Cathay Pacific has reached the impressive age of 75. Like all great enterprises, the Hong-Kong based global airline started small. Operations commenced on September 24, 1946, when a DC3 propeller plane known as Betsy flew from Sydney to Hong Kong carrying 2,000 day-old chicks in crates.
The company was founded by two adventurers and former air-force pilots, American Roy Farrell and Australian Sydney de Kantzow, who saw the potential in flying goods into post-war China. In the next few years, the airline entered a period of rapid growth, expanding its route network throughout Southeast Asia and renewing its fleet to include more technologically advanced aircraft.
Cathay Pacific 1950s DC3 propeller plane known as Betsy
From these humble beginnings as a small regional carrier, Cathay Pacific has grown into a world-leading airline with a reputation for excellence, progressive thinking and outstanding customer service.
Cathay Pacific has garnered a clutch of prestigious awards during its three-quarter century history, including Asia’s leading Airline and the World’s Best Airline in Skytrax World Airline Award. Numerous accomplishments and aviation firsts have also marked the past eight decades.
The first physical reservation office for Cathay Pacific was located inside the iconic Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, in the ‘50s
During the 1950s, customers were able to enjoy a taste of Cathay Pacific’s stellar inflight service as the airline was serving hot meals, hot drinks and ice creams on its propeller aircraft. Additionally, the airline opened its first physical reservations office in Hong Kong during the 1950s. However, Cathay Pacific has enhanced its services over the years. Today, passengers can fly to more than 100 destinations across six continents. Moreover, customers also no longer have to visit a reservations office. They can seamlessly book their tickets through the airline’s dedicated channels, including WhatsApp.
Hot drinks, soups, hot meals and ice creams were already available on Cathay Pacific flights on propeller aircraft in the ‘50s
The 1960s was a decade of change globally, and that is when Cathay Pacific entered the jet age and ordered nine jet-engine powered Convair 880 planes. In 1962 it became the first international airline to fly into Fukuoka, Japan and two years later flew its one-millionth passenger.
Cathay Pacific celebrated its entry into the jet age during 1960s with the Convair 880 Jetliner
Expansion continued throughout the 1970s with the arrival of the Boeing 707 and, in 1979, the Boeing 747. The so-called ‘Queen of the Skies’ paved the way for long-distance, high-volume flights.
The brand new Boeing 707, with Cathay Pacific wearing a brand new uniform called the Eastern Sea, designed by the fashion designer Pierre Balmain
Cathay Pacific has been a pioneering presence in the skies throughout its long history with several aviation firsts. The 1980s were monumental for the airline; it launched the world’s first non-stop London-Hong Kong service. The world record-breaking flight was made possible by the can-do spirit of Cathay Pacific engineers, who modified the engines of the VR-HIA jumbo jet to give it greater range and enhanced fuel efficiency. The airline was also one of the first Asian carriers to offer First, Business and Economy services on every flight, thereby providing its customers with an array of cabin choices to choose from.
Cathay Pacific was the first airline to offer a second language audio track in Cantonese on movies. In 2021, Cathay Pacific became the first in the world to introduce 4D Ultra High Definition personal TVs onboard the Airbus A321neo
Cathay Pacific is also an industry leader in environmental commitment embracing its responsibility to adhere to best sustainable practices. In 1996 it became the first airline in the world to voluntarily report its emission data. Each year it publishes a sustainability report covering sustainable practices across a broad spectrum of activities such as biodiversity and corporate social responsibility.
In 2014 Cathay Pacific became the first airline to make an equity investment in Fulcrum, makers of sustainable aviation fuel. It followed this up by entering into an agreement with the company to deliver 375 million gallons of low-carbon aviation fuel over ten years.
Cathay Pacific was the first airline to invest in the biofuel manufacturer Fulcrum, in 2014
Cathay Pacific’s commitment to the planet goes even deeper. It repurposes around 90% of all retired aircraft and is committed to reducing single-use plastics by 50% by the end of 2022. The airline has also pledged to be carbon net zero by 2050, becoming one of the first airlines in Asia to set a timeline to make carbon-neutral happen in aviation.
2020: Over 43 million pieces or 11% of single-use plastic items were removed from the airline’s operations. The airline aims to halve its single-use plastic usage by 2022
Cathay Pacific in the Middle East
The Middle East, specifically UAE, has been a part of Cathay Pacific’s network for nearly 45 years. Operations started in 1977, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, the carrier provided fourteen weekly passenger flights and a series of scheduled freighter services in the region. Following a pause in services due to the virus, passenger operations resumed in May 2021, although with a reduced schedule.
However, as the world emerges from the pandemic’s grip, the airline is confident it can scale regional operations according to market needs. The airline’s resumption of services was given a warm welcome in the region.
Cathay Pacific resumed its operations in Dubai in May 2021
Anthony Mendonca, General Manager of Safar Travel and Tourism, commented, “75 years of ground-breaking success, continuous innovation, setting the standards in customer experience and winning the Best Airline Of The Year, not once but four times. Safar Travel and Tourism is proud to represent Cathay Pacific in Abu Dhabi, and resumption of UAE services spells good news for the community and the industry as a whole.”
With an eye on the future, Cathay Pacific will continue to study the region for new routes for its passenger and cargo services.
Cathay Pacific reservations desk in Abu Dhabi
“UAE continues to be an important and strategic market for Cathay Pacific, especially in the post-COVID era,” said Nikhil Kilpady, Cathay Pacific Head of Sales, Middle East. “We have seen significant market potential for both inbound and outbound traffic out of Dubai, wherein passengers are also able to connect seamlessly to and from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain as well.
“Safar Travel and Tourism has been a part of Cathay Pacific’s journey in Abu Dhabi for almost 44 years. We continue to support each other during such challenging times and are optimistic our long-standing partnership will allow both Cathay Pacific and Safar to emerge stronger in months to come.”
Flying Into The Future
The name Cathay Pacific originates from its co-founder Roy Farrell’s sense of ambition. He envisioned the new airline would cross the vast Pacific Ocean from China. This ambitious and pioneering spirit that was there from day one still resonates through the company as it flies into the future.
Not content to rest on its laurels, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier is forging ahead with a raft of initiatives and investments to make flying greener, help aviation adapt to a world with COVID and enhance the passenger experience. The next chapter in the global airline’s history looks set to be just as eventful, exciting and innovative as its first 75 years.