it an around-the-world service," Pyne said.
Cathay's bid to enter the trans-Atlantic market may be stymied by the interests of UK carriers. British Airways Plc, Europe's largest carrier, doesn't want another competitor on the London-New York route, said Ian Thomas, a senior consultant of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
The hong Kong carrier's success will also depend on whether the city's officials are prepared to allow Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd, the UK's No 2 carrier, rights to fly to Australia via Hong Kong.
Virgin atlantic wants to fly through Hong Kong, the biggest air transport hub in Asia outside Japan, to Sydney and to link up with its low-cost Australian carrier Virgin Blue Pty.
"Cathay may be doing it for other reasons: to block Virgin in the Hong Kong and Australian markets," said Jim Eckes, managing director of Indoswiss Aviation in New York. Pyne denied Cathay's intention was to prevent Virgin from flying through Hong Kong.
"Cathay has been asking for rights between London and New York for several years," he said. "It's not something we invented after Richard Branson started talking about Australia."
Cathay and Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd are the only two carriers flying between Hong Kong and Sydney. Cathay also needs approval from US aviation authorities to fly to New York via London, which US domestic carriers will pro-bably oppose, said Timothy Ross, an analyst of UBS Warburg in Hong Kong.
Ross questioned whether flying one of the most competitive routes in the world would be profitable for Cathay.
"I can't see it as a particular goldmine. If we look where profitability has declined the most in the airlines industry in the past three years, it's business-class traffic across the trans-Atlantic,"Ross said.
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