Cathay to only consider "substantial" order for large aircraft

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Cathay Pacific Airways is still weighing its large passenger aircraft requirements, but it is likely to make a "substantial order" of 10-15 aircraft if it goes ahead.

Airbus and Boeing have been strongly pitching their A380 and 747-8 respectively to Cathay, one of the largest operators of Boeing 747-400s around. However, the airline's chief operating officer John Slosar says that a decision is not imminent.

The Hong Kong flag carrier's order book of 18 Boeing 777-300ERs and 30 Airbus A350-900s is sufficient to meet its long-haul requirements for the next decade, he adds.

"Are we looking at large passenger aircraft? Of course we are. We are always looking at different aircraft. But we have plenty of long-haul aircraft that will arrive over the next few years, and that is enough for our requirements," he says.

"We just bought six more 777-300ERs, which have the longest range of any aircraft. We have also ordered 30 A350s, and may lease a few more to make it maybe 32, 33. These will help us to build up frequencies to our popular destinations, which is what our passengers say they want. It is not the aircraft type, but the frequency to popular slots that really matter."

Both Airbus and Boeing see Cathay as potentially one of the most lucrative customers for their large aircraft. That appears to be borne out by Slosar, who says that if Cathay goes ahead, it will not just order a handful of the large aircraft as that will not be "cost effective".

"Ordering just six to eight aircraft is not ideal. You need at least 10 to 15 in order for it to be cost effective in terms of operations, spares, engines and so on. There are many overheads involved in inducting a new aircraft into the fleet. That's why we must consider the decision very carefully," he says.

The Oneworld alliance member has 21 Boeing 747-400 and 11 Airbus A340-300 passenger aircraft in its fleet, and Slosar says that most of these will be retired over the next five years as they are "not that efficient" anymore.

"When these retire, we will have one of the most efficient long-haul fleets with our 777s and A350s. We are happy to be in that situation," he adds.