Cathay brings the last plane back from the desert

HONG KONG 12 June 2024: The Cathay Group reactivated the 85th and final aircraft last week, ending the long-term parking of aircraft in Australia and Spain’s arid regions.

After nearly four years in the Australian desert, Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A330 registration B-HLV returned to Hong Kong, where it will now undergo an extensive hangar maintenance check. B-HLV was the first of the Cathay Group’s aircraft to go into long-term parking overseas on 28 July 2020, as global air travel came to a near-standstill during the pandemic.

Cathay Pacific and HK Express had to park most of their passenger fleet at Hong Kong International Airport and overseas in Alice Springs, Australia and Ciudad Real, Spain at the height of the pandemic. As the pandemic began to subside, the Cathay Group commenced progressively reactivating these aircraft. 

Chief Operations and Service Delivery Officer Alex McGowan said: “Parking and reactivating so many aircraft is a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking, the scale and complexity of which has never been seen before at Cathay. ​ An incredible amount of work goes into keeping an aircraft safe and protected when it isn’t flying and then reactivating it for entry back into regular service. To do this for more than 85 aircraft long-term parked overseas, as well as to manage the large number of aircraft that were parked in Hong Kong, is a phenomenal achievement.

“With our fleet now fully reunited, our focus is on investing for the future. The Cathay Group has more than 70 new aircraft on order, with the right to acquire an additional 52 aircraft. We are also exploring options for a new mid-size widebody aircraft. These investments reflect our ongoing confidence in the Hong Kong international aviation hub as we look ahead to the exciting opportunities presented by the Three-Runway System at Hong Kong International Airport when fully commissioned by the end of this year.”

When it first arrived, each long-term parked aircraft in Alice Springs underwent a 14-day preservation check, followed by a repeating series of periodic inspections and checks. Over the course of the parking programme in Alice Springs, more than 16,000 of these periodic checks were performed, and 800,000 labour hours were spent performing preservation, periodic, and reactivation maintenance.

Furthermore, over 40,000 parts and specialised equipment were also shipped from Hong Kong to support the Alice Springs operation. Meanwhile, the Cathay Group’s on-site Quality Assurance team conducted more than 2,000 audits.


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