Cathay Pacific Airways has finalised plans for a complete overhaul of all-cargo subsidiary Air Hong Kong that will see the unit acquiring regional freighters for routes within Asia.

Cathay has been studying a revamp of Air Hong Kong for some time and last year decided to refocus the subsidiary's operations in partnership with DHL Worldwide Express, which late in 2002 acquired a 30% stake. Air Hong Kong has now confirmed that it will order six new-build Airbus A300-600Fs for delivery from 2004 and take options on four more. The aircraft on firm order will be delivered between the second half of 2004 and the first quarter of 2005.

The order marks a major step towards a complete shift in focus for Air Hong Kong, which like its 70%-owner Cathay has traditionally operated larger Boeing 747 freighters to long-haul destinations. It now exclusively serves points within Asia, where growth rates are much higher, rather than more mature long-haul markets. Two of its three 747-200Fs have been returned to Cathay's own cargo operation, along with the long-haul routes.

The revamp also forms part of a major expansion of a highly successful tie-up between Cathay and DHL. Cathay has for several years been carrying express freight for DHL on overnight flights to four points in Asia using passenger aircraft, and the two have been considering an expansion with dedicated freighter aircraft for some time.

Air Hong Kong chairman Tony Tyler says the A300-600F order represents "a great step forward in Air Hong Kong's development and its partnership with DHL". The aircraft are expected to operate dedicated services for DHL at night carrying express freight, and to Asian points by day carrying general cargo.

"This very significant fleet expansion demonstrates Air Hong Kong's commitment to enhancing Hong Kong's position as Asia's leading air cargo hub, and to strengthening the scope and quality of service that we already provide DHL," Tyler adds. Cathay acquired a first A300 freighter for all-cargo subsidiary Air Hong Kong last year on a wet-lease basis as an initial test in the revamp plan.

Air Hong Kong has now stopped serving Brussels, Dubai and Manchester, and instead focuses on services to Japan and South Korea. It plans to expand with many more intra-Asia services as the fleet grows.


Source: Airline Business