Cathay Pacific appoints long-serving executive Ronald Lam as next CEO


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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday that long-serving executive Ronald Lam would take over as chief executive from Jan. 1, with current boss Augustus Tang set to retire, as the pandemic-hit airline rebuilds capacity.

Lam, who joined Cathay in 1996, was previously the airline’s chief customer and commercial officer. The 50-year-old was viewed by analysts as the most likely successor to Tang at an airline where the chief executive’s tenure is usually around three years.

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Tang and Lam took on the top jobs at Cathay in August 2019 after Chief Executive Rupert Hogg and Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Paul Loo resigned amid mounting Chinese regulatory scrutiny of the Hong Kong carrier over the involvement of its employees in the city’s anti-government protests.

Tang, 64, was previously the chief executive of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company, which like Cathay is managed by Swire Pacific Ltd, and had been close to retirement before stepping in to run the airline at a time of crisis, according to industry sources.

Cathay appointed its director of customer travel Lavinia Lau, 52, as its new chief customer and commercial officer, placing her in a strong position to eventually become the airline’s first female chief executive.

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Cathay Chairman Patrick Healy said in a statement that Lam would lead the airline through its post-COVID recovery and the introduction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport, as well as overseeing its dual-brand strategy with low-cost carrier HK Express.

The airline is looking to rebuild capacity now that Hong Kong has ended onerous hotel quarantine rules for passengers and crew.

The airline’s passenger numbers in September were 89% below the same month in 2019, when traffic had already been lower than normal because of anti-government protests at the time.

Cathay has said it expects to reach a third of pre-pandemic passenger capacity by year-end, well below the 81% target set by rival Singapore Airlines Ltd.

The Hong Kong carrier, which plans to hire 4,000 more staff over the next 18 to 24 months as travel rebounds, has said adding more flights is a priority but it would take time to train crew and reactivate aircraft. (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)


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