Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific set to rebrand Dragonair as ‘Cathay Dragon’ in bid to strengthen corporate identity

The idea to strengthen the sister airline’s association with the premium airline has been under discussion for a few months

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 10:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 3:33pm

Cathay Pacific group is likely to announce a rebranding of its Dragonair subsidiary as “Cathay Dragon” as the company seeks to strengthen its corporate identity.

The idea to strengthen the sister airline’s association with the premium airline Cathay Pacific Airways has been under discussion for a few months, sources familiar with the matter told the South China Morning Post.

Cathay’s manager of corporate communications, Carolyn Leung, declined to comment on whether the company had any rebranding plans for Dragonair.

“Following the successful launch of Cathay Pacific’s new brand ethos and refreshed corporate identity, we have been reviewing Dragonair’s overall brand proposition. We will provide more information as appropriate.”

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The move would put an end to the Dragonair name which was founded by textile magnate Chao Kuang Piu in 1985. The airline was acquired by Cathay in 2006 following a major shareholding realignment involving Cathay’s parent Swire Pacific and the Air China Group. Dragonair, which has continued to operate as a separate airline within the group with its own visual identity featuring a red dragon, mainly flies to mainland China and elsewhere in Asia. Its fares are cheaper than Cathay. Sixty per cent of its passengers hold Hong Kong or mainland Chinese passports according to the company.

Will Horton, senior analyst with the Centre for Aviation, said renaming Dragonair “Cathay Dragon” would be a good move at the right time, as the Dragonair brand has weak passenger recognition beyond Greater China and lacked brand association with the larger Cathay group.

“What is critical is that it is not a full-on merger. Maintaining a separate regional unit will allow the group to leverage the stronger and global Cathay brand, while at the same time maintaining Dragonair’s traffic rights and lower operating cost.”

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The rebranding is expected to affect the airline’s visual identity across the board – most notably the aircraft livery. But it is not expected to affect Dragonair’s holding of a separate air operator’s certificate, which allows the group to maximise traffic rights usage.

Horton said the move would follow a trend among Asian airline groups with multiple units starting to better leverage their brands.

“This comes as Asia’s airline families start to stitch together their airlines and become integrated groups. Asia’s ‘airline’ conglomerates have had many airline licences that they haven’t necessarily used cohesively.”

Since brand cohesion was inevitable, it is better to do it earlier than later when more passengers have to be re-educated,” he said. Additional reporting by Danny Lee