Cathay Pacific has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France making the Hong Kong carrier the second in the world to receive Airbus’s newest aircraft.
Business Traveller is in Toulouse for the delivery ceremony of the A350-1000 and will be on the delivery flight to Hong Kong this afternoon.
The airline follows launch customer Qatar Airways, which received its first A350-1000 in February this year. Airbus currently has 168 orders for the new aircraft from 11 customers, though it has yet to confirm which airline will be the third to take delivery of the aircraft, which won’t be until 2019.
The A350-1000 is a longer variant of its predecessor, the A350-900, of which Cathay Pacific already operates 22, enabling it to have a higher seat count. Overall, Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 has 334 seats (46 in business, 32 in premium economy and 256 in economy), while the A350-900 has just 280 seats (38 in business, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy).
Business class and premium economy feature largely the same seat products as those found in the current A350-900, though with some minor tweaks to the mechanisms. The key difference in business class between the -900 and the -1000 is that the latter has all seats in a single cabin as opposed to them being split across two cabins, as in the -900.
However, the economy class cabin features an all-new seat product developed by Haeco – these are different to the other new 10-abreast economy class seat Cathay Pacific recently rolled out on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The dimensions for the seat are the same as those on the A350-900 – 32-inch pitch and 18-inch width – but have been designed with a different high-comfort cushion and also feature an adjustable ergonomic six-way headrest and a new tray table offering.
Asked why Cathay Pacific opted not to equip the aircraft with a first class cabin, Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer, Paul Loo, said: “We have a first class cabin on our B777, and first class is a very niche market… Having the right configuration to suit the needs of the market, first class consumes quite a bit of real estate on the aircraft and so we need to do the trade-off between having the cabin and having the extra costs versus having the demand or not.
“We believe our B777 fleet with first class is serving our market very well and on the other hand, our A350 fleet, whether it is the -900 or the -1000, the configuration will also help us to develop into markets that may not be available to us today.”
However, Loo did confirm the airline is currently trying out different prototypes for its next first class seat product for its upcoming Boeing 777-9X aircraft.
The delivery brings Cathay Pacific’s total fleet size up to 207 aircraft. The airline has a total of 20 A350-1000 in the pipeline that are expected to be delivered by 2021, along with a further six A350-900s, 21 next-generation Boeing 777-9X, as well as 32 A321neo aircraft that will go to its regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon.
The A350-1000 is due to fly to Taipei starting July 1 for crew familiarization purposes, ahead of its permanent deployment on Cathay Pacific’s upcoming service to Washington DC on September 15. The flight to Dulles International Airport will be the longest in the airline’s network at 7,085 nautical miles (8,153 miles/13,122 kilometres) and will take approximately 17 hours.
After Washington DC, Cathay Pacific will fly the aircraft to Madrid (starting October 28), followed by Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Manchester and Zurich.
Business Traveller will be publishing a First Look of the A350-1000 soon.