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Cathay Pacific

Exclusive: Dragonair founders’ daughter ‘sad’ to see brand go as Cathay Pacific unveils Cathay Dragon

Dragonair founders’ daughter tells the Post she is sad to see the brand go

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 January, 2016, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 9:21am

The end of three decades of the Dragonair name and the iconic red dragon logo that adorned the planes of Hong Kong’s first local airline has stirred fond memories for the daughter of the carrier’s founder.

The airline’s current owner, Cathay Pacific Group, announced on Thursday that Dragonair will be renamed Cathay Dragon, as reported by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

“The name change is news to me. However, understanding how big corporations work, it does not surprise me at all,” Diana Chou, daughter of founder Chao Kuang-piu, told the Post.

“If rebranding can enhance brand equity value, I am sure shareholders will vote for it,” said Chou, who remains influential in Hong Kong aviation circles and runs her own private jet business called L’voyage.

“Nevertheless, it is sad that such decision has been made as I have very fond memories of how involved my father was in designing and picking the name and logo. Our family exited Dragonair many years ago. Regardless of the changes, we will always be remembered as the founders of the company,” she said.

Dragonair, which became a wholly-owned unit of Cathay in 2006, has kept its brand identity largely unchanged for nearly 31 years since it was founded by textile magnate Chao in May 1985 to challenge the Swire Group airline.

Its Chinese-themed livery was a stark contrast to the green of ­Cathay. The dragon mark will make way for Cathay Pacific’s brushwing design, although the red colouring will be retained.

Cathay, together with Citic Pacific and Swire Group, bought 89 per cent of Dragonair in 1990 before eventually taking it over for HK$8.22 billion in 2006.

“It is important to note that we are not merging the airlines. Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon will continue to be two separate premium airlines in the group, both operating under their own licences,” the group’s chief executive, Ivan Chu, said in unveiling the plan. He added that HK$100 million would be spent to promote the Cathay Dragon brand.

He said the company had weighed the commercial, legal and regulatory impact of different options and concluded this was the best way to leverage the strength of both brands in the growing air travel market in and out of China.

“We believe Dragonair has strong brand equity in China. ­Cathay Pacific actually needs to leverage the Dragonair brand in China. By 2020, 200 million Chinese are expected to fly out of China. But also bear in mind, 130 million are expected to fly into China from different parts of the world, so we would like the Cathay brand to lend its strength to Dragonair,” he said.

He added that it was “out of consideration” to make Cathay Dragon a low-cost subsidiary.

There will be no changes to the airline’s cabin crew uniforms, and the first seven planes out of its fleet of 41 will be repainted this year, the company said.