Cathay heals Airbus’ Etihad cancellation heartbreak with $4.2bn order

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airbus A350
Measuring 74.3 metres from nose to tail, the A350-1000 is the longest-fuselage version of Airbus’ all-new family of widebody jetliners, which is designed for high efficiency, maximum reliability and optimised performance. Photo – Airbus.com

Cathay Pacific announced on Tuesday it planned to place an order worth up to $4.2 billion at list prices with Airbus for its first customer version of A350-1000 wide body plane, on the second day of the Farnborough Airshow near London.

Airbus had been struggling since last years Paris Airshow to win any customers after revamping its carbon-composite A-350 plane with bigger Rolls-Royce engines and pushing back the development of the jet by two years.

Airbus insists the future 350-seat passenger jet will be much more efficient than Boeing’s 777 but is yet to make a significant dent in the 777’s hold on a lucrative corner of the jet market, just below 400 seats.

Cathay on Tuesday surprised Airbus by ordering 10 A350-1000 jets and convert 16 of the 36 A350-900 jets to the new carbon-composite model.

Boeing announced on Monday an order worth up to $7.2 billion, followed with another on Tuesday from  GE Capital Aviation Services for 100 737 planes.

Cathay’s Airbus deal is subject to approval by its board at a meeting in August.

Cathay CEO John Slosar expressed his confidence in Airbus and hoped the Toulouse, France-based company will do its best to avoid further delaying the entry into service of the A350-1000. He stressed that Cathay had contingencies in place.

“There’s always a risk with new technologies,” Slosar said. “We have a reasonable sized fleet still of 747s, of which we can slow down the retirement or even speed up, based on when aircraft are coming.”

Commenting on the Hong Kong-based airlines’ announcement, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said the company had learned its lesson on programme delays and promised not to repeat mistakes made earlier that resulted in customers like Etihad cancelling orders.

“We would prefer to delay by a couple of weeks, instead of rushing and then discovering problems later. This is the biggest lesson we have learned,” he said, adding that the A350-1000 would move to first flight next year.

The $320 million jet is due to enter service in mid-2017. Cathay Pacific planes are due to arrive in 2018. The A350-900s that it has on order are scheduled for delivery in 2016.

The A350-1000s are worth $3.2 billion at list prices, while the upgrades are worth a further $1 billion.

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