Cathay Pacific has operated the first scheduled Airbus A350-900 flight to New Zealand with CX197 touching down at Auckland Airport a few minutes before 1300 local time on Friday.
The inaugural A350 service, operated by B-LRC, departed Hong Kong on Thursday night and covered the roughly 4,500nm journey in a little over 10 hours.
The aircraft, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, was on the ground for about two hours before departing at 1500 local time as the reciprocal CX198 back to Hong Kong.
The oneworld alliance member had an all Kiwi crew in the flight deck for the inaugural service, with Chief Pilot Airbus Captain Gavin Haslemore and Senior Captain Colin Davis at the controls of B-LRC for the flight to Auckland.
In a significant boost to the passenger experience, the A350-900 replaces the older A340-300s that Cathay previously had on the route.
Cathay’s 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 in economy designed to make it easier for passengers to sleep.
There was an official ceremony at Auckland Airport to welcome the new aircraft type, with New Zealand Minister of Transport Simon Bridges, Cathay Pacific director of sales and marketing Dane Cheng and Auckland Airport general manager for people and safety Anna Cassels-Brown present to take part in the celebrations.
Cathay Pacific New Zealand and Pacific Islands country manager Mark Pirihi said the A350 would be a major drawcard for long-haul travellers to and from the region.
“New Zealand travellers now have the opportunity to travel to destinations in Asia and Europe through Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong hub on this all-new aircraft featuring the latest in entertainment technology and cabin design,” Pirihi said.
The airline will operate the A350-900 daily to Auckland, with a second daily service added during the peak summer holiday period using a Boeing 777-300ER. Cathay also partners with Air New Zealand on flights between New Zealand and Hong Kong as part of a joint-venture.
Meanwhile, Australians will have a new one-stop option to Israel from March 2017 when Cathay Pacific begins service to Tel Aviv from its Hong Kong hub.
The oneworld alliance member plans to operate between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv four times a week with Airbus A350-900s starting March 26 2017.
Cathay Pacific chief executive Ivan Chu said Tel Aviv was a “culturally rich and technologically-advanced business capital”, adding Israel offered “tremendous potential for business and leisure travel”.
“Together with the recent launch of our Madrid and Gatwick operations, this new service to Tel Aviv reflects our commitment to growing the Cathay Pacific network and further strengthening Hong Kong’s position as one of the world’s great international aviation hubs,” Chu said in a statement.
Cathay flies to Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from Hong Kong.
Currently, the only single-carrier, one-stop option to Israel from Australia is on Korean Air via Seoul Incheon.