Cathay Pacific Airways is expected to announce a sizeable order for new widebody jets by mid-year, as rival Dragonair enhances its position as a competitor for business from Hong Kong. Dragonair has revealed plans to double the size of its Airbus A330 and A320 fleet and is to launch a freighter service.

Dragonair, as expected, unveiled orders for five new A320s and one A330-300, plus two options. The former Cathay Pacific sister carrier is also leasing an A321 and an A330 from International Lease Finance.


The deal calls for the delivery of one leased A321 in May, two A330s next year and one in 2002. Two A320s will arrive in 2003, two in 2004 and another A320 in 2005, with the final A330 to be confirmed. The order will increase the Chinese-controlled carrier's fleet to 26 aircraft.

Dragonair plans to launch an "intercontinental" freighter service. It is understood this will entail wet-leasing two PolarAir Boeing 747-200Fs. The order is being widely interpreted as a move to compete directly with Cathay Pacific on regional routes beyond its traditional mainland China market after recent changes to Hong Kong's air services agreement with China (Flight International, 8-14 February).

"Dragonair is an international airline. The newly purchased aircraft are for the overall development of Dragonair," says Wang Gui Xiang, Dragonair's chairman.

Cathay Pacific is reviewing its fleet requirements ahead of an expected move to release a request for proposals for additional A330/A340s and Boeing 777s. The carrier plans to acquire new A340-600s or 777-300Xs, but the number will depend on a review of Cathay's future 747-400 fleet.

Two years ago the Hong Kong carrier planned to order up to 20 new 747-400s, A330/340s or 777s, but shelved the scheme because of Asia's economic difficulties. It has recently bolstered its fleet with three leased Air China A340-300s and ordered three A330-300s.

Source: Flight International