Cathay Pacific will use the Airbus A350-1000 to connect Hong Kong to Washington, DC, for the first time in 2018 with a four-times weekly direct flight.
The service to Dulles International Airport will be the longest in the Cathay network at 7,085 nautical miles (8,153 miles or 13,122kms) and is part of a strategy by the Hong Kong carrier to expand its nonstop routes using next generation aircraft.
The fuel efficient aircraft allow it to open up routes it would not otherwise have considered.
The airline is also spruiking 2018 as one of its most significant years in terms of expansion.
Other services to be launched next year include year-round services to Irish capital Dublin in March and to European political center Brussels in June.
A seasonal service to Copenhagen in Denmark begins in May and frequencies on popular routes such as Barcelona, Spain, and Tel Aviv, Israel, will be increased in 2018.
The new Washington route will complement existing routes to the East Coast, including Boston and New York’s two main international airports – John F Kennedy and Newark Liberty.
Cathay is fighting increased competition in its home market and announced in August a first-half loss of $HK2 billion ($US262m), compared to a net profit of $HK353 million in the first half of 2016. It predicted at the time the second half would likely be just as bad.
The new route also comes as US carriers have strengthened their ties with mainland Chinese carriers determined to increase their presence in the North American market.
American Airlines in March announced a $US200million equity investment in Guangzhou-based China Southern that brought together two largely complementary networks and gave American a foothold in burgeoning Chinese market.
Delta Air Lines a 3.55 per cent stake in Shanghai’s China Eastern and is poised to help the Chinese carrier set up operations at Beijing’s giant second airport, Daxing, when it opens in 2019.
Cathay Pacific chief executive Rupert Hogg said that the new service has been introduced to cater to the growing demand for travel to the Washington region while giving US-based passengers with more convenient access to Asia and beyond through its Hong Kong hub.
“Our customers have told us they want greater options and increased flexibility – and we’ve listened,” Hogg said in the announcement. “Much like Hong Kong, Washington DC is a vibrant and dynamic destination and we are thrilled to soon be providing the only direct flights between these two great cities.
“Establishing new direct air links to destinations that aren’t already served from Hong Kong enhances our city’s status as Asia’s largest international hub and allows us to secure new and important sources of revenue.’’
The A350-1000 is the bigger sister of the A350-900 already operated by Cathay. It has less range than the -900 but offers good operational economics in terms of costs per seat-mile.
It will feature a three-class cabin with business, premium economy and economy classes.
Cathay has 45 A350s on order and until recently had planned to take 26 of those as -1000s. In September, however, it converted six of the -1000 orders back to the smaller -900s.