Cathay Pacific launching HK-Riyadh service

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(PHOTO: Cathay Pacific)

Aviation Festival AFA 728 x 90Cathay Pacific announced the launch of direct passenger flights to Riyadh the capital and financial centre of Saudi Arabia from 28 October 2024.

Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung said: “The signing of the cooperation agreement marks a significant milestone for the already prospering aviation partnership between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia developed for almost two decades. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Cathay Pacific for their unfaltering support to the Government’s policies and for considering Hong Kong’s strategic development needs in their network planning. The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to strengthening aviation services on current major routes and routes along the Belt and Road with potential. Following Cathay Pacific’s initiative to commence services to Riyadh, we will be able to expand Hong Kong’s aviation network and enhance air connectivity between us and the Middle East, which further consolidates Hong Kong’s status as an international aviation hub.”

Consul General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Hong Kong SAR Hamad Aljebreen said: “The inauguration of this route is a pivotal step in the path of improving relations, building bridges of communication and cooperation, and strengthening economic, tourism and cultural ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong SAR. This comes at a time when relations between the two sides are witnessing many positive developments and concrete achievements, with noticeable increase in the frequency of mutual visits on all levels between the two sides. There is no doubt that the launch of this route will contribute significantly to opening broader horizons of cooperation, increasing partnerships, bringing more investments, capital, and visitors to the two sides, in line with achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s vision 2030 and the Belt and Road Initiative.” 3

Cathay Group Chief Executive Officer Ronald Lam said: “We are excited to announce the launch of flights connecting Hong Kong and Riyadh this October, which will further strengthen our network in the Middle East and enhance Hong Kong’s connectivity with this important region. This new service will offer more travel options and greater convenience for our customers travelling to and from Saudi Arabia, as well as promote opportunities for business, trade and tourism.

Cathay Pacific’s final aircraft is headed home from Alice Springs
On 6 June, Cathay Pacific celebrated the completion of its time at the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) maintenance facility in Alice Springs with its final aircraft taking to the skies after nearly four years. The last aircraft to leave, an Airbus A330, was the first of 76 aircraft to enter the storage facility on 28 July 2020 after the unprecedented pandemic forced Cathay Pacific to ground the majority of its passenger fleet. The closing of this chapter in Alice Springs signifies a huge step forward for Hong Kong’s home carrier as it plans to rebuild its passenger flights to 100% of pre-pandemic levels within the first quarter of 2025.

Frosti Lau, Regional General Manager, Southwest Pacific said: “This is a special moment, not only for the team in Australia, but also the brand. Cathay Pacific continues to regrow its network and flights, and this was the final piece in getting all our aircraft back in the sky. It has been incredible to witness the team’s dedication to achieve this”.

After determining that its full fleet could not stay long term at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) during the pandemic, Cathay Pacific identified Alice Springs as the ideal location for its aircraft. This was due to its low humidity, far proximity to the ocean and on-site maintenance capabilities. Accompanying the 76 aircraft to the desert were a team of five Cathay engineers to provide oversight and support to over 100 on-site engineers and mechanics who were dedicated to maintaining the fleet in these unique desert conditions.

During the first two weeks in Alice Springs, the engineering team were required to undertake a series of preservation tasks to prepare the aircraft for long-term storage. This included draining engines of their oil and refilling with corrosion inhibiting fluid, treating fuel tanks with a solution to avoid microbiological growth, sealing of windows, doors, sensors, and openings to protect from dust and debris, and removing sensitive components for storage in a temperature-controlled environment.

To continue to keep the fleet in good condition, periodic checks where completed. The periodic checks consisted of packages undertaken at 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, 60 days and continued up to 2 years. Each interval required a different volume and depth of maintenance. Once a plan was set out for reactivation, the team in Alice Springs worked alongside Hong Kong-based engineers to start this complex process. Each reactivation required a 6-month lead time for working with the aircraft manufacturer to carry out a technical assessment, and every aircraft had a tailored package of maintenance tasks developed.

This was followed by 1-2 months of extensive reactivation work in Alice Springs. The tasks included landing gear swings, engine runs, structural inspections, lubrication tasks and functional tests of all the aircraft systems and components. Once reactivated and declared safe for flight, each aircraft was then ferried back to Hong Kong where it would then undergo a further extensive scheduled maintenance check in a hangar facility.

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