Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific looks to food revamp and new lounge to help boost flagging fortunes

Airline to roll out changes for customers this year as it seeks to turn around large losses from 2017

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 8:51pm

Hong Kong’s largest airline is to revamp its airport lounges and in-flight food, as it seeks to compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Cathay Pacific Airways’ main customer service focus in 2018 would be improving catering, managers said, raising an aspect of its offering that many customers see as a weakness. In the meantime the city’s flag carrier, and Asia’s largest international carrier, on Thursday opened its newest premium lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, with food front and centre.

The airline said changes included a bigger variety of food on board and flexible eating times in business class. It plans a similar revamp of the food range and quality in economy class.

Vivian Lo Wing-yee, the airline’s general manager for customer experience and design, said the changes were in response to customer feedback. 

“They wanted better food, more choice, signature dishes and more flexibility in service and hospitality,” she said.

Kesler Go, a top-tier frequent flier with Cathay Pacific who attended Thursday’s opening, welcomed the planned improvements to catering.

“It’s about time. You have to really look at other airlines, at what they are doing, like Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines,” Go said. 

Cathay Pacific racks up first back-to-back loss in 71-year history, at US$160 million 

He said food portions on board were bigger a decade ago and tasted better, too, saying there had been a slide in quality.

“Portions are one thing, taste another, but the presentation also needs to really look premium,” he said.

Cathay chief executive Rupert Hogg signalled food would be a major area for development as he unveiled the company’s 2017 results last week. Trials were conducted late last year of a restaurant-style dine-on-demand concept.

Competitors including Qatar Airways, Emirates and British Airways have or are rolling out high-end catering styles and services on board.

Cathay’s new lounge, named The Deck, is an 823 square metre facility with space for 186 passengers. 

The airline said it had “no plans” to allow economy class passengers to pay to visit its lounges to raise extra revenue. It also said it would not tighten access criteria for premium travellers wanting to use the facilities.

Seven airlines whose female flight attendants wear trousers – unlike Cathay Pacific, where it’s skirts only

The new departure lounge brings the carrier’s total worldwide to seven, but one facility at Hong Kong airport will be closed to hand back space to the Airport Authority. A new operator will take over the running of the lounges in a bid to improve customer satisfaction.

Upgrades to lounges in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul were being planned, the airline said.

Cathay reported a 2017 second-half profit of HK$792 million (US$100 million) last week as the company benefits from a stronger global economy and cost-saving measures designed to turn around recent losses. The airline lost HK$1.25 billion in the entire year.