Cathay Pacific will upgrade one of its daily flights between Sydney and Hong Kong to a Boeing 777-300ER as the airline looks to increase the number of passengers it can book onto the popular route.
All of Cathay's four flights on the Sydney-Hong Kong route – indeed, all of the airline's services into and out of Australia – rely on Airbus A330 jets which can carry 242 travellers across business premium economy and economy.
The Boeing 777-300ER represents a 40% boost in bums on seats, adding one hundred extra seats to the daily count.
93 of those are found in the economy cabin compared to one more for business class and four in premium economy.
Cathay will roster the Boeing 777-300ER onto its CX138/139 service, initially running three days each week from December 3rd (Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, with the other days remaining on an Airbus A330) but stepping up every day as of February 1st, 2015.
CX138/139 is popular overnight flight leaving Sydney at 10.20pm to reach Hong Kong at 5am. The return leg is Cathay's only daytime flight between the two cities, departing Hong Kong at 8.50am to arrive in Sydney at 9pm.
"We’ve seen very high passenger numbers throughout Australia and on our Sydney flights in particular this year and are therefore responding to the very solid demand by increasing capacity on a key flight" said Nelson Chin, Cathay Pacific's Regional General Manager for South West Pacific.
CX hits the ceiling
Cathay Pacific has been seeking to increase the number of flights between Australia and Hong Kong, having already reached the Australian Government-imposed cap of 70 flights per week out of Australia.
Speaking at Sydney's Australia Pacific Aviation Summit in August 2013, Cathay's then-COO and now CEO Ivan Chu cited the old Chinese proverb of "digging a well before you are thirsty."
"When the market grows we want to have the capacity to allow us to grow" Chu said.
However, with no extra flights seemingly on the agenda, the airline has opted to roll out the flagship of its international fleet.
Virgin Atlantic axed its Sydney-Hong Kong service on May 5 this year, claiming the route was "no longer considered profitable" due to "increasing costs and a challenging economic environment."
Cathay's sole competitor on the route is now Qantas, which will downgrade its daily flights from an Airbus A380 to a Boeing 747-400 from September 29, although the superjumbo will be rostered onto the route during peak periods such as summer holidays and Chinese New Year.
Last week saw Cathay Pacific launch a campaign to woo Australian travellers – which by default means members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme – with a double serve of its Asia Miles on flights between Australia and Hong Kong.
No Cathay Pacific lounge for Sydney
However, the airline has poured cold water on notions that it might open its own lounge at Sydney Airport.
"Sydney is definitely very high up in what we call our 'high value port analysis' - which sounds rather grand but it's (a rating) based on frequency, front-end traffic, Marco Polo Club members etc" Toby Smith, Cathay Pacific's General Manager Product, told Australian Business Traveller.
"But we also look at what else is at the airport, and clearly Qantas as a Oneworld partner has two great lounges, they do a great job, so we have no plans at the moment."
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