It has been a tough year for Cathay Pacific but they managed to break new ground on the weekend with the first-ever scheduled A350-1000 service into Australia. CX105 touched down in Melbourne at lunchtime yesterday, Sunday, October 27, 2019, after a nine-hour flight south from Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific has beaten Qatar Airways by a nose. And the Hong Kong-based airline is doubling down and starting its first A350-1000 service to Perth today. Qatar is starting their A350-1000 service to Sydney on 1 November 2019 and rolling out A350-1000 services to Adelaide in March 2020.
Cathay Pacific has a big presence in Melbourne
Cathay Pacific flies three times a day into Melbourne, operating different aircraft on each flight. The midnight departure from Hong Kong (CX105) is now operated by the A350-1000. The mid-morning departure from Hong Kong (CX163) is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, and the early evening overnight flight (CX135) is operated by an A350-900.
In contrast, Qantas has a daily Boeing 787-9 service between Hong Kong and Melbourne. Virgin Australia also has a daily A330-200 service between the two cities. However, the future of this underperforming service is uncertain as Virgin Australia is to begin flights to Japan next year and the aircraft needed to operate it look set to be sourced from existing routes.
Hong Kong demand remains strong in the face of protests
The ongoing protests in Hong Kong have seen airlines servicing the city take a financial hit on the route as passenger traffic into Hong Kong drops. Fares have also declined as discounts are offered to stimulate demand. But Australians are still heading to Hong Kong in healthy numbers.
Loads on flights remain decent, particularly in the premium cabins, and while fares may be competitive, hotel prices in Hong Kong remain at the upper end for Asian cities.
The willingness of Australian’s to keep heading to Hong Kong is a key reason why Cathay Pacific deployed the A350-1000 onto the Melbourne route. Rakesh Raicar, Cathay Pacific’s South West Pacific Regional General Manager told Traveller that;
“Clearly it’s a challenging time for us, and a challenging time for Hong Kong as well. That said … we’ve also seen a nice amount of resilience from the Australian market. All through this crisis period we’ve seen good load factors from Australia and we’re very grateful for that.
“Compared to many other countries across the network, Australia is a bright spot for us right now. And that gives us the confidence to bring the A350-1000 into Melbourne, which is a key market for us.”
Frequency and flexibility give Cathay Pacific an advantage
Mr Raicar also notes Cathay Pacific draws an advantage by offering the greatest frequency and generous capacity out of Melbourne. Customers want flexibility and frequency he says. Cathay Pacific has over 1000 seats a day each way on its Melbourne flights. Qantas offers 236 each way on its daily service and Virgin Australia has 275 seats each way on its daily Airbus service.
And that is perhaps the secret to Cathay Pacific’s success in Australia. Their inflight hard product is starting to show some signs of age, particularly up the front of the plane where the Qantas and Virgin Australia Hong Kong-bound premium products are extremely good.
But Cathay Pacific flies to every major Australian city, including Adelaide, and offers a selection of daily departures on most of its routes. Frequency and flexibility is what Cathay Pacific does well in and out of Australia.
The new A350-1000 service into Melbourne (and Perth) builds on this.
Simple Flying has reached out to Cathay Pacific for a comment on their new Melbourne A350-1000 service. At the time of publication, there had been no response.