Cathay Pacific's low-cost arm HK Express will take delivery of its first Airbus A321neo in October 2022, and 15 more will follow in short order.
Although almost certain to be in an all-economy configuration, the HK Express A321neos will be the only 'Cathay' option for many frequent flyers headed into mainland China and across Asia, due to the carve-up of former Cathay Dragon routes between the two carriers after the regional offshoot was axed in October 2021.
Cathay Dragon's network spanned some 50 destinations, with those routes to be split between Cathay Pacific – which will focus on premium traffic – and HK Express, for destinations with a price-sensitive and predominately leisure market.
However, complicating matters will be that some routes – such as Taipei and Kaohsiung – will be flown by both Cathay Pacific and HK Express.
But Cathay Pacific is determined to see HK Express offering more flights to more destinations, and that growth will be spearheaded by the modern and fuel-efficient Airbus A321neo.
Speaking at a media briefing following the release of Cathay Pacific's 2021 Interim Results, Chief Operations and Service Delivery Officer Greg Hughes said that of the 16 A321neos allocated to HK Express, "the first of those will be delivered in October 2022, and the (other) aircraft will be delivered pretty rapidly thereafter."
HK Express will also inherit some of the Airbus A320 and A321 jets from the Cathay Dragon fleet.
"So that means by the end of 2024, HK Express with these various ins and outs will have a fleet size well into the 40s, up from its current fleet size of 28 aircraft."
Cathay Pacific this month began flying its own Airbus A321neo jets, with four already in the hangars at Hong Kong, two more due in the second half of 2021 and a further ten to follow over 2022-2023.
The Cathay A321neo is the launchpad for Cathay's latest business class seat, designed for shorter-range regional destinations instead of the airline’s longest international routes.
High-tech tricks from tip to tail include seatback 4K video screens which can beam audio via Bluetooth straight to your own wireless headphones.