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Cathay announced it was adding to its existing A350XWB order by committing for six additional -900s.  The airline now has 36 A350s on order plus two more committed via pre-arranged 12 years leases.  These six aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2016-17.

The selection of this airplane is important because Cathay Pacific is also a significant 777-300ER customer.  The A350-900 falls between the 777-200 and 777-300 in size, with 314 seats, falling between the 301 and 365 capacities of the competing 777 models.  The forthcoming A350XWB-1000, at 350 seats, will be closer to the 777-300ER, and could represent a potential replacement for that aircraft in the future.

This is certainly an interesting development, given that Boeing will be introducing its revised 777-8 and 777-9 shortly after that timeframe, although it is not expected that the re-engined version of the 777 will fully match the economics of the much lighter, heavily composite A350XWB.

Airlines that operate the 777 are typically very pleased with the airplane, which has been among Boeing’s best products.  Cathay has been a particularly happy customer of the 777-300ER.  Boeing’s revised 777-8 and -9 models will no doubt continue to build on the success of their -300ER, and we expect the 777-9 to be larger than the existing 777-300ER to improve seat-mile economics.

Cathay has ordered 71 777s so there is no doubting its current commitment to the airplane. But ordering the new technology A350XWB could mean a key conquest for Airbus in the large wide-body twin segment.  It appears Cathay is planning on standardizing on the A350-900, and possibly the A350-1000 in the future, for the 300-350 seat segment.

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