Cathay Pacific Airways is expected to take delivery of its new Airbus Industrie A340-300 passenger aircraft tomorrow. Leased from United States-based International Lease Finance Corp, the aircraft is part of an HK$8 billion fleet expansion programme announced last year. Cathay, the only Hong Kong-based long-haul carrier, is also due to begin taking delivery of seven of the smaller A330-300s at the end of the week. The A340 is leased for five years with an option to extend. The new aircraft arrive at a time of uncertainty for the region's airlines as the US economy begins to slow. However, Cathay, which is 45 per cent owned by conglomerate Swire Pacific, has seen strong growth both in passenger and cargo numbers over the past few months. In January, the carrier unveiled record passenger figures for last year. The airline said it had flown 11.9 million passengers last year, the highest in its 51-year history. This compares with 10.5 million passengers carried in 1999. Cathay moved 769,075 tonnes of freight against 771,812 tonnes carried the previous year. The number of flights increased 9.2 per cent to 24,572 from 22,511 in 1999.