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Cathay Pacific flies New Zealand’s first Airbus A350-900 service

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 28, 2016

The first Airbus A350-900 passenger service touches down at Auckland Airport. (Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 B-LRC touches down at Auckland Airport. (Cathay Pacific)

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.

NZ Minister for Transport Simon Bridges with Cathay Pacific pilots Gavin Haslemore and Colin Davis. (Cathay Pacific)
NZ Minister for Transport Simon Bridges with Cathay Pacific pilots Gavin Haslemore and Colin Davis. (Cathay Pacific)

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.

Cathay's six-way economy class headrest on the A350-900. (Cathay Pacific)

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's six-way economy class headrest on the A350-900. (Cathay Pacific)

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.

Cathay's six-way economy class headrest on the A350-900. (Cathay Pacific)
Cathay’s six-way economy class headrest on the A350-900. (Cathay Pacific)

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.

Cathay Pacific CX197 touches down at Auckland Airport on October 28. (Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific is the first airline to fly the Airbus A350-900 to New Zealand. (Cathay Pacific)

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.

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Comments (7)

  • That Ron guy


    All I want for Christmas is an Airbus A350XWB

  • Tomcatterry


    What a fabulous aircraft!
    Great to see the Europeans keeping the pressure on Boeing

  • Josh


    Beijing has more direct flights to Tel Aviv than Seoul does, mate.

  • GAGA


    Nice but it’s not a “major draw card”. Typical modern managerial spin. People wanting/needing to travel will do so regardless of whether it’s a A340 or A350. Some people actually prefer the assurance of having four engines instead of two.
    Personally, I’d prefer to go on a A340 as I’ve never been on one and they are become a rarity. Whereas the A350 is going to become common and stick around for ages.

  • Jeremy


    Count yourself lucky you haven’t been on a cx A340, truly showing their age I’m sure CX can’t dispose of them quick enough. A350 is a lovely looking aircraft and a welcome replacement for the AKL service although not actually adding any real capacity or growth into the region. A nice new aeroplane doesn’t fix the cancer the airline is facing with customer satisfaction. Just like the QF paint scheme its all smoke and mirrors, it’s what is inside that counts and keeps the paying punters returning.

  • Taurean Lea


    Congratulations must go to Cathay Pacific for introducing the Airbus A350 to all New Zealanders, especially those who just love Aviation!!!! ;-D

  • Ken Hambleton


    Great for New Zealand, unfortunately for me I booked with Thai last May as I was told they will be starting their new A350 service from Melbourne to Bangkok, however this has been put back to sometime in 2017, missed out once again.

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