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Cathay interested in bigger Airbus A350 for Miami non-stop

Thursday, June 2, 2016 - 10:35
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Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it's talking with Airbus Group SE about the planemaker's proposal for a bigger version of the newest A350 wide-body, a model which needs to attract a strong set of initial customers to get the go ahead.

[HONG KONG] Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it's talking with Airbus Group SE about the planemaker's proposal for a bigger version of the newest A350 wide-body, a model which needs to attract a strong set of initial customers to get the go ahead.

Cathay, which already has 48 A350s on order, is keen on a so-called stretched variant that would allow it serve destinations such as Miami nonstop from its base in Hong Kong, chief executive officer Ivan Chu said in an interview.

Asia's largest international airline by passengers took the first of 22 325-seat A350-900s it has on order last weekend, and is also buying 26 366-seat A350-1000s. An even bigger plane, unofficially dubbed the A350-8000, could have more seats, or trade off capacity against an increase in range.

While Cathay Pacific will use the A350-1000 to serve the east and west coasts of the US, the plane couldn't reach Miami or some potential destinations in Latin America, Mr Chu said.

Cathay shares rose 1.1 per cent to HK$12.38 as of 9:51 am in Hong Kong, trimming the decline this year to 7.8 per cent.

The airline is also liaising with Rolls-Royce Plc about a more powerful upgrade of the plane's XWB engine that would be required to gain the extra range.

The ongoing talks are "routine," Mr Chu added. "We are interested in seeing what they can do," he said in Dublin, prior to the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting there.

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said this week that Airbus is still assessing whether demand is sufficient to merit investing several billion euros in a bigger A350, and that a decision is unlikely to come by the Farnborough Air Show in mid July.

The backbone of Cathay's long-haul fleet is currently Boeing Co's 777-300ER, of which it has 53 examples, with 21 next-generation 777-9Xs on order.

Mr Chu said he's not interested in Airbus's A380 superjumbo, which is generally outfitted with 525 seats, since it doesn't favour the high-frequency timetables needed to lure corporate passengers.

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