For frequent flyers endlessly frustrated by delays and wasted hours in airport lounges, Cathay Pacific recently delivered some good news. Their notiFLY Paging service, launched worldwide in October, allows customers to receive up-to-the minute information on their flight, plus other scheduling information, direct to their mobile phones. While the outlook for the airline and travel industry grows increasingly gloomy following the events of September 11, and Cathay's management remains embroiled in a long-running pay dispute with their pilots, the Hong Kong-based airline is confident that they will reach their objective of becoming 'Asia's Leading E-business Airline.' NotiFLY is the latest initiative in Cathay Pacific's e-business strategy designed to meet that goal. Since its launch in Hong Kong last October, the service has progressed to sending flight updates to the airline's customers across 40 countries. Cathay has also pioneered other e-delivery services such the use of e-tickets and online check-in. But why does Cathay Pacific bother with e-business at all? Unlike some industries, there was never a threat that airlines would be rendered obsolete by dotcom competitors taking to the skies. 'We are a people and cargo mover, so online companies cannot affect our core business,' noted Dominic Purvis, Cathay's Manager of Commercial Websites in an interview with SCMP.com. 'But they can challenge us in our current way of distributing [services].' Travel Web sites like Travelocity.com and Orbitz.com, both US-based companies, have proved themselves real competition by offering discounted fares and airline information conveniently online. 'They haven't gone away, these travel sites,' noted Mr Purvis. 'They are only just waking up.' According to Mr Purvis, the Internet has already changed many aspects of the way business is conducted in the airline industry. 'There is greater and greater transparency,' he explained. Interested customers can make more informed decisions about prices, routes and carriers. The information is free and available on the Internet. Customers now expect traditional players in the airline industry to keep up and even surpass online services. 'We are trying to learn as fast as the online companies.' Mr Purvis said. 'We are trying to make sure we provide the services that customers want, how they want them.' Successive launches of Cathay's own Web site has 'brought the site closer to what people really want,' said Mr Purvis. The mobile notiFLY service goes one step further by delivering up-to-the-minute information direct to the customer. Cathay has also responded to the threat of online travel services by considering options to participate in third-party channels, such as Travelocity.com, though such plans are at a preliminary stage. 'We're trying to experiment with what work for us,' Mr Purvis said. Cathay's response to the threat of online competitors, and to the tremendous opportunities created by the technology that they pioneer, has given the airline an edge over its more traditional competition. Early this year Cathay Pacific launched the first comprehensive online check-in service aimed at cutting queues. Customer service is not the only area that Cathay's e-business strategy has addressed. Streamlining internal systems to cut costs and increase efficiency has become a main objective. According to Mr Purvis, there are many manual activities that could be moved online, particularly workforce communications and the complex system of rostering and scheduling. While some suggest the airline was slow to react to the threat of travel related e-businesses, the lag allowed Cathay to develop a workable e-business model that has focused on pragmatic benefits and improvements rather than unattainable or over-ambitious goals. 'We have seen the end of the beginning,' Mr Purvis said in reference to the dotcom bubble that came and went in Hong Kong. 'It just doesn't make sense that if you build it, people will come.' There has been a renewed emphasis on providing real services that customers actually demand. 'The glory days of acquiring eyeballs are over,' said Mr Purvis.