With reporting from Peter Kovessy
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways will discontinue its only flight out of Qatar starting in February 2016, the airline has announced.
Its final daily trip from Hong Kong to Doha will take place on Feb. 14, 2016, with the last return scheduled for the following day.
A local office representative declined to comment on the move, but in a statement on its website, the carrier said it was discontinuing the service two years after it first launched for “commercial reasons.”
For Qatar residents, that means the only option to fly directly to Hong Kong will soon be the more expensive national carrier, which will add a second daily flight from Doha to the city to make up for the loss of the Cathay service.
“The operating carrier change will have minimum impact on passengers who are booked on Cathay Pacific-operated flights from Hong Kong to Doha after February 15. Affected passengers will be re-accommodated on the Qatar Airways-operated flight due to operate on the same schedule.”
Cathay’s decision to withdraw its flight to Doha comes just a year and a half after its launch in April 2014.
Alongside the suspension of its flight to Doha, Cathay has also announced significant changes to its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways.
At the time of the route launch in 2014, Cathay’s chief executive Ivan Chu said that the new route would “enable travellers to enjoy the great connectivity Cathay Pacific offers via the Hong Kong hub to our extensive network in Asia, Australia and China.”
He also spoke highly of the potential for the codeshare deal the carrier had struck with Qatar Airways, which would give passengers more route options within Europe, South America, Africa and the Gulf.
Code share agreements benefit airlines by allowing them to share routes, and therefore to serve more destinations without needing to lay on more aircraft.
They benefit passengers by allowing them to use frequent flier points from their preferred airlines, and also by allowing them to “book through” rather than having to stop at one destination, collect their bags and check in again at departures for their onward flight.
Under the former agreement, Cathay Pacific passengers from Hong Kong to Doha could book onward flights through Cathay on selected Qatar-Airways operated routes like Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, Budapest, Nairobi, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Muscat and Jeddah.
Similarly, Qatar Airways passengers from Doha could book flights through the airline on Cathay-operated flights via Hong Kong to Auckland, Adelaide, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Seoul, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita.
After the Cathay route to Doha is dropped next February, while the Cathay Pacific “CX” code will remain in place on Qatar Airways flights between Doha and Hong Kong, it will no longer go on Qatar Airways flights from Doha to other destinations.
This means that Cathay Pacific customers will no longer be able to book tickets with the Hong-Kong based airline to other destinations via Doha.
However, Qatar Airways passengers will still be able to book “selected” Cathay flights from Hong Kong to Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan.
Despite these changes, both airlines will remain in the oneworld alliance, meaning that both carriers will continue to provide reciprocal facilities for their frequent fliers, and allow passengers to book flexible routes around the world on oneworld special fares.
Although Cathay Pacific have not specified the exact reasons behind their decision to terminate the Doha route, it seems likely that lower than expected passenger loads originating in Doha may have been a factor, given that the majority of Qatar Airways passengers pass through Doha as a connecting hub only.
Another factor at play may be Qatar Airways’ recent announcement of a significant expansion into the Australian market, meaning that Qatar’s national carrier may soon compete with Cathay Pacific on several routes in Australia.