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Breaking Travel News interview: Adrian Bastow, UK head of sales and marketing, Cathay Pacific

Adrian Bastow joined Cathay Pacific in August 2014

With nearly 20 years’ sales and marketing experience, serving a range of customers on all major continents, Adrian Bastow is certainly considered a safe pair of hands at Cathay Pacific Airways.

Having recently worked a five year stint as EMEIA marketing director at Travelport, he also held a number of senior roles at companies including Intermec and Acer before taking over as UK head of sales and marketing for the Hong Kong-based carrier in August last year.

His first major task in the role was the launch of a new service out of Manchester Airport to Hong Kong, with the carrier operating the route four times a week from early December.

Speaking to Breaking Travel News, Bastow explains the airline plans to tap into existing demand from Chinese travellers seeking to visit the north-west of England.

“We were drawn to the opportunities presented by Manchester,” he explains.

“This is third biggest airport in the UK, and a major centre for investment. There is a strong academic community in the north-west of England, with many Chinese students studying, while tourism is also growing.

“According to the Barclays’ Tourist Dynamics report, Chinese visitor spending is set to increase by 73 per cent to £52 million in Manchester over the next four years.

“Being so far from our other base at Heathrow, it made sense for Cathay Pacific to offer this option.”

Airport City Manchester, a new office, logistics and advanced manufacturing development at Manchester Airport, is also a major draw, with Bastow adding: “We had a significant cargo operation there and were looking to grow this.”

The Manchester route is operated in addition to the five-times daily flight out of Heathrow, a mainstay of the Cathay Pacific European operations.

Both allow Cathay to tap into ever growing demand from business travellers looking to access markets in Hong Kong and wider China.

Foreign direct investment from the UK to China totalled nearly £6.7 billion in asset stocks last year, according to Branching Out: Investment Opportunities in China in 2020 report from King & Wood Mallesons.

The global law firm expects this to rise to £26 billion by 2020 as the Chinese economy opens up to foreign capital.

“It is also important to remember some 63 per cent of this investment into China from the UK goes through Hong Kong,” explains Bastow.

Cathay Pacific recently launched its Life Well Travelled global marketing campaign, alongside a new website and brand logo 

But with a spate of accidents - including the loss of AirAsia flight QZ8501 and Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014 - has the Asian aviation market been hit with a loss of confidence in recent months?

Bastow is coy, preferring to stay focused on the potential for long-term aviation growth in the region.

Cathay Pacific recently welcomed a commitment from Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, stating the government would continue to plan and adopt measures to enhance the status of the destination as an international aviation and logistics hub.

This is believed to include government support for the development of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport, potentially presenting Cathay with a significant opportunity for future growth.

Recent political developments in Hong Kong have also had no impact on flights from the UK, Bastow adds.

“From the Cathay Pacific perspective, we trust that a pragmatic consensus can be reached and that the debate can move forward from that,” he explains.

The winds of the global economy may also benefit Cathay Pacific, and the aviation industry more generally, in another way, with the cost of oil falling by 50 per cent to $50 a barrel in the past six months.

This has allowed prices to fall on flights, explains Bastow.

“Set by the Hong Kong Aviation Authority, our fuel surcharge is very transparent,” he explains. “It has been significantly reduced; down to £53 on a long-haul flight, a 30 per cent reduction over the year and 17 per cent fall over the last month.”

Inside the airline Cathay is also taking measures to ensure it maintains its reputation for service.

Changes to the Marco Polo Club are expected “in the coming months” after the airline was criticised for oversubscribing the programme, diluting the benefits to loyal customers, while Bastow also points to a partnership with Mandarin Oriental.

The deal will see Mandarin craft unique in-flight menus for the airline over the coming 12 months, with top chefs from various renowned Mandarin Oriental properties each designing menus with their own styles and characteristics.

These menus will be offered to First Class passengers travelling on Cathay Pacific flights between Hong Kong and London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Boston at different seasons throughout the course of 2015.

“For our First Class passengers this is an exciting development,” explains Bastow.

“Hopefully guests can see the Hong Kong link, but also the passenger will see this deal reflected in the service.

“Cathay’s First Class already differentiates itself and this is an addition to that.

“Our philosophy of connectivity and end-to-end service continues to apply and we are very proud of that.”

More Information

Cathay Pacific Airways is a Hong Kong-based international airline offering scheduled passenger and cargo services to almost 190 destinations in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe and Africa, using a fleet of more than 140 wide-body aircraft. 

The airline is a member of the Swire group and has made substantial investments to develop Hong Kong as one of the world’s leading global transportation hubs.

The airline is a founder member of the oneworld global alliance.

For more information take a look at the official website.