Cathay Pacific on Monday (May 1) marked a milestone in the Americas: 40 years ago, Cathay Pacific flight CX800, a Boeing 747-200, departed Hong Kong to touch down in Vancouver, B.C., for the first time.
The launch of this nonstop service between Hong Kong and Vancouver International Airport not only represented the airline's first entry into North America, but also it becoming the first airline in the world to connect these two cities with a nonstop service.
The service marked Cathay Pacific's illustrious entry into what is now one of the airline's biggest markets outside of Hong Kong, the city it has called home since its founding by American Roy C. Farrell and Australian Sydney H. de Kantzow in 1946.
The service began with two flights per week in each direction. Groundbreaking at the time, this flight enabled travellers a nonstop option for the first time, which reduced the total journey by more than two hours versus the previously established route via Japan.
Cathay Pacific opened its first ticket office on March 16, 1983, at 1018 West Georgia Street, in the heart of Vancouver's "airline row," employing 26 in sales, marketing and reservations.
Today, the airline employs close to 300 employees throughout Canada, Mexico and the US, spanning cargo, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, airport, revenue management, and human resources.
Expansion over the years
In 1986, Cathay Pacific added a San Francisco (SFO) tag to its Vancouver service—with flights departing SFO, stopping in YVR before continuing to Hong Kong.
Further expansion continued apace over the years, with Cathay Pacific launching services to Hong Kong from Los Angeles (1990), Toronto (1994), a standalone SFO flight in 1998, New York (JFK) in 2004, Chicago O'Hare (2011), Newark (2013), Boston (2015), Washington Dulles (2018), and Seattle (2019).
Cathay Pacific's legendary JFK-YVR-HKG flight—beloved by aviation geeks and passengers alike for the opportunity to hop between JFK-YVR on a world-class global carrier—was added in 1996, before its discontinuation in 2019.
Cathay Pacific's cargo business in the Americas has been a resounding success that has shaped the airline into one of the world's leading combination cargo carriers and has helped build Hong Kong into the world's busiest air cargo hub.
With the launch of cargo services from Mexico in 2013 (Guadalajara and Mexico City), Cathay Cargo now operates in 16 cities across three North American countries, shipping an average of 160 million kilos of freight annually. Cathay Cargo carried the first-ever shipment of berries via air cargo from North America to the Chinese Mainland. The shipment of six tons of fruit from Michoacán and Jalisco onboard a Cathay Cargo Boeing 747-8F was the first in a commercial and agricultural relationship between Mexico and China.
Chris van den Hooven, SVP, Americas, who will celebrate his 36-year anniversary with Cathay Pacific this year, launched his career with the airline as a Reservation Sales Agent in Vancouver: "As a young adventurer with ambitions of seeing the world, I jumped at the chance to join an up-and-coming Asian airline in 1987 during a pivotal time in its expansion. Cathay Pacific made its first direct order for the 747-200 series from Boeing in February 1978. In the 1980s, the Boeing 747 enabled Cathay Pacific to expand its international network to San Francisco, Vancouver, and other ultra-long-haul destinations including London, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Zurich and Manchester. The 'Queen of the Skies' put Cathay Pacific on the map and helped propel us into the world-class global carrier that we are today. As we reflect on 40 years in the Americas, we are incredibly grateful to our loyal customers, our dedicated staff, industry partners, our Hong Kong family, and the communities that have welcomed us with open arms and who continue to support us. Our future is bright and we are excited to rebuild Hong Kong together with our customers and partners."
Michael Lim, director, Canada, Central & South Americas, Hong Kong Tourism Board, added: "We extend our congratulations to Cathay Pacific Airways for their 40th anniversary of connecting Hong Kong and North America. Hong Kong has long served as a vital gateway to the broader Asia region, and Cathay Pacific not only brings people to Hong Kong but to the rest of Asia. The recent launch of the Hello Hong Kong campaign and the lifting of travel restrictions have fueled travellers' interest in Hong Kong, and we are confident their vacation begins on a high note with Cathay Pacific's award-winning service."
Cathay Pacific's 40-year anniversary in the Americas comes at a significant time: in 2023, Cathay Pacific's focus is on rebuilding its network and connectivity at its Hong Kong hub after three challenging years of pandemic reductions. Cathay Pacific currently operates over 50 flights per week out of North America from six cities (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver)—nearly half of its pre-pandemic capacity in the Americas—with more flights added every month.
This year will also see the reopening of Cathay Pacific's popular airport lounges at San Francisco and Vancouver; and the airline will take delivery of two state-of-the-art Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.