Max Kingsley-Jones / London & Leithen Francis / Singapore

Airlines line up to take used aircraft, but it is unclear if this will spell a long-term upturn

Analysts say it is too early to predict whether the increased interest in secondhand Boeing 747-400s from airlines in Asia and Europe suggests a long-term upturn in the fortunes for the 400-seat widebody.

Cathay Pacific plans to acquire up to 15 747-400s in the next few years, while Malaysia Airlines is believed to be seeking two secondhand aircraft. Thai Airways International is acquiring seven ex-United Airlines aircraft. Meanwhile, French charter airline Corsair is believed to be finalising a deal to replace its five 747-300s with ex-United -400s.

According to Airclaims, there are 33 idle 747-400s and the consultancy director Edward Pieniazek of the UK consultancy says these deals "do not address the overall inventory imbalance". He adds, however, that with Asia's post-SARS recovery making good progress "others could come out of the woodwork and may start a trend".

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific says it is "looking to buy up to 15 747-400s over the next few years. Some will be used for passengers and some will be converted into freighters." Cathay operates 19 747-400 passenger aircraft and five freighters, all of which are Rolls-Royce RB211-powered.

The airline's Oneworld alliance partner British Airways, which operates 57 RB211-powered 747-400s, has been looking to reduce the fleet by about 20% and has held on-off talks with Cathay about a deal.

Corsair operates five 747-300s and is thought to be acquiring Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered, ex-United 747-400s to replace them after evaluating an offer from Boeing for similar, ex-Singapore Airlines machines that are being returned to the US manufacturer. Corsair's deal is thought to include the trade-in of its -300s.

MAS, which operates 17 PW4000-powered -400s, is looking for two all-passenger examples with P&W engines. The airline returned two General Electric CF6-powered 747-400 combis to Boeing last year.

Thai concluded a deal with Star Alliance partner United earlier this year for seven 747-400s.

Source: Flight International