In late 2019 Cathay Pacific announced plans to halt flying from Hong Kong to JFK via Vancouver. With the onset of COVID-19 the termination of the route accelerated. Flights stopped in February 2020. Next month, however, the carrier seems keen to bring back the service, also likely driven at least in part by COVID-related policies.
The new service will, however, differ significantly from the prior operation in at least one key way: Local traffic will not be carried between New York City and Vancouver.
The regulatory filing requests access to operate a connecting service from JFK to Hong Kong via Vancouver. The existing flight schedules between Hong Kong and Vancouver will increase to daily service from the currently planned 3x weekly. An additional pair of flight numbers will be added for the Vancouver-JFK turn.
Historically the Vancouver stop had all passengers deplane and those continuing onward remain in a holding area while the aircraft was cleaned. The published connection time in Vancouver of 35 minutes in each direction makes that a very difficult proposition.
The filing also describes a connection to B747 equipment, which is almost certainly a mistake. Cathay no longer operates passenger 747s.
UPDATE 5 July 2022 10:50a EDT: Cathay Pacific filed an update, indicating that the HKG-YVR onward connection is a Boeing 777, not a 747 as initially mentioned. This still does not align with currently filed schedules, but at least it is a passenger aircraft rather than cargo.
How Cathay Pacific handles the tight connection, including whether passengers switch aircraft, remains to be seen. One option could see bags and cargo destined for
Hong Kong Vancouver in separate containers, offloaded quickly, along with those passengers, during the stop. The lighter loaded plane would then continue to JFK. On the return the additional containers and passengers would similarly board at Vancouver, joining the passengers from JFK. Or the flight timings will be adjusted.
The A350 could easily make the trip to JFK nonstop from Hong Kong. Stopping in Vancouver may, however, help the carrier conserve limited crew as it resumes operations. Extending the trip to JFK, even with a swap at Vancouver, should require fewer total staff than running both the Vancouver and JFK flights separately.
It would be even more efficient if Cathay still had a crew base in Vancouver, but that closed two year ago in some of the company’s earliest COVID-related cuts.
There’s also the issue of Russian air space. The flight from Hong Kong to JFK easily avoids that issue, taking advantage of the jetstream across the Pacific.
The return flight, however, typically would fly polar. The current non-stop options are not using Russian airspace, so the trip is longer than it used to be. But not so long that a Vancouver stop is absolutely required.
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