HONG KONG — Cathay Pacific has officially taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 this week, unveiled in a spectacular ceremony in Hong Kong where employees, media and distinguished guests were introduced to the newest member of Cathay Pacific’s fleet.

“We understand that for our passengers, sleeping well, enjoying first-class entertainment and using products that have been designed with them in mind are of the utmost importance. The new A350 will provide the very best of all these,” Cathay Pacific Chief Operating Officer Rupert Hogg said. “The lower cabin pressure and noise levels combine with our new features to set passengers up for the best sleeping experience possible in the skies. We have gone all out to provide the best inflight entertainment too. All seats come with the latest high-definition touchscreen personal TVs and a greater selection of movies, TV shows, live news channels and music. Inflight Wi-Fi is also available to connect passengers to family, work and world events, if they choose. We could not be more excited with what we’ve seen so far of the A350 and I’m sure that our passengers will feel the same way once they step onboard.”

Updated Interior

Overall the aircraft will have 280 seats in a three class layout on the A350 with 38 business class seats, 28 premium economy seats and 214 economy seats. Cathay Pacific is also launching an all-new premium economy and economy seat on the A350.

The aircraft will feature and updated look to its Zodiac business class seat designed by Studio F.A. Porsche, but it is still very close to what is seen on the carriers 777-300ER’s currently. The new features include an increased pitch from 43” to 45” along with an increased personal TV size from 15.4” to 18.5”. Other new features will include extra stowage space along with a new personal service offered by a “Do Not Disturb” and “Wake Up Call” function in the entertainment system. Layout will be 1-2-1 on the A350 for business class.

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The Zodiac Aerospace Business Class Seat provides direct and uninterrupted aisle access for every passenger, and with the seats angled away from the aisles for privacy. (Credits: Author)

The premium economy and economy class seats also received a number of new features including a dedicated tablet holder that make it easy for passengers to enjoy entertainment content on their own devices.

Premium economy will be configured in a 2-4-2 layout with the seat pitch increasing from 38” to 40” along with an increase in recline from 8” to 9”. Also, in previous aircraft, only the front row would feature a full length leg-rest, but on the A350 it will be on all seats. The personal TV size is also increased from 11.1” to 12.1”.

Last but not least in economy class, it is 9-abreast in a 3-3-3 configuration with the personal TV being the main highlight in improvement from 9” to 11”, otherwise pitch remains the same as it is on the 777-300ER at 32” with 6” of recline. However, the seat width has gone down from 18.5 inches to only 18 inches.

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The Economy Class cabin has a 3+3+3 layout. (Credits: Author)

Wi-Fi is fitted on the carriers A350 and will be the first aircraft in the entire fleet to have inflight internet on Cathay Pacific’s international fleet, but it is expected to be expanded to the rest of the fleet in due time. The Wi-Fi will be accessible gate-to-gate for $12.95 for flights that are six hours or less and $19.95 for those flights longer than 6 hours. Only need that Wi-Fi for a short time? Cathay Pacific will also offer you a single hour for $9.95.

Cathay Pacific’s Initial A350 Plans

“This superbly efficient aircraft will help us further expand our global network and strengthen Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub,” Mr Hogg added. “Helping to oil the wheels of commerce and trade in our home city.”

Cathay Pacific has become the third Asian operator of the Airbus A350 XWB but the first in China, and plans to launch it on regional routes to Manila and Taipei to begin crew familiarization of the new aircraft before it puts it on its first long-haul flight to London-Gatwick on September 2nd.  This will eventually be followed up with Dusseldorf and Auckland.

The aircraft arrived Sunday morning May 29th in Hong Kong from Toulouse, and Cathay Pacific is putting it straight into service with the first flight scheduled for Wednesday June 1st as Cathay Pacific 901 to Manila, the airline said. Starting with the A350, all deliveries from Airbus will be fueled by bio-diesel in a 10%-90% ratio with the 10% being the bio-diesel.

Cathay Pacific becomes just the sixth operator worldwide of the A350. The aircraft had its first delivery in December of 2014 to launch customer Qatar Airways, along with fellow operators LATAM, Finnair, Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.

The new Cathay Pacific brand with the old one behind in the background. (Credits: Author)
The new Cathay Pacific brand with the old one behind in the background. (Credits: Author)

The A350 will be the first fleet to launch with Cathay Pacific’s new refreshed brand identity that was announced last November when the carrier rolled it out on a Boeing 777-300ER. The scheme is being rolled out fleet wide and eventually all 150 aircraft will be seen in the new look.

It seems fitting that the first delivery of the A350 to Cathay Pacific comes after the Hong Kong based carrier took delivery of its last Boeing 777-300ER it had on order in 2015. However, while the aircraft are direct competitors, they are actually very compatible with one another. On a market that is possibly struggling, the carrier can pull off the larger 777 if needed and dispatch the slightly smaller A350 on it while still offering the carriers spectacular international product.

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Cathay Pacific’s Friendly Flight Crew posing in front of the A350-900. (Credits: Author)

Cathay Pacific has 48 A350’s on order with 22 of those in the -900 variant and 26 in the -1000 variant. The carrier expects to take delivery of 12 -900’s in 2016. The final 10 on order will come in 2017 with the first six A350-1000 expected in 2018, followed up with 10 in 2019 and 10 in 2020.

The main mission for Cathay Pacific’s A350 family will be to replace the aging and less fuel efficient A340, 747 and 777-200. We also learned from the event that as Cathay Pacific calls Hong Kong home and its hub, the airport will begin construction on its third runway beginning August 1st, which will continue to increase capacity at the world’s busiest airport.

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An aviation photojournalist based in Seattle, aka Boeing's back yard. Brandon is also a freight train engineer for his day job. Prior to that he spent five years working with a Seattle based airline. But his true love is still in aviation and always trying to get the best and most interesting shot possible. He started off his aviation photojournalist career with NYCAviation and AirlineReporter before eventually finding his way to the Airways team where he is the Northwest contributor. Brandon is also an accomplished sports photojournalist having shot MLS Cup, the NFL, NCAA college football, NASCAR races and world-famous soccer teams such as Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.