Behind the scenes of Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 countdown

By David Flynn, July 15 2015
Behind the scenes of Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 countdown

Cathay Pacific is getting set to welcome the Airbus A350 into its fleet, ahead of first commercial flights in February 2016.

The airline hasn't yet revealed which city will be graced with the next-gen jet's debut, although it's believed that Auckland sits very high on the list.

Cathay's first two A350s are already trundling down the final assembly line at Airbus' Toulouse base, with a staggering 46 more to follow – an order split between the mid-sized A350-900 and the larger A350-1000, the later of which will see a new first class cabin joining Cathay's new A350-900 business class and premium economy seats (but not an inflight bar).

Read: Cathay Pacific to launch new business class in February 2016

The airline is also looking to learn lessons from Qatar Airways' launch of the A350.

"We’ve been through our first technical review meeting with Airbus to review the early entry-into-service experience of Qatar and to understand any early maturity issues that may affect the first Cathay aircraft," explains Bob Taylor, Head of the CX A350 Project.

"Our understanding is that the aircraft is performing quite well technically although some early maturity issues still have to be addressed. The feedback from operating crews has been very positive."

Back at Cathay City, the airline's bustling headquarters adjacent to Hong Kong Airport, a state-of-the-art Airbus A350 flight simulator has been installed at the CX Flight Training Centre.

This was no easy feat, with the bulky simulator cockpit hoisted by crane into the facility via a gaping hole crated in the building's wall.

The job required equal parts machine and muscle.

The sim will be loaded with super-realistic maps fired from 4K 'Ultra HD' projectors, which Manager Simulator Engineering Neil Cothran says will produce "fantastic images."

"Also, the cockpit is huge. Combined with some of the design features of the simulator structure, everyone will notice how large it is inside."

Once the sim is fully tested, certified and signed off in September, instructors, engineers and pilots will begin training in earnest.

But it won't be the first make-believe A350 ride for some Cathay Pacific crew who took part in the first Airbus A350 'virtual passenger flight' some two years ago.

The four-hour dry run in an A350 mock-up dubbed 'Cabin Zero' – on an imaginary journey from the Canary Islands to Hamburg, Germany – included a hearty hot lunch, mood lighting and realistic flight sounds (courtesy of Microsoft Flight Simulator software).

Read: Airbus A350 makes its first 'virtual flight'

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

Looking forward to the A350, the new F, and glad to hear that there will be no... Ugh... Inflight bar.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

I enjoyed the inflight bar on the Qatar A380, met a few really interesting folk and helped pass the time rather than sitting in suspended animation in my seat. It's a good compromise between those who want to live in a cocoon and those who want to have a place to get away from it. Allows airlines to cater to those who want isolation and those who don' of both worlds. The FA in the Qatar lounge told me it was usually full on the London - Doha afternoon flights.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 276

Looks fascinating, curious to see their routes as well. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 284

Really looking forward to see what city they'll fly the beauty to first, hopefully SYD :)


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 115

But what about Perth!?!?! ;)

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

No, no.  I think CX is going to order some A380s for that crucial route.

30 May 2015

Total posts 6

Anyone know which routes the a350 will work on?

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

Well off the top of my head I would be able to give a few 

  • Perth
  • Auckland
  • Duseldorf 
  • Manchester 
  • Boston 

Only reason for this is because it would provide a smaller load factor than the 300er but larger than a 787-9 (yes CX didnt order them I know) 

It might also alow for a daily Manchester service 

14 Apr 2014

Total posts 46

Just adding to the list...

  • Zurich
  • Sydney (Possibly)
  • Melbourne (Possibly)

I read somewhere that they were going to replace some of the A330s that currently operate on the route with A350s. The A330s would then get rerouted elsewhere.


Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

Think they were planning to replace all of them sooner rather than later which would be good. Now are you going to reveal that new busniess class soon CX

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

CX I would not of minded a bar it is somewhere to go and stand and move about rather than be stuck in my seat for the whole flight!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 467

A CX A350 into Perth would be very welcome, but I would prefer to see more flights so the daytime PER-HKG is more than 3 times a week.  Though, I think it has been commented that they are at their limit for flights into Australia.   Perhaps if QF can give up on trying to operate in their region, there could be better outcomes for Australian travellers.


13 Jun 2015

Total posts 140

We need double daily flights from Perth to Hong Kong to increase passenger demand. That way a morning flight will be operated by A350 while the night will be by an a330. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 284

Can't wait

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 144

If CX can move around their times for BNE, It would be much appreciated rather than the only direct flight with CX being at 1:50am ...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 467

CX timetable shows 0900 departures 4 days a week as well as a daily 0050 departure

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 467

Oh, I see the 0900 is via CNS.  

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