General aviation

Cathay to drop Vancouver-New York red eye

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 departs Vancouver International Airport in June (photo: Brett Ballah).

Cathay Pacific Airlines will drop its Vancouver – New York (John F. Kennedy) service in time for the busy summer season.

The airline created the daily overnight service in 1996, using Vancouver as a technical stop between Hong Kong and New York, two of the world’s largest financial centres. So-called fifth freedom rights allowed the airline to pick up passengers in Vancouver and drop them at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

New aircraft technology is allowing the Hong Kong-based airline to fly farther afield, eliminating the need for technical stops.

Cathay Pacific’s vice-president for the Americas told The Points Guy that the route has been losing money for several years.

“It’s not bittersweet, it’s bitter,” Philip Lacamp told the publication, adding the flight attracted a niche following.

In its summer schedule, Cathay will drop three weekly rotations between Vancouver and Hong Kong, scaling back to double-daily service. However, Lacamp said the number of seats would remain roughly the same because the airline will deploy high-density Boeing 777-300s with 10-abreast seating on the route, replacing a mix of 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft.

Air Canada uses the 777 between Hong Kong and its Vancouver hub, seating as many as 450 people on a flight.

Airlines have reported declining traffic across the Pacific, as trade and political tensions reduce commerce between China and North America. Vancouver handled almost 430,000 passengers to Asia-Pacific destinations in July, a slight decrease from July 2018. While the numbers have barely changed, it is significant in that it follows years of massive growth at the airport to destinations across the Pacific.