Travel Story Cathay's new Airbus takes flying to another level

Cathay Pacific's new A350 promises real treats for WA passengers. 

Perth is set to be served by one of the world’s most advanced and economical aircraft, the Airbus A350, which is turning heads wherever it goes.

This week Cathay Pacific announced that its daily CX171/170 Airbus 251-seat A330 flight to Hong Kong would be replaced by the new 280-seat Airbus A350-900.

The A350 features a composite fuselage and wing, which is stronger and lighter than the traditional aluminium used and that is great news for travellers.

Because of the strength and non-corrosive properties of composite materials, Airbus, like Boeing with its 787, is able to lower the cabin altitude and increase humidity to virtually eliminate the worst effects of jet lag.

Cathay Pacific’s General Manager Southwest Pacific, Nelson Chin, said that the airline had “been flying into Perth since 1970 and we’re thrilled to be introducing our newest aircraft on our direct services to and from Hong Kong”.

“Already passengers who have flown on the A350 speak highly of the experience. It really is transforming the way our passengers are travelling — it’s faster, smarter and greener and people feel better when they arrive at their destination,” Mr Nelson said.

The A350 is the competitor to Boeing’s increasingly popular 787 and you can spot it by the graceful aerodynamics of its curved wing-tip. The new wing design combines with other aerodynamic and system improvements as well as a carbon-fibre fuselage and fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines to deliver a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn over the aircraft it replaces. 

For passengers, the new breed of plane is quieter, better able to handle turbulence and operates with a lower-altitude cabin air pressure that allows you to come off a flight feeling more refreshed.

Geoffrey Thomas chats to Niall McIlroy about the long-range aircraft set to become a best seller. Duration: 10m 35s Seven West Media

Manufacturers are often blamed for seating but it’s up to individual airlines how many seats they cram in and how comfortable they make passengers in terms of space.

Cathay has erred on the generous side in this respect with three refreshed cabins that sees the A350 equipped with 38 business-class suites, 28 premium-economy seats and 214 in the main cabin.

Larger windows and the vertical walls give the impression of a roomier cabin and make the 280-seat plane seem even bigger than it is.

Outsize luggage bins lining the side of the cabin are big enough to take roller bags on their side, meaning plenty of overhead storage.

The A350 also seems far less noisy than older aircraft.

Airbus says the cabin is 50 per cent quieter in terms of perceived noise — think top deck of an Airbus A380 — and this is one space where you can hear yourself think. 

Whether it is quieter than its competitor (Boeing 787) is difficult to discern but there wouldn’t be much in it. 

There are some jazzy features in the A350 cabin such as mood lighting with millions of colours, although the use of this tends to be muted during a daylight flight, and liquid crystal displays where the seatbelt signs normally would be. 

The in-flight entertainment is a treat. Panasonic’s user-friendly interface makes it easy to navigate and Cathay has expanded its programming and is making it available on shorter flights across its fleet.

In addition to a good choice of films and music, the A350’s system includes 3-D maps, views outside the plane, e-zines, and live satellite news feeds from the likes of CNN and the BBC.

Those wanting their regular online fix can use the internet for $US9.95 for one hour’s continuous access or shell out on a more cost-effective $US12.95 for flights of six hours or less and $US19.95 for longer flights. 

The in-flight wi-fi is a bit slower than ground-based broadband but good enough for emails and web surfing.

Cathay Pacific is also offering data roaming from your own mobile phone (you pay the roaming charges) but does not allow voice calls.

Outbound, Cathay offers West Australians excellent connections into China, Japan, Europe and North America.

Onwards to North America, Cathay flies to New York, Newark, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver.

The airline operates the 25-hour flight from Perth to New York’s JFK Airport five times a day, and there’s also a daily service to Newark, which is a great alternative to JFK.

There are four flights a day from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, and Perth passengers could complete the journey in 22 hours and 40 minutes.

San Francisco is a few hours longer and the airline has three flights a day.

Cathay’s passenger fleet now numbers 125, with another 58 on order.

The backbone of the fleet is the Boeing 777, with 70 in service and another 26 on order including 21 of Boeing’s virtually all-new Boeing 777-9.

Top picture: Cathay Pacific's A350 will fly from bustling Hong Kong. Picture: Supplied

Fact File

For more, see cathaypacific.com.au

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