Cathay’s billion dollar terminal gambit

With nearly a full freighter schedule in March on the back of an almost jaw-dropping double digit upsurge in cargo volumes year-on-year, Cathay Pacific Cargo is likely breathing at least a slight sigh of relief that the future of its business – never in much doubt over the longer term – is smelling a bit more like roses a bit sooner than later, considering it has only just begun operations at its new HK$5.9 billion (US$760 million) cargo terminal. Donald Urquhart reports from Hong Kong.


Cathay’s billion dollar terminal gambit


The cargo carrier – with its Dragonair arm, 60 per cent share in Air Hong Kong and 40 per cent stake in Air China Cargo – is now the proud owner/operator of a very large (2.6 million tonnes annual capacity), very innovative and technologically advanced cargo terminal that has been phased, near flawlessly, into full operations from last October. With the intention of not only boosting the carrier’s value proposition, but attracting other carrier customers, the increasingly firm signs of a sustained recovery in the global air cargo markets will be a very welcome development for these ambitions.

Figures for Cathay and Dragonair showed the two airlines carried 155,352 tonnes of cargo and mail in March, a cheery increase of 13.8 per cent compared to the same month last year, helping offset continuing capacity expansion for a slight rise in load factor to 66.7 per cent.

The ‘build, operate and transfer’ (to Hong Kong Airport Authority in 20 years) Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal (CPCT) is run by Cathay Pacific Services (CPS) Ltd, a 100 per cent wholly-owned division of the Cathay Pacific group, but operates independently, in part owing to the fact the terminal is tasked to operate more like a common user facility than simply a dedicated Cathay terminal.