Cathay Pacific has announced plans to remove their route to the Australian city of Cairns, October onwards.
This will mean the Great Barrier Reef city will be without a direct route to Hong Kong, with passengers forced to fly via Brisbane instead.
What are the details?
As reported by Australian Business Traveller, Cathay Pacific has decided to cancel its Cairns to Hong Kong direct flight due to commercial reasons. The route has flown since 1993, at a frequency of four times a week. Cathay has changed it in the past, flying the aircraft to Brisbane after Cairns to increase the route yield.
This cancellation will mean that Brisbane is soon to be the only airport in the whole state to be served by Cathay.
This is a bit troubling for those booked beyond October, as now they will have to fly on a Qantas flight to Brisbane, before boarding to Hong Kong. This new routing will add approx two additional hours to the normally seven hour direct flight.
Qantas, who codeshares on the route with Cathay, has been left a little high and dry. As above, any passengers who bought with Qantas to take advantage of the direct codeshare flight will now have to fly to Brisbane.
Is the route popular?
Cairns is well known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and much of far north Queensland. For many years it has been very popular with Japanese and other Asian tourists who have come to see it as a ‘cheaper’ Hawaii.
And boy, is it popular. Looking at flights over a year, the Cathay route is normally around $770 AUD, but for Chinese New Year in February it skyrockets up to $3,885 AUD ($2738 USD).
Candid reports by passengers who fly this route have said that the Brisbane leg of the journey has always been depressingly empty (and why would you fly it if there is a direct route to Hong Kong from Brisbane?) but from Cains, the route is packed.
Plus, it turns out that the only airline lounge at Cairns is the Cathay Pacific Reef Lounge. What will happen to this lounge, frequently used by other Oneworld airlines, remains to be seen. Perhaps it will become a Oneworld branded lounge?
But it gets a little more serious than just disappointed tourists. Cathay Pacific has been a principal transport method for agricultural products from the region, that are exploding in popularity in China. Without a direct flight, much of these time-sensitive goods might lose out to other international competitors.
Could Cathay offer an alternative service?
Some airline commentators have suggested that Cathay doesn’t need to completely write off the far north of Australia.
Suggestions such as using a Cathay Dragon A321LR on the route instead (a smaller plane is easier to fill and make profitable) have been floated.
What do you think? Is this a good move by Cathay?