Cathay Pacific About to Rebrand, Focus on Its Core Asian-ness By Becoming an Online Travel Agency

The American Airlines rebranding was incredibly expensive. And while it’s true that the new composite aircraft they’ve ordered need painting rather than brushed metal, painting all the aircraft anew – not to mention changing all the signage, even making new napkins and updating websites, was a huge undertaking.

I’d suspect it didn’t help them on net to sell a single additional ticket, or a ticket they would have otherwise sold but at a higher price.

Now Cathay Pacific is about to reveal a brand refresh.

Here’s the concept:

“‘Travelling well’ will be a core part of the brand refresh” reveals Dane Cheng, Cathay Pacific’s Director of Sales & Marketing.

“We see Cathay Pacific as global brand which is not just about the airline but about the lifestyle, about travelling well and travelling in style and being well looked after,” Cheng tells Australian Business Traveller.

But what does this mean in practice?

[T]he launch of an online “retail travel platform” in early November through which Cathay Pacific will sell “a range of premium travel products” Cheng says. “Not just airfares but hotels, car hire, the whole journey, which fits into ‘travel well’.”

They’re going to be an online travel agency selling this like hotels, cars, and other travel-related experiences. Kind of like Expedia. And kind of like United CEO Dick Ferris renaming the company ‘Allegis’ in 1987 and trying to transform the company into a travel cross-selling entity with its owned hotel and car companies. That experiment lasted about 15 months before Ferris was gone and the company was again called ‘United’. (At various points, Westin, Hilton, and Hertz were United subsidiaries — so it’s interesting to see Hertz again in such close partnership with United, while Westin’s parent is hooked up with Delta and Hilton without an exclusive airline dance partner.)

I have to imagine the marketing consultants that came up with this idea cost a lot of money.

Which is why the old ideas (which may well be incrementally valuable) get packaged and explained as the airline’s “Asian-ness.”

“We’re very proud of our Asian roots and we have our cabin attendants from most of the Asian countries, and Asia is very famous for hospitality and service standards, so the whole brand proposition retains a lot of this Asian-ness.”

Airlines need to stop paying for things like this and spend on their inflight product and capital investments instead.

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. Gary, it is silly and incorrect to say they’re being an OTA, they’re just doing what American and a number of other carriers already do which is partnering with a white label third party to sell non-air inventory (Travel Holdings does this for AA, Bank of America, etc., in addition to the standard affiliate businesses that all the OTAs run for publishers and hotel groups).

    This is just some fancy marketing speak on top of what is already frequently done by many of their competitors.

  2. AA rebranding unsuccessful? You have lost touch with travelers–many almost think it’s a NEW airline!

  3. I have to disagree…the old AA branding was dated and left the absolute wrong impression with consumers. It didn’t project anything an airline should be: friendly, safe, reliable.

    I think it is more accurate to say that the new branding won’t sell a single extra ticket among people who have already made up their minds about airlines – frequent flyers, people over 35, etc.

    But among young people, or people with low involvement who are making decisions they rarely make, the look and feel of a company can make a difference when they’re picking the AA 8:05 flight for $273 or the Delta 8:25 flight for $272. Those people are potential future loyal customers.

    You don’t rebrand for your customers, you rebrand for your future customers. And AA was stuck in 1964 until recently.

  4. Not all that “Asian” really. Southwest already does all of this. Oh, except for the “traveling well” part 🙂

    But they do encourage you to rent your hotel rooms and rental cars as part of the flight booking process.

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