ANDREW DOYLE / SINGAPORE First of three ex-SIA Airbuses should be in service soon

Cathay Pacific Airways hopes to put the first of three ex-Singapore Airlines (SIA) Airbus A340-300s it is leasing from Boeing into service on 1 August following maintenance checks, painting and a cabin re-fit.

The aircraft are the first of up to 17 A340-300s that the US manufacturer agreed to buy back from SIA as part of a controversial 1999 deal to replace them with 777-200ERs.

Boeing contracted SIA Engineering to carry out D-checks on the A340s it is leasing to Cathay. The aircraft will then fly to Germany for painting by Lufthansa Technik, and to Hong Kong for a cabin refit by Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering before delivery to Cathay.

The first ex-SIA aircraft enters service with Cathay in early August, the second later in the month and the third in October, says the airline's engineering director Derek Cridland. Airbus has issued the necessary service bulletins and modification kits for the passenger cabin refit despite the fact that its arch rival Boeing is buying the A340s, says Cridland. Cathay is already a major Airbus customer.

SIA, which took delivery of 15 of the 17 A340-300s it ordered, is meanwhile considering keeping some of the aircraft in service until 2005 - two years later than the current October 2003 phase-out date. The airline may decide to retain A340s for some European routes.

Boeing is attempting to remarket the remaining SIAA340s, including two not yet delivered. Several have been earmarked for possible lease to Air Jamaica.

Source: Flight International