VANCOUVER — It was 40 years ago today that Cathay Pacific flight CX800 departed Hong Kong for Vancouver, marking the airline’s first entry into North America.
With this milestone flight, Cathay Pacific also became the first airline in the world to connect the two cities with nonstop service, which began with two flights per week in each direction. Considered groundbreaking at the time, this Boeing 747-200 flight provided travellers with a nonstop option for the first time, reducing the total journey by more than two hours versus the previously established route via Japan.
Vancouver would eventually become one of Cathay Pacific’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.
The airline 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, Cathay Pacific has close to 300 employees throughout Canada, Mexico and the U.S. spanning cargo, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, airport, revenue management and human resources.
In 1986, the airline added a San Francisco (SFO) tag to its Vancouver service, with flights departing SFO and stopping in YVR before continuing to Hong Kong. Further expansion continued over the years, with services launching 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’s legendary JFK-YVR-HKG flight, which gave passengers the chance to hop between JFK-YVR on a world-class global carrier, was added in 1996, before its discontinuation in 2019.
Chris van den Hooven, SVP, Americas, who will celebrate his 36-year anniversary with Cathay Pacific this year, launched his career with the airline as a Reservation Sales Agent in Vancouver.
On Cathay’s early days, van den Hooven said: “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.
“Cathay Pacific made its first direct order for the 747-200 series from Boeing in February 1978. In the 1980s, the Boeing 747 enabled Cathay Pacific to expand its international network to San Francisco, Vancouver and other ultra-long-haul destinations including London, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Zurich and Manchester.
“The ‘Queen of the Skies’ put Cathay Pacific on the map and helped propel us into the world-class global carrier that we are today. 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. Our future is bright and we are excited to rebuild Hong Kong together with our customers and partners.”
Michael Lim, Director, Canada, Central & South Americas, Hong Kong Tourism Board, extended his congratulations to Cathay Pacific Airways on 40 years of connecting Hong Kong and North America.
“Hong Kong has long served as a vital gateway to the broader Asia region, and Cathay Pacific not only brings people to Hong Kong but to the rest of Asia. The recent launch of the Hello Hong Kong campaign and the lifting of travel restrictions have fuelled travellers’ interest in Hong Kong, and we are confident their vacation begins on a high note with Cathay Pacific’s award-winning service,” said Lim.
Cathay Pacific’s 40-year anniversary in the Americas comes at a significant time. In 2023, the airline’s is focusing on rebuilding its network and connectivity at its Hong Kong hub after three challenging years of pandemic reductions. It 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. Plus, the airline will take delivery of two state-of-the-art Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.