Cathay Pacific has commenced Airbus A350-900 flights between Perth and its Hong Kong hub, bringing to four the number of Australian cities served by the next-generation widebody from four foreign carriers.
The oneworld alliance member switched its daily Perth-Hong Kong rotation from the Airbus A330-300 to the A350-900 on Sunday, continuing a trend of upgauging its Australian network with larger aircraft.
The first A350-900 flight to Perth, operated by B-LRQ as CX171, took off from Hong Kong at 1515 local time and landed some seven and a half hours later at about 2230.
The aircraft then took off as the reciprocal CX170 back to Hong Kong just past midnight on Monday morning.
The A330-300 previously used to Perth on the daily CX170/171 rotation held 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.
The Hong Kong flag carrier now uses the A350-900 to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. The airline was expected to have all 22 A350-900s on order in operation by the end of 2017. It has also signed for 26 of the larger A350-1000 variant, which were due to arrive between 2018-2020.
Cathay 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.
The A330-300 will remain on Cathay CX136/137 Perth-Hong Kong-Perth service, which operates on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays as a morning flight from Perth and on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays as red-eye from Hong Kong.
No airline in Oceania has ordered the A350, although the widebody twin is an increasingly common sight at local airports thanks to services operated by Cathay Pacific (Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and now Perth), Singapore Airlines (Brisbane and Melbourne), Thai Airways (Melbourne) and Qatar Airways (Adelaide).
China Airlines will be the fifth airline to fly the aircraft to Australia from December 1 when boosts its four times weekly A330-300 service between Sydney and Taipei to a double-daily schedule with A350-900s as part of efforts to part of efforts to support its new long-haul offering to London Gatwick.