Cathay Pacific’s ongoing campaign for new mid-sized widebody jets is “still in its early days” with the airline expecting to place an order only in the next few years. 

Shedding more light on its fleet plans, Cathay’s operations chief Alex McGowan says the airline is open to both Airbus and Boeing jets, and that the new aircraft should be able to operatre not just within Asia but also on longer flights, such as to Australia and Europe. 


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cathay has begun its serch for new mid-sized widebody jets which will replace its A330s

McGowan was speaking at a briefing following the release of the airline’s annual results, where it swung back to a net profit in 2023. 

“What we’re looking for… is an aircraft which is capable of multiple missions. That certainly brings Boeing and Airbus aircraft into contention, aircraft which exist today and don’t have a huge degree of certification risk associated with them,” he adds. 

“We are looking at this order to be three or four years between now and delivery,” says McGowan, without elaborating further. 

The Hong Kong-based airline in December 2023 placed a $2.7 billion order for six Airbus A350 freighters, which will replace its fleet of older Boeing 747 freighters. In September, it signed for 32 A321neo/A320neo narrowbodies, firming up options from a 2017 purchase agreement.

The mid-sized fleet renewal campaign was first floated in November 2022, and airline chief Ronald Lam confirmed the airline was looking at new mid-sized aircraft during an interview with FlightGlobal a year later. 

Any new aircraft will likely replace its older A330-300s. The airline operates 43 A330s, some of which will undergo a retrofit with new regional cabin products from 2026. 

McGowan also says the airline has “full confidence” in Boeing being able to deliver its 777-9s – which are yet to be type certificated – on schedule. 

Cathay’s fleet plan shows the airline taking delivery of its first pair – to be fitted with a new first-class product – in late 2025. The airline has 21 examples on order. 

“A… programme team is working with us on that aircraft delivery and we have got full confidence they are going to resolve their current issues and work on delivering that on time to us,” he says. 

Separately, the airline remains coy about whether it was looking at ordering new jets from Chinese airframer Comac. 

Asked about prospects for the C919 narrowbody, McGowan states: “We very much welcome innovation and competition in the aviation industry. [We] see the development of a Chinese made world-class aircraft as a very positive development. We engage with strategic suppliers, including Comac, to support the development of products that will meet our requirements.” 

The C919 flew for the first time outside of Mainland China in December 2023, performing a demonstration flight over downtown Hong Kong.