‘We have to do better – and we will,’ honest Cathay executive assures agents

Issues & Trends – Nov/Dec 2013

‘We have to do better – and we will,’ honest Cathay executive assures agents

CATHAY Pacific’s Jason Aghan recognises his airline has had a problem liaising with travel agents in the past and he is tackling it head-on.

“We have to get better,” he told Independent Travel Group (ITG) agents attending the chain’s business forum in Hong Kong.

He assured them this will happen, that the carrier has become “more pro-active” with agents over the past year and that it is working hard to be more accessible.

They were assurances that gained consider-able credibility from his blunt assessment of the airline’s past failings and its need to “get smarter” in its dealings with agents. For candour and honesty it was one of the more remarkable addresses delivered by an airline executive to a travel agency conference in recent years.

He told ITG agents the airline is going to invest in market support for them because it is financially worthwhile to do so. He will be following up with ITG agents at the conference to ensure they have “a point of reference they can contact at Cathay if they have a need to”.

Aghan, who is both Cathay’s manager agency and its business development manager for Victoria and Tasmania, told travelBulletin he is aiming to change perceptions of Cathay among agents so they see it as a “can do” airline.

In his conference remarks, Aghan was also candid about the economic imperatives that are driving the airline’s wooing of travel agents who provide 71 per cent of its Australian revenue.

In a market where it faces aggressive competition from Qantas and a flood of new capacity from mainland Chinese carriers, Cathay has actually managed to increase load factors – but yield is down, Aghan confirmed.

To combat this, a price tactic by the airline is to build a big “base load” of bookings in the early bird season so it is not prone to last-minute fire sale type discounting later on.

“Early birds have generated a fantastic base load factor to UK/Europe and we now will adopt the same approach to China and the rest of Asia,” Aghan told travelBulletin.

In this fiercely competitive market, he says Cathay’s biggest advantage is the quality and consistency of its inflight product, citing its “award winning” business class with lie flat seats, “brand new” premium economy “which is selling brilliantly ex Australia” and “new, more comfortable” economy class seats.


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