Cathay Pacific Airways is planning to renew and replace some of its cargo aircraft and has already started discussions with Airbus and Boeing regarding the issue, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Cathay Pacific Cargo is Hong Kong’s largest and one of the world’s largest cargo airlines by capacity. Its business accounts for about 25% of Cathay’s total operating income.

It is considering buying either Airbus A350 freighters or Boeing 777-8F, and the purchase number could reach as many as six, according to the report from Bloomberg.

Cathay Pacific cargo Boeing 747 on apron being loaded

Cathay Pacific Cargo is Hong Kong’s largest cargo airlines by capacity. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Cargo is still in the process of evaluating the specifications of both aircraft models and has not reached the decision point of which to buy and how many. At the same time, the airline is also looking into the feasibility of the freighter conversion of its current passenger aircraft. However, the airline has a tradition of buying new aircraft models.

According to Bloomberg, Cathay said in a statement that it is “constantly looking into our freighter fleet requirements” but has “not come to any decision whatsoever,” which is the same comment given by its Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang in June.

Cathay Pacific Cargo resumed the full capacity of its cargo operations in June, the first time since Hong Kong implemented a strict COVID-19 prevention policy. Cathay’s cargo director Tony Au said it would operate 90 to 100 freighter flights a week.

Cathay Pacific Cargo currently has an all-Boeing fleet of 747 freighters, including 14 747-8Fs, which on average are 9.7 years old, and six older-generation 747-400 extended-range freighters, which are around 13.8 years old, according to

Cathay Pacific Cargo

Cathay Pacific Cargo currently has an all-Boeing fleet of 747 freighters, including 14 747-8Fs and six older-generation 747-400 extended-range freighters. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Cathay is not the only major Asian airline to be interested in ordering dedicated freighter aircraft. Singapore Airlines sealed a deal for seven A350Fs in February, and in the Middle East, Qatar Airways signed up for 34 of the 777X-F aircraft.

Cathay’s burden

Cathay Pacific’s business suffered badly during the pandemic; it carried only 1.1% of its 2019 passengers in February 2022. And with Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy continuing, albeit with some restrictions removed, the passenger business is still significantly below the 2019 level.

Cathay Pacific stated in its 2022 Interim Results, “as the home carrier of Hong Kong, we are entirely focused on resuming connectivity between Hong Kong and the world.”

However, the strict zero-COVID policy affects not only passengers but also the stability of Cathay’s pilot team. Hong Kong-based crew of passenger flights have been forced to spend three nights in hotel quarantine after returning from each trip, a significant factor behind Cathay’s high pilot attrition rate. With the quarantine rules now lifted, Cathay has said it will hire an additional 4,000 staff to fill operational needs over the next 18 to 24 months as travel rebounds, according to Reuters.

Although things are looking up for Cathay, the airline notes that it can only increase its capacity gradually over a period of several months. It is planning to add flights back as quickly as feasibly possible, but has not provided any updated capacity guidance since the changing of the rules.

Source: Bloomberg, Reuters


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