Cathay Pacific May Cut Its Boeing 777X Order

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific may cut its longstanding Boeing 777X order, according to Hong Kong media sources. Cathay Pacific has an order for 21 Boeing 777-9 aircraft. However, as the airline continues to struggle, the word is that order will get cut by almost half.

Cathay Pacific wants to cut its Boeing 777-9X order. Photo: Cathay Pacific

A report by Danny Lee in The South China Morning Post on Sunday, April 25, cites two airline sources saying the 777X order would downsize to between 10 and 15 planes. Doing so would cut billions of the purchase price.

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Cathay Pacific had flagged delivery deferrals, but no word on cutting order

The 777-9Xs were originally due to start arriving at Cathay Pacific this year. However, a variety of factors impacting the Boeing 777X, one of the greatest of which is the ongoing crisis, have seen the delivery timelines blow out.

In early March, when presenting Cathay Pacific’s 2020 Annual Results, Chairman Patrick Healy said the airline was in “advanced negotiations” for further deferring delivery timelines.

But Mr Healy didn’t say Cathay Pacific was looking at cutting the 777X order. The order dates from better times at Cathay Pacific. In December 2013, Cathay Pacific became Asia’s first 777X customer with an order for 21 777-9 aircraft.

“We think it will be an ideal fit for long-haul destinations in North America and Europe,” said then Cathay Pacific CEO John Slosar. 

Cathay Pacific thinks the 777X would be a good plane for North American & European flights. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Seven years ago, the 777X ticked a lot of boxes at Cathay Pacific

According to Boeing’s list prices, Cathay Pacific’s order was worth US$7 billion-plus. That proved a nice top-up for Boeing. The United States aircraft manufacturer had only launched the 777X program twelve months previously. Cathay Pacific’s order took the 777X orders at Boeing to 259 planes worth $95 billion. In 2013, Boeing was still targeting 2020 for its first 777X deliveries.

In addition to modernizing its fleet, Cathay Pacific liked the 777X’s reduced environmental emissions, improved payload range capability, and reduced operating costs.

“We think it will be an ideal fit for long-haul destinations in North America and Europe, in particular those routes where we carry high volumes of passengers and cargo each day,” said Mr Slosar.

That was over seven years ago. Since then, Boeing, Cathay Pacific, and the wider airline industry have faced significant challenges. The problems and delays with the 777X program are simply one part of a raft of production and quality problems Boeing faces across various airline types. However, since early 2020, Boeing has been conducting 777X test flights.

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Cathay Pacific already has a substantial 777 fleet. Photo: Cathay Pacific

The Boeing 777X program

Emirates President Tim Clark, recently told Simple Flying that’s he was uncertain when the first 777X would arrive at that airline. The Dubai-based airline is currently the biggest Boeing 777X customer with 115 of the planes on order. Emirates originally ordered 150 of the planes, but that has now downsized. Tim Clark remains less than impressed with the delays, saying the order may be further cut.

Boeing’s 777X order book stands at over 300 aircraft, and this is before the jet comes into production. Recent aircraft orders have included Singapore Airlines, which wants 11 more 777X jets. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific also faces its own challenges. Cathay Pacific recently posted a $2.8 billion loss for calendar 2020, and the airline’s short-term outlook is not pretty.

If the airline does reduce the 777X order size and defer delivery of the remaining planes, it will give the airline some financial breathing space and allow it to wait for better times before introducing a new, high-capacity aircraft. Cathay Pacific is now eyeing its first Boeing 777-9 delivery in 2025.