View Full Version : Fleet philosophy

Sir Donald
20th Jun 2003, 23:58
Can anybody explain why, say for Eg. Cathay Pacific operates a mixed fleet of two and four engined aircraft from two different manufacturers.
B747/B777 V's A340/A330
The Don

casual observer
21st Jun 2003, 05:59
In late 80s, Cathay was in dire need of an L-1011 replacement. The A330-300 was available and met Cathay's needs. At that time the B777 concept wasn't even well defined, so the A330-300 got the nod. When the B777 program came a few years later, Cathay's team really liked the aircraft. They were particularly interested in the proposed stretched version that they envisioned as a B747-200 replacement. However, Boeing didn't have a definitive timetable for the stretched version. Cathay got on board with the B777-200 so they could have their voice heard and pushed for the -300 launch. For example, the fuselage width was widened at Cathay's request of having the option to configure ten-abreast seating in the economy section. Nevertheless, the B777-200 is too close to the A330-300 in terms of capacity and range. This is the reason why Cathay has a small fleet of five -200s. Cathay launched the B777-300 in 1995(?) and converted seven of their original 11 -200 orders to the -300.

Before the early 90s, Cathay's long-haul strategy centered around the B747-400. Although the Cathay Team liked the B777, they would not consider the B777-200ER because of their conservative views on ETOPS issues. IIRC, in 1993, the financially troubled Philippine Airlines unilaterally cancelled their orders of 4 A340-200s without much notice. Airbus was eager to unload those 4 -200s. Somehow, they got Cathay interested in the -300 and gave them a very sweet deal. In return, Airbus asked Cathay to take the 4 PAL -200s in the interim before Cathay got their own -300s. (Eventually, Airbus was able to get PAL to take the -200s after Cathay got their -300s.) Since then, Cathay realized the flexibility of the smaller A340, and their B747-400 fleet size has stayed flat for many years.

A few years earlier, United started flying non-stop between Chicago and Hong Kong with the B747. The service seemed to be a hit and Continental decided to offer Newark-HKG nonstop with the B777 and United quickly countered with JFK-HKG nonstop with the B747. Although Cathay had flown a few experimental HKG-JFK nonstop flights using the polar routes, Cathay felt the payload restriction of the A340-300 and B747 on this route would make the service not viable. So they arranged with ILFC to lease 3 A340-600 for this route. However, apparently CO and UA were taking too much premium traffic from Cathay, Cathay decided to lease 3 ex-Singapore A340s from Boeing and configured the aircraft with around 180 seats. The aircraft was delivered right around Aug/Sept 2001. UA withdrew their JFK-HKG service before 9/11. After 9/11, CO withdrew, too. So, CX never started the JFK-HKG nonstop service. Now, there is no pressure to start the nonstop service, so the newly deliver A340-600s have been deployed on other routes.

Here's the history of CX's fleet selections. I'll let you decide what the advantages and disadvantages are. ;)

7th Jul 2003, 06:36
Many operators are trading there A340-200/00's into Boeing for 777s - the 777 is killing the older A340s in the market place, they are underpowered-slow & innefficient. MROs are expensive - complex landing gear - piddley CFM56 engines usually run out.. Luftansa Technic are the only ones who can make the older ones stand up/live. Boeing has been sitting on a bunch of them - My guess as to why they are still flying though is because anyone sitting on them will give them away for a song. The new A330 & A340 are completely different - AIRBUS has tried to improve the hell out of them to get the market back. The A340-500/600 is a fine machine.. - but - I would not classify this as a "derivative" - this is really a whole new airplane - based on the numbers of substantive improvements ( all new wings, center body gear, new engines ) - strange they still want to put people under the floorboards .. lower lobe crew-rest is not certified for takeoffs & landings - so Im told ..

19th Jan 2005, 02:06
Neither the bulk bed for pilots on MD11 was certified for T/O and landings as it block the 1L door when is armed so there was even a caution message on the display saying the bulk still open.
BTW no pilot is suposed to be out of the cockpit on T/O and landings anyway in any long haul airline I know.
Plus the convenience for the crew to be able to sleep quietly far from pax.

19th Jan 2005, 18:46
That's a huge time spread you give there casual observer and it well illustrates the problems. The depreciation period for aeroplanes is a good long twenty five years - there's no point in quibbling about the relevance of selections made in the eighties to today's operations.

To illustrate further, we selected the A319 in 2000 because it was right for the market and route plans made at the time. After setting the specifications, the order was postponed for a number of reasons. In the meantime the base-line specifications changed and market research, moving with the times (SARS, oil prices, economic externalities etc. ) suggested changes to the originally planned route structure. The 319s were delivered in 2003, to the original specs, and A320s were ordered with ETOPS capability and different tech. specs. (the original equipment specs were no longer available). Meanwhile we still have Boeing 767s on the long-haul routes. Not the best choice for the routes we fly perhaps, but they do the job after a fashion and they're simply carried over from earlier days.

You buy aeroplanes in a dynamic business environment and have to live with your choices. Just like any other long-term investment.

Harbour Flyer
20th Jan 2005, 02:01
casual observer

Actually we go direct to JFK and back everyday with the 340-600's.

Have done for quite some time now!

Old Smokey
20th Jan 2005, 10:35
There's a lot of good OPERATIONAL SENSE in these posts.

I don't want to sound cynical or start a Euro - American war, but the political reality for one Big Asian Airline is that if you want operating rights into Europe, you'd better buy some Airbuses. If ya don't ya won't.

20th Jan 2005, 10:37
Fleet acquisitions are always biased by politics and by financial incentives rather than by practical operating realities. :ouch: