Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific Japan General Manager Clarence Tai

TOKYO —

With a 53-year history in Japan, Cathay Pacific is certainly one of the best known foreign airlines. Although it has been a tough two years for airlines flying to and from Japan since the March 11, 2011 disaster, load factors are recovering.

Overseeing Cathay Pacific’s operations in Japan is General Manager Clarence Tai. Tai first came to Japan as a student when he was 18. He studied for four years at International Christian University in Tokyo. He joined Dragonair in 1995. After Cathay Pacific bought into Dragonair in 2006, Tai has worked in Taiwan, China and Japan. He has been in his current position for just over a year.

Japan Today visits Tai in the airline’s offices in Shiodome to hear more about what the airline is doing and to get a great view of the Rainbow Bridge.

How many flights does Cathay Pacific operate to Japan each week?

We have 120 flights a week from six cities, seven airports.  – Haneda, Narita, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo and Okinawa.

How are load factors?

Load factors are getting better so far this year compared to the last quarter. But it is still not up to our expectations. Last year’s island dispute between Japan and China had some impact, both inbound and outbound.

How popular are Haneda flights?

Very popular, but Narita also holds up well. We expected that after the launch of our Haneda services, Narita would drop. But that hasn’t been the case. A lot of travelers from Chiba and other parts of Japan use Narita.

How would you describe the airline’s image in Japan?

We are very well known because we have a 53-year history in Japan. Our market research shows the image of Cathay as being professional, an international airline and that it is an airline of choice for business people and OLs.

How do you market the airline?

We are a premium carrier selling not just a seat on a plane, but also a destination. We have tried a lot of different ways to advertise. We have some billboards at Haneda and a lot of newspaper and magazine ads. We don’t do any TV ads these days. We also use Facebook, Twitter and our own website.

The important point is that we are selling a destination, not just a seat on a plane. So the Hong Kong Tourism Board is a major partner when we run campaigns.

What campaigns are you currently running?

We are promoting Europe at a fare of 48,000 yen (without fuel surcharge added on) to six destinations until early August.

We have also started a “Dangan fare,” which is a special 18,000 yen (excluding fuel surcharge) fare for a one-day trip to Hong Kong. It is applicable on flights departing from Narita, Osaka or Nagoya in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays until July 7, and departing from Hong Kong to Japan (only Narita or Osaka) late at night on the same day you depart from Japan.

For instance, if you depart from Narita at 9:40 a.m. on CX509 and arrive in Hong Kong 13:25, you then spend the afternoon and evening in Hong Kong and return on board CX524 that departs from Hong Kong at 01:00, arriving at Narita 6 a.m. the next day.

Are there any plans to include the fuel surcharge in the advertised fare?

Fuel prices are still very high, about 10% higher than last year, but we want the fare structure to be transparent and we want our customers to know what the proportion of the fuel surcharge is. However, fuel surcharges change quite often and because of the frequency of change, it is quite difficult for us to show a total fare.

Are online bookings increasing?

Online bookings are increasing in Japan but at a slower pace compared to other countries. People here still like using travel agents to manage their bookings and having face-to-face contact. Our relationship with travel agents is very important. Our sales team work closely with them on summer and winter group packages – 3-4 months in advance.

What would you say are Cathay Pacific’s strengths?

Our people and services make the difference—not just in-flight, but the entire experience from when a customer picks up a phone to inquire about our flight schedules. That’s when we start serving our customers. Another advantage is our network – Hong Kong is a convenient hub for flights to Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe.

What is the average age of your aircraft?

About 10 years.

Is there still a demand for first class?

I think so. From Hong Kong, we fly to London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Australia, and on all those routes, there is still a demand for first-class products.

How do you think low-cost carriers (LCCs) will change the industry in Japan?

They are here to stay in Japan. It is a fact of life and we have to deal with it as we have everywhere else. They are competitors just like any other airline. What I would like to see from the Japanese government regarding LCCs is more transparency and fairness in terms of airport user charges, future development plans, priorities.

How do you get feedback from passengers?

We have a call center and we do inflight surveys. We keep track of all the results each month and spend a lot of time reviewing online comments, both complaints and compliments.

Could you give us some examples of complaints?

Recently, we had a complaint from a passenger out of Osaka. He said our food in the Osaka lounge was not hot enough. The he said: “When I checked in my bags on my return flight, your staff at the airport didn’t help me put away the trolley after I had checked in my bags.” The expectations from Japanese customers are quite high.

Service straight from the heart is something we talk about every day and include these elements into our training for staff, especially ground staff who are on the frontline whenever something happens.

What is a typical day for you?

I show up about 8:30 a.m. I try to minimize meetings and encourage staff not to become slaves to emails. I go to Haneda and Narita airports at least once or twice a month. Sometimes, I do secret visits to observe the operations.

When you’re not working, how do you like to relax?

I like to ski and go snowboarding in winter and play golf in summer.

  • 3

    jazz350

    I get regular email alerts with their so-called "low fares", this is a lot of hogwash and they should be penalized for false advertising and wasting our time. The fuel surcharges and taxes almost triple their so call low fares. The Government should force all airlines to advertise the entire cost of tickets inclusive of fuel surcharges and taxes, I think Singapore Airlines has this laudable policy.

