Non model images from Cathay Pacific press kit
There is no doubting that the Airbus A350 in its series 900 and 1000 versions are impressive and ultra efficient widebody airliners more than capable of meeting the challenge of Boeing's 787 and new 777 variants. Given the stonking great delays to the 787 programme Airbus was able to make up ground on it and from its official launch in December 2006 it was just over 8 years until the A350 entered revenue service in January 2015, with launch customer Qatar Airways. In comparison Boeing announced the 787 in 2003 and service entry occurred in October 2011. Having said that Airbus initially mis-stepped with an A330 warmover called the A350 in late 2004, which was eventually scrapped in favour of this A350 known as the A350 XWB. Somewhat ironically Airbus has since shelved the smallest A350 variant (the -800) in favour of an A330NEO! It certainly has been far from plain sailing for both the aviation giants when it comes to their new generation mid-range widebodies.
Whatever the benefits of the 787 Cathay Pacific decided upon the Airbus A350 and has ordered 22 A350-900s and 26 A350-1000s. The A350-1000 order was placed in July 2012 and saw the airline convert 16 of its earlier 38 A350-900s to the larger model as well as place 10 new orders. The A350 becomes the first completely new type in the Cathay fleet in 20 years. Unfortunately for Cathay the delivery of their first A350s was considerably delayed, not by the airframe itself, but major issues with its new business class seats being provided by Zodiac. Original deliveries were to begin in February 2016, however the first aircraft, B-LRA didn't actually arrive until May 28.
With the service entry delays Cathay became the sixth airline to put the A350-900 into service (after Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Finnair, LATAM and Singapore respectively). For the first 3 months Cathay used its first A350s on regional routes beginning with a short hop to Manila on June 1, 2016. Thereafter flights were operated to Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei and Osaka. By early May Cathay had 80 pilots trained to fly the type though the second frame (actually B-LRC) didn't arrive until July 16 and the third (B-LRE) until August 12. The missing registrations have since been filled in with B-LRB arriving on August 25, B-LRD on September 24 and B-LRF on October 21.
Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350-900s are configured with 280 seats in three classes: 214 economy seats, 28 premium economy and 38 business class. The type was deployed on its first long-haul service on 1 September, operating Flight CX379 to Düsseldorf - a four times weekly service. This was followed on September 2 with the resumption of service to London Gatwick (also four times weekly) many years after the original service was transferred to Heathrow. The third long haul destination for the A350 was little old Auckland with the first service arriving on October 28 following a low pass over the city centre (which I witnessed from Queen's Wharf on my lunch break). The aircraft utilised for this was the second delivered B-LRC.
The A350 replaced the venerable A340-300 on the AKL route, which though currently a daily service will increase in 2017 to 10 times weekly. This is just in time for Cathay which is about to face competition on the route from Hong Kong Airlines using A330s. The next destinations for the new A350s as the fleet increases in size are Rome (from October 31), Paris (from November 2016), Melbourne (from February 2017) and Vancouver (March 2017). No doubt the type will soon become an ordinary fixture in the skies of a multitude of countries but for now it can bask in impressive news coverage in New Zealand and is a welcome addition to Auckland's growing representation of Chinese airlines.
Cathay Pacific First Airbus A350 Routes Revealed. Traveling For Miles.com
Cathay's first A350 delivery further pushed back to May. Flight Global
Cathay Pacific deploys A350 on Dusseldorf route. Flight Global
First A350 XWB delivery for Cathay Pacific Airways. Airbus
Experience the new Airbus A350. Cathay Pacific
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: