Australian airports are seeing another influx of next-generation aircraft with Cathay Pacific introducing Airbus A350 XWB services to Brisbane and Melbourne, LATAM starting Boeing 787 flights to Melbourne and Vietnam Airlines switching to B787s on Sydney and Melbourne.
Cathay announced Monday it would be flying its new Airbus A350-900 to Brisbane from March next year after starting services to Melbourne using the plane in February. The airline is promoting the daily Brisbane service, the first using the A350 for the Queensland capital, with launch fares starting at $A756 to Hong Kong.
The new aircraft include refreshed business, premium economy and economy cabins in a fuel – efficient aircraft that offers a quieter, more comfortable flight. The 280-seat plane represents an increase in capacity over its predecessor of 12 per cent, or an additional 10,000 new inbound seats per year, plus a significant rise in cargo capacity.
“As a larger aircraft, the A350 also enables us to bring more passengers into Brisbane and take Queenslanders seamlessly to more than 170 destinations around the world,” Cathay general manager South-West Pacific Nelson Chin said.
LATAM, which already flies Boeing 787-9s to Sydney, will start using the planes on the first non-stop service between South America and Melbourne in October next year.
Like the A350, the 787-9 offers lower operating and maintenance costs while giving passengers a more comfortable environment with higher cabin pressure and humidity. LATAM’s aircraft offer 30 flatbed seats in business, 51 in Space+ and 232 in economy.
The South American airline group has signed a deal with Tourism Australia and the Victorian Government to promote the Melbourne- Santiago route, which will take less than 14 hours and complements daily B787-9 services between Sydney and Santiago via Auckland. It also codeshares with alliance partner Qantas on non-stop Boeing 747-400 Sydney-Santiago services.
“As Latin America’s largest airline group, LATAM has an important role to play in providing greater accessibility between Latin America and Australia,’’ LATAM Asia-Pacific managing director Patricio Aylwin said. “Together with these industry partners, we will be able to create even greater opportunities to increase the number of Latin American tourists and business travellers flying to Australia with us.’’
Vietnam Airlines has switched from Airbus A330s to Boeing 787-9s for its Melbourne flights, and from a Boeing 777-200ER to the new planes on its Sydney services. The airline’s 787-9s fly with 28 flat bed business seats, 25 in premium economy and 211 in economy.
One notable feature of Vietnam’s Dreamliners is that the nine-abreast seats in economy are 18 inches wide, rather than 17.5 inches or less.
While the A350 is still a novelty at this stage, airlines operating Dreamliners on Ausrtralian routes include Scoot, United Airlines, Jetstar, Air India, Air New Zealand, Xiamen and All Nippon AIrways. Qantas will also begin introducing 787s next year.