Onboard Cathay Pacific's first A350: What's it like to fly on an Airbus A350

After years of chasing line honours for fastest and furthest, airlines are turning their focus to passenger wellbeing.

The new generation of Airbus A350s has LED lighting with millions of colour variations so sunrise, sunset and everything in between can be recreated to make sleeping easier and reduce jetlag. More efficient cabin air filters and superfast filtration lets the air change, into fresh air, every three minutes and advanced air conditioning has eliminated drafts and introduced stable temperatures.

To overcome aircraft noises, we talk more loudly on planes but the A350 is much quieter and passengers can talk normally, even whisper.

Speaking at the arrival of Cathay Pacific's first A350 in Hong Kong, the man in charge of the project Robert Taylor said the aircraft is, "like a Formula One sports car compared to a double decker bus". 

Along with larger windows, the side-walls are less curved and there's more space for overhead luggage.

The airline put in its order for the plane, the first of 48 it's buying, six years ago. The first model is A350-900 XWB (extra wide body). Each of these carries 280 passengers with 38 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy. There are twