Feb 26, 2013

British Airways/Cathay Pacific codeshare scenarios

While the British Airways code share deal with Cathay Pacific on Australian routes from 31 March makes the clearest of commonsense for both airlines, it is the longer term consequences

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

While the British Airways code share deal with Cathay Pacific on Australian routes from 31 March makes the clearest of commonsense for both airlines, it is the longer term consequences that will cause interest within Qantas-Emirates and Virgin Australia-Etihad-Singapore Airlines.

First up, it will make life harder for Virgin Atlantic’s onward services from Hong Kong to Sydney in the UK originating market.

And it would seem to make it unlikely that Virgin Australia might find a quality Hong Kong partner in Cathay Pacific for those connections into China and northern Asia that might be more attractive to travellers than connections over Changi with Singapore Airlines.

It also draws attention to the need for a strong domestic Australian partner for British Airways and Cathay Pacific if the view is taken that commercial relations between both of those oneworld carriers and Qantas have cooled to sub-zero because of the impending Qantas-Emirates partnership, not to mention the irritation Cathay Pacific has expressed in various places with Jetstar Hong Kong.

This is another way of saying that oneworld relations between Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific have definitely not been improved by the Qantas-Emirates deal.

The BA/CX codeshare add to doubts as to whether Qantas really needs oneworld when it has such a comprehensive deal with Emirates and such a potent business partnership with American Airlines that far exceeds the benefits QF and AA get by being in oneworld anyhow.

It is worth noting that with recent improvements to the airport experience at any fare level in Dubai and Hong Kong and the always impressive Singapore Airport experience,  those who are uncommitted to a particular airline brand have been given new reasons to consider such things as ease and speed of connections at each hub.

Dubai has been getting flak in the consumer media for the claimed horrors of 10 hour connections between Qantas flights and onward Emirates flights when the deal between both carriers takes effect from 31 March.  But, to the extent that there is a problem, there is no reason to doubt Qantas and Emirates will move to fix them before they give away too much custom to airlines offering Changi and Hong Kong connections.

What BA/CX does is add pressure to QF/EK to fix such things as much for Europe originating as Australia originating travellers. It also adds to pressure on Virgin Australia to think beyond Singapore in finding competitive connections throughout Asia as well as for those who want to fly to Europe from some parts of Asia.  And it surely must make Virgin Atlantic ask itself what it really expects to get from a single daily flight between Sydney and London via Hong Kong considering the far more frequent and flexible alternatives that are now being offered on the kangaroo routes.


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12 thoughts on “British Airways/Cathay Pacific codeshare scenarios

  1. johnb78

    Virgin Atlantic needs to tie up closer with Virgin Australia or quit Australia. There’s no point in it being here if it’s not going to play (and surely the ACC would be fine with that, given the wider market environment?). My guess would be that after the Delta buyout and given Virgin Australia’s close links with Delta, it will end up playing.

    I reckon Qantas will stick in Oneworld for as long as it’s tied with AA. AA’s transatlantic traffic is tightly integrated with IAG’s, and nobody’s desperately keen to annoy anyone else beyond the call of strategic duty. The MAS entry is likely the shape of things to come: you’ll get QF miles on unfavoured Oneworld carriers, but fewer and more restricted.

  2. Suhail Shafi

    What’s wrong with a ten hour layover at Dubai Airport ? There is plenty to do there and if one does not like it there you can always rent a hotel room to sleepover.

  3. Kapo

    Absolutely agree that CX has been very indifferent towards it’s fellow one world partners. Ben, I don’t think it’s totally closed between QF and CX, I am puzzled by the continued reference to partnering with CX even though the only route that they have partnered on in recent times is HKG-FCO, which is being terminated shortly.

    1) Qantas announces network improvements as part of Asia strategy one of the phases is Expanded network within Asia through local partners (such as Japan Airlines, China Eastern, Jet Airways, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines)

    2) FY13H1 Download Investor/Analyst Presentation Page 21 Increased intra-Asian connections and CX is indicated in the graphic

    3) All QF flights @HKG have been aligned to arrive 1710 – 1725 and depart 2015-2045

    4) New First Lounge being opened @HKG

    I don’t think Jetstar HK is relevant to any of this since it doesn’t exist just yet.Simon Hickey has made on record noises about partnering with Dragonair, are all these changes at HKG being done purely for O/D traffic?

