Cathay Pacific Airways announced last week that it would be transferring one-third of its passenger fleet for storage in the Australian desert. The Hong Kong-based carrier is looking to economize amid the COVID-19 crisis. 12 Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon aircraft will be arriving in Alice Springs starting this week. The airline was also in discussions with other facilities that it considered suitable for long-term storage.
As of December 31, 2019, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon had a combined fleet of 182 aircraft, which means that they will be looking to store around 60 planes outside of Hong Kong. The aircraft under consideration for desert storage overseas are expected to be for undeterminable durations while the company addresses its operational needs.
Hong Kong has a humid climate
Hong Kong English daily newspaper The Standard quotes a spokesperson from Cathay Pacific as saying: “At present, our aircraft are parked at Hong Kong International Airport, primarily in remote bays, taxiways, and other operational areas made available at the airport. We need to park these aircraft while they are not flying in locations beyond Hong Kong’s humid climate.”
There is also another reason why Cathay Pacific is looking for alternative parking for the planes. When the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong first surfaced, the Hong Kong Airport Authority announced a full waiver of all parking and air bridge fees from March until August. With this now coming to an end, Cathay Pacific is looking not only for a drier but a less expensive place to store its inactive aircraft.
Why Alice Springs?
Located in the middle of the Australian Outback’s red center, Alice Springs has a subtropical hot desert climate with scorching, dry summers and short, mild winters that are ideal for aircraft storage. Managed by Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) Alice Springs runway is long enough to accommodate any type of aircraft with 44 planes currently stored at the facility. As the only aircraft storage facility of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, APAS owner Tom Vincent says that they are being inundated with requests for aircraft parking spaces.
When speaking with Australia’s ABC News Vicent said: “Let’s just say spots are definitely in demand, as soon as extra spots for storage come online, there are aircraft filling those spots.”
“Lots of aircraft are stored in less ideal environments, dealing with humidity and corrosion,” Mr. Vincent said.
The NT Government is helping APAS
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the desert facility had just 18 aircraft, and now they have 44 with a further 30 expected to arrive before the end of the month.
Last week the Northern Territory Government announced that it would be investing a further AUD 3.5 million ($2.5 million) in the storage facility. This move would allow it to accommodate 100 aircraft by the end of October. This is on top of an earlier grant of AUD 1 million ($713,000) that it awarded to APAS to help the company expand.
“It’s been a long time flying under the radar, we started in 2014,” Mr. Vincent said.
“Definitely, we’ve seen a heightened demand, but on average though, through normal cycles, up to 8 % of the commercial fleet is stored at any given time.”
It looks to us as though despite having one of the most challenging years in its history, Cathay Pacific has the situation well under control.
What do you think about the airlines’ move to store planes outside of Hong Kong? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.