Cathay Pacific is set to announce an A350-900 service to London Gatwick, Business Traveller understands.
The airline currently operates five daily flights from Hong Kong to Heathrow.
It would add a sixth London service to Gatwick due to limited slots at LHR, in a move that would mark the first time Cathay has flown to LGW since 1993.
In August, Cathay began canvassing opinion from frequent flyers on the route.
The same month, the CAPA Centre for Aviation reported: “Cathay… flagged the A350’s opportunity to open new routes, including the European destinations of London Gatwick (supplementing existing five daily London Heathrow service), Copenhagen and Madrid.”
Now, in an interview with Flight Global, Rupert Hogg, Cathay’s chief operating officer, said: “The -900s will primarily be targeted at helping the airline open new points in Europe, and to add a second or third frequency to existing destinations such as Milan and Amsterdam.”
When Business Traveller contacted Cathay Pacific for comment, the airline would not confirm the date that it will take delivery of the A350 (it is February), where its first destination will be (Auckland), when Cathay stopped flying to Gatwick (1993) and whether it will fly to Gatwick (we think it will).
The carrier did send the following statement: “Cathay Pacific is always looking for opportunities to strengthen our flight operations between Hong Kong and Europe to provide even better flight frequency and connectivity for leisure and frequent business travellers.”
Subsequently, a spokesperson added: “The A350 fits perfectly into our operation. Its passenger capacity, payload range and operating economics allow the aircraft to become the backbone of our mid-sized long-haul wide-bodied fleet.
“The fleet also makes it possible for Cathay Pacific to launch and operate direct flights to second-tiered destinations in Europe, hence further expanding our global network connectivity and more choices to customers.”
Gatwick, meanwhile, said it could not comment.
The new Gatwick route may have become more attractive to Cathay as a result of its new deliveries of A350-900 aircraft. It has fewer seats to fill than the Boeing 777 and is more fuel efficient.
Cathay has 22 A350-900s and 26 A350-1000s on order. The first of the A350-900s will arrive next year and will feature a three-class configuration with 38 seats in business (1-2-1), 28 in premium economy (2-3-2), and 214 in economy (see news, March 18).
Since British Airways is moving from the North to the South Terminal in November 2016 to make way for Easyjet (see news, January 23), it seems likely that Cathay will also be using the South Terminal so it can use the BA lounge which will open there. BA’s lounges in the North Terminal will shut in January (see news, September 22).
Cathay’s first flights to the UK were to London Gatwick in the 1980s and it withdrew from the route in 1993.