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Those Were the Days

Those Were the Days

American Roy C Farrell and Australian Sydney H de Kantzow founded Cathay Pacific Airways on 24 September, 1946. Initially based in Shanghai, the two men eventually moved to Hong Kong and established the airline. Legend has it that Farrell and a group of foreign correspondents thought up the airline's unique name in the bar at the Manila Hotel!

An Investment In the Future

The new company began to operate passenger flights to Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai. Expansion was fast and, in 1948, one of Hong Kong's leading trading companies, Butterfield & Swire (today known as the Swire Group) took a 45% share in the company. Under the leadership of John Kidston Swire, Butterfield & Swire became wholly responsible for the management of the airline.

Those Were the Days

Taking the Jet Age By Storm

The 1960s represented our coming of age. Between 1962 and 1967, business grew at an average rate of 20 percent a year. We also initiated international services (another world's first) to Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya in Japan.

The One and Only "Betsy"

The Old and Only "Betsy"

"Betsy", a converted Douglas DC3, is fondly remembered as our first aircraft. Sold in 1955, "Betsy" was discovered, almost 30 years later flying cargo around the Australian outback.

We bought the aircraft back, repainted her in the original 1940s livery and returned her to Hong Kong.

Today, "Betsy" hangs suspended from the ceiling at the Hong Kong Science Museum.

New Horizons

In the early 1970s, we started to make use of the latest technology with our computerized reservation system and flight simulators. The first Boeing 747-200 arrived in Hong Kong in mid-1979, and by the end of the year, we had applied for traffic rights to start flying to London. As more B747's joined our fleet, we expanded our services to Europe and North America.

The Glory Years

The 1980s was a spectacular decade for the airline industry. Amidst a worldwide economic boom - spearheaded by Asia, more business travellers, tourists and cargo were flying than ever before. It was during this decade that we expanded our international network to include London, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Rome, San Francisco, Paris, Zurich and Manchester. 

What's in a Million?

Eighteen years after the company was founded, we celebrated carrying our one millionth passenger. Nine years later, in 1973, we were carrying one million people every year. Today, we carry approximately one million passengers each month!

A Change of Image

The early 90s was a difficult time for the airline industry. Nonetheless, we remained positive, safe in the knowledge that Hong Kong – our home, was arguably the best location in the world for an airline. At the same time, we launched a new programme to offer unprecedented levels of passenger service. We also made another important decision – changing our green and white striped livery to the dynamic and now famous Asian "brushstroke" image.

A World Leader

By the mid-1990s, we had assembled a fleet of aircraft that was among the youngest in the world, while our replacement programme involved orders and options for US$9 billion in new aircraft – all of which were to create a fleet that is younger and quieter.

The Unsung Hero

While our passenger services continued to grow from strength to strength, the cargo division was playing an increasingly vital role in the company's growth and expansion. Today, our cargo services contribute almost 30 percent of our revenue.       

Into the New Millennium

Cathay Pacific City, our headquarters located at Hong Kong International Airport, was completed in the middle of 1999. The new complex was another sign of our confidence in the future of Hong Kong and heralded the move into a new era for the airline.

We entered the new millennium in full stride, recording a record HK$5 billion profit in 2000. Yet in following years the airline faced some of its greatest commercial challenges including the 11 September terrorist attacks, a second Gulf War and SARS.

Undaunted, we led efforts to get Hong Kong back onto its feet with the "World's Biggest Welcome" lucky draw for 10,000 free inbound tickets in the wake of 9/11 and the "We Love Hong Kong" campaign, which helped city life recover after SARS.

We strengthened Hong Kong's links to other global hubs with multiple daily services to London, Los Angeles, New York and Sydney, along with increased frequencies to other major long-haul and regional destinations.

In 2002, we and DHL became joint venture partners in Air Hong Kong, which now has a fleet of eight Airbus 300 freighter aircraft and an expanding regional network for express overnight cargo deliveries.

We passed a major route development milestone in December 2003 when we resumed passenger services to Beijing. Later we commenced passenger services to Xiamen and freighter services to Shanghai. The opening of this important new chapter in our history strengthened Hong Kong’s position as the predominant gateway to the Chinese Mainland.

We continued to develop our inflight product in the first half of the decade and we undertook a range of e-business initiatives to improve the passenger experience, including the creation of a range of e-services including the notiFLY flight paging service, pre-flight ordering for duty-free items and online check-in.

We have been recognised for setting the industry standard for service, winning many major awards including, in 2005, the "Airline of the Year" in the world's largest passenger poll conducted by Skytrax. The following year we were named "Airline of the Year 2006" by Air Transport World magazine.

In 2006 we celebrated our 60th anniversary - and announced a development that would secure a brighter future for the Cathay Pacific Group and the Hong Kong hub as a whole.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair

On 28 September 2006 Cathay Pacific signed an agreement that brought Dragonair into the Cathay Pacific Group as a wholly owned subsidiary. At the same time Cathay Pacific established a closer relationship with Air China, with each airline taking a 17.5% stake in the other.

The Dragonair deal - signed in the year we celebrated 60 years of serving Hong Kong - created real synergies by bringing together our international network with Dragonair’s extensive network of more than 20 cities in Mainland China.

Work began straight away to better align the two carriers' networks and reduce connecting times in the Hong Kong hub. Supported by Cathay Pacific's strong international connections, Dragonair has strengthened most of its services and added a total eight new regional destinations since the integration, providing passengers with more choice and boosting Hong Kong’s hub role.

Moving into The Future

Moving into The Future

The Cathay Pacific Group, including Dragonair and Air Hong Kong, now operates more than 150 aircraft to some 130 destinations across the globe. We are committed to growing our operation to help strengthen Hong Kong's role as one of the premier international aviation hubs.

The Cathay Pacific fleet is being significantly modernised with a total of 30 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft set to arrive by 2012. These will form the backbone of the airline's ultra-long-haul passenger fleet, bringing significant benefits in terms of fuel efficiency – a top priority in this era of high fuel prices.

We are also upgrading our inflight product, with new cabin designs being introduced on the entire medium- and long-haul fleet. The new cabins are, uniquely, being fitted in First, Business and Economy Class at the same time, and are taking the travel experience to new highs.

We are also committed to strengthening Hong Kong's role as an airfreight hub, and are now in the process of building the new Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal which will open in mid-2011. This HK$4.8 billion facility will add an additional air cargo throughput of 2.6 million tonnes a year and will be open to all cargo carriers using the airport.

At the same time we are enhancing our own freighter fleet with six new Boeing 747-400 "Extended Range Freighters" in the process of being delivered and 10 new-generation Boeing 747-8F freighters arriving between 2009 and 2012. These newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft will enable us to offer an even higher level of service to its cargo customers.

We are constantly striving to strengthen our network and in early 2008 we considerably strengthened our services to India, adding 20 more flights each week and a new destination, Chennai. With our own strong international network and Dragonair’s superb connections in the Mainland we have opened up new travel possibilities and reinforced Hong Kong’s position as a gateway to China and a hub for the world to envy.