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The Cathay Pacific Story
Our history and where we are going.

Those were the days

American Roy C Farrell and Australian Sydney H de Kantzow founded Cathay Pacific Airways on 24 September, 1946. Initially based in Shanghai, the two men eventually moved to Hong Kong and established the airline. Legend has it that Farrell and a group of foreign correspondents thought up the airline's unique name in the bar at the Manila Hotel!

An investment in the future

The new company began to operate passenger flights to Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai. Expansion was fast and, in 1948, Butterfield & Swire (today known as the Swire Group) took a 45% share in the company. Under the leadership of John Kidston Swire, Butterfield & Swire became wholly responsible for the management of the airline.

Taking the jet age by storm

The 1960s represented our coming of age. Between 1962 and 1967, business grew at an average rate of 20 percent a year. We also initiated international services (another world's first) to Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya in Japan.


"Between 1962 and 1967, business grew at an average rate of 20 percent a year.”

The old and only "Betsy"

"Betsy", a converted Douglas DC3, is fondly remembered as our first aircraft. Sold in 1955, "Betsy" was discovered, almost 30 years later flying cargo around the Australian outback.

We bought the aircraft back, repainted her in the original 1940s livery and returned her to Hong Kong. Today, "Betsy" hangs suspended from the ceiling at the Hong Kong Science Museum.

New horizons

In the early 1970s, we started to make use of the latest technology with our computerised reservation system and flight simulators. The first Boeing 747-200 arrived in Hong Kong in mid-1979, and by the end of the year, we had applied for traffic rights to start flying to London. As more B747's joined our fleet, we expanded our services to Europe and North America.

The glory years

The 1980s was a spectacular decade for the airline industry. Amidst a worldwide economic boom - spearheaded by Asia, more business travellers, tourists and cargo were flying than ever before. It was during this decade that we expanded our international network to include London, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Rome, San Francisco, Paris, Zurich and Manchester. 

What's in a million?

Eighteen years after the company was founded, we celebrated carrying our one millionth passenger. Nine years later, in 1973, we were carrying one million people every year. Today, we carry approximately one million passengers each month!

A change of image

The early 90s was a difficult time for the airline industry. Nonetheless, we remained positive, safe in the knowledge that Hong Kong – our home, was arguably the best location in the world for an airline. At the same time, we launched a new programme to offer unprecedented levels of passenger service. We also made another important decision – changing our green and white striped livery to the dynamic and now famous Asian "brushstroke" image. 

Into the new millennium

Cathay Pacific City, our headquarters located at Hong Kong International Airport, was completed in the middle of 1999. The new complex was another sign of our confidence in the future of Hong Kong and heralded the move into a new era for the airline.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair

On 28 September 2006 Cathay Pacific signed an agreement that brought Dragonair into the Cathay Pacific Group as a wholly owned subsidiary. At the same time Cathay Pacific established a closer relationship with Air China, with each airline taking a 17.5% stake in the other.

A new home for
Cathay Pacific Cargo

The Cathay Pacific Cargo terminal opened in December 2012. The terminal is best-in-class and has been used as an example of how a terminal should be built for others around the world.

Flightpath Flightpath
A new brand, a new promise

In 2014 Cathay launched a refreshed brand, including new livery on our aircraft and an emboldened and expanded brand promise, Life Well Travelled. In November 2016, Dragonair, our sister airline and regional carrier was renamed Cathay Dragon in a move designed to help further connect and align the brands, and leverage the strong brand awareness of our two different carriers in different markets Ultimately both brands are working towards delivering the same brand promise.

Moving into the future

The Cathay Pacific Group operates more than 150 aircraft, flying to over 170 destinations worldwide. We are committed to growing our operation to help strengthen Hong Kong’s role as one of the premier international aviation hubs.