Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has activated the last of 85 jets it had parked following the worldwide slowdown of air travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After being parked in the Australian desert for nearly four years, an Airbus A330-300 with the registration B-HLV – the first Cathay Pacific aircraft to go into long-term storage in July 2020 – has returned to Hong Kong for “extensive hangar maintenance”,  the carrier disclosed on 11 June. 

The carrier does not indicate when the widebody jet will return to passenger service. 

Cathay Pacific

Source: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s massive aircraft revival project is complete 

Cathay Pacific and low-cost carrier HK Express parked most of their aircraft in Alice Springs, Australia and Ciudad Real, Spain, during the lows of Covid-19. 

The 85 reactivated aircraft include a mix of Boeing 777s and A330s, along with a handful of narrowbody A320-family aircraft positioned with HK Express. 

”As the pandemic began to subside, the Cathay Group commenced the progressive reactivation of these aircraft,” the carrier says. “This involved the performance of a rigorous series of maintenance checks and inspections to ensure safety and performance.” 

The project is “unprecedented” in the airline’s history, says Alex McGowan, Cathay’s chief operations and service delivery officer. 

”Parking and reactivating so many aircraft is a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking, the scale and complexity of which has never been seen before at Cathay,” he says. ”An incredible amount of work goes into keeping an aircraft safe and protected when it isn’t flying, and to then reactivate it for entry back into regular service. 

”To do this for more than 85 aircraft long-term parked overseas, as well as to manage the large number of aircraft that were parked in Hong Kong, is a phenomenal achievement,” McGowan adds.  

All aircraft previously parked in Alice Springs – a town positioned roughly in the geographic centre of the Australia continent – underwent a 14-day preservation check upon arriving in Hong Kong, and the jets are repeatedly inspected to ensure safety. 

Looking ahead, Cathay Pacific is expecting the delivery of more than 70 new jets it has on order. It holds options for a further 52 aircraft. 

The carrier is in the middle of the fleet renewal campaign and expects to make a decision this year on the future of its mid-sized widebody fleet. The new aircraft will likely replace its A330-300s. 

Cirium fleets data show that Cathay currently has nearly 40 A330s in service. 

This story has been edited to correct a factual error regarding the composition of Cathay Pacific’s fleet of reactivated aircraft.