Cathay Pacific: Australia-wide upgrade to Airbus A350s by 2019

By David Flynn, February 14 2017
Cathay Pacific: Australia-wide upgrade to Airbus A350s by 2019

Cathay Pacific expects most of its Australian flights to be running on the airline's new Airbus A350 jets by 2019.

The move will see the current Airbus A330s replaced by A350s with improved business class, premium economy and economy seats, along with inflight Internet and an overall more comfortable ride to Hong Kong and back.

"The Airbus A350s will eventually replace all the A330s over the next two years or so throughout our region" says Nelson Chin, Cathay Pacific's Regional General Manager for South West Pacific.

The Oneworld airline signed on the dotted line for 22 Airbus A350-900s and has already taken delivery of the first 11, "with another 11 coming this year" Chin tells Australian Business Traveller. "We expect that by end of this year we will have all 22 aircraft."

In addition to appearing in most Australian cities the expanded A350 fleet will also serve "some of the long-haul destinations like Vancouver" says Chin, "and also some European ports (which are) traditionally the smaller secondary routes... we're looking at the likes of Madrid and Zurich."

A350s for Melbourne, Brisbane and beyond

Cathay began flying the A350 to Melbourne this month, with Brisbane to follow from March 26, and expects more A350 announcements to come over the course of this year.

Chin tells Australian Business Traveller that Melbourne's launch of A350 flights has seen "a very good response" from passengers.

"All our A350s to from Melbourne are very full, especially in the front end... business class and premium economy are an improvement from the A330s and Boeing 777s."

"We have also seen a very good uptake of people wanting to use the internet, the signal by and large is quite stable and fast enough for browsing and email, and that's a huge win for us. (Inflight Internet) really works well for medium or long haul routes."

However, several Australian routes are also likely to see Cathay's flagship Boeing 777-300ER jets used to beat the current restrictions on the number of flights into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, which are capped at 70 flights per week.

Sydney already has two of its four daily CX flights running on the big Boeing, which offers almost a hundred seats more than the Airbus A330, with Melbourne seeing an A330-to-B777 swap from March 1 on CX163/CX178.

No Cathay Dragon for Cairns

Chin qualifies that some Airbus A330s may remain in the mix post-2019 if they're better suited to a specific route than the larger A350 – a move made easier by the increased number of A350s in the Cathay fleet.

"As we bring in more A350s there will be more A330s to go around" Chin notes, although he defused speculation that Cathay's regional arm Cathay Dragon – formerly Dragonair – was lining up to take over Airbus A330 flights between Hong Kong and Cairns, on Queensland's far north coast, and decouple these from the current Hong Kong-Cairns-Brisbane 'tag' route.

"By and large we resort to CathayDragon for the more regional routes from Hong Kong where customers may prefer a more 'Asian flavour' in terms of product and service offering."

"For Cairns we have a good mix of tourists fed in through the network, not just Asians but Europeans and North Americans," Chin explains, adding that "as Australia is more medium to long-haul, I believe it's more likely than not (Cairns) will be served by Cathay Pacific."

Chin added that "there is no decisions on a 'detag' (separating Cairns flights from Brisbane), but certainly we are looking to have a better offering for Cairns and Brisbane, as we do for the rest of our cities."


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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 361

Great news. Although it would be better if we can see one or two flights with first class to Australia. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 474

It would be great if CX could make CNS a separate route. Landing there in the early hours on the overnight HKG-CNS-BNE destroys any possibility of a decent sleep for BNE-bound pax.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jun 2013

Total posts 24

Yes John, having a direct HKG-BNE route would be much more enjoyable. That stop in CNS is a pain!

Does CX give adequate shake down time on the A350 before deployment? 

I was on 2 flights on the past few day, where there were lots of non-flight critical features of the plane that were not  working:

  • Doors to forward J cabin lavatory  was jammed and could not lock
  • The map function on the entertainment system wasn't operational 
  • The sky camera was offline (was operational on QR and AY A350)
  • The satellite TV was operational intermittently. CNN worked on the earlier sector I was on. On the second sector, CNN audio was available but no video. Same goes for BBC
  • The music playlist didn't move to the next track, the way it should. One has to manually press the "next" button. I gave up and listened to the iPod instead. Shame 'cos the CX "classical morning" playlist is actually quite good
  • The latch to the door of the cubby hole, where headset is stored was flimsy and didn't work 
  • The latch to the retractable armrest was very stiff and was difficult to deploy.

On a good note, besides the fantastic service, CX seems to have resolved the problem of the over heated entertainment unit. My feet and seat area did not feel overly warm throughout the flight, the way it does on the A330.

Also, it appears the forward galley is extremely compact. I felt really sorry for the crew! I didn't recall the galley being that tiny on QR (didn't check out the galley on AY).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 467

Does the headset locker have opening instructions on the inside of the door, as I recently saw on the 777 ?

I didn't notice instructions. The headset compartment was certainly bigger than the 77W or A330 and if I recall correctly, you don't need those two pin adapters for your Bose headsets.

 I guess I was just surprised at the over all finish. Didn't seem to be up to Cathay standards. If this had been MH, I would not have bat an eyelid. But the crew were super apologetic like it was their fault. Bless them!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jul 2016

Total posts 5

I'm travelling from LA to Perth via Hong Kong in Business on CX885 in July. Have a few hours to kill in Hong Kong, Which is the best lounge in HK to visit and what services do they have

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2553

Boko, that question would be best asked in our Community discussion area, but as a time-saver this article may be useful:

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Cathay Pacific: Australia-wide upgrade to Airbus A350s by 2019