Airbus A380 or Boeing 747-8? Cathay Pacific weighs up its options

By David Flynn, September 23 2013

Don’t expect Cathay Pacific to place an order for the Airbus A380 or Boeing’s 747-8 Intercontinental any time soon.

Despite ongoing speculation that the Hong Kong carrier is set to sign up for one of the two duelling superjumbos, the airline seems quite happy with its stretched single-deck twin-engine jets such as the Boeing 777-300ER and, from 2016, the Airbus A350.

Read: Cathay Pacific scopes out new first, business class for Airbus A350

"The ‘big twins’ have definitely been very very successful for us” says Toby Smith, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager, Product. “They’re very efficient and the passengers love them, so they will definitely remain the core of our long haul fleet”.

“As for double deckers, nothing is excluded, it’s more a question of whether or not on selected routes there’s a need for a double decker” Smith tells Australian Business Traveller.

“For example, we now have four flights a day to Sydney. Would we go to five? Well actually we haven’t got any more rights – that’s still being looked at – so potentially that could be one market where you might see them, but it’s not on the horizon.” 

Read: Cathay Pacific wants more flights to Australia

In the meantime, Cathay Pacific is continuing the retirement of its Boeing 747-400s, with the flagship Hong Kong-London route ditching the jumbo and switching to the more modern and fuel-efficient Boeing 777-300ER from the end of this year.

This will be Cathay’s eighth 747 put out to pasture since 2012, with 13 more to be progressively retired through this decade.  

So what happens to a second-hand 747? Don’t go looking for them on eBay.

“We are always looking for opportunities to sell the retired aircraft as a whole or for parts” says a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman.

Boeing sometimes buys them back, and earlier this year inked a deal with Cathay to purchase four Boeing 747-400s to be converted into freighters.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

It is quite admirable that CX has not jumped on the A380 bandwagon.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

It suits their model of growing through frequency, and the largest thing they needed was a 747-400 replacement. The problem is that they need a heavy lifter to put on the London route, because that is one route they cannot grow through additional frequency. Of course, there's nothing stopping them from having a Mancunian or Midland service...

Still, I think the A380 works well for some airlines and not so well for others. Singapore Airlines has used to to compact some of its strongest routes - its one-stop services to America come to mind (e.g. SIN-NRT-LAX, SIN-HKG-SFO). But it works because they actually have enough of these strong routes, unlike Malaysia Airlines which is stuck with a small, expensive handful for little more use than LHR. Even MH is growing Australian services through frequency (the move to triple-daily A330s for SYD and MEL).

So it works for some airlines and doesn't for others.


31 Aug 2013

Total posts 12

Isn't the 777-300ER a bit like the 747 combi in its capacity? I think this would also make CX reluctant to expand through the A380, because they'll carry more passengers but not necessarily more cargo.

My guess is CX won't have a strong business case for the A380 for the next 3-5 years. It might happen after they've received the A350s and see that doesn't cover growth. If slots are taken away that'd be a major incentive too! Then they'll have a surefire case for the A380. I think it'll come after the A350-1000 & before the 777-9X, and it won't happen if there's the slightest opportunity at all for more slots at LHR,JFK and SYD.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

That's something I forgot about - yes, Cathay makes an insane amount of its money from cargo in the belly of passenger aircraft. This would obviously be a major motivation for them.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

I like that Cathay looks to have more frequency with smaller aircraft rather then less frequency with bigger planes. Take SYD - HKG... With four flights a day on A330's I can pick and choose what time I need to get to HKG rather than being restricted to one flight per day. Works for me!

06 Feb 2013

Total posts 6

748 makes no sense, even LH is gonna resell to Boeing. Either A388 or 779X depends on which route.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Where did you hear that LH are reselling their 748's to Boeing?

They have 19 ordered and only 9 delivered. They have ordered  25 A350's and 34 777-9's to replace their 744 fleet but there has been no comment about selling the 748's or even cancelling the remaining planes yet to be delivered....

06 Feb 2013

Total posts 6

I meant they are going to withdraw it from service after 2020. However it was only a rumor from German media, I thought either or - but if it is true, I can understand the decision.

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