    Whatever happens it’s going to be very interesting following what transpires between QF group and it’s partner MU(Jet* HK & China) and “proposed” partner CX(Intra-Asia?).

  4. Ben Sandilands


    Your point about unequal rewards among favoured alliance partners is for me the prime reason why seasoned travellers have come to distrust them.

    What was promised, and I was in the room when both oneworld and Star promised equality and universality, has been trashed and dishonoured.

    For some of us, this is unacceptable.

  5. patrick kilby

    I am hard pressed to find the forced 10 hour layover. Doing my home work for a couple of forthcoming trips I can find about four key connections with the midnight flights coming in from Australia on QF metal and then a lot more on the 5.00am arriving flights with QF badges on the late night EK metal (leaving Dubai between 7 and 8am). The four or so early morning connections get you into Paris, London, Manchester, Milan and a couple of other places early in the morning and the others later in the day. You can take the 10 hour lay over free of charge but you dont’ have to.

  6. ltfisher

    Very good point Ben about “unequal rewards among alliance partners”. Leaving aside FF miles etc the starkest contrast is in the lounge offerings. What QF offers AA passengers in Australia is heaven compared with the miserable AA offerings, even at their ‘home’ at DFW. On the other hand both CX and BA lounge offerings are pretty good, and of course especially good at LHR and HKG.

  7. Ben Sandilands

    I did have a 10 hour disconnection there outbound from Paris to Sydney last year,enhanced by the checked bag going missing both going there and coming from. That was because the connecting flight that would have involved a normal two hours connection was overbooked. I don’t think the current critical reports on this are accurate, there are big delays not 10 hours and as suggested, I think QF and EK will eliminate them.

  8. Dan

    I understand that the Virgin Atlantic flights SYD-HKG-LHR are doing quite well, I know a lot of people who would only think of flying them in Upper Class to London, and there is a lot to be said for a one-stop flight all the way on the same aircraft without having to change gates and risk missing connections – probably the same reason BA continues with a SYD-SIN-LHR flight after QF has decided to become so “competitive” in the Asian market by hubbing through DXB…

  9. Nick Brodie

    Never let the facts obscure a good story – “Horror 10 Hour Connections” sounds a lot better than the myriad benefits travellers will gain from flying through Dubai on QF/EK. I, too, believe the dust will settle and the QF, BA, CX and MAS relationships will normalise. Oneworld has always been a more flexible beast than Star and Sky and this, too, will survive. The odd one out here is CX and their isolationish approach to, well, everything really.

  10. Allan Moyes

    I’m not convinced the alliances are all they advertise and hype themselves to be. For example, if you use the QF website for flights from SYD to NRT, then to HEL on a rewards ticket, there is no mention of a JAL flight to Tokyo, only the overnight QF or a diversion and change of aircraft in HKG. Similarly there is no daytime AY flight to HEL shown (which does exist), but a backtrack to HKG and a CX connection via LHR, or a flight leaving HKG at 00.35am or thereabouts on AY.

    Where are the “seamless” connections? One flight from HNL to SIN had me routed via SYD (which I wasn’t allowed to do because I couldn’t leave from my “home” port twice). Are there no flights HNL-NRT-SIN? Why doesn’t the QF page show all the relevant flights – they were after all one of the founding members of oneworld.

    The oneworld web page shows every combination but then directs you to your “home” airline to book.

    My cynical reasoning is that QF wants you to use its phone-up service at a cost of around $60 fee or whatever – yet another scam to gouge customers (we are no longer passengers!).

  11. ltfisher

    “The odd one out here is CX and their isolationish approach to, well everything really”,really? That is a pretty wild accusation Nick. Where’s your evidence?

  12. grubbidok

    Considering BA are still firmly committed to not allowing Australians to join their FF program, I would say QF is pretty safe. Once BA opens up Executive Club we know it’s ‘game on’, but at the moment they’re still recommending people join QFF.

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