Key Points:

  • Cathay Pacific is reportedly leaning towards ordering around six Airbus A350 freighters to update its aging fleet of 747 cargo jets.

  • The decision, which is yet to be confirmed, reflects a shift in preference from the Boeing 777-8F, which Cathay had initially considered.

  • Cathay Pacific, as one of the world's leading air freight carriers, plays a significant role in the competition between Airbus and Boeing for freighter aircraft.

Cathay Pacific's Strategic Fleet Modernization

Cathay Pacific Airways is reportedly contemplating a significant update to its cargo fleet by placing an order for approximately six Airbus A350 freighters. This move aims to modernize the oldest segment of its fleet, currently composed of 747 cargo jets. If confirmed, this decision represents a notable recovery for Airbus's wide-body freighter, especially after Cathay Pacific earlier this year seemed to favor Boeing's 777-8F. However, the Hong Kong-based carrier postponed its decision, allowing Airbus to re-enter the fray, according to sources who chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Neither Airbus nor Boeing provided immediate comments on the matter, and Cathay Pacific was unavailable for comment outside of business hours. This potential shift in Cathay Pacific's procurement strategy is significant, considering the airline currently operates both the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 passenger models. The airline's choice between the all-freight version of the Boeing 777X jet family and the cargo model of the Airbus A350 is a crucial factor in the ongoing competition between the two aircraft manufacturers.

Impact on the Air Freight Industry

Cathay Pacific holds a prestigious position in the global air freight industry as the fifth-largest air freight carrier and the third-largest traditional freight airline, trailing only Qatar Airways and Emirates, excluding express parcel carriers like FedEx and UPS. This status puts Cathay Pacific at the forefront of the freighter market, influencing the industry's dynamics significantly. The competition between Airbus and Boeing for Cathay's business is intense, with the deal for around half a dozen aircraft estimated to be worth approximately $2 billion before airline discounts.

In August, Cathay Pacific informed analysts of its ongoing evaluation of freighters, exploring various opportunities in the market. More recently, the airline indicated to analysts that while cargo demand had softened, it remained substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels. This statement underscores the airline's continued focus on strengthening its cargo operations, even amid fluctuating market conditions.