Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific will cut its longstanding Boeing 777X order, according to Hong Kong media sources. Cathay Pacific has an order for 21 Boeing 777-9X aircraft. However, as the airline continues to struggle, the word is that order will get cut by almost half.
A report by Danny Lee in The South China Morning Post on Sunday, April 25, cites two airline sources saying the 777X order would downsize to between 10 and 15 planes. Doing so would cut billions of the purchase price.
Cathay Pacific had flagged delivery deferrals, but no word on cutting order
The 777-9Xs were originally due to start arriving at Cathay Pacific this year. However, well-publicized problems with the Boeing 777X have seen the delivery timelines blow out. In early March, when presenting Cathay Pacific’s 2020 Annual Results, Chairman Patrick Healy said the airline was in “advanced negotiations” for further deferring delivery timelines.
But Mr Healy didn’t say Cathay Pacific was looking at cutting the 777X order. The order dates from better times at Cathay Pacific. In December 2013, Cathay Pacific became Asia’s first 777X customer with an order for 21 777-9X aircraft.
“We think it will be an ideal fit for long-haul destinations in North America and Europe,” said then Cathay Pacific CEO John Slosar.
Seven years ago, the 777X ticked a lot of boxes at Cathay Pacific
According to Boeing’s list prices, Cathay Pacific’s order was worth US$7 billion-plus. That proved a nice top-up for Boeing. The United States aircraft manufacturer had only launched the 777X program twelve months previously. Cathay Pacific’s order took the 777X orders at Boeing to 259 planes worth $95 billion. In 2013, Boeing was still targeting 2020 for its first 777X deliveries.
In addition to modernizing its fleet, Cathay Pacific liked the 777X’s reduced environmental emissions, improved payload range capability, and reduced operating costs.
“We think it will be an ideal fit for long-haul destinations in North America and Europe, in particular those routes where we carry high volumes of passengers and cargo each day,” said Mr Slosar.
That was over seven years ago. Since then, Boeing, Cathay Pacific, and the wider airline industry have faced significant challenges. The problems and delays with the 777X program are simply one part of a raft of production and quality problems Boeing faces across various airline types. However, since early 2020, Boeing has been conducting 777X test flights.
The gloss had worn off Boeing’s 777X program
The delays have seen the gloss wear off the 777X program, with many airline customers losing enthusiasm. After that initial rush, new orders tapered off. Now, like Cathay Pacific, many airlines are looking to cut their 777X orders in the face of delivery uncertainties and an unfavorable operating environment.
Emirates President Tim Clark, recently told Simple Flying that’s he was uncertain when the first 777X’s would arrive at that airline. The Dubai-based airline is currently the biggest Boeing 777X customer with 115 of the planes on order. Emirates originally ordered 150 of the planes, but that has now downsized. Tim Clark remains less than impressed with the delays, saying the order may be further cut.
Boeing’s 777X order book now stands at less than 200 planes. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific also faces its own challenges. Cathay Pacific recently posted a $2.8 billion loss for calendar 2020, and the airline’s short-term outlook is not pretty. Cutting the 777X order size and deferring delivery of the remaining planes will give the airline some much-needed financial breathing space. Cathay Pacific is now eyeing its first Boeing 777-9X delivery in 2025.
Qantas’ Cosmic Supermoon Flight Sells Out In 2.5 Minutes
Earlier this week, Qantas raised the bar on its now-regular scenic flight adventures and began promoting a two-and-a-half-hour flight out of Sydney to view a supermoon event in late May. If it sounds like fun and you are keen to go, the bad news is Qantas sold out the flight in two and a half minutes. Qantas has also closed the waitlist.
The latest in a long line of successful scenic flights for Qantas
Departing early evening on May 26, Qantas plans to send one out of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners out of Sydney and east across the Pacific. The Dreamliner will climb to 40,000 feet to capitalize on dark and clear night skies. Qantas notes in addition to watching the rising of the supermoon, that evening also happens to be a total lunar eclipse. The airline says that is a highly unusual double act.
Passengers will be suitably lubricated by a pre-flight cocktail party and cosmic cocktails. They may even learn something. A professional astronomer will be along for the ride and providing some inflight insights.
This sortie to check out the southern hemisphere night sky follows a series of highly successful scenic flights for Qantas in the past year. That included a seven-hour marathon overflying much of Australia and a weekend to Uluru. More recently, there was a seafood lunch on an island in the Whitsundays. All of the flights quickly sold out.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) April 28, 2021
Blocked seats and presales to premium passengers limit the number of seats available for general sale
The Qantas 787-9 normally accommodates 236 passengers across three cabin classes. But fewer seats were available on the supermoon flight. Qantas blocked off the middle seat blocks in the economy and business class cabins. The ‘E’ seats in the premium economy cabin were also blocked from sale.
The number of seats available to the general public reduced further after Qantas offered its most elite frequent flyers early access. The airline’s best customers weren’t shy about taking up the offer.
According to keen Qantas watchers on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum, around 55 seats were left for public sale at midday Sydney time on Wednesday. Qantas confirmed to Simple Flying those remaining seats sold out by 12:03 Sydney time.
“I jumped on at the strike of 12, and there was barely anything left. There was just one window seat in Y left, second last row. But by the time I had got to checkout, my seats were bumped,” posted one member on the forum.
“My experience too,” posted another member.
Some handy revenue as Qantas capitalizes on demand for scenic flights
Qantas began waitlisting hopeful would-be passengers, but the demand was so high, that waitlist has now closed as well. The airline was selling economy class tickets from US$385, premium economy class tickets from US$694, and business class tickets from US$1158. Note the word “from.” Qantas was charging a premium for a window seat – and that’s fair enough.
But with 24 seats initially available for sale in both the business class and premium economy cabins, and 112 seats initially up for grabs in the economy class cabin, Qantas pocketed over US$87,500 from ticket sales.
To date, Qantas has been operating many of these flights largely on a cost-recovery basis. The airline is keen to keep planes and crews in the air and the Qantas brand firmly in the spotlight. But as the popularity of the supermoon and previous scenic flights attests, there is a lot of demand out there for this kind of flight. It’s an interesting, albeit niche, way for the airline industry to do business in the future.
Eviation Is Closer To Launching Commercial Electric Airplane Service — Alice Gets An EPU
Eviation Aircraft, which is developing and manufacturing efficient electric aircraft with the goal of making electric aviation a competitive and sustainable alternative to the current aircraft we have today, is one step closer to launching commercial electric flights. I has taken delivery of its first EPU (electric propulsion unit) for its first aircraft, Alice.
The Alice is an all-electric aircraft that is able to fly 9 passengers for up to 440 nautical miles. The Alice uses an EPU from magniX, a company that is on a mission to lead the commercial aerospace and defense industries. How it’s doing this is by providing high-performance, reliable, and environmentally friendly propulsion solutions. The EPU used by Alice is one such solution. These magniX EPU systems have been powering aircraft in flight since December of 2019, and are currently in the process of gaining FAA Part 33 certification in 2022.
Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay shared his thoughts about the milestone. “The magniX delivery is one of the key milestones in getting emission-free, low-cost, all-electric aviation off the ground with the first flight of Alice,” he said. “After many successful flights and tests of the magniX EPUs, we’re confident the system will propel us to bringing Alice to market and delivering a sustainable, scalable mobility solution that will revolutionize passenger and cargo flights.”
Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, also added his thoughts. “The Alice is the epitome of the future of air transportation. All-electric by design, taking advantage of light-weight powerful and reliable propulsion systems,” said Ganzarski. “Together, we will enable a great flying experience – zero emissions, quieter, lower cost, all from and to airports closer to more communities.”
Eviation has plans to start a robust flight testing and certification program. Currently, the company operates in the U.S. and Israel and is a member of the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA).
Brace: Qantaslink Dash 8-400 Makes Emergency Landing In Brisbane
On Thursday, sixty-four passengers and crew on a QantasLink Dash 8-400 service into Brisbane got a scare during a full-scale emergency landing. With the pilots flagging a “potential issue” with the landing gear, emergency vehicles waited at Brisbane Airport, and passengers instructed to “stay down” and “brace now.”
Cockpit alert regarding issues with QantasLink Dash 8’s landing gear
The QantasLink Dash 8-400 was operating QF2420. That flight is the breakfast time flight between Newcastle’s Williamtown Airport and the Queensland capital of Brisbane. Normally, it’s a pleasant 611-kilometer flight up the New South Wales coast. On Thursday’s flight, the pilots received an indication in the cockpit about a potential issue with the landing gear.
According to The Aviation Herald, the plane was at 1,800 feet mean sea level and tracking into Brisbane’s runway 19L when the cockpit alert came up, causing the go-around.
The Dash 8 went out to circle Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands for around one hour while the pilots worked on the problem. The pilots attempted a manual gear extension, but the manual extension did not stop the cockpit alert.
“The pilots followed standard procedures and required checklists for this type of event,” a Qantaslink spokesperson said.
Passengers warned to “brace” and “stay down”
The pilots were unable to confirm the landing gear was locked down. They decided to shut down the second engine and began an ILS approach into Brisbane Airport’s runway 19R. Brisbane Airport scrambled its emergency response vehicles.
As the flight made its final approach into Brisbane Airport over Moreton Bay, footage posted online reveals the flight attendant repeatedly instructing the passengers to “brace, brace” and “heads down” and “stay down.”
“We were reasonably certain the landing gear was down and locked – we could do that visually, and in other ways, the procedure to be followed has to be followed,” QantasLink CEO John Gissing later told Brisbane’s Channel 9 News. “And that’s exactly what we did.”
“Our engineers have inspected the aircraft and identified that the alert in the cockpit was due to a faulty sensor, and the landing gear was operating normally through the flight.”
Footage posted online by passengers showed a smooth touchdown, the landing gear securely locked in, and a cabin full of very relieved passengers and crew.
“I was getting a bit concerned at the end,” one passenger said when safely collecting his bags in Brisbane’s terminal.
“Brace! Brace! Stay down!”#WATCH: The moment a Qantas flight from #Newcastle was forced to make an emergency landing in Brisbane Airport this morning, leaving passengers to brace in the safety position. #9News pic.twitter.com/ePFPhj1hRW
— 9News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) May 13, 2021
QantasLink and passengers praise the crew
QantasLink calls the incident a false alarm. However the airline admits it would have raised blood pressure levels in the cabin. QantasLink apologized for the concern caused and thanked passengers for their co-operation.
Both passengers and QantasLink praised the pilots and flight attendants for handling a very stressful situation well.
“They did a great job handling the situation and were able to call on the extensive training they receive,” Mr Gissing said.
“We’re all here, it’s all good, the Captain did a good job,” one laidback and safely landed Queenslander said.
VH-QON operated Thursday’s QF2420 flight. The Dash 8-400 is 12.9 years old and operated for Qantas by subsidiary company Sunstate Airlines. It is one of 48 Dash 8s flying for QantasLink. As you’d expect from an airline with an exemplary safety record, this is the first recorded issue concerning the plane.
VH-QON remains on the ground while Qantas engineers conduct a full safety and maintenance inspection.
Qantas Future Small Plane: The Embraer E2 Family Vs Airbus A220
With Qantas planning to replace its aging fleet of Fokker jets and Boeing 717s, aircraft manufacturers are competing for the lucrative order. Boeing lacks a plane in the regional jet space. But Airbus has the A220, and Embraer has its E2 jets. For Qantas, it looks like being a run-off between these two plane makers.
Passenger capacity one metric to compare the planes
While it’s not just about passenger capacity, it is one way to measure how the Embraer and Airbus offering stack up.
Qantas’ Boeing 717s seat between 110 and 125 passengers. Its Fokker 100s seat 100 passengers. Qantas uses these planes on skinnier trunk routes, regional routes, fly-in-fly-out routes, and charter work. The planes, especially the Fokkers, can fly into some pretty challenging airstrips.
Embraer has three jets in its E2 family, ranging from the 80-90 seat E175-E2 to the 135-145 seat E195-E2. Airbus offers the A220-100 and A220-300. The A220-100 seats between 100-135 passengers and the bigger A220-300 can seat between 120-150 passengers.
Other all-important factors in the choice include final price, range, robustness, operating costs, maintenance costs, and green credentials.
Airbus gets in early to line-up potential order from Qantas
The Airbus A220 is popular in North American and Europe but has not yet gained significant sales traction in the Asia-Pacific region. But that has not stopped Airbus from touting the plane throughout the region. In October 2019, Airbus sent an A220-300 on a seven-country Asia-Pacific showcase tour.
That tour included a pitstop in Sydney and a demonstration flight that included Qantas CEO Alan Joyce among the passengers.
“To me, it looks like a very good aircraft,” Mr Joyce said at the time. “I think passengers would love it.”
The A220-100 might be a better fit for Qantas. Its passenger capacity better matches that of the existing Fokker 100s and Boeing 717s. The Airbus A220-100 has a range of 6.390 kilometers, comfortably covering the entire Australian continent and reaching into much of southeast Asia and the southwest Pacific.
Embraer’s E2 jet cannot be ruled out
While Airbus gets a lot of the attention in the race to snare the Qantas order, you cannot rule out Embraer. Speaking to the Perth branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society this week, Paulo Dias, Asia-Pacific Sales Director for Embraer Commercial Aircraft, said that while the A220 was an admirable plane, Embraers E2 jets had some distinct advantages that made it an ideal choice for Qantas.
“I think the A220 is a great airplane,” he said. “I think one of the benefits of the E2s would be the lower operating costs. That’s what this machine was made for – lower fuels burn, it’s a greener machine, and of course, maintenance costs.
“Designing an aircraft is all about trade offs. You can’t have everything. For this aircraft (the E2) we have optimized economics. It’s got the best fuel burn and maintenance costs hands down.
“Anyone looking at these aircraft would quickly recognise the E2’s profit potential compared to other platforms out there.”
Is Airbus a better for Qantas?
Qantas is continually chasing profits, making Paulo Dias’ comments a gentle but perfect pitch to Qantas. But the E175-E2 may be too small for Qantas requirements, noting one of the aircraft types Qantas wants to replace is the 110-125 seat Boeing 717. The next plane up, the 135-145 seat E190-E2 may be too big to take over routes now served by the 100 seat Fokker 100s.
Would Qantas consider splitting its order between two aircraft types – the E175-E2 and E90-ED2, taking some of both? Or does the A220-100 hit the happy middle ground for Qantas? As Paulo Dias notes, they are all excellent planes offering solid cost efficiencies and good environmental credentials. Qantas is expected to announce an order to begin to replace its Fokker 100s and Boeing 717s within the next 12 months Many might argue Embraer will have to put in a lot of legwork to snare this lucrative order from Qantas.
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