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Cathay Pacific plans to grow new US services

Cathay Pacific will grow its new routes to Seattle Tacoma and Washington Dulles before adding any new US markets, says chief executive Rupert Hogg.

The Oneworld Alliance carrier hopes to increase frequency from four-times weekly to both new destinations – Seattle begins in March 2019 and Dulles began on 15 September – he tells FlightGlobal at an event at Washington Dulles today.

"Once we launch a new destination, we try to get to daily," says Hogg. "I think you'll see more of that to [our] new destinations."

Cathay Pacific operates a 334-seat Airbus A350-1000 to Dulles, and will operate a 280-seat A350-900 to Seattle.

The Hong Kong-based airline is targeting technology centres and, to a lesser extent, educational centres for expansion, says Hogg. Washington fits both of these, he adds, citing the technology cluster near Dulles airport and the multiple universities in Washington DC.

Seattle, similarly, is a major technology centre, including the headquarters of both Amazon and Microsoft.

Cathay Pacific's last new US destination, Boston, was increased to daily service from four-times weekly within two years of its 2015 launch.

The new routes come as US carriers report competitive pressure in the US-China market. This fall, American Airlines will end service between Chicago O'Hare and both Beijing and Shanghai this fall, Delta Air Lines between Seattle and Hong Kong, and Hawaiian Airlines between Honolulu and Beijing.

"Competition is tough [but] we never aim to be the cheapest," says Hogg, explaining that Cathay Pacific focuses on differentiating itself through product and onboard experience.

The airline's routes to the USA, and its entire network, have seen yield improvements to date in 2018, he adds.

Cathay Pacific is the latest in a string of new carriers at Washington Dulles. Primera Air and Volaris Costa Rica have both added the airport to their networks since the beginning of the year.

The additional service is helping boost traffic at Dulles, which fell behind its smaller sibling Ronald Reagan Washington National for the first time in decades in 2015. During the first seven months of 2018, the airport saw traffic increase by 4.8% to 13.7 million, and international passengers by 3.5% to 4.6 million.

"We're excited, we're growing," says Jack Potter, chief executive of operator the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, at the Cathay event. "Domestic passengers are growing, international passengers are growing. We want to continue down that path."

Further growth is expected at both Dulles and National. United Airlines is considering increasing the number of flights it operates at the former by half, and American Airlines plans to replace 50-seat jets with at least 76-seat aircraft when a new regional concourse opens at the latter in 2021.

American operates a hub at National, and United one at Dulles. American and Cathay Pacific are codeshare partners.

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