Dragonair eyes new flight destinations
Dragonair, part of the Cathay Pacific Group, plans to play an increasing role in Southeast Asia after the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 by looking for new cities to add to its network of destinations.
Patrick Yeung, CEO of Dragonair, a Hong Kong carrier, was in Thailand recently and told The Nation that the Asean region shows big potential as the 2015 launch approaches for the single market of 10 nations. Clearly, the number of people flying from city to city would increase thanks largely to the loosening of visa requirements.
Myanmar was especially "hot'' among businesspeople, and the airline was keeping an eye on opportunities there, he said.
Currently, Dragonair has its aviation hub in Hong Kong. Its flights to the region include Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand. The airline will also launch flights to Bali by the end of this year.
In Thailand, Dragonair flies only to Phuket and Chiang Mai, with 12 and four flights a week, respectively. Yeung pointed out that Thailand was an important market in Asia Pacific for his airline, as it offers a range of tourism products.
The Hong Kong-Chiang Mai flight was launched early this month, using A320 aircraft. It is a seasonal direct flight offered from July 1 to October 14 this year, aimed at serving strong passenger demand between the two cities.
"Chiang Mai is already a very popular tourist destination with a host of interesting things to see and do. The service will help boost leisure travel. The new direct flight will also enhance business ties between Chiang Mai and Hong Kong," Yeung said.
Its recent move was strategic. He said its objective was not only to give more convenience to passengers, but also to provide them with more chances to connect with more than 160 destinations across the globe through the networks of Dragonair and Cathay Pacific, its sister airline.
Dragonair and Cathay Pacific have played different roles in the region. Though they are independent firms in running their operations, they work together to define their network strategy to avoid overlapping destinations. For example, in Thailand, Cathay Pacific flies only from Hong Kong to Bangkok with 42 flights a week. Beyond this, they also help carry passengers to destinations and connect to other destinations seamlessly.
China is its biggest market, thanks to its Hong Kong base as a gateway. Yeung said 855 million people worldwide are expected to travel outside their countries over the next five years, and 277 million of them will be from China. Clearly, Asia Pacific was experiencing fast economic development, while Europe and the United States were in trouble. That meant business opportunities would spring up in the region.
Currently, Dragonair serves 39 regional destinations, including 19 cities in mainland China. There are 35 passenger aircraft in its fleet. It is an affiliate member of the OneWorld alliance. This year, Yeung said Dragonair's business performance remained healthy despite numerous risks, including rising fuel costs. The recent recruitment of 450 cabin crew and 50 pilots was proof of its strong performance, he said.
Although a rising number of low-cost airlines were emerging in the region, Yeung said the firm had not been adversely affected. He insisted his airline's position was clear in the industry, and passengers had bought its services because they demand quality. However, the competition benefited passengers because they had additional choice, he said.