Cue corny headlines about headwinds

Cathay Pacific Airways may look like a publicly listed, part-hong/part-Beijing-owned, profit-making business dedicated to maximizing returns to its shareholders. But its number-one priority is, in fact, the selfless protection of the Hong Kong economy and defence of the city’s Basic Law. We know this because it has announced its opposition to budget carrier Jetstar’s application to operate out of Big Lychee International on these very grounds. Jetstar HK is ultimately owned by Qantas, and therefore ‘does not meet the requirements of Article 134’, and “putting some of Hong Kong’s valuable and limited air traffic rights into the hands of a carrier that is controlled by a foreign airline would also be very damaging to the local aviation industry and the Hong Kong economy.”

Foreign… nasty, alien, swarthy, ill-kempt, low-bred, loud, incomprehensible and pagan; stinking the place out with disgusting garlicky food; indulging in dancing, singing and public displays of affection at all hours; lowering property values when they move into the neighbourhood; squatting on the sidewalk; not keeping their kids in order; openly burping. Ugh! Not like CX – that clean-living, wholesome, natural-born, 45% Swire/30% Air China native of our shores, noble and trusted guardian of the community’s ‘valuable and limited’ air traffic rights.

If Jetstar were, say, some Southeast Asian outfit, this might stick. But Qantas has an impeccable brand in Hong Kong and globally, on a par with CX. So does God’s own Australia itself, the lucky country that shelters numerous Hong Kong folk and provides a large chunk of Cathay’s workforce. Jetstar HK has some political cover through part-owner, big Mainland carrier China Eastern. And it hopes to address the domestic residency side of things through its links with casino king Stanley Ho’s Shun Tak Holdings. Much depends on whether the Hong Kong government buys the argument that it is in the public’s interest to protect something called the ‘local aviation industry’ and the economy in general from an airline offering cheaper fares.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, Cathay Pacific would wheel out an immaculately suited, red-faced rotundity called Richard Stirland on occasions like this. He would successfully argue that upstart airlines (notably the fledgling Dragonair) would inflict great harm on us all if allowed a licence to fly out of Hong Kong. But those were different times. Cathay’s British owners, the Swires, assured the colonial power in London that their airline would patriotically buy Rolls-Royce engines. Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary for a while was former Swire Pacific Chairman Sir John Bremridge. A Swire director, Lydia Dunn, sat on the Executive Council.

This is 2013. Cathay’s ability to pull strings in high places can be gauged from the fact that they think it’s cool to take Democratic Party boss Albert Ho and pro-Beijing trade unionist Cheng Yiu-tong on a junket to France. The flag-carrier will probably maintain, as they did in the past, that it was they who ‘invested’ in the development of its network and service quality, and it would be not only unfair for them but bad for Hong Kong to allow interlopers not burdened by a legacy high-cost structure to cherry-pick and threaten their overall operation’s economic viability. Jetstar will perhaps reply that it wants rights to operate on many under-served routes, and that competition is surely a good thing. (CX could then wittily counter-attack by pointing out that Stanley Ho has seen off rival ferry companies trying to break his monopoly on the Hong Kong-Macau run.)

Cathay’s ace up the sleeve could be state-owned Air China (though the latter has a stake in state-owned China Eastern). But in an era when Hongkongers’ patience has worn thin over property scams and supermarket duopolies, it will be impossible for officials to completely ignore public opinion when deciding just how, exactly, lower air-transport costs would damage the economy – or, to put it another way, how higher ticket prices are supposed to be good for us.

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13 Responses to Cue corny headlines about headwinds

  1. It’s sad to see the old Colonial blimps meet people CY Leung and get told where to get off. But it is entertaining. Cathay is the latest. Sort of ritual humiliation – like telling a trolley dolly that just because she wears a red suit, she isn’t necessarily desirable.

    In another fifty years, if China at last consumes petrol as fast as America does, we will all be on ships again anyway. We’d better enjoy planes while we can.

    Meanwhile, Adams books have emerged from under his bed and are on sale cut-price to aid abused maids. Dymocks wouldn’t stock them despite their customers requesting them. It’s an SCMP-owned mag and card shop so who cares. He’s been boycotted by better outfits.

  2. Real Tax Payer says:

    Methinks CX has overstepped the mark on this.
    And that jolly group photo in France ( with Albert Ho ducking down in front – was that to avoid the shit that has later been flung his way ?) will go down as a watershed event.
    Rather like Watergate was (no pun intended) .
    I do hope so !

