Cathay Dragon CEO Moves To Rival Greater Bay Airlines

The former CEO of Cathay Dragon is to become the CEO of Hong Kong start-up carrier Greater Bay Airlines. After almost four decades with the Cathay Group, the axing of Cathay Dragon earlier year has coincided with Algernon Yau’s retirement and enabled his move to the newcomer.

Cathay Dragon A330
Cathay Dragon’s former CEO is to take the top job at Greater Bay Airlines. Photo: 鍾鄭諺 via Flickr

The new CEO will bolster Greater Bay Airlines’ launch plans

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported today that Algernon Yau Ying-wah, chief executive officer (CEO) of the axed regional airline Cathay Dragon, is to take the job of CEO at the new Hong Kong carrier Greater Bay Airlines (GBA). The appointment of such an experienced CEO is being seen as a coup for the new airline.

SCMP has seen a GBA internal communication saying that Yau will take up his new post on January 4th, 2021, after formally retiring from the Cathay Group after nearly 40 years with the company. In the memo, GBA founder, Bill Wong Cho-bau, asks employees to welcome Yau and support him in his new role.

The appointment of Yau should give a boost to GBA as it seeks regulatory approval for its launch. The new carrier submitted an application to Hong Kong’s civil aviation authority in July 2020 for an air operator’s certificate (AOC). But it’s a process that can take up to two years. The new CEO can only help GBA to gain its AOC and air transport license.

According to SCMP, Bocom International transport analyst Luya You said the following about the CEO’s appointment:

“It makes sense, and if Yau is available, then there are few reasons why they wouldn’t find someone of his background. Hong Kong is a historically tough aviation market to crack for any new home-grown airlines, so any advantages are needed.”

With the difficulties that GBA faces as it tries to break into the market, hiring Yau will enable the airline to be much more competitive from the start.

Cathay Dragon
Cathay Dragon CEO Algernon Yau Ying-wah (center right) starts as GBA of CEO on January 4th. Photo: Getty Images

GBA could apply for Cathay Dragon’s routes

Cathay Dragon was shut down in October by the Cathay Group as part of a huge restructuring plan, driven by the pandemic’s effect on the industry. Almost 6,000 jobs were lost in the process, but Yau’s retirement was long-planned and happened to coincide with the airline’s axing.

When announcing the closure of Cathay Dragon, the Cathay Group said that it would seek regulatory approval for most of the defunct airline’s routes to be operated by Cathay Pacific and group subsidiary, HK Express. However, Cathay dragon’s shutdown is a boost to the launch of GBA, which could now apply to the Hong Kong government to take over some of the routes relinquished by the defunct airline.

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Cathay Pacific and HK Express intend to apply for Cathay Dragon’s routes, but GBA could also apply for some routes. Photo: Melvinnnnnnnnnnn (FN2187) via Flickr

Ex-Cathay Dragon employees expected to join GBA

Greater Bay Airlines might only have three aircraft at the moment, but the airline has ambitions to be operating up to 30 aircraft by 2025. It also aims to employ between 2,500 and 3,000 people. That could be good news for the staff made redundant from Cathay Dragon, many of whom are expected to join GBA.

What do you think of GBA starting up in Hong Kong at this time?