Cathay Pacific Airways says it will be forced to 'mothball' its remaining Boeing 747-200s if it cannot sell or lease them by the end of this year.

The Hong Kong-based carrier owns seven 747-200 "Classics", and has been attempting to sell or lease them since March this year as a result of a sharp drop in business caused in part by the Asian economic downturn.

Cathay has so far found just one taker for some of its -200s, with two being leased to Virgin Atlantic Airways on five-year contracts with options to purchase. These are currently undergoing maintenance checks in Hong Kong ahead of delivery, says general manager for public affairs with major shareholder Swire Pacific, Andrew Herdman.

Herdman says from Hong Kong that just two 747-200s remain in service, and these are to be retired by December. Three have already been taken out of service but with no takers, they have been parked "indefinitely" in North America. The aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce RB.211 engines.

Although Cathay suffered record losses in the first half of this year, the de-commissioning of the "Classics" does not reflect a bid to regain lost profits, Herdman says.

"We were affected by market conditions, but I am pleased to say that forecasts are looking much better than they were at the beginning of the year," he says.

Cathay will soon take delivery of the first of 10 new firm-ordered aircraft due to enter into its fleet over the next 12 months: Seven Boeing 777-300s; one Airbus Industrie A330-300; and two Airbus A340-300s. The aircraft are to be operated on routes formerly serviced by the "Classics".

With the acquisitions, Cathay will "gain more capacity" despite suffering initial costs, Herdman says, forecasting a growth rate of approximately 6% for the carrier by the end of this year.

Source: Flight Daily News