Sep 1 - 7, 2008

Cathay Pacific Airways, which is a Honk Kong based airline, has an almost eight years of association with the aviation industry of Pakistan. While it started its airline operation in Pakistan back in 2001, following a temporary operational halt, it actually continued uninterrupted point to point air service from Karachi via Bangkok to Honk Kong in year 2002. Ever since, it has been managing fleets on these routes to compete with its arch rivals like Singapore, Thai, Emirates, and Malaysia airlines which are giving direct competition to Cathay Pacific in particular in Pakistan by providing passengers compatibly substituted air travelling experience.

However, world over Cathay Pacific is acknowledged for its provision of luxurious on-air facilities to premium travellers. Skytrax, an international rating publication, has declared Cathay Pacific Airways as best first class airline in the 2008 World Airline Awards. The award is a reflection of airline's distinguishable services to passengers.

"Cathay Pacific is one of the top three airlines of the world, and carries a five star emblem," in a firm tone asserts Sohail Yunus, country sales manager of the airline. It runs flight operations simultaneously from 55 destinations across the globe having a fleet size of total 111 passenger planes and 14 freighters. At present, the airline is running four flights a week from Karachi, but has its representing offices in Islamabad and Lahore as well.

Dilating about the expansion strategy in Pakistan, which he says, is the emerging aviation market with promising returns on investments, he told the airline was planning to expand its flight operation northward in near future. "In this regard a feasibility study to run airline service from Lahore is underway," he informed.

"Look, inflation and price surge has become a global phenomenon affecting cost of doing business worldwide and Pakistan's economy does not slide past the impact of fuel price hike," Sohail replies to a question whether the expansion strategy is considering spiralling cost of fuelling a plane.

However, the impact of international oil price rise may be passed on to fares of air travelling later in the August, says the aviation astute Sohail who has over three decade long attachment with the aviation industry and landed in Cathay Pacific in 1982 prior to serving PIA for about 6 years. There is a logical reason behind this, he adds. It is common that airlines buy fuel in advance, normally accumulating stocks for three months. In this relation impact may move on later in August, he maintains.

Fuel cost had 30% portion in the entire operational cost previously, however, now Cathay Pacific has to bear 46% extra cost while fuelling aircrafts in the wake of oil price surge. He says despite this rise the airline is not charging much fuel surcharge on an air ticket. Explaining the cause, he says, the central office of the airline which is governed by the civil aviation Honk Kong is practically cautious about the consumer rights and is the supreme authority that reviews fares of Honk Kong flag carriers every two months. Therefore, Cathay Pacific needs to follow the air travelling fares guidelines proposed by the authority. It is in fact due to this, "We are absorbing 75% of additional fuel cost in air fare", he says.

When asked which international airline is unravelling a tough competition for Cathay Pacific in Pakistan, he answered promptly, Emirates. He thinks the frequency of Emirates flights from Pakistan can competitively capture significant chunk of international air travellers. "Cathay Pacific is not allowed to handle domestic flight operation in Pakistan, rather it is a global aviation rule that foreign airline can not engage in provision of domestic air service," he said when asked about the possibility of expansion to domestic routes. He says "the airline policy allows only point to point air service," entitling other untouched routes as blind sectors. The mainstay of the airline fleet is Taiwan where the airline runs 16 flights daily.

Talking about the future of Pakistan's aviation industry, he opines, "Pakistan has all attractions which are necessary to grow aviation industry". Government should expedite its efforts to promote tourism in the country, he advised, as prosperous tourism industry could increase the volume of inbound traffics. Dispelling the impression that security risks abound in the country, he says, "too in all other aspects such as law and order situation or natural calamity Pakistan is fraught with more or less as similar fate as other nations are". Uncertainty is unpredictable and that too can appear anywhere in the world, says he adding what concisely makes a difference in Pakistan is marketing.

"Pakistan needs an urgent and long-run image building," he advocates. Along with this, government should build up national tourism industry and pay focus to establish congruent sectors like transport, hotel to support its growth.

He informs the airline conducts various social programmes world over. One CSR assignment namely "Change for Good" the airline instituted in collaboration with UNICEF is aimed at to persuade onboard travellers to donate money; no matter how paltry this donation is. He said aggregate amount collected in this campaign last year was HK$10 million. Similarly, in its "Wilderness Programme", it fosters 4 day cultural interaction gathering of children selected from around the world annually in Johannesburg, South Africa. The programme is completely financed by the airline, says he. Two mid-school children are selected also from Pakistan. The objective of the programme is to recognize cultural diversity.

Apart from this, Cathay Pacific pioneered e-ticketing in Pakistan. It is one of 18 member airlines of IATA Bank Settlement Programme which facilitates centralization of travelling agents' payment transactions. Before the launch of BSP in mid 2005, travel agents dealt in one to one payment which caused great hassles.