Cathay Pacific will tonight officially unveil its brand new Airbus A350 XWB - the world's latest widebody aircraft and one which the airline will fly on the Hong Kong-Auckland route later this year.
The new plane - which has a list price of US$308 million ($NZ460m) - makes extensive use of composite materials and is claimed to be 25 per cent more efficient than the equivalent aircraft it will replace due to engine efficiencies, being lighter and aerodynamic modificatons.
At a special hangar ceremony at Hong Kong International Airport the airline will show off the plane to special guests and media. Cathay is Asia's largest airline by number of passengers but the A350 is the first new type of plane to enter the airline's fleet in 20 years.
It will be used on the Hong Kong-Auckland route to replace older and less efficient Airbus A340s. The airline has been retiring those and ageing 747 Jumbo jets from its 140-strong fleet.
While three other airlines have already taken delivery of A350s during the past two years, much of the interest is in how they fit them out.
Airbus' XWB's (which stands for extra wide body) do have an advantage of being slightly wider at 5.96m than rival Boeing aircraft the Dreamliner at 5.49m allowing airlines more flexibility with how they configure them.
Cathay's A350XWB-900 has 214 new design economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration, 28 premium business seats and 38 updated business class seats. The business class seat making caused several months of delays when manufacturer Zodiac hit certification and production snags.
Cathay will add 22 -A350 900s to its fleet over the next two years, followed by 26 A350-1000s from 2018 through to 2020. These bulk purchases do allow airlines to get substantial discounts over list prices which Airbus was able to put up at the beginning of the year due to high demand as air travel booms and carriers upgrade their fleets.
It will use its first aircraft to fly to Manila later this week then start service to Taiwan before bing used to fly to Bangkok, Singapore,Ho Chi Minh City and Osaka Kansai.
After these regional flights the plane will be used on ultra-long haul routes including London and Auckland.
Unlike the 787 Dreamliner, the A350 which has many of the same design features avoided lengthy delays in the design and initial production stage.
In advance of the use of the A350 on ultra long routes over water, Airbus has won approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the planes over three hours from an airport in the event of having to fly on just one engine.
#Grant Bradley travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Cathay Pacific