Cathay Pacific To Park 40% Of Its Fleet Outside Of Hong Kong

Today, Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific released its August 2020 figures. While the airline is focusing on its passenger numbers, capacities, and load factors, part of the report mentions another intriguing fact that will be of interest to aviation enthusiasts: 40% of the Cathay Pacific Group’s fleet is parked outside of Hong Kong. Let’s look into this a little more.

Cathay Pacific grounded getty images
Cathay Pacific’s operations are based in Hong Kong. However, the primary carrier is storing some of its fleet elsewhere due to operational considerations. Photo: Getty Images

“Given that we will be operating just a fraction of our services in the foreseeable future, we will continue to transfer some of our passenger fleet – approximately 40% – to locations outside of Hong Kong in keeping with prudent operational and asset management considerations.” – Cathay Pacific

40% of 226 aircraft

With reporting a fleet of 153 aircraft for Cathay Pacific, 47 for Cathay Dragon, and 26 for HK Express, 40% represents 90 aircraft sitting outside of Hong Kong. The major East Asian carrier, as well as its regional arm and budget brand, have been hard hit by multiple global events. The Group has experienced a massive downturn in passenger traffic in recent months.

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Not only is it dealing with the coronavirus and travel restrictions related to it, but the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong has also been struggling with civil unrest and protests against the Chinese government. Cathay Pacific cited these geopolitical tensions in previous and current reporting.

“Regional geopolitical tensions and the ongoing China-US trade dispute could have a significant adverse effect on airfreight demand, and the situation has the potential to deteriorate rapidly.”

Passenger numbers in Hong Kong have been declining for the last four months. The airline is turning to cargo operations with its 777s as substitutes for revenue generation. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Where are these aircraft?

In August, we reported that the airline was parking many of its aircraft in the arid, non-corrosive climate of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. As far as we know, this is the only location the airline group is storing its aircraft outside of Hong Kong.

The dry desert of the Australian outback has become a common site for aircraft storage as Cathay Pacific Group’s aircraft are joined by other carriers like Cebu Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways, and Nok Air.

Singapore a380 alice spring
Singapore Airlines is also storing some of its aircraft in the Australian outback. Photo: Getty Images

Last week we reported that sources familiar with the matter said that the Cathay Group, including its regional arm, Cathay Dragon, could send 50% of its aircraft to be mothballed in the future.

“We are weathering the storm for now, but the fact remains that we simply will not survive unless we adapt our airlines for the new travel market…We continue to move forward with our comprehensive review of all aspects of the business, and will make our recommendations to the board in the fourth quarter on the size and shape of the company to allow us to survive and thrive in this new environment.”

Hong Kong’s less than ideal climate

As the situation drags on, aircraft will be sitting parked for long periods of time. This could be as long as multiple months or even a full year. Hong Kong’s climate is less than ideal for long-term aircraft storage due to its humidity and frequent rainfall. As we’ve written in numerous previous articles, this type of environment increases corrosion and increases maintenance costs for airlines.

Therefore, storing aircraft in a dry climate like the Australian desert is much better for aircraft – especially if it has been decided that they will be there for a long time.

cathay pacific flights getty images
Early on in the pandemic, Cathay Pacific was forced to ground most of its aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

How long do you think most of Cathay Pacific Group’s aircraft will be grounded for? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.