Rajesh Menon, Regional Sales & Marketing Manager - South Asia, Cathay Pacific Airways talks about the carrier’s performance in India as well as India’s civil aviation market
Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair currently operate 48 weekly departures from six cities in India to Hong Kong. The carrier has exhausted all its bilateral rights, however, constantly reviewing new routes that could be profitable in the future.
The Govt of India is coming out with a new Civil Aviation Policy. How would you explain the emerging scenario in Indian aviation sector? What is your expectation from the new Policy?
There is a lot of speculation around the new Civil Aviation policy but we still don’t know anything concrete. But India's upbeat outlook in the contrasting slump of the world economy is a great sign. At a 7.5 per cent GDP growth further reiterates the fact there is immense potential the Indian market has to offer. Any infrastructure support will give everyone an opportunity to leverage the huge demand in one of the fastest growing economies. Investment in new air strips and airports will benefit the entire industry.
What is the current operational profile of Cathay in India? Cathay has been trying to add new points of call in India. Is there any development on this front?
Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair currently operate 48 weekly departures from six cities in India to Hong Kong. At this moment, we have exhausted all our traffic rights and have no immediate plans for additional destinations and frequencies. We are constantly reviewing new routes that could be profitable in the future. We are continuously monitoring market demand and exploring new opportunities
How has been the year 2015 for Cathay in India in terms of load factor and yields? What is the expectation from 2016? What is the contribution of India market in Cathay’s overall business?
The Cathay Pacific group reported an attributable profit of HK$6,000 million for 2015. The high passenger load factors experienced in the first half of the year continued in the second half, reflecting strong economy class demand. Premium class demand was not as strong as expected on some long-haul routes. In 2015, India saw revenue grow faster than capacity. We saw healthy load factors between 80 –85 per cent across all cabins on our flights. The potential for travel in India is only rising higher and we look forward to playing our full part in growing the aviation business here. The big issue at the moment is yield, which remains under intense pressure due to the overall softness of the markets and the big increase in competitor capacity.
You have always been coming out with add ons like Premium economy, mobile apps, excess baggage for student amongst others. What is in the pipeline in 2016?
True to Cathay Pacific brand philosophy – ‘Life Well Travelled’ we continually strive to enhance the overall travel experience with our world-class services. Our first A350 starts flying the skies on June 1 and during the course of this year we will take more deliveries. This will bring a many new features for the long haul travellers and add to the comfort and ease of travelling well. We also are launching two new routes - Spain in June 2016 & London (Gatwick Airport) in September 2016.
Tactical campaigns will be on an ongoing feature, basis the demand of the market and region. We constantly have promotional partnerships with various sightseeing attractions, hotels, etc. We also have an ongoing promotion with Regal Hotels in Hong Kong; whereby our passengers get discounts on their hotel stay on presentation of their boarding passes. The Marco Polo Club – our loyalty programme has been recently refreshed.
2016 will also be the year for the roll out of Dragonair rebranding to Cathay Dragon making the experience more seamless for our travellers.
Which destinations beyond your hub in Hong Kong see the maximum traffic from India?
We are a network carrier, operating passenger flights to Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Hong Kong is our home market. All our long haul flights are routed through Hong Kong. The key destinations for India onwards Hong Kong are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver in North America. Sydney and Melbourne in Asia Pacific. Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing and Shanghai are important destinations in Asia.
What is the profile of the Indian customers who travel with you?
We see a lot of travel not only to Hong Kong, but also a lot of travel to North America, North Asia, China, Australia, and beyond as well. Passengers travelling on our flights are split into corporate, leisure, students and the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) segment. Corporate travel remains a focus area for us and with a powerful corporate tool we are able to connect with corporates and offer them tailor-made travel solutions.
How important is B2B segment for you?
Our agents and partners form an integral part of our distribution channels. Almost 70 per cent of the business is attributed to the bookings they bring in. We engage the trade by conducting regular sales blitz and workshops for travel agents, corporate presentations and agency contests to promote our new destinations, change in timings, increase in frequencies, etc. We also plan events like cricket and paintball to enable interaction with the staffs which encourages and enables them to sell better.