Cathay Pacific will add more than a 1,300 extra seats a week between Hong Kong and Sydney when it runs one of its four daily services with Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The 777 replaces the smaller Airbus A330-300 three days a week from December 1, and will be daily from February 15 2015, Cathay Pacific confirmed on Monday.
“We’ve seen very high passenger numbers throughout Australia and on our Sydney flights in particular this year and are therefore responding to the very solid demand by increasing capacity on a key flight,” the airline’s manager for the south-west Pacific, Nelson Chin, said in a statement.
The move to a daily service will come just before Chinese New Year, which falls on February 19 next year.
Currently, Cathay operates four flights a day between Sydney and Hong Kong using A330s fitted with 39 business, 28 premium economy and 175 economy seats, according to the airline’s website.
The three-class 777-300ER Cathay has earmarked for the route is configured with 40 business, 32 premium economy and 268 economy seats, representing an increase of 98 seats over the A330.
The aircraft change would add about 580 seats a week from December, rising to 1,370 more seats a week between Sydney and Hong Kong when the 777 goes daily, Cathay said.
Cathay operates the maximum 70 flights a week permitted under bilateral agreements between Australia and Hong Kong into the four main Australian ports of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Given attempts to negotiate an increase quota allocated to Hong Kong airlines has been ongoing for the several years without success, swapping to larger aircraft was the only current option for Cathay to add more seats on its Australian services.
Separately, the Hong Kong-based airline is adding more seats on the A330s that it flies to Australia, through replacing some premium economy seats with economy seats.
A report from CAPA – Centre for Aviation said the use of the Boeing 777, as well as the extra economy seats, would return capacity nearer to 2011 levels, before the airline introduced premium economy in its fleet.
“Additional seats will allow Cathay to offset the decrease it experienced in the Australian market beginning in 2012 as it started to retrofit a new business class seat and later premium economy seats, which took up more room than the seats they replaced,” CAPA said in a research note dated August 4.
The Hong Kong market has seen some capacity adjustments in recent times, with Qantas in the process of replacing Airbus A380 aircraft flown between Sydney and Hong Kong with 747s (as it deploys the A380 to Dallas) and the withdrawal of Virgin Atlantic on the Sydney-Hong Kong route.