Expat Chit Chat
Govt should provide more incentives to airlines
Global airline industry is facing a huge problem due to escalating
fuel costs and some airlines are already folding up. The Government can
help the airlines to cushion out high fuel costs by offering concessions
at airports, Country Manager Sri Lanka and Maldives Cathay Pacific
Airways Limited Julian Lyden told Daily News Expat Chit Chat.
Pictures by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa
“Sri Lanka where ground handling charges are said to be the highest
in the region, also should try to assist the airlines by reviewing its
ground handling charges and offering concessions to airlines,” he said.
“The Government must also remember that foreign airlines not only
provides connectivity but also carries cargo, flies in investors and
tourists which help the economy. Therefore the Government should provide
more benefits to airlines,” Lyden added.
Cathay Pacific Airways Limited is the largest airline and the flag
carrier of Hong Kong. Based at Hong Kong International Airport, the
airline’s operations include scheduled passenger and cargo services to
over 120 destinations worldwide.
Cathay Pacific is one of the only six airlines worldwide to carry a
five-star rating from Skytrax. Cathay was named “Airline of the Year” in
2003 and 2005 by Skytrax and in 2006 by Air Transport World and OAG.
Last year there were 131,000 aircraft departures and the length of
scheduled route network was 442,000 km. It carried 23,253,000 passengers
and 1,642,000 tonnes of Cargo. With a turnover of HK$ 75,358 million the
airline’s attributed profit in 2007 was HK$ 7,023 million.
Cathay Pacific and its subsidiaries employ over 19,837 staff in Hong
Kong. Cathay and its subsidiaries employ close to 27,031 people
worldwide. More than 12,246 Cathay Pacific staff are Hong Kong-based and
a further 7,591 work for local subsidiaries, making the Cathay Pacific
Group one of Hong Kong’s biggest employers.
Flanked by two senior staff members of the local office, Lyden
summarised the Cathay’s flight from history to the twenty first century.
Q: How do you review operations in Sri Lanka?
Cathay had being partnering Sri Lanka for a long period and from
three weekly flights per week in 1993 we have increased frequency to
daily to Hong Kong.
We also operate thrice a week to Bangkok to cater to the growing
leisure traffic and four times a week to Singapore mainly targeting the
business travelers and passengers going beyond. This is because we have
faith in the destination and we strongly believe that Colombo has more
The airline also launched Asia Miles promotion, which is gaining
popularity. Due to this, long haul passengers flying to countries like
Canada or USA would get free miles to either Singapore or Bangkok. Asia
Miles has over 300 partners in nine categories, including 19 airline
partners, and more than 2.9 million members.
Members can earn and redeem Asia Miles to over 950 destinations
worldwide. In 1981, Cathay Pacific began a dedicated cargo services and
now operates cargo freight flights to 31 destinations around the world.
The airline also offer the quickest turn around times for
destinations in Europe, US, Canada and Australia while offering several
Q: Does the airline assist in Hong Kong visa process?
Yes this is an area we have addressed and we also process Visas to
Q: How do you see the local travel agents?
Sri Lanka is blessed with very smart travel agents who are adding
value fast to their products to attract passengers.
In Europe, US and in many Asian countries airlines have decided to do
away with the agents commission which was the bread winner for the
airline ticketing agents.
In Sri Lanka too the agent’s commission was reduced from nine per
cent to seven per cent and there is a speculation that this would be
Speculation is also there that the agents would only be left with a
service fee. The increasing budget airlines, e- ticketing and more
people booking their flights from the net too are shirking the agents
In this backdrop Lankan travel agents are reading the future and
becoming very innovative. Yesterday a travel agent was only issuing a
ticket and today there is value addition. Some even open their offices
during the weekends while some have gone 24 hours in a bid to retain
their customers and attract new passengers.
Travel agents are a vital part of the airline industry and we believe
that they should be nursed and protected.
Q: How do you see the adaptation of e-tickets in Sri Lanka?
I think it’s working very well and the country is doing well in this
Q: How is the Sri Lankan staff?
The problem with Sri Lankan staff is that they are too good. Airline
staff can find employment anywhere in the world and this is the reason
for brain drain. The authorities should soon try to devise a mechanism
to keep them in Sri Lanka.
Q: How do you see the Sri Lankan economy?
It is growing. However the settlement to the current conflict would
bring in many economic benefits and there would be a surge of tourist
arrival to this lovely country.
Q: How do you see the emerging competition from Low Cost
Low cost carriers cater to a different segment. As far as Cathay is
concerned they are not a threat to us as they do not eat in to our
market segment. We are a full service airline providing all the comforts
a passenger could imagine whether he or she is flying economy business
or first class.
Q: How do you see the growth of the Indian aviation industry?
It’s growing very fast. We are really excited about it as the
potential is huge. Cathay is always looking at new destinations. Our
focus in now on new Indian destinations.
Q: What is your favorite location in Sri Lanka?
Well I love the ruins and the historical architecture in Anuradhapura.
As I was in Papua New Guinea I am somewhat used to Sri Lankan food and I
am really fascinated about the dish that is made with the biggest noise,