Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350-900 service to Australia has touched down at Melbourne Airport.
Flight CX105, operated by B-LRI, arrived at Tullamarine a little before 1230 on Wednesday, after a nine-hour journey from Hong Kong.
The aircraft was on the ground for about three hours before taking off as the the reciprocal CX104 to Hong Kong.
Previously, all three of Cathay’s Melbourne-Hong Kong rotations were operated with Airbus A330-300s configured with 251 seats comprising 39 in business, 21 in premium economy and 191 in economy.
By contrast, the A350-900s have 280 seats (38 business, 28 premium economy and 214 economy) and feature the airline’s latest cabin products such as on-board wifi, new premium economy seat and refreshed business and economy seats. In particular, the aircraft features Cathay’s innovative “six-way” headrest designed to make it easier for passengers to sleep.
A further capacity increase is due to take place on March 1, with the Boeing 777-300ER to take over Cathay’s CX178 overnight flight from Melbourne and CX163 morning service from Hong Kong.
The airline’s three-class 777-300ERs have 40 business class, 32 premium economy and 268 economy seats for a total of 340.
The upgauge of aircraft type on two of the three daily flights will represent a capacity increase of 15.7 per cent to Melbourne, Cathay has said previously.
Cathay Pacific general manager for Southwest Pacific Nelson Chin said the airline was thrilled to introduce the A350-900 and offer travellers to and from Melbourne the airline’s newest passenger amenities.
“As an airline we know that air travel is much more than simply getting from A to B. We continue to improve the journey for our passengers; and this aircraft does just that,” Chin said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is transforming the way our passengers are travelling – it’s faster, smarter, and greener, and boasts our newest cabins.”
The oneworld alliance member has utilised all available traffic rights for Hong Kong carriers to Australia’s four major international gateways of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, which currently sits at 70 flights a week. As a result, the only way to add capacity is to upgauge to larger equipment.
In November, Cathay chief executive Ivan Chu told reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) annual conference in Manila the airline’s preference was for an increased use of the A350 and 777 to Australia, rather than pushing for the bilateral to be expanded.
“I don’t see an urgent move,” Chu said of the need to expand the current bilateral air services agreement between Australia and Hong Kong.
“Four times a day to Sydney and three times a day to Melbourne, that’s perhaps what we want to operate for some time.
“For us, we are happy with the frequencies and we have bigger aircraft. Putting more seats on those routes are really important so we have 777s that we are putting in.”
The use of larger aircraft follows a similar move in Sydney, where two of Cathay’s four daily flights are now operated by 777-300ERs.
Meanwhile, a YouTube video from Dj’s Aviation also captured the landing.