Cathay Pacific marks 40 years in the Americas

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 on the tarmac.
Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific.

On Monday May 1, Cathay Pacific marked a milestone in its operational history in the Americas. 40 years ago, Cathay Pacific flight CX800, a Boeing 747-200, departed Hong Kong to touch down in Vancouver, BC, Canada for the first time.

The first entry into North America


The launch of this nonstop service between Hong Kong and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) actually marked to aviation milestones.

The inaugural flight into Vancouver became the airline’s first entry into North America. Secondly it accorded Cathay the of being 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.

Above: A340-313X delivered new to Cathay Pacific in Jan 1997 as VR-HXF, it was re-registered B-HXF in Nov 1997. Taken 17 years on in January 2014, Canada. Photo Credit:
Ken Fielding https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfieldingCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The service began with two flights per week in each direction. Ground-breaking in its day, 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.

If you’re going to San Francisco…


In 1986, Cathay Pacific added a second North American destination in addition to extend the service. San Francisco (SFO) was added – with flights departing SFO operating with a stopover at YVR before continuing to Hong Kong.

Above: Takeoff from SFO on a rainy day in June 1988. Photo Credit: Bill Larkins, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Further expansion continued in the following 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 Cargo operations


Cathay Pacific’s cargo operations in the Americas has was one of the foundations that ultimately shaped the airline into one of the world’s leading combination cargo carriers.

These operations also played a significant part in building 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.

Above: Cathay Cargo at Vancouver, 2011. Photo Credit: Weixi Zeng, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 yearsaid: “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.”

“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.”

2023 – Rebuilding the network


After four decades of building an iconic brand and a significant global network, the airline finds itself, like many others – steadily rebuilding its network following the devastation wrought by a global pandemic

Cathay Pacific’s 40-year anniversary in the Americas this comes at a significant time for the global aviation industry. 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.

Photo Credit: Pieter van Marion via Wikimedia Commons

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