Three of Cathay Pacific’s four daily Hong Kong-Sydney services will be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-300ER from the end of October as the airline again boosts capacity in the Australian market with larger aircraft.
The move to upgauge CX162 (the 1125 departure from Sydney) and CX161, which departs Hong Kong at 2125, from the Airbus A330-300 to the 777-300ER starting October 29 was in response to passenger demand, Cathay said on Wednesday.
Cathay’s three-class 777-300ERs have 340 seats (40 business, 32 premium economy, 268 economy), while there are 251 seats (39 business, 21 premium economy, 191 economy) on the A330-300s used to serve Australia.
As a result, the use of the larger 777-300ER represented an additional 1,246 seats per week on the route.
Cathay Pacific general manager for Southwest Pacific Nelson Chin said there was growing demand for travel out of Sydney, particularly in the premium economy cabin.
“Demand is certainly there to enable us to increase the number of seats for sale to and from Sydney,” Chin said in a statement.
“While there is a lot of competition on routes, particularly from Sydney, clearly there are many customers who appreciate the quality, level of service and value for money that sets Cathay Pacific apart.”
The airline flies 74 times a week to Australia and has utilised the full amount of available frequencies to the country’s four major gateways – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – for Hong Kong-designated carriers.
Therefore, any increase in capacity has been achieved through larger aircraft and not additional flights.
Cathay has already replaced one A330-300 service to Melbourne with the larger A350-900. Further, the airline planned to operate the 777-300ER to the Victorian capital from March 1.
Meanwhile, Cathay’s nonstop Brisbane-Hong Kong flight would feature the A350-900, which are configured with 280 seats comprising 38 in business, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy, from the end of March.
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.”
Cathay was in the process of a top-to-bottom restructure of its business that is expected to include job cuts as it attempts to address weak yields and falling profits.
The oneworld alliance member, along its peers in the region, have battled the rapid international expansion of Chinese airlines and the ongoing rise of Middle East carriers offering long-haul to long-haul connections through their hubs, which have bitten into previously lucrative markets. And within Asia, low-cost carriers have won passengers happy to pay lower fares for a no-frills product on short- and medium-haul routes.
(Read more about Cathay being “Between a rock and a hard place” in the March edition of Australian Aviation, on sale from Thursday February 23.)