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Everything you need to know about the new A350-900 service to Canada

Cathay’s A350-900 (MercerMJ on Flickr)

When Cathay Pacific flight CX856 touched down in Vancouver on March 28, it became the first scheduled Airbus A350-900 flight to Canada.
This is exciting news for Canadian aviation, as the country continues to see increasingly modern services from a bunch of airlines that operate Boeing 787-800 and -900 services, including the national carrier.
The new A350 service is an addition to the already 14 weekly services between Hong Kong and Vancouver. It will see capacity increased by over 87,000 seats annually between the two cities. The flight operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and offers travelers an enhanced in-flight experience from Cathay’s next generation IFE system, Wi-Fi (albeit paid) and universal chargers at every seat.

The Classes

Business Class (Australian Business Traveler)

Cathay have opted out of a First Class cabin on their A350s, instead offering 38 “open suites” in Business Class, 28 seats in Premium Economy and 214 in standard Economy. Passengers should also enjoy a quieter cabin – similar to what the A380-800 can boast – as well as larger windows and more comfortable air pressure in the cabin.
Business class has also been a focus in development and Cathay has configured it to feature mini “suites” in a 1-2-1 layout. Positioned angling away from aisles, the center pair of seats are ideal for companions traveling together. The window seats, on the other hand, offer some privacy and face towards the window – nice for the solo traveler that enjoys a view! A close-able storage compartment has also been thoughtfully added in order to maximize the space.

Moving further to the center of the plane is the Premium Economy cabin. With only 28 seats in a 2-4-2 layout, Cathay is being somewhat conservative in what is otherwise a growing market in the industry. Still, the new seat design has received favorable reviews and the generous 40 inches of pitch ensure adequate leg room. Having selected 4 seats across the middle might leave some feeling a bit disappointed on the seat width though, which is only marginally more than regular economy.

While the economy cabin appears the same as any other, there are a few improvements to ensure Cathay Pacific’s product is able to keep itself comfortably amongst the top ten airlines in the world. Here you will find a 3-3-3 layout that fits in well with the airframes width, allowing for 18 inches of seat width in this category. Inflight entertainment is taken care of with enhanced screen sized offering a great selection of movies and shows as you’d expect.

What’s in Store in 2017

Business class is becoming really competitive in terms of attracting higher revenues as well as more customers with increasingly better products. There are some very well balanced alternatives in Premium Economy now too as airlines look to lure customers who would otherwise book economy to spend a little extra and enjoy an improved flying experience. This is something that airlines are putting a lot of investment into on their new equipment as they gradually retire aging planes. With Airbus and Boeing ramping up production and delivering their next generation aircraft at a rapid rate, you can expect to see more of these on routes across the Pacific. With that in mind, here is a list of new routes that have been announced for 2017:

Airbus A350

  • China Airlines TPE-SFO (May)
  • China Airlines TPE-YVR (August)
  • Asiana Airlines ICN-SFO (August)
  • Cathay Pacific HKG-SFO (October)
  • Philippine Airlines MNL-JFK (2017/2018)
  • Philippine Airlines MNL-YYZ (2017/2018)

China Airlines Airbus A350-900 (Itdccba-Flickr)


Air Canada Boeing 787-800 (Lord of the Wings-Flickr)

Boeing 787-8/9

  • China Southern CAN-YVR-MEX (April)
  • AeroMexico MEX-ICN (May)
  • Xiamen Airlines XMN-LAX (June)
  • Air Canada YVR-TPE (June)
  • Air Canada YYC-NRT (Summer)
  • Air China SZX-LAX (July)
  • United Airlines SFO-ICN (September)

Moving Forward

This is all great news for passengers that are bound for lengthy flights across the Pacific. With the increase of next generation aircraft being deployed on Trans-Pacific routes, the familiar experience of a tortuous flight will gradually fade into people’s memories as they arrive fresher than ever before. Another mutual benefit for airlines and passengers is that these aircraft operate far more economically than their predecessors, with up to 25% savings in fuel that come from lighter airframes. Not only does this bring in new airlines, it also means the resumption of previously-cancelled services. It all adds to the profitability for airlines and puts downward pressure on airfares for passengers. We’ve already seen examples of this with the likes of Norwegian Air that have stormed into a crowded market. With low fares, together with targeting smaller cities, they’ve created demand from previously untapped markets.

For Canada ultimately, the arrival of the A350-900 into their airports is a historic moment. Cathay has enjoyed a solid presence in the North American market over the years. With a total of 46 A350s on order, both in the -900 and -1000 variant, there is huge potential for them to establish a leading position over their rivals.

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