As Cathay Pacific closes in on a decision regarding its future freighter requirements, sources close to the decision-making process have disclosed that the Airbus A350 freighter is the frontrunner for any new order to be placed by the carrier.
The Hong Kong-based company is widely expected to order six A350 freighters as replacements for a similar number of its older Boeing 747 cargo aircraft that are earmarked to leave the fleet in the coming years.
Industry insiders have told Reuters that the competition involves an initial purchase of around half a dozen new aircraft worth $2 billion at list prices before traditional airline discounts are negotiated and applied.
If the airline does indeed order the yet-to-fly A350 freighter, it will mark a turnaround in the company’s decision-making process. Earlier in 2023, industry analysts had widely expected Cathay to order the rival Boeing 777-8F, whose certification has been delayed several times.
Whichever way the decision lands, it will be seen as a crucial test for both products, as both are being directly pitched against each other by the manufacturers in the rush to fulfill demand in the air freight sector. It is also worth noting that passenger variants of both models appear widely in the carriers’ current long-haul fleet.
With the global air freight industry seeing growth again after a challenging twelve months in the industry sector, both Airbus and Boeing are working hard to win orders for their next-generation freighters, whose performance figures are closely aligned, making the rush for new orders even more competitive.
In November, the company stated that although global cargo demand had softened during 2023, it remained “much higher than pre-pandemic times.”
Cathay Pacific is currently the world’s fifth-largest air freight carrier and the third-largest traditional freight airline behind Qatar Airways and Emirates based in the Middle East. This is according to the latest IATA figures, which exclude the specialist US-based express parcel operators FedEx and UPS due to the nature of their business. However, these two occupy the other two spots in the top five rankings.
Cathay Pacific told analysts in August 2023 that it was looking at freighters and “continuing to study various opportunities.”