Cathay still looking at double decker

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am


With rising fuel costs taking their toll, the carrier may have to order the energy-saving Airbus A380

Cathay Pacific Airways may add Airbus Industrie's giant A380 to its fleet, although not in the short term, according to the airline's engineering director, Derek Cridland.

'Aircraft such as the A380 is something we are looking at,' Mr Cridland said, adding the airline was currently focusing on mid-sized planes for immediate fleet purchases, details of which should be decided by the end of the year.

Mr Cridland's comments came as Cathay took delivery of its 26th Airbus A330-300 from Toulouse this week. The plane will be used for flights of about nine hours, including the Hong Kong to Sydney route.

The airline has ordered a further three A330-300's from the manufacturer, and has firm orders with Boeing for a B777-300 and five used B747-400's.

Cathay has so far declined to commit to the double-decker A380, dubbed the 'flagship of the 21st century' by its manufacturer for its size and costs savings. With 555 seats, it can carry up to 35 per cent more passengers than its rival, the Boeing 747.

'We are looking at it,' Mr Cridland stressed, however.

Airbus so far has 159 firm orders for the plane from 16 customers, including Air France, Emirates, Korean Air, Qantas Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

The first delivery is scheduled to be made to Singapore Airlines (SIA), although the date was recently pushed back due to production delays. SIA had scheduled the first flight for March next year.

Keith Stonestreet, product marketing director for the A380 at Airbus, described the setback as the airline being the victim of its own success. 'We've got a new customer roughly every month. Every time we have a new customer, they have their own special requirements,' he said.

'All of those airlines are coming through the production line at the same time.'

He said the first delivery - to SIA - would be in the fourth quarter of next year. This would be followed by deliveries to Emirates and Qantas in early 2007.

The A380 was first revealed to the public in January this year, and made its first test flight in April. The second A380 should fly soon, according to Airbus.

By 2009, the double-decker plane is expected to serve four Chinese destinations, with 152 weekly passenger and freight flights. Sixty airports worldwide will see the A380 service by 2010.

The airliner burns 12 per cent less fuel than the industry benchmark, the Boeing 747, a factor that is taking on rising importance given the current climate of climbing fuel costs.

Cathay has been among several airlines to add fuel levies to passenger ticket prices, and Mr Cridland stressed that rising fuel costs were taking a toll.

'Obviously we are hurting with fuel [costs] ... the tremendous increase in fuel prices is hurting the whole industry. Although planes are going more efficiently, they still burn fuel,' he said.