Cathay Pacific

New Dragons take to the air

What does the arrival of a new A321neo fleet mean for Cathay’s regional airline? By PHIL HEARD

Prior to its purchase by the Cathay Pacific Group in 1990, Hong Kong-based Dragonair started operations in 1985, flying with one Boeing 737 to destinations in Southeast Asia.

Today, the rebranded Cathay Dragon flies to 56 destinations in 16 countries and territories across Asia, with a particular focus on China with 28 destinations. Chief among its aims: to route passengers to the world via Hong Kong. As the network has grown, so too has the fleet – in line with the demand for air travel across China
and Southeast Asia.

Dragonair bought its first narrow-body Airbus aircraft in 1993. Today, the fleet counts 23 of these aircraft, along with 24 wide-body A330s, to service busy trunk and mid-haul destinations.

In August, the airline purchased 32 Airbus A321neo aircraft, which will be delivered between 2020 and 2023. These will replace the existing narrow-body fleet, giving the airline the potential to expand and adding flexibility to its strategy.

The A321neo (neo standing for ‘new engine option’) is the largest in the A320 family. The new planes have an extended range of up to 6,850 kilometres, more than enough for the furthest point on the existing network, Bengaluru.

As well as new engines, the A321neo also features impressive noise reduction (up to 50 per cent better than the current A321) and fuel efficiency – the latter thanks in part to its blended ‘Sharklet’ wingtips.

But with more range, more flexibility and nine more narrow-body aircraft to deploy, what might Cathay Dragon’s route network look like by the early 2020s?

Industry body Iata expects air passenger demand to double over the next 20 years, driven by the Asian market. It expects China to displace the US as the biggest aviation market by 2025, while India will displace the UK in third. Indonesia will enter the top 10 for the first time. It’s a great network opportunity to route via Hong Kong onto Cathay Pacific flights.

Cathay Dragon chief executive Algernon Yau explains: ‘When it comes to expanding our network, our philosophy has always been to grow our mainland Chinese and regional destinations to accommodate the demand there. We continue to explore our options with regard to increasing frequencies on our most popular routes and introducing new destinations that appeal to our customers and complement the rest of our network.

‘It’s a substantial investment that underlines our confidence in the future of the Cathay Pacific Group as well as our commitment to bolstering Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s largest international aviation hub.’ 

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