What would you do with a morning in Brussels? Here are a few ideas: order a coffee and a croissant at a pavement cafe on the Mont des Arts; wander around the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts; or perhaps stroll through the Grand Place and admire the gothic Hotel de Ville.
And here’s a new way to turn those ideas into reality. From 25 March, Cathay Pacific launches a four-times-weekly service to Brussels, its first route into Belgium.
Brussels will be followed in May by a three-times-weekly service to Copenhagen. Then in June, Cathay launches a four-times-weekly Dublin service, bringing the total number of airports the airline serves in Europe and the Mediterranean to 15, including Tel Aviv.
All three new European routes will be serviced by the recently acquired Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
This summer will also see Barcelona become a year-round service from April, following a successful seasonal route launch last July. Tel Aviv will also increase in frequency this year.
Why the sudden Europe focus?
‘Destination Europe has a lot of appeal for the Asian market,’ says James Ginns, general manager Europe at Cathay Pacific. ‘Now is also a very good moment in Europe. European markets are growing; there’s a lot of corporate activity and the leisure market is pretty robust. It’s a good time for us to take advantage.’
A strong Europe is bolstered by the fact that these cities have few non-stop options from China and Hong Kong.
‘All the routes we’re launching have a strong profile in Hong Kong and the wider region,’ says Will Kerr-Muir, passenger network manager at Cathay Pacific. ‘We can see where passengers want to go and where they will appreciate a direct connection from Hong Kong.’
When Dublin launches in June, Cathay Pacific will be the first airline to operate a non-stop service from Ireland to Asia – a fact that is causing ‘a huge amount of excitement in Ireland’, adds Ginns. Cathay Pacific is hoping to capture the growing corporate and cargo markets moving between Ireland and mainland China in industries such as technology, pharmaceuticals, aircraft leasing, seafood and agri-business. Chinese students in Ireland are also a potential market for the new service.
A seasonal service to Copenhagen launches in May, the airline’s first route launch into Scandinavia in recent memory and the only non-stop service from Hong Kong to the Danish capital. It will run until October. ‘Copenhagen is a popular tourist destination during the summer months,’ says Kerr-Muir.
He adds: ‘All three destinations serve as jumping off points for the wider region.’ Brussels becomes a gateway to western Europe – to fashionable, visitor-friendly Belgian cities Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent, or as an alternative to Paris or Amsterdam. Copenhagen will service the Scandinavian lands to its north, while Dublin acts as the entry point to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
With the new routes joining existing destinations in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, Cathay Pacific is also keeping an eye on other potential destinations in the region.
The high-spec A350-900 passenger aircraft that will be used on all three routes has allowed Cathay Pacific to open up ‘long, thin routes’, says Ginns, which include destinations such as Brussels, Copenhagen and Dublin. London Gatwick and Manchester also use the A350-900. The jet, with a capacity of 280, is ‘a very useful aircraft to operate into these European points’, says Ginns.
It’s easy to forget that as well as flying into the European cities, Cathay Pacific is launching a return route to Hong Kong at the same time – and needs to fill seats flying east. Selling Destination Hong Kong and beyond is as important as selling Destination Europe.
‘We’re working very closely with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to encourage people to discover the best of the city,’ says Ginns. ‘Hong Kong is an attractive destination either in itself or as a stopover. You just don’t get the kind of variety it offers nearly as conveniently elsewhere. No European city offers great food, hiking, shopping, beaches and nightlife in such an easily accessible area. Our customers love the sense of energy this creates.’