Cathay Pacific’s first of 48 Airbus A350 XWBs with aircraft registration B-LRA took the skies for the first time on 24 March 2016 at Toulouse, France. The aircraft completed its maiden flight and will now enter the final phase of production which includes the cabin, further ground checks and test flights before delivery in the second quarter of this year.
Delivery of Cathay Pacific’s first A350 XWB has been delayed from February to late April to May due to delays from Zodiac, the seat manufacturer.
Cathay Pacific’s order of 48 A350XWBs will include 22 A350-900s and 26 of the larger A350-1000s. These aircrafts will be deployed for long and medium haul routes. The airline has forecasted that 12 of these aircrafts are scheduled for delivery this year, ten more in 2017 and 26 A350-1000s from 2018.
The airline’s A350-900 aircraft can accommodate 280 passengers with 38 in business (1-2-1)3 , 28 in premium economy (2-4-2) and 214 in economy (3-3-3).
The aircraft will operate on regional familiarisation flights between Hong Kong and Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei aand Manila before operating on longer-range routes to Europe. The aircraft will be operated on flights to London Gatwick Airport from 2 September as well as Auckland in second half 2016.
Cathay Pacific is amongst the growing number of airlines in Asia Pacific operating the A350s after Vietnam Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Vietnam Airlines is the first airline in this region to operate the A350 when it received the aircraft last year whilst Singapore Airlines received its first A350 XWB aircraft in early March this year. Singapore Airlines is also the first airline to order the variant A350-900 ULR (Ultra Long Range) so that it can operate flights between Singapore – New York and Singapore – Los Angeles again.
According the Airbus, approximately one-third of the over 750 A350XWB orders received are from Asia Pacific airlines.
Asian carriers ordering the aircraft include AirAsia X, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines.
As of end January this year, 15 of the A350-900 aircraft had been delivered to four operators on four continents including Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Finnair and TAM Airlines. These aircraft have accumulated over 21,000 flight hours in service to 17 destinations worldwide with an average daily utilisation of 11.6 hours.