Cathay Pacific plans to launch daily Airbus A350 flights between Hong Kong and Auckland from October 30.
The airline's schedule now shows the A350 featuring on the daily CX197/198 flight, although it's of course subject to change back to the regular and less exciting Airbus A340-300.
Travellers will enjoy Cathay's updated business class (shown below) and all-new premium economy seat, along with free satellite TV plus inflight WiFi available at US$20 for the entire 11 hours of the flight.
Auckland is the third confirmed route for the next-gen jetliner, following an early September start for Dusseldorf and London Gatwick, and is sure to be followed in short form by other European destinations as Cathay Pacific grows its A350 fleet to as many as 12 jets by year's end ( with another ten to come in 2017).
PREVIOUS | Cathay Pacific will begin flying the advanced Airbus A350 to Auckland in the second half of this year, although Australia is unlikely to see the fuel-efficient jetliner until 2017.
The Hong Kong airline is expected to take delivery of the first of 22 Airbus A350-900s in March, but apart from a regional debut in New Zealand the new aircraft will be focussed on Europe, including a push into several new destinations.
London's Gatwick Airport is the first of these to be announced, with four flights a week from September 2nd to supplement the five daily flights into Heathrow.
Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Milan and Zurich are also tipped for a spot on the A350 route map, following early 'familiarisation' runs from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Manila, Osaka, Singapore and Taipei.
NZ nabs top spot
"Auckland will be one of the first A350 routes, certainly the first in the Southwest Pacific", the airline's regional general manager Nelson Chin tells Australian Business Traveller. "I'm quite confident we will have that in the second half of 2016."
"But in the coming years there will be no shortage of A350s, we're ordering a total of 22, and you'll see a lot of transitions from Airbus A330s to A350s."
That will include Australia, where Cathay almost exclusively flies A330s except for two Boeing 777-300ER services to Sydney.
And it'll be a rapid roll-out, with Cathay Pacific picking up the keys to 12 A350s this year and ten more in 2017.
Read more: Inside Cathay Pacific's all-new Airbus A350
A350 leans towards longer routes
Chin explains that Auckland scored top billing for the A350's regional launch because the long route – some 5,688 miles – is better suited to the A350's thrifty nature than the relatively shorter Australian runs.
"Fuel costs have have gone down but it still matters greatly in terms of overall costs" Chin says. "So the longer the route, the more benefit you get from a fuel-saving aircraft like the A350, which is much more cost-efficient per seat than the other aircraft we have."
"That's why you’ll see us deploy more A350s onto long-haul routes first, like Gatwick and a lot of other European ports."
"We have very good ideas about the new potential routes we will be flying to once the delivery schedule is set in concrete" Chin adds.
Cathay Pacific has also inked a deal for 26 of the larger and longer-range A350-1000s with deliveries from 2018, of which Chin says "you'll see see a lot more possibilities in terms of operating into the likes of North America and new cities that will be explored, what we might call secondary cities."
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