Cathay pitches for Beijing cargo

Cathay pitches for Beijing cargo

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is seeking permission to fly cargo aircraft to Beijing, following resumption of passenger services to China after a 13-year hiatus and a bitter dispute with rival Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd.

Cargo generates about a third of Cathay's revenues, and became even more important when passenger traffic was savaged by the SARS outbreak earlier this year.

China's air freight market is small but growing. Its carriers operate 20 freighters among them; Cathay has 11.

"We'll put in an application for pure cargo rights in the very near future," Cathay chairman James Hughes-Hallett said. He didn't say what frequencies it would seek.

Cathay also wants to increase the present limit of three flights a week to Beijing, Shanghai and southeastern Xiamen. Hughes-Hallett said talks with Hong Kong and Chinese authorities on that should begin early in the new year.

In China, Cathay still lags well behind Dragonair, a former Cathay feeder, which has seven flights a day to Beijing.

Dragonair is chiefly owned by China National Aviation Corp., the Hong Kong arm of China's aviation agency. That could cause problems for Cathay's hopes of expansion, given the mainland government's drive to reduce cut-throat competition in the aviation sector.