  • -3

    wipeout

    I get regular email alerts with their so-called "low fares", this is a lot of hogwash and they should be penalized for false advertising and wasting our time. The fuel surcharges and taxes almost triple their so call low fares.

    So save yourself the grief of reading spam, and check a source you consider reliable. I get a price of 49,000 return (24 May out, 31 May back) with Cathay Pacific. It took less than a minute to get that quote, and it's the final price. I can use the site I checked it on to book immediately if I want to.

  • 1

    jazz350

    Wipeout, you have not mentioned the flight for 49000 yen, if you mean the fare to Hong Kong, then it is advertised at 18,000 yen, a far cry from the figure you quoted as the final price. Please clarify.

  • -3

    wipeout

    Wipeout, you have not mentioned the flight for 49000 yen, if you mean the fare to Hong Kong, then it is advertised at 18,000 yen, a far cry from the figure you quoted as the final price.

    Yes.

    There's nothing to clarify really. 18,000 yen is not what you're going to pay, and 49,000 yen is. (That's if you travelled on those dates I mentioned, but I chose arbitrarily).

    But you can either waste energy chasing a price that looks absurdly unrealistic and then be disappointed every time, or you can get the actual price you're going to pay by typing the out date, return date, the origin and the destination into some search boxes and wait about 40 seconds while the price is returned to you.

    By the way, I looked on the Cathay website, and apart from the surcharges, the crucial information is that the 18,000 fare is for a 24 hour trip, landing in Hong Kong at 1 in the afternoon and taking off again for Tokyo 12 hours later, at 1.00 in the morning. Just under 10 hours total in the air.

    http://www.cathaypacific.com/cpa/enJP/offerspromotions/offerslanding?refID=e3c95bfec128e310VgnVCM62000007d21c39____&cmsp=JP--SALES--HKGSPCL13S-JPNHKG

    I don't believe Cathay seriously tries to tell you this is "the fare" to Hong Kong, they advertise it as a special deal. They give other fares on their website as "from 38,000 yen". I'm sure you know what they mean by "from".

    I've usually paid 40,000 to 50,000, depending on the airline and the time of year. That goes back about 25 years.

  • 2

    Pukey2

    However, fuel surcharges change quite often and because of the frequency of change, it is quite difficult for us to show a total fare.

    That's strange. In the UK, the TOTAL charge is posted first. Funny, how when it's unlawful not to show the total price first they all oblige, otherwise they'll show the basic fare first and only after a few clicks on their homepages do they show the total price (in smaller font).

    I don't care that the basic fare costs 20,000 yen if I have to fork out 60,000 yen at the end. Do these airline companies think I can somehow claim the difference from my workplace or the government?

  • -2

    JeffLee

    I like Cathay, but the agencies never give me a competitive fare from them.

  • 0

    kurisupisu

    Cathy is right up there with Singapore Airlines!

  • 0

    Pukey2

    As a vegetarian who orders a meal beforehand, I do like their food though. I was pleasantly surprised when, having been moved to Cathay from some over-booked Middle Eastern airline when transiting in Dubai, Cathay managed to get my meal within less than 2 hours to take-off. Others also try, but Thai Airlines was the pits - confirmed THREE times beforehand and they still couldn't get it right.

    A few years back, Cathay offered one of the cheapest deals to Europe just before the Xmas rush which included free 48hr stop-overs in HK. What happened?

  • 0

    jamurai

    Used to be one of the cheapest ways to get to Europe. Not anymore. Emirates is the way to go if you want cheap and (relatively) direct. Great for kids too.

  • -1

    cracaphat

    I came back from Sydney last week and it's a joke that I couldn't get a direct flight from Osaka on any airline.The 2nd biggest city in Japan going to the biggest in Oz and need to do a via?

  • 0

    hoserfella

    Recently, we had a complaint from a passenger out of Osaka. He said our food in the Osaka lounge was not hot enough. The he said: “When I checked in my bags on my return flight, your staff at the airport didn’t help me put away the trolley after I had checked in my bags.” The expectations from Japanese customers are quite high.

    Thats a very diplomatic way to put it.

    I'm sure the pompous ass who had to push the cart a whole 10 yards was exhausted after that horrible ordeal.

  • 0

    Serrano

    "Last year's island dispute between Japan and China had some impact"

    Thanks a lot, Ishihara.

    "Recently we had a complaint from a passenger out of Osaka. He said our food in the Osaka lounge was not hot enough"

    You don't have to worry about those kind of frivolous complaints.

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • Sales & Marketing Staff

    Sales & Marketing Staff
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥230,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Social Media Manager

    Social Media Manager
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥230,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Cafe Kitchen Staff

    Cafe Kitchen Staff
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥200,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Cafe Manager

    Cafe Manager
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥250,000 / Month Negotiable
  • SERVICE AND SUPPORT SPECIALIST

    SERVICE AND SUPPORT SPECIALIST
    SCALA KK、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥2.5M / Year Negotiable

More in Executive Impact

View all

View all