Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is in talks with aircraft lessors as it seeks to source as many as 50 of Airbus SE’s A320neo-type aircraft, people familiar with the discussions said, with Hong Kong’s main carrier aiming to ramp up and potentially expand following the scrapping of Covid curbs.
Given Airbus’s order book that stretches out several years, Cathay and its low-cost unit HK Express are initially looking at the leased-jet market to get planes faster, said the people, asking not to be identified as the discussions aren’t public. While the company would like to buy new jets directly from Airbus, the planemaker is booked up through 2029.
Together, Cathay and HK Express currently have a combined 222 aircraft in their fleet, including 40 A320 family jets. After three years of effectively closed borders and crippling quarantine rules, Cathay is seeking a comeback, with new Chief Executive Officer Ronald Lam eyeing a return to net profit on resurgent flight demand.
A Cathay Pacific spokesman said the company had no comment.
CEO Lam said in a recent interview with Bloomberg News that the carrier was assessing its options when it comes to aircraft. “We have replacement needs for the widebody fleet and we have growth needs for the narrowbody fleet, and we will look at all options and make sure that we get the most suitable deals,” he said.
Cathay was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, as Hong Kong imposed stringent measures on travelers and crew, including mandatory hotel quarantine. That left the airline with just a few hundred passengers a day in the depths of the crisis.
Traffic has been steadily climbing since the Covid policies were abandoned, however, and Cathay flew about 1.1 million passengers last month.
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