Cathay Pacific Airways says that it is being actively courted by global airline partnerships - in addition to the Star Alliance - but that is in no rush to make a decision. The Hong Kong carrier also warns that the recent downturn in traffic will affect the timing of its planned decision on ordering new aircraft.

"We're in discussions with most alliance groupings, but are not flaunting ourselves," says Cathay chairman Peter Sutch. "We're no closer to being a member of the Star Alliance than we are to joining any other alliance. We're evaluating it The jury is still out and will be for a while yet," he adds.

The recently established Star Alliance, composed of Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines, has been seeking to recruit Cathay, along with Singapore Airlines (Flight International, 20-26 August). Other possible alliance suitors for Cathay are thought to include the Northwest Airlines/KLM partnership and the planned American Airlines/British Airways/ Qantas grouping.

Cathay has traditionally steered clear of alliances, but the opening of Hong Kong's new airport at Chek Lap Kok in mid-1998 and the airline's access to China via Dragonair, make it an attractive catch. In return, says Sutch, "-we are looking at what, if any, relationship we can enter into that would generate traffic for us, without losing the individuality of our identity and product". He continues to rule out any arrangement which would entail a swap of equity, or a merger.

The airline, in the meantime, is planning to order new widebody aircraft for delivery in 1999 and beyond, to take advantage of the additional slots which the new airport will offer. The recent slump of nearly 40% in traffic in and out of Hong Kong following the 30 June hand-over to China, aggravated by a currency crisis in South-East Asia, is causing the airline to pause in its decision-making process.

Cathay's outstanding orders will be fulfilled by 1999, with the deliveries of its final three Boeing 777-300 twinjets.

Source: Flight International