Cathay climbs with local aviation scene

“As Vietnam’s airports expand to meet the growing demand for air travel, it is important to have a cost efficient infrastructure.”
Cindy Lam

Vietnam is rated as one of the fastest growing aviation markets worldwide, offering rich opportunities for domestic and international airlines. Cindy Lam, country manager of Cathay Pacific Airways in Vietnam, tells VIR's Song Ngoc how the firm has captured this market.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Vietnam is projected to be the world’s third largest growing market for international passengers and freight and the second fastest for domestic passengers by 2014. How will you capitalise on this?

It is undeniable that Vietnam is one of the fastest and largest growing aviation markets in South East Asia and the world. With good government support, economic and infrastructure development, its aviation has gone a long way to reach today’s standards. The continued growth of the Vietnamese economy, people’s increasing purchasing power and desire to travel are obviously vital elements for Vietnam’s aviation to grow in significance. 

There are perhaps a few more things that can be improved upon to further mature the development. Governmental support in alleviating the cost burden on users of Vietnam’s airports and airspace would be one example.  With the volatility airlines faced in the past couple of years, the government has kindly designed short term airport charges and discount schemes to provide relief to airlines, which was appreciated. As Vietnam’s airports expand to meet the growing demand for air travel, it is important to have a cost efficient infrastructure following global, prevailing, charging principles based from consultation with users, transparency, and non-discrimination in order to maximise the full potential.

Are there any contributions of different aviation sector stakeholders to help Vietnam achieve this goal?

Another crucial factor to develop Vietnam’s aviation is to improve the efficiency of work processes amongst parties, which make up the travel industry. This is not just for airlines, but also travel agents, cargo agents, distribution system service providers, international governance bodies. Such as the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) by IATA, effective systems to streamline work and information flows would noticeably increase efficiency of the whole industry. If more airlines and agencies can participate in such globally recognised schemes, it would be easier for the industry as a whole to step in the right direction, into a brighter future.

Many international airlines has raised frequencies or expanded new routes to and from Vietnam to take the advantage of this growing market. How about Cathay Pacific’s specific strategy to meet local demand?

Our development plans in the last 20 years in Vietnam has been prudent, yet progressive. Besides enhancing customer services, so to capture the market that appreciates superb products and services, we also endeavour to expand our frequencies to and from Vietnam. To date, Cathay Pacific has built frequencies to double daily flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong. For Dragonair, it currently has 10 flights a week between Hanoi and Hong Kong, of which three were new additions since November, last year. We also ensure that we have great fares on offer to the public, and have different fare products to cater to the needs of different segments in Vietnam. Moreover, we will continue launching the “Smart Saver” in the first week of May, July, September, November and December, so that the Vietnam travelling public enjoys great fares to different popular destinations worldwide on Cathay Pacific.

Is it true that 2010 marked a business record year for Cathay Pacific, both on a Vietnam and global basis?

Absolutely, it was a fantastic year for Cathay Pacific Group in 2010, a year worth celebrating. We recorded an attributable profit of almost HK$14.1 billion for 2010, nearly three-fold that of 2009’s.

Our passenger and cargo businesses both performed well with consistently strong loads and significant increases in revenues. Cathay Pacific and Dragonair together carried a total of 26.8 million passengers, an increase of 9.1 per cent over 2009. Freight carried by Cathay Pacific and Dragonair increased by 18.1 per cent to 1.8 million tonnes. The strong financial position enables us to increase the size of the airline and invest in a modern, fuel-efficient fleet. In 2010 we took delivery of seven new aircraft, and will have another 92 aircraft due to deliver in the coming decade.

Song Ngoc (