Cathay Pacific was founded in Hong Kong by Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow in late September, 1946.
Initially based in Shanghai, the airline soon moved to Hong Kong and started operations with a single Douglas DC-3, nicknamed Betsy.
In 1948, Butterfield & Swire (now known as Swire Group) bought 45% of Cathay Pacific, Australian National Airways took 35%, while Farrell and de Kantzow kept 10% each. The new company was registered as Cathay Pacific (1948) Ltd in October 1948.
The airline acquired its main rival, Hong Kong Airways, on the 1st of July, 1959, recoding double digit growth between 1962 and 1967.
The first jets were introduced in 1964, namely the Convair 880.
In the 1970s, Cathay Pacific took another step forward, installing a computerised reservation system, as well as flight simulators.
First Boeing 747 was acquired in 1979, as the airline started to fly to London.
Expansion continued in the following decade with the opening of many additional routes to Europe and North America, and on the 15th of May, 1986, the airline went public and listed in the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
During the early 1990s, Cathay Pacific Airways launched a program to upgrade its passenger service, this including livery changes and a $9 billion fleet replacement program.
Cathay Pacific is a founding member of the Oneworld Alliance. (February, 1999)
Despite the Asian financial crisis, the airline had a record HK$5 billion profit in 2000.
On the 19th of May, 2000, Cathay Pacific operated the first commercial non-stop transpolar flight from Canada with its Flight 829 from Toronto to Hong Kong.
In June, 2006, Cathay Pacific acquired Dragonair, turning it into a wholly owned subsidiary that continues to operate under its own brand.
In 2006, Cathay Pacific Airways celebrated its 60th anniversary and announced a development for the Cathay Pacific Group and the Hong Kong hub. Cathay Pacific signed an agreement that brought Dragonair into the Cathay Pacific Group as a wholly owned subsidiary and established a closer relationship with Air China, with each airline taking a 17.5% stake in the other. Dragonair’s interior network of more than 20 cities in Mainland China was added to international flights of Cathay Pacific.
In 2007, work began straight away to better align the two carriers’ networks and reduce connecting times in the Hong Kong hub. Dragonair has strengthened most of its services and added a total eight new regional destinations supported by Cathay Pacific’s strong international connections.
In 2008, Cathay Pacific extends their flights in India, adding 20 more services each week and a new destination, the city of Chennai.
In 2009, the company enhanced its own freighter fleet with six new Boeing 747-400 « Extended Range Freighters » in the process of being delivered and 10 new-generation Boeing 747-8F freighters arriving between 2009 and 2012. These are more fuel-efficient aircraft.
In 2010, Cathay Pacific Airways unveiled its latest innovations in product and service: its new Business Class seat, for premium passengers beginning March 2011, and the new uniform for the cabin crew, created by Hong Kong designer Eddie Lau.
In 2011, the company started to strengths Hong Kong’s role as an airfreight hub and began the process of building the new Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal. The inversion of HK $ 4.8 billion added an additional air cargo throughput of 2.6 million tons a year and to all cargo carriers using the airport.
In 2012, Cathay Pacific fleet added a total of 30 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft set to arrive by 2012. These were the backbone of the airline’s ultra-long-haul passenger fleet, with benefits in terms of fuel efficiency.
In 2013, Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it will add a fourth daily direct flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on June of 2014 and three additional direct flights from Chicago to Hong Kong on August of 2014, bringing the number of flights from 10 per week.
In 2014, at the annual Skytrax awards, Cathay Pacific, a 5-Star Airline, was voted Best Airline in Asia and, for the fourth time, World’s Best Airline.
The years 2014 and 2015 were marked by the largest network expansion with six new long-haul routes – Boston, Newark, Doha, Manchester, Dusseldorf, and Zurich.
In November 2015, Cathay Pacific revealed a refreshed livery, featuring its trademark, the « brushwing » logo an all-green tail, but with a simpler paint scheme, and its latest motto – « Life Well Travelled », also used for its subsidiary, Dragonair.
In January 2016, Cathay Pacific announced the rebranding of Dragonair as Cathay Dragon. The Cathay Dragon livery was redesigned by using Cathay Pacific’s iconic « brushwing » logo on an all-red tail, to align more closely the two airlines that will remain separate airlines, each operating under its own license.
In August 2017, Cathay Dragon signed a memorandum of understanding for 32 Airbus A321neo aircraft to modernize and expand its single-aisle fleet from 2020.
In June 2018, Cathay Pacific received its first Airbus A350 1000 aircraft of an order of 20, becoming the second airline in the world to fly the long-range jet. The new Airbus A350 1000 aircraft in a three-class configuration will replace the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on several existing routes, such as Amsterdam, Madrid, and Zurich, after its debut on Cathay Pacific’s newest and longest non-stop route, Hong Kong – Washington.
In July 2019, Cathay Pacific completed the acquisition of Hong Kong Express Airways, a low-cost carrier that provides scheduled service to 27 destinations in Asia. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, HK Express will continue to operate as a stand-alone airline.
In March 2020, Cathay Pacific announced it expects a “substantial” loss in the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic, which hit the aviation industry hard because of travel bans and quarantine measures, forced it to cancel as much as 75% of flights at one point.
During its history, the company was the launch customer for the Boeing 777-300, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 777-200.
Back in July, 1948, a Cathay Pacific-subsidiary-operated Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying from Macau to Hong Kong was the victim of the first hijacking of a commercial plane in the world, followed by a crash that lead to 26 deaths, leaving one survivor.
The last deadly incident involving Cathay Pacific aircraft took place in June, 1972, when a bomb exploded in a suitcase placed under a seat of Cathay Pacific Flight 700Z, killing all 81 people on board.