In 2016 – the same year it marked its 70th anniversary – Cathay Pacific posted a US$74.01m (HK$575m) annual loss for the year.

After enjoying decades of prosperity, the financial results were a wakeup call for the Hong Kong-headquartered airline, struggling to meet keen competition “flooding in” from rival mainland Chinese and Middle Eastern carriers.

In 2017, Cathay pivoted its course by embarking on a transformation programme to turn around the entire business.

The move is paying off according to general manager of brand, insights and marketing communications, Edward Bell, speaking at the Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore.

The airline is now – as Bell put it – “back in black, as AC/DC used to say”. In March this year, Cathay reported a net profit of US$295m (HK$2,345m) for 2018.

Brand-led for the long haul

“For a big company like Cathay, change is easy to say but it’s hard to do,” said Bell. The industry veteran – who left his CEO role at FCB China in 2017 to join the airline as a specialist.