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Cathay delays freighter deliveries amid weakened traffic

By control on December 21, 2011

Cathay Pacific has postponed delivery of two Boeing 747-8F aircraft from 2012 to 2013 in response to softer freight volumes out of the Asia-Pacific. What’s more, the Hong Kong flag carrier has lowered its budgeted cargo capacity growth for 2012 from 17 percent to 10 percent.

Despite these changes, Cathay Pacific is still taking delivery of four 747-8Fs in 2012, James Woodrow, Cathay’s general manager for cargo sales and marketing, told Air Cargo World in an email. These aircraft will be deployed on routes to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, he said.

Beginning in February, Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport will also be the recipient of Cathay’s 747-8F service. “This is line with the shifting of high-tech production from the [Pearl River Delta] and [Yangtze River Delta] into inland high-tech clusters in these cities,” Woodrow explained in the email. “Cathay Pacific will connect these cities over our Hong Kong hub to the main import markets globally.”

Still, Woodrow is quick to point out that the 747-8Fs Cathay Pacific received this year and will take delivery of in 2012 aren’t supplemental aircraft. Instead, he said, they replace the 747-400 Boeing converted freighters that were reassigned to Air Hong Kong and Cathay’s joint venture with Air China Cargo.

Increased capacity or not, Cathay has contended with less-than-stellar freight volumes in recent months. November, in particular, proved to be especially challenging for Cathay Pacific and wholly owned subsidiary Dragonair, with the airlines reporting a combined year-over-year cargo drop of 13.8 percent.

Capacity and load factor were also down last month, sliding 1.1 percent and 6.3 percent, year-over-year, respectively. These numbers are even more disappointing given the time of year, Woodrow maintained.

“November is traditionally the busiest time for our cargo business in the build-up to the Christmas season in the U.S. and Europe, but the peak simply didn’t arrive this year,” Woodrow said in a statement. “Demand out of our key Hong Kong and China markets was soft throughout the month, and we reduced capacity accordingly.”

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