Nineteen-ninety-two was a difficult year for Cathay Pacific. The airline industry was still mired in the downturn precipitated by the collapse of the Japanese economy. There was excess capacity: a lot of airlines and aircraft were competing for a diminishing number of passengers. This led to what then-Cathay Pacific chairman Peter Sutch described as ‘fare wars’. While this was good for those who could afford to fly, it wasn’t great for the bottom line.
To help, Cathay Pacific deferred some new aircraft in the hope that when they joined the fleet the global economy would be in better shape. Route launches were in short supply, but one that did happen that year was Adelaide. It was to prove that relationships forged in adversity are often the strongest.
On 3 October, the South Australian city became Cathay Pacific’s 40th destination. The service was operated initially by a Boeing 747, a big plane for a new route, but then this was a weekly service at first. The aircraft touched down on a day marked by – count them – 18 hours of sunshine.
Adelaide’s predominantly clear blue skies are ideal for novice flyers, something that Flight Training Adelaide has been trading on since 1982 – but it was not until 1994 that Cathay Pacific sent its first group of would-be pilots there to learn the theory and practicalities of flying. To date, around 1,800 Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon pilots have spent time in Adelaide learning their craft – more than half of the airlines’ flight crew.
Adelaide flight frequencies have increased, too. In July, Cathay Pacific started a fifth weekly service, operated by an Airbus A330. Its commitment to the city also extends to being a sporting and cultural ambassador: the airline is a partner of Port Adelaide, one of the city’s two Aussie Rules Football teams.
Port Adelaide have been keen to strengthen ties between Australia and China, and Cathay Pacific flew the team to a historic game in Shanghai against the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai in May. The Power’s win over Gold Coast Suns was especially significant as the game was the first official AFL premiership match played outside of Australia and New Zealand.
Efforts to broaden the game’s appeal in the Asian market and to develop Australia’s inbound tourism also saw Cathay Pacific executives joining Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to watch The Power’s – Port Adelaide’s nickname – win over the Swans in Sydney in March this year.