Cathay Pacific in talks on orders for medium-haul jets, freighters

COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong

(Reuters) -Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is in talks with aircraft manufacturers about orders for medium-haul aircraft and dedicated freighters, a senior executive said on Friday.

"Overall we have enough long-haul aircraft to fulfil Cathay Pacific's growth plan," Chief Customer and Customer Officer Ronald Lam said during an analyst briefing, citing existing orders for Airbus SE A350 and Boeing Co 777X planes.

Lam said the focus would be on acquiring more medium-haul jets to operate in the Asia-Pacific region as well as dedicated freighters, though he did not provide the numbers or types being considered.

The long-serving executive, who will take over as chief executive on Jan. 1, had raised the prospect of jet orders in an interview with Bloomberg last month.

The talks with manufacturers come as the airline looks to rebuild after being hit hard by more than two years of tough passenger and quarantine rules in Hong Kong that ended only recently.

The airline last week forecast a "substantial" annual loss even though second-half results are expected to improve sequentially thanks to an uptick in travel and air cargo demand.

Lam told analysts that the passenger outlook was improving but that cargo demand and prices had weakened compared to an "exceptional" performance in 2021.

"The freight rate compared to last year has been on a downward trend, but compared to a normal year it is still at slightly elevated levels," he said. "There is a lot of uncertainty about 2023."

This month, Cathay said it expected to operate at 70% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity by the end of 2023, up from a planned 33% by the end of 2022, and aimed to return to full pre-pandemic capacity by the end of 2024.

(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle)