ROD Eddington, the nuclear physicist turned airline chief, does not entertain the thought of Cathay Pacific Airlines being owned by anyone other than the Swire Group. Neither does he see any need for Cathay to take a strategic association with any other carrier. ''We are a medium-sized airline. We are not big enough to do everything by ourselves but as far as our core business is concerned, which is flying green and white aircraft, we can stand alone. ''There is a need to have close friends but there is no reason for us to buy 25 per cent of somebody else or somebody else to buy 25 per cent of us,'' he said last week. Mr Eddington, managing director of Cathay and the man responsible for taking the airline through its most recent transition, also believes most of the ''pain'' is behind the airline. ''We have cut costs and improved productivity substantially. The airline business worldwide is ferociously competitive and the key players manage to do two things - keep their unit costs competitive and their customer service standards up. ''It's been a tough process for us. It has been tough on staff because they haven't got the pay rise they used to get, on managers because they had to manage the process and shareholders because they haven't had a dividend in four years. ''There's been pain all round . . . but the reality is that we've still got jobs, the airline's still successful and we're going to survive the downturn and come out of it in good shape.'' He said the deal struck with pilots meant pay scales were now ''sensibly placed''. ''If you want good people you have to pay well. Our deal is basically productivity improvements.'' Mr Eddington said the airline was negotiating for airport slots in Delhi, India, and Surabaya in Indonesia. But he said the airline's focus would remain on its most lucrative routes: Tokyo, Bangkok, Taipei and Singapore. ''North Asia is the important area for us. Asia is our back yard. We have 70 flights a week to Japan, 100 to Taiwan and 10 flights to London. Our routes are mainly Asian, as are our passengers.'' He added: ''With Dragonair [in which it has 30 per cent] virtually all major cities in Asia are covered.''