Is American Airlines Going To Deepen Ties With Cathay Pacific?

Aviation watchdog, whose sources inside airlines are generally impeccable, says that there are murmurs of a closer relationship between oneworld carriers American Airlines and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific. This would be surprising to me.

There are limits to how close a relationship that American and Cathay can have (for instance, a joint venture isn’t on the table) given the lack of Open Skies between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

American Airlines no longer flies to Hong Kong. If they did, then deeper ties make sense. It would incentivize American to sell connections beyond Hong Kong.

The two airlines cannot codeshare on routes like New York – Hong Kong where Cathay Pacific routes over Russian airspace. American used to codeshare with Cathay on the route but U.S. rules forced the cessation of this after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Hong Kong International Airport

At one point it seemed like American’s regional connectivity would flow through Guangzhou, with their taking a stake in the largest Chinese airline China Southern. But the partnership never flourished. There were limits on codesharing, and while it left SkyTeam it didn’t join oneworld.

American introduced benefits and lounge access as well as mileage redemption with China Southern but even before the pandemic – and now extreme limits on flying between the U.S. and China – American pulled back on flying to China and wrote down its investment in the carrier.

With Cathay Pacific turning to mainland China, and China’s crackdown in both the mainland and in Hong Kong along with U.S. relations souring it seems an odd time to get closer to a Hong Kong airline.

“Do You hear the people sing,” by the way, is banned in China.

Cathay Pacific can put its code on American Airlines flights connecting to and from their gateways. American Airlines can put its code on Cathay Pacific flights that do not use Russian overflight, but without American flhying to Hong Kong any longer, intra-Asia codeshares (connections beyond Hong Kong) make little sense.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m not sure why CX/AA didn’t form closer ties earlier given how long both have been in Oneworld. AA couldn’t get LAX-HKG to work so I’m sure they considered a CX partnership before.

    It’ll be sad if CX leaves, but it’d also make way for Starlux, which is hurting for an alliance. Oneworld is the only one not taken in Taiwan. I’m guessing CX is the reason they haven’t already joined, given the proximity of TPE to HKG.

  2. The LAX-HKG flights were great for SWUs clearing. I don’t really want to go to HKG now. **Starlux would be a dream.

  3. I suppose it largely depends on what “deeper ties” means…. how long is a piece of string?
    I used to be a very frequent traveler to HKG which before the recent changes, was my favorite city in the World.I want to make one more trip there for nostalgia’s sake, for sure.
    Cathay is the best First Class experience I have had. They may not have the most bling — that would be Emirates — but the service was second to none.

  4. Hong Kong’s place as a hub of business isn’t what it was pre-pandemic, or even pre-2019. While it remains a financial hub, it has been somewhat displaced by Singapore and likely won’t return to its former status any time soon. That does not mean there are not connection opportunities to be had in HKG for AA through CX, but if AA were to relaunch HKG, the only service that makes sense is one from DFW. LAX was an unprofitable venture. SEA seems highly unlikely.

  5. I just wonder if wondering why AMR would do it now is missing the point. My guess is that American would have tried to get closer ties with CX long ago, but that CX with the high service standards previous posters have mentioned, resisted AMR’s advances. Now, with all the problems Gary mentions, CX is a weaker airline and the undefined closer ties may be of some, not necessarily major, help to each airline.

  6. The destination to consider is BKK Bangkok. You can certainly do Singapore, KAL, JAL, ANA. HK is still a disaster but I fly Cathay enough to maintain status to Asia and get the AA oneworld status here. Business class perks, extra luggage, and economy with leg room if i like. Premium Econ in Cathay is good enough. The Hong Kong to BKK flight is under 3 hours. Seoul to BKK is 7. Tokyo to BKK is long. You get it over with by flying to HK, doing a shower and world class service in the Cathay lounges and hopping to Thailand or any SE Asia destination- INCLUDING Singapore. Asia is in demand Flights are 3x more than in 2019 now.

  7. Which route is AA flying? Restore LAX-HKG or DFW-HKG?
    How about launching SEA-HKG or PHX-HKG?

  8. Service on Cathay flights is pitiful right now. A shadow of what it was even 5 years ago. It has been deteriorating prior to Covid. I can’t see how a better partnership will help AA? Or is Cathay begging? I won’t even consider a Cathay flight now. Hong Kong and Macau are on the “do not travel list” from the US State Dept.

  9. Not sure LAX-HKG underperformed for its duration, but certainly underperformed after the rise of the interminable protests of the P.R.C. exerting more control over the civil affairs of the citizenry.

    With regard to a potential deepening of AA-CX ties: Not only does the current U.S.-Hong Kong Air Services Agreement prevent a J.V., there is a limit on the number of codeshare destinations permitted via HKG.

    All-in-all seems a response to UA’s expansion of HKG services.

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