  3. Stephen says:

    I flew Jetstar in another location that proudly boasts it’s ‘the world’s freest economy’ and ‘Asia World City’, err not. It was Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It was fine and functional and got me from North to South for less than half the price of the state owned monopoly. However back in the ‘world’s freest economy’ we are still being dictated to by a British Hong ! Boycott Cathay ?

  4. Failed Alchemist says:

    The “Hongs” forget that its no longer the good HK where one can have his way with Suzie. Saying that, Swire may now declare selling off Cathay since margins are tight and in good business interest. Cry babies…

    But it proves the point that HK does not practice laissez faire and the pan-Demo are in cohorts with the pillaging. The Duck saw himself as the first Asian governor and legco members see themselves as the representatives of the “white” and now Asian hongs.

    Most shocking of all is Cheng Yiu-tong’s defiance not to make a donation to CX favourite cause. In that, he has denied his socialist roots plus cut the feet of the bourgeoisie since he doesn’t have money to donate unlike the rest. Anyway, the donation is an after thought when the missus caught you with your pants down… nice try Albert & James.

    All members of LEGCO who went should abstain for any discussion or vote on JetStar & the third runway. They should excuse themselves for the relevant committees, meetings and voting.

    Spore is expanding their airport because the low-cost carriers are bring un-predecented visitors. Our two runways should be utilized 24 hours with courier and cargo planes be given the graveyard hours with a discount while a low-cost airport should be build elsewhere. There is enough development in the area to finish off every pink dolphin.

    Lastly, Emily you and your likes (like pseudo Albert) don’t fool us. In most political systems, the offenders have to face party discipline. Go figure that out before you shout democracy or was it demagoguery.

  5. Stuart says:

    You obviously have never flown Jetstar before, there is no resemblance between it and Quantas in terms of customer service, punctuality, etc etc etc etc. CX should protest in the name of keeping rubbishness away from local consumers.

  6. LTP says:

    Nice to see you referenced in http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/hong-kong/story/the-tycoon-era-hk-coming-end-20130825, as “popular blogger Hemlock, who works for a mogul”.

  7. Bela Benevolent says:

    The photo looks nothing like Hemlock.

  8. colonelkurtz says:

    My hatred of cartels and love of trust busting is only limited in this instance by the horrors that budget airlines bring more of the type of tourist I don’t like to the places I like to go. When transcontinental budget airlines start operating there’ll be more Eurotrash than there already is litterning the nicer bits of Asia. At least maybe there’ll be more Mandotrash in Europe as form of revenge.

  9. Diane Butler says:

    ….stinking the place out with disgusting garlicky food; indulging in dancing, singing and public displays of affection at all hours; lowering property values when they move into the neighbourhood; squatting on the sidewalk; not keeping their kids in order; openly burping……

    You just said it.

    This afternoon I was sauntering through IKEA (no, I haven’t fallen on hard times – I was just early for my bleached hair appointment and had a few minutes) and you wouldn’t believe your eyes: the sofa and living room furniture section was completely occupied by mainlanders enjoying the aircon relief, sitting on couches and comfy chairs, sprawling on settees, gaily chatting, TAKING NAPS and general having a good time while recuperating from mega shopping trips in Causeway Bay. And in good mainlander style, they were totally shameless about it.

    I didn’t see any frisky couples enjoying the bedroom section, yet, but maybe that’s the next stage.

  10. Joe Blow says:

    @ colonel

    there’ll be more Eurotrash than there already is

    Not to mention Brittrash.

    Talking about hongs and Brittrash: does anyone know who the current ‘taipan’ is ? In the olden days it was usually some chinless wonder related to the Keswicks and everybody knew his name. But I am stumped. Probably some public school homo. Jardines (not to mention Standard Chartered) were famous for those. There once was a taipan names Brian Powers who actually had a chin and he was American. He didn’t last long.

  11. In this age of global free trade, the whole concept of a national airline (or quasi-national in Hong Kong’s case) is pretty well obsolete. Such sizable countries as Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Spain have seen their national carriers swallowed up by larger multinational conglomerates in recent years. It seems paradoxical that the territory which prides itself on being a paragon of free trade should go against this trend.

    London Heathrow, the world’s third busiest airport (or thereabouts) manages with two runways – why should Hong Kong need three?

  12. Joe Blow – according to Wikipedia, “The present Chairmain of Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd. is Henry Keswick”, so they’re still there. The current Swire Group Chairman rejoices in the name of James Wyndham John Hughes-Hallett (Silver Bauhinia Star).

  13. PCC says:

    Ben Keswick is taipan.

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