CATHAY PACIFIC is to launch a new service to Istanbul later this year. More planes will also fly the popular routes to London, Los Angeles and Sydney, taking advantage of the extra capacity when Chek Lap Kok airport opens. It is hoped that Istanbul will become a popular new tourist destination for travellers from Hong Kong and the region. 'We are very keen about Istanbul. We are reasonably sure that the first flights will be in summer '98,' said Diana Fung, Cathay corporate communications manager for the Pacific, North Asia and Europe. 'Every once in a while you get a destination that starts to ring a bell. Bali did for a while and now it could be Istanbul,' she said. Cathay, which laid off 760 of its staff last month in response to falling passenger numbers and rising costs, believes that demand will be strong from Hong Kong as well as with travellers coming from Japan, Taiwan and Australia. A twice-weekly service is envisaged at the launch in late summer, probably using an Airbus A340-300, one of the smaller planes in the fleet with a capacity of 249 in three classes. Cathay also plans to increase services to twice-daily routes to Sydney, Los Angeles and London once the new airport is open. An agreement to allow flights between Hong Kong and Istanbul was initialled by local and Turkish government officials in 1996 and is expected to be fully in place in the next few months.