Hong Kong and Singapore are often compared, but in the development of low-cost carriers, traffic in the Lion City has vastly outpaced its northern rival, showing how vulnerable Cathay Pacific is to new entrants in its home market.
Analysis of data from Flightglobal's Capstats database shows that in July 2013, the amount of capacity provided by LCCs in Singapore stood at 5.87 million seats, or 28% of the total 20.8 million seats provided by all airlines.
In Hong Kong, by contrast, LCCs provided just 1.2 million seats in July 2013, a meagre 5.3% of the total capacity of 22 million seats.
The numbers are more remarkable still when compared against 2005, the first year when Flightglobal Capstats data was available.
In July 2005, LCCs provided 815,000 seats in Singapore, or 6.4% of that month's total of 12.8 million seats. During the same month, LCCs provided just 130,000 seats in Hong Kong, or 0.8% of the total capacity of 15.5 million.
Analysis of Capstats data suggest that Cathay has greatly benefited from Hong Kong passengers' relative lack of low-cost options. In July 2005, Cathay and affiliate Dragonair provided 7.2 million seats, or 46% of total capacity that month. In July 2013, the pair provided 10.8 million seats, with their share of total capacity rising to 49%.
Singapore Airlines and its Silkair unit, meanwhile, have had to contend with LCCs. As a result, relative capacity share held by the two airlines at Changi airport declined from July 2005 to July 2013. In July 2005, the pair accounted for 6.1 million seats, or 48% of total capacity. In July 2013, they provided more seats in absolute terms - 8.3 million - but their overall share of capacity had fallen to 40%.
The numbers, however, hint at the efficacy of the SIA Group's multi-brand strategy. In July 2005, SIA's lone budget affiliate at that time - Tiger Airways - provided 282,000 seats, or 2.2% of capacity. This brought the SIA Group's total share up to 50% of capacity.
In July 2013, the SIA Group enjoyed 49% of the market capacity, if figures for its low-cost units - Scoot and Tigerair - are taken into consideration. For their part, those two carriers provided a capacity of nearly 2 million seats in July 2013, taking a 9.4% capacity share.
Although Singapore Airlines' multi-brand strategy has come in for some criticism, there can be little doubt that it has played a role in helping the carrier defend market share - albeit at the cost of some cannibalisation of its premium product.
Cathay, with no low-cost strategy to speak of, would find itself vulnerable if - despite its protests - Jetstar Hong Kong is allowed to start flying. Even if Jetstar Hong Kong fails to get airborne, eventually an LCC will find a way to establish a base at Chek Lap Kok. Sooner or later, Cathay will likely be forced into a multi-brand strategy of its own despite the pain this will entail.