Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has signed a letter of intent with Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways for the lease of five Boeing 747-300s as interim replacements from mid-April for the carrier's six 747-200Bs.


PIA has long been planning a 747-200 replacement programme, examining the Boeing 747-400 and 777 and Airbus A330/A340 as potential replacements. The two-year 747-300 lease will bridge the gap until PIA can take new aircraft.

The move comes a month after the airline said it was close to a lease deal with Singapore Airlines (SIA) on six similar aircraft. "Cathay was prepared to deal on a level which SIA wouldn't," says an Asia-Pacific aviation analyst. The aircraft are expected to be delivered to PIA within five months, with rentals believed to be about $300,000 a month per aircraft.

According to Cathay, the deal accounts for five of the airline's six 747-300s, which it recently announced it intends to retire from service. Cathay says it is still looking to sell or lease the sixth aircraft.

It is believed that the two-year lease will include a subsequent option to buy the aircraft over 10 years, which would raise a question mark over the Pakistani airline's commitment to buying new aircraft. Neither party will comment on the terms of the lease until the contract has been signed.

PIA's Pratt & Whitney JT9D-powered 747-200s have an average age exceeding 24 years. The Cathay aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce RB211-524s, and sources close to the airline say the deal with PIA will include maintenance and engine support provided by the Hong Kong carrier.

Cathay says it is retiring the 747s "due to the impact of the Asian economic downturn on passenger demand". The airline has removed seven 747-200s from its fleet, leasing two to Air Atlanta and two to Virgin Atlantic. The remaining three have been parked.

Source: Flight International