HK's Cathay adds 27 Boeing, Airbus jets to fleet

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 2:06 AM

HONG KONG -- Cathay Pacific Airways is ordering 27 new Airbus and Boeing jets to expand services, especially in Asia, and says profit tripled last year to a record.

Hong Kong's biggest airline said Wednesday it signed a deal with Airbus SAS for 15 A330-300 airplanes and another with Boeing Co. for 10 777-300ER jets. Cathay has also agreed to lease two Airbus A350-900s from International Lease Finance Corp.- adding this jet to its fleet for the first time.

The airline said the 27 jets are worth 51 billion Hong Kong dollars ($6.5 billion) at sticker prices but it's getting a big discount, a common practice in such deals.

The new jets will allow Cathay to continue expanding its passenger routes as well as help the airline save on fuel, its biggest cost, by retiring older, thirstier jets.

Cathay's Airbus A330-300s are primarily used on routes within Asia while its Boeing 777-300ER jets are mainly used on long-haul routes. All will be delivered by the end of 2015.

The announcement follows the airline's biggest ever order announced in September, for 36 aircraft, including 30 from Airbus and six from Boeing.

The airline is in talks to buy 14 more aircraft, but did not give any more details.

Cathay also said that full-year profit for 2010 tripled to a record 14.05 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.8 billion) from 4.69 billion Hong Kong dollars in 2009.

The airline credited a recovery from the global financial crisis that began in the second half of 2009 for helping both passenger and cargo businesses.

"The momentum was sustained throughout 2010," a Cathay statement said.

The announcement underscores how surging Asian economic growth is spurring demand for air travel.

Both Airbus and Boeing predict that Asia will overtake North America and Europe as the world's biggest air transport market and account for a third of global aircraft demand over the next 20 years.

Cathay's order follows others from Chinese airlines announced Tuesday at an air show in Hong Kong.

China's HNA Group said two airlines it operates are buying 38 Boeing jets, and five each from Gulfstream and Dassault Falcon. Air China, which is the country's biggest airline and owns 30 percent of Cathay, said it's buying five Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental passenger jets.

ILFC on Tuesday said it's buying 100 jets from Airbus and 33 from Boeing.

© 2011 The Associated Press