Select Page

CATHAY PACFIC: Final aircraft leaves storage in the desert at Alice Springs

CATHAY PACFIC: Final aircraft leaves storage in the desert at Alice Springs

After nearly four years in the Australian desert, at the Alice Springs Airport, Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A330 (B-HLV) returned to Hong Kong earlier this month. It resumed active service today (Tuesday 11 June, 2024).

This is the 85th and final aircraft to be returned from long-term storage overseas.

It will now undergo extensive maintenance checks. B-HLV was the first of the Cathay Group’s aircraft to go into long-term storage overseas back on 28 July 2020. This was several months after global air travel came to a near-standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

a group of airplanes on a runway
Aircraft stored at Alice Springs Airport [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Storage during the pandemic

During the pandemic, Cathay Pacific and HK Express stored the majority of their passenger fleet at Hong Kong International Airport and overseas in the desert at Alice Springs, Australia, and Ciudad Real, Spain. As the COVID-19 shutdowns and quarantine restrictions were withdrawn, Cathay Pacific began to bring back its planes.


Returning aircraft to the fleet after storage requires quite a bit of work to ensure equipment, crew and passenger safety.

“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 to then reactivate 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

Alex McGowan, Chief Operations and Service Delivery Officer, Cathay Pacific

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. During the parking programme in Alice Springs, more than 16,000 periodic checks were performed. That’s about 800,000 hours of labour.

New Aircraft, new runway

Cathay Pacific and its sub-brands have more than 70 new aircraft on order, 52 future options, and is also looking at available options for new mid-size widebody aircraft.

When fully commissioned at the end of the year, Hong Kong International Airport will also operate a three-runway system.

a plane on the runway
The last Cathay Pacific aircraft leaving storage in Alice Springs, Central Australia [Cathay Pacific]

2PAXfly Takeout

Cathay Pacific is demonstrating an amount of confidence, that I’m not sure I share. With new legislation making Hong Kong less and less different from the rest of mainland China, I’m not sure the former British colonial protectorate will have the edge it did for air transport.

However, Cathay Pacific are a great airline, and it is good to see them exhibiting the confidence of these aircraft re-activations and future orders

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Previously . . .

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates about 2PAXfly.

Reviews, deals, offers, and most of all opinion will be in your inbox.

We won't spam you, and we won't share your details with others.

Newsletter Regularity

You have Successfully Subscribed!