Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

This is the F1 racing car of airliners: World's newest airliner A350 tipped for 2017 NZ debut

Cathay Pacific says it wants to get its new A350XWB on the Auckland-Hong Kong route as soon as possible but the Wi-Fi-equipped plane could be delayed until early next year.

The airline this week took delivery of the first of what is one of the most advanced passenger planes and wants to use it on the Auckland route as soon as possible.

However, corporate affairs director James Tong said: "Auckland will be immediately after Europe because we see this aircraft as very suitable for the Hong Kong to Auckland route.''

"We don't know yet - probably next year - hopeful we can advance it a bit.''

He said the airline needed three aircraft for each long haul destination and in the meantime pilots needed to do more training with short haul operations.

"The earlier the better,'' said Tong

The A350 will replace Airbus A340s which are used year-round on the route where the airline will face increased competition from November when Chinese mainland-based Hong Kong Airlines starts flying to Auckland daily.

Tong said the newcomer will help stimulate the market further.

The airline last night unveiled the A350-900XWB last night at a hangar function when about 500 VIPs, frequent flyers, staff and media from around the world who got a look over the new plane which arrived at Hong Kong International Airport from Toulouse, France on Sunday.

The new aircraft is largely made of composite materials, allowing bigger windows and more comfortable cabin pressure.
The new aircraft is largely made of composite materials, allowing bigger windows and more comfortable cabin pressure.

It is the first of 48 A350s scheduled to be delivered to the airline. The aircraft has a list price of $460 million although airlines get substantial undisclosed discounts for buying many planes.

The plane makes extensive use of carbon fibre, titanium and new generation aluminium to strengthen the fuselage and wings. It is claimed to be 25 per cent more fuel efficient than similar older planes and instead of heavy maintenance every six years it only needs to undergo a major overhaul every 12 years, said the airline's A350 project manager Robert Taylor.

He said the when compared to older planes the A350 was "like a Formula One car compared to a double-decker bus.''

Inside the economy section of the new aircraft. Photo / Grant Bradley
Inside the economy section of the new aircraft. Photo / Grant Bradley

Like rival Boeing's Dreamliner, a stronger fuselage allows for a higher cabin pressure which reduces fatigue for passengers and crew. Air aboard the plane is circulated once every three minutes.

Tong said the airline would not be looking to charge a premium for fares on the new plane which has all new seats and better inflight entertainment systems than those in the rest of its 140-strong fleet.

On routes such as Hong Kong-Auckland the market will determine fares, he said.

Cathay is also following the lead of other airlines and will offer Wi-Fi aboard its A350s for a fee which has been set at $US19.95 for flights longer than six hours.
It says coverage will be global, apart from very high latitude areas.

Grant Bradley travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Cathay Pacific

Cathay cabin crew showing off the new plane to world media. Photo / Grant Bradley
Cathay cabin crew showing off the new plane to world media. Photo / Grant Bradley

- NZ Herald

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