Cathay Pacific, battling through the wave of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, has launched a new plane on its Auckland route.
One of the most advanced aircraft in the world, the Airbus A350-1000 touched down just before 1pm in Auckland following a flight of just on 10 hours, flightradar data shows.
It is the first time the aircraft that can carry 334 passengers has been used on scheduled services to this country.
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Cathay's general manager for the South West Pacific, Rakesh Raicar, said demand from this region was holding up despite months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong which have seen visitor numbers dive.
''The bookings have been quite healthy despite the massive coverage Hong Kong has had. Hong Kong is unfolding every week so it's difficult for us to have any certainty.''
In September Cathay and its subsidiaries carried 7.1 per cent fewer passengers compared to the same month a year ago. The airline's chief executive and chairman have resigned and it has come under pressure from the Chinese government to sack staff who were protesting.
Raicar says up to 80 per cent of New Zealanders flew through Hong Kong to other destinations rather than staying in the territory. This meant they not been affected by protests which had sometimes reached the landside of Hong Kong International Airport.
A further increase in A350-1000 services is planned for the end of the year with the aircraft arriving twice daily between December 2019 and February 2020.
The A350-1000 has the very latest in aerodynamics, design and advanced technologies, providing improved fuel efficiency.
It carries 54 more passengers than the A350-900 Cathay has been using on the route. It is 7m longer than its smaller sibling.
Raicar said the plane was ideal for ''long and skinny'' routes such as that between Hong Kong and Auckland.
"We are proud to be the first airline to launch the A350-1000 in New Zealand and to offer one of the youngest long-haul fleets in the sky," Raicar says.
Engines are also more powerful on the new plane. Two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines generate 90,000 pounds of thrust each, 13,000 pounds more than the earlier plane. Rolls-Royce has had trouble with some of the Trent engines powering Dreamliners but has avoided problems with the engines powering Airbus XWBs (extra wide bodies).
The bigger engines mean the take-off weight can be 316 tonnes, almost 40 tonnes more than the earlier plane. This allows for extra cargo, critical to Cathay's global operations. It can hold 14 cargo pallets, three more than the -900.
This can add up to 5.5 tonnes of cargo which Raicar said was important on New Zealand flights because of high volumes of fresh food that are flown to Hong Kong and on to other destinations.
The number of Cathay Pacific flights departing Christchurch each week is also being increased from three to four starting in December this year through to February 2020.
All Christchurch services will be served by the A350-900, meaning all Cathay Pacific flights to and from New Zealand will be served by one of the A350 aircraft family.
Cathay has 12-1000s in its fleet with a further 8 on order. Within the A350 family (including A350-900) it has a total fleet of 36
Auckland Airport's general manager of aeronautical commercial, Scott Tasker, said the introduction of this latest Cathay Pacific aircraft to Auckland was a welcome addition for the upcoming summer peak visitor season.
Airbus brought an example of the A350-1000 to Auckland last year as part of a global sales push.
While Air New Zealand has opted for more Dreamliners to expand its long haul fleet, Qantas is assessing ultra long haul Airbus planes in its Project Sunrise - possible non-stop flights between Australia's eastern cities and London and New York.
Other big moves
Later this week Singapore Airlines will replace its Boeing 777s on the Wellington-Melbourne-Singapore route with an Airbus A350.
There has also been speculation that American Airlines will soon announce more flights between New Zealand and the United States.
Increased flying by American Airlines, one of the world's biggest carriers, would provide more competition for Air New Zealand which is just about to step up Auckland-Chicago services and from next October fly non-stop from Auckland to New York.