Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
HONG KONG — Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350-900 took to the skies today after a welcome ceremony in the hangar at Hong Kong’s International Airport on May 30. The plane is the first of 48 Airbus A350 XWB planes ordered with 22 A350-900s being delivered in 2016 and 2017 and 26 larger A350-1000s coming between 2018-2020.
The new A350-900 comes with new features that focus on increasing comfort for passengers with improved noise reduction, lighting system, purified air, less cabin pressure, a wider cabin with less curvature and more luggage space. The plane is also 25% more efficient through improved engine and a lighter body.
The first plane entered into service today with the turnaround service to Manila from Hong Kong. The plan is to have it operate regionally until more A350s arrive. London Gatwick and Dusseldorf will be the next two destinations to see the plane.
Travelweek spoke with Cathay Pacific’s Director Corporate Affairs James Tong at the welcome ceremony about what is the prospect of seeing the A350 in Canada. Currently it doesn’t look like the Toronto – Hong Kong or Vancouver – Hong Kong routes will see the planes but they could be a good fit for future expansion into new gateways in Canada, he said.
The A350-900 is smaller compared to the 777s now used on the Toronto and Vancouver routes. With the current popularity, there is no need to change to a smaller plane. However, there is a good chance of those cities seeing the A350-1000s when they are delivered.
Tong sees the A350-900 being used for new destinations, especially on North America’s western routes.
“We haven’t got any concrete plans yet, but we are looking into a list of cities on our radar,” said Tong. When asked what Canadian cities are on the list, Tong said, “Calgary has been mentioned, Montreal has been mentioned, [and] Edmonton has been mentioned”.
Also new for the company is the new Business Class lounge, The Pier, at Hong Kong’s International Airport. The impressive lounge is 3,306 square feet and follows the recent changes at its lounge at Vancouver International Airport.
The lounge will open soon and features a food hall, coffee cart, bar, noodle bar, tea house, showers, home office with 10 iMacs, and Relaxation room. It will be open to First and Business class passengers, Marco Polo Club Silver and above members, members of all tiers who earned lounge passes, and oneworld Emerald members and Sapphire members. Currently the airline sees 6,000 passengers a day use their lounges at the airport.