By: Prasanna Rodrigo
Hong-Kong based Cathay Pacific Airline has been operating in Sri Lanka since 1993 and continued to remain in the country, even during the height of the war, except for one year which the airline says it went offline.
As of now, it operates seven flights from Colombo to Hong Kong every week via Singapore and Bangkok.
The airlines Country Manager for Sri Lanka, Edward Coles, joining for an interview with News360.lk said, Cathay as of now deploys its largest capacity aircraft on the Colombo route.
He said, as the country’s tourism industry is showing growth prospects, the Airline will continue to add destinations to the network, increasing access to the Island through its Hong Kong hub.
Below we produced the full interview we had with Edward Coles, who has worked at Swire group before joining Cathay Pacific.
1. Tell us little bit about Cathay’s Colombo operations?
a. Cathay operates daily passenger flights from Colombo with our B777-300 aircraft in a 2 class configuration. Cargo is also a very important part of our business, and the 777 allows us to carry significant belly cargo.
2. What are the destinations you operate to/from Colombo?
a. Cathay flies daily to Hong Kong, 3 flights per week route via Bangkok, and the remaining 4 route via Singapore. We serve over 160 destinations worldwide through our Hong Kong hub.
3. How do you view the new situation, which has emerged in Sri Lanka, I mean the post conflict opportunities?
a. It has every right to be a really exciting time to be in Sri Lanka. The sense of optimism post conflict in Sri Lanka is still very evident, in addition Sri Lanka’s strong academic base should serve the country very well as it continues to grow.
4. Sri Lanka last year, received 850,000 tourists to the country and more is expected this year, your observation on this fact?
a. I think this is a great growth industry for Sri Lanka-the country is so naturally set up for tourism. In my experience, Sri Lankan people are very friendly and welcoming, whilst there are a seriously impressive number of attractions, both natural and cultural, which means Sri Lanka has every right to attract many more tourists over the coming years.
5. With the influx of tourists to the country, both in terms of leisure and business, how is Cathay planning to gain advantage from this situation, are you planning to increase flight frequencies and include new destinations etc.?
a. Currently Cathay deploys it largest capacity aircraft on the Colombo route, in addition we continue to add destinations to the network-increasing access to Sri Lanka through our Hong Kong hub. Cathay is a prime choice for some of the main inbound growth markets, for example we fly from 18 ports across China to Colombo via Hong Kong. Cathay Holidays, one of our subsidiaries runs packages to Sri Lanka, while we regularly feature Sri Lanka in our in-flight magazines as well.
6. After the end of the war, a number of new airlines have entered Colombo, how does your airline cope with the competition?
a. Cathay will continue to offer its award winning service to passengers, and aim to deliver value for money in its products. The competition is indeed stiff, but Cathay strategy which has been at the core of our success so far has been to pursue long term steady growth in the market.
7.) Sri Lankan government’s aim is to make Colombo a logistics hub, your thoughts on this goal?
Infrastructure is hugely important, and it’s great to see the investment in this area, the highway to Galle of course being a case in point! There are some really interesting plans for growth, and provision for this into the future should hopefully stand Sri Lanka in good stead.
7. Can you tell us little about yourself?
a. I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, so I know this side of the world better than I do Europe! I’ve been with the Swire group (which counts among its members the well known local Finlays) five and a half years now, working with Cathay Pacific throughout. It’s a great company to work for, which really puts people high on its priorities. The group covers a very diverse collection of industries, but its aims for excellence in operational and service fields applies throughout, whilst maintaining a culture of doing things in the right way as well.
8. How do you enjoy your stay in Sri Lanka?
a. Having a friendly team in the office makes moving to a new country a lot easier. However I’m also a keen traveller anyhow, so it’s great to get the opportunity to live here-learn about a new culture, as well as the chance to explore local sites. I’ve been able to hike up Adams Peak, and watch whales off Mirissa since I’ve been here so far, but there is plenty more to do!
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