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Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines Announce Additional Orders for the Boeing 777

Earlier this week, Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines both announced new orders for Boeing 777s. For Singapore Airlines, the order for eight Boeing 777-300ERs comes in addition to the 15 Airbus A330s that were ordered from Airbus (leased via Airbus as well) in late June.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at Mumbai. Photo copyright Vedant Agarwal.

Deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled to commence during 2013~2014 and will join the existing fleet of 19 aircraft. All eight aircraft are in a 3 class cabin configuration and like all 777-300ER’s are powered by General Electric’s GE90-115B engines.  The new order brings Singapore Airlines’s total order book for passenger aircraft to 70 (15 A330-300s, 7 A380s, 20 A350-900s, 20 Boeing 787-9s, and 8 777-300ERs).

Cathay Pacific meanwhile, has ordered four more Boeing 777-300ERs, as well as eight Boeing 777F freighters. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between 2013 and 2016, and both variants will also be powered by the GE-90 engines. Cathay Pacific currently operates 22 Boeing 777-300ERs, and will operate a total 64 upon completion of this order — 38 previous orders, 4 new orders, and 22 already delivered. The Boeing 777-300ERs are slated to replace the carrier’s current fleet of Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A340-300s. Cathay Pacific’s total order book for passenger aircraft has now risen to 93 which includes 42 777-300ER, 32 Airbus A350-900s, and 19 Airbus A330-300s.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER in a oneworld livery. Boeing image.

Cathay Pacific also shed some light on its future planned cargo operations. The eight 777Fs are in addition to a previous order for ten Boeing 747-8F freighters whose delivery is expected to commence this year.

Currently, the carrier operates 21 Boeing 747-400 freighters of various variants including the 747-400BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter). Two of these aircraft will be sold to the airline’s new cargo carrier joint venture with Air China, and one or two more will be sold or leased to Air Hong Kong, another all-cargo subsidiary.

Thus the long term fleet plan calls for around 35 freighter aircraft (17 Boeing 747-400 freighters, 10 747-8 freighters, and 8 777-200 freighters). Cathay is hopeful that Boeing with deliver the first two Boeing 747-8Fs in September, and is targeting a total of five joining the fleet in 2011.

Cathay Pacific has confirmed that the 747-8F freighters

“will be used almost exclusively on routes between Hong Kong and North America.”

while the 777-200Fs will provide a fuel efficient alternative to the heavier 747-400Fs. According to the carrier

For a typical 3,000 nautical mile trip, the 777-200F will burn 15% and 24% less fuel per payload tonne than the 747-400F and 747-400BCF respectively.

These aircraft are expected to be deployed on dense intra-Asia and on European routes.

Cathay Pacific is the world’s largest airline by international cargo carried, and is investing about $700 million in a new cargo terminal at Hong Kong International Airport, which is expected to be functional in 2013.

Like Cathay, Singapore Airlines too, is currently in the midst of an extensive fleet renewal program. The airline has shed most of their iconic Boeing 747-400 Megatops, many of which have been sold to Cathay Pacific for conversion in to the 747-400BCFs. The last five remaining Megatops which are deployed exclusively on the Singapore-Frankfurt-New York JFK route performing flights SQ25 and SQ26, are due to be retired by March of 2012.

The airline is also expected to transfer a few of its older Boeing 777-200s to its recently announced long-haul low cost subsidiary, and these will be replaced by the A330-300s (which will be delivered between 2013 and 2015).

Singapore Airlines’ motive in the new order is twofold. Firstly, it allows them to maintain their mainline fleet while simultaneously developing the new LCC. While mainline growth may be restricted with a new LCC in town, the mainline hub is likely to be maintained at or near its current level; thus the need for new aircraft.

Additionally, Singapore Airlines may be using these orders as a hedge against further delays in the 787 and A350 programs. Late last month, Boeing indicated to Air New Zealand (who was furious about it) that the 787-9’s EIS would slip by another 6 months or so. Additionally, Airbus said at the Paris Air Show that the A350-800/1000 would both be delayed by at least two years. And while they have not as of yet planned any delays for the A350-900 (EIS is still planned for 2013), such delays are always possible; which is why it is nice for Singapore Airlines to have a few 777-300ERs on hand.

The rationale for Cathay Pacific is a little bit different. While they too can use the 777-300ERs as a hedge against A350 delays (they haven’t yet ordered the Boeing 787); they also have a more pressing need- to replace their fleet of 4 engined Boeing 747s and A340s. Cathay Pacific currently operates 21 747-400s and 11 A340-300s. And despite the recent respite in oil prices, the overall trend seems to be up, up, and up. Thus Cathay Pacific sees value in adding the far more fuel efficient 777-300ERs to help mitigate that rise in fuel prices.

For Boeing, the new order bring net orders for the 777 to 99 on the year. For a carrier that is currently stumbling due to Airbus A320neo success and 787 delays, this must be a welcome piece of good news.

Authors note.
This is my first post on Bangalore Aviation. I welcome your questions, comments, feedback, or discussion via the comments system below. You can also reach me on Twitter at @TheABVinay, and via email at vinay [at] bangaloreaviation [dot] com.

– Vinay Bhaskara

About Vinay Bhaskara

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