Cathay orders six more A350-900s
Cathay Pacific Airways splashed out on an order for six additional Airbus A350-900s yesterday, and will deploy the planes on European routes after taking delivery in 2016 and 2017.
The airline, which already has more than 90 aircraft on order, said the basic list price of the planes totaled US$1.63 billion, but that it had received 'significant price concessions' from Airbus.
The European planemaker raised the list price of most of its aircraft by 3.9 per cent from January 1.
Captain Richard Hall, the airline's director of flight operations, said the aircraft, which can seat 314 people in three classes, are unlikely to replace the carriers' ageing Boeing 747-400s which are 17 to 24 years old.
Instead, they will be used to increase flight frequencies to existing destinations and help Cathay Pacific add more cities to its network. Hall said it was too early to say which new services could be launched using the aircraft.
The carrier already has 32 A350-900s on order that were contracted with Airbus in September 2010 and March last year. Some 19 smaller Airbus A330-300s and 26 Boeing 777-300ERs have also been ordered for passenger services, together with additional freighters.
Andrew Orchard, a regional transport analyst at RBS, was 'not that surprised' by the latest deal which took Cathay Pacific's total order tally to almost 100 aircraft.
'It does sound a lot, but they will come in stages,' he said, adding that many of them would replace existing aircraft so the 'actual capacity increase is quite small'.
Cathay Pacific said the A350-900s purchase would be financed by bank loans, other debt instruments and cash reserves.
The carrier will make seven interim payments on each of the aircraft, followed by a 'substantial' payment on delivery. Orchard said the possibility of higher interest rates is among the challenges facing the carrier.
Martin Craigs, chief executive of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said the new order meant 'more non-stop services' and 'more connectivity to Hong Kong'.
He said it showed Cathay Pacific's commitment to 'long-term planning' in expanding the airline despite relatively short-term economic concerns.
The A350s will be more fuel efficient than the carrier's existing fleet. Airbus claimed the aircraft, which will be capable of flying 8,100 nautical miles non-stop, will burn 25 per cent less fuel and be 25 per cent cheaper to operate.
But production difficulties have delayed the A350 series by several months.
Final assembly of the first test aircraft, which was initially due to start by the end of last year, is scheduled to begin by June, with the first flight in the first quarter of 2013.
Launch customer Qatar Airways is now due to receive its first A350-900 in the first half of 2014, six months later than planned, while Cathay Pacific will get its first aircraft in 2016.
The latest deal came a month after Airbus said it signed a deal for 10 double-deck A380s with Hong Kong Airlines on December 19.
The order was confirmed by Airbus in its review of 2011 orders and deliveries published last Tuesday.
The list price, in US dollars, of Cathay Pacific's order for more than 90 aircraft for delivery through 2019 before its latest order