Not far from touch down at Hong Kong's congested airport, a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER

There are some interesting problems caused by restricted slots and strong growth that are demonstrated by Cathay Pacific announcing that it would converts a second of its four daily slots at Sydney Airport from A330s to larger 777-300ERs from this October.

Sydney like Hong Kong airport, is congested, forcing airlines to use larger jets for the available slots, and on this route, Cathay Pacific has run out of slots.

It can only avoid turning away business by increasing the size of the jets using those slots, making it inevitable that all four return flights it operates daily between the two airports will be all flown by its largest jet, the Boeing 773ER , in the nearish future.

But that will not be enough extra capacity by the end of the decade, subject to continued strong demand, to be served by those Boeings, nor the larger 777-9s it has ordered for sometime in the 2020s, nor the Airbus A350-1000s it has ordered for deliveries later this decade.

Which leads inevitably to an order for A380s, since whatever very large jet Cathay Pacific orders will have to also carry a credible payload both ways between its longer route to JFK New York, which the big Airbus can do today, and do even better with a whispered increase in current engine power outputs sufficient to exploit some unused space in its airframe for more fuel.

(This would be an upgrade, similar in scale to the 575 tonne A380 upgrade that become the standard delivery specification late in 2013, NOT the proposed A380 NEO lusted after by Emirates. There was a hint from Airbus at its recent annual financial results conference of such a regular incremental upgrade being built into to the world’s largest capacity airliner.)

Hong Kong’s progression toward actually building a third runway at its airport has been glacial, and sadly, the comparatively simple task of building an initial 24 hour large jet capable runway at Sydney’s Badgerys Creek site seems just as slow, so we might reasonably expect neither to happen until the middle of the next decade, and both need to happen at the same time to ease congestion between both cities, not to mention all of the pressure piling up for more flights from China.

That problem aside, this is what Cathay Pacific  said of the second 773ER capacity upgrade.

The latest increase will add an extra 8 percent capacity growth to the route, lifting the growth on the airline’s Sydney-Hong service to 18 percent for 2015.

The B777 will be deployed on the daily CX100 flight which currently departs Sydney at 1540 and arrives into Hong Kong at 2200; CX101 then departs Hong Kong at 2355 and arrives into Sydney at 1205 the next day. This move follows the daily deployment of the first 777-300ER earlier this year on CX138/139 which arrives and departs Hong Kong in the morning.

Cathay Pacific’s General Manager Southwest Pacific, Nelson Chin, said: “The two 777-300ER flights cater to the increasing demand from our passengers wanting the best morning or night connections to our large network, which includes our newest destinations Manchester, Zurich, Boston, and Dusseldorf. It also serves those who simply wish to make the most of a whole day’s work in Hong Kong. 

“Aside from adding 1,253 seats per week or 65,156 seats per year with more Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class seats, the 777-300ER also provides better payload which will help facilitate cargo uplift,” he added.

Cathay Pacific currently operates 74 passenger flights a week between Hong Kong and Australia, with over 22 years of continuous services to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, and Perth. The airline celebrated 40 years of continuous non-stop service to Sydney last year, and will mark 45 years of service to Perth this year.

Despite its need for more seats Cathay Pacific continues to give normal economy class passengers a roomy nine across cabin configuration in the 777, making it superior to many other airline’s 10 across layouts in the same Boeing, and vastly better than the horrid nine across seating that most 787 operators have chosen, rendering the Dreamliner a rather miserably tight fit for longer haul flights.

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