The Airbus A380 may need to be able to carry more cargo if it is to become a viable option for a future Cathay Pacific Airways large-sized aircraft order.
The Hong Kong-based carrier derives around 30% of its revenues from the cargo business during a good year, and it was a mainstay for the company during a crisis like the SARS epidemic in 2004, says Cathay's chief operating officer John Slosar.
"We like aircraft that can have both good passenger and cargo loads. The [Airbus] A330 does that, and the [Boeing] 777-300ER carries a lot of cargo as well," says Slosar.
"In the A380, it is not possible to carry a lot of cargo due to the design. That means that if we operate that aircraft, we have to earn a lot more revenue from the passenger business and not the cargo business. But the cargo business is important for us - it really supported Cathay during SARS, for example."
Airbus and Boeing, which manufactures the 747-8 that competes with the A380 in the large airliner market, have been pushing the Oneworld alliance member to make an order to replace its 21 Boeing 747-400s and 11 Airbus A340-300s.
Industry sources say that Cathay is pushing Airbus to develop a stretched version of the A380, which would fit its cargo and passenger requirements, before it commits to the aircraft. The airline has ordered 10 747-8 freighters, which it feels suit its cargo business, but it remains undecided about the passenger variant.
Slosar says that most of Cathay's 747-400s and A340s will be retired over the next five years as they are "not that efficient" anymore. The airline's order book includes 18 Boeing 777-300ERs and 30 Airbus A350-900s that will be delivered over the next decade, and he says that these are sufficient for its immediate long-haul plans requirements.