Cathay will mine personal data to tailor business-class service

Cathay Pacific Chairman John Slosar

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is mining the data of its business- class customers so they’ll keep spending with the airline.

The company has invested “a lot” in its data capability to find out what its premium customers like and is tailoring offerings specific to them, Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. In addition, the Hong Kong flagship carrier plans to introduce a new product in its business-class cabin in the second half, he said.

“We are doing what we would call sub-furnishing the environment, the ambiance of the business-class cabin. It’s mainly things that aren’t structural,” Hogg said. “It’s everything that will make that journey comfortable,” such as for sleeping, he said.

The efforts are part of Cathay’s three-year transformation program started in 2017 when Hogg assumed the top post. The carrier is seeking to strengthen its financial health after taking a beating from competition from China to the Middle East. Mining client data enables precision and is what any consumer company is doing, according to aviation analyst Mohshin Aziz of Maybank Investment Bank Bhd.

Cathay “definitely” needs to take advantage of data mining, said Mohshin. “By doing this correctly, you can have repeat customers.”

Reaping dividends

The data analysis is helping Cathay “understand what people like and what they don’t like,” Hogg said. “That’s really paying dividends.”

After cutting jobs and slimming down its operating structure, the airline posted its first full-year profit in 2018 following two straight annual losses. As part of the overhaul, the carrier also added international routes and lured customers with improved service offerings and meals for premium fliers.

Echoing the passenger reach of rival Singapore Airlines Ltd., whose operations range from budget to premium customers, Cathay has also changed its view about the low-cost-carrier business. Operating a budget airline was something that Hogg ruled out two years ago at the start of the transformation program.

‘Unique segment’

“It’s a unique segment to the market,” Hogg said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Yvonne Mann and Rishaad Salamat yesterday. “It’s a stimulatory type of model and it’s changed a lot.”

The airline said this month that it’s in “active discussions” to buy shares in Hong Kong’s only budget carrier from debt-laden Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co. A successful acquisition of Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd. would fill a hole in Cathay’s product offering, according to Rahul Kapoor and Chris Muckensturm, analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence.

Cathay has added 31 of the more fuel-efficient Airbus SE A350s to help start new destinations, and has also cut its overall fuel consumption, Hogg said. The carrier is making Wi-Fi available on its widebodies used for long-haul flights by 2020, and thereafter on its narrow-body aircraft operated by its Cathay Dragon unit.

“We’re really focused on productivity rather than cost cutting because productivity is about doing things smarter,” the executive said. MDT/Bloomberg

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