Cathay Pacific has confirmed it will fly its new-generation A350-900 XWB on the Auckland-Hong Kong route from October 31. It will be a welcome replacement for the Airbus A340s that are used on the route now. The airline showed off the plane on a steamy Hong Kong night to around 500 VIPs, frequent flyers and media from around the world. Here's what passengers can look forward to.
From the outside
It looks great. It's the same size as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and has a similar look, but a distinctive nose with a wraparound sunglasses-style windscreen and elegant swept-up wings.
On the inside
Cathay has configured the first of its A350s with 38 Business Class seats, 28 Premium Economy and 214 Economy. The seats are the key selling points for passengers.
Business Class seats
Single touch control to get the seat from upright to fully flat and the bed is slightly longer than those on the A340, but configured four across, rather than three. It's a clean look with sculpted seat wings the airline says balance privacy and openness. Additional stowage including a dedicated spot for a water bottles. There's an 18.5 inch TV with a 4.3 inch video handset - among other functions, passengers can let crew know when to not to disturb or wake them up.
Full-length leg rest on all seats, pitch is increased to 40 inches, dimmable personal reading light, more stowage, including a tablet holder. Also has nifty slide-out cocktail table. A 2-4-2 layout in a separate cabin.
A 3-3-3 configuration. Slimline seats make for a spacious feel and they have a four-way adjustable headrest, which is snug, and a tablet holder. Power outlets at the bottom front of every seat and your own USB port, a very welcome advance on the A340. A generous 11-inch TV screen. The vertical side walls mean more space around window seats.
Cathay has caught up to some other airlines here (and is ahead of most of the pack) but it costs US$19 on long haul flights. Satellite TV news will be free.
Out of bounds during the media night but the airline says they are off-the-shelf Airbus design and isn't talking them up.
The cabin environment
Cabin air recycled every three minutes. The airline is promising a "whisper quiet" cabin with 50 per cent less perceived external noise. I flew on a route-proving flight on a test A350 in 2014 and they are definitely a quiet plane. Like the Dreamliner the fuselage makes extensive use of carbon fibre, is stronger than older planes and can have bigger holes cut into it, hence bigger windows. Its strength allows a higher cabin pressure with more oxygen to lower the cabin cruising altitude from 8000ft on current aircraft types to 6000 ft - this reduces passenger fatigue.
Unlike the Dreamliner with its cool, dimmable windows, the A350 has stuck with traditional window shades you slide manually.