HK Express to Receive 16 Airbus A321neos Originally Ordered for Cathay Dragon

On Friday, November 8, Cathay Pacific announced that 16 of the 32 Airbus A321neos that the group currently has on order will be delivered to HK Express instead of Cathay Dragon.

This marks the first major development for the Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier since its acquisition by Cathay Pacific earlier this year.

HK Express to Receive 16 Airbus A321neos Originally Ordered for Cathay Dragon
HK Express currently operates A320ceos, A320neos, and A321ceos.

Cathay Pacific Group’s Fleet Modernization

In July 2019, Cathay Pacific completed the acquisition of HK Express, a low-cost airline previously owned by HNA Group, the owner of Hainan Airlines among other businesses.

With that, Cathay Pacific joined the likes of ANA and Lufthansa both of which expanded their portfolios to include low-cost carriers which were hindering the full-service airlines’ growth.

Taking the acquisition into account, the Cathay Pacific group currently consists of four airlines. Each of them, as Augustus Tang, the group’s chief executive officer explained, serves a specific purpose:

Cathay Pacific will continue to operate as an international full-service airline providing premium services to customers while Cathay Dragon is our regional full-service carrier. Meanwhile, HK Express will remain as a standalone, low-cost airline focusing on serving leisure travel destinations. AHK Air Hong Kong will continue to be the Group’s all-cargo carrier specializing in express cargo services.

Starting from before the acquisition took place, Cathay Pacific has been going through a process of fleet modernization. In fact, even today, the group still has 65 aircraft on order. That includes 21 Boeing 777-9s, 12 Airbus A350s, and 32 Airbus A321neos on order.

Cathay Pacific Fleet Modernization
Cathay Pacific is currently in the process of modernizing its fleet. (Credit: Airbus)

Cathay Pacific expects to receive these aircraft between 2020 and 2024.

That said, there might be some delays with the 777s – the aircraft on which the airline is finally expected to introduce the replacement for its outdated first class seat.

As for the Airbus A321neos, they were all originally destined for Cathay Dragon. However, now that the group has acquired HK Express, it revealed in the recent announcement that half of them will instead be assigned to the low-cost carrier.

More specifically, it plans for the latter 16 A321neos – delivered from 2022 onwards – to join HK Express’ fleet. The first 16, expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2022, will join Cathay Dragon’s fleet as originally planned.

Considering that HK Express’ current fleet of A320-200s, A320neos, and A321-200s is fairly young, most of the A321neo will likely be used to further grow the low-cost carrier’s network.

The A321neos will join HK Express’ fleet of A320-200s, A320neos, and A321-200s. While the A321neos might replace some of the airline’s older A320s, most of them will likely be added into the fleet for growth.

Still, they might also replace some of the handful of 10+ years old A320-200s that the airline still operates.

Cathay Dragon Fleet
The A321 is currently the backbone of Cathay Dragon’s fleet.


Even though at this point, the long-term effect of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong remains uncertain, it is good to see Cathay Pacific remaining committed to renewing its fleet.

Likewise, it is good to see that the group is also looking into expanding HK Express – an airline that it acquired just a few months ago.

Considering that HK Express already serves all the “low hanging fruit” destinations out of Hong Kong including almost a dozen airports in Japan, it will be interesting to see what routes it will launch in the future once its fleet grows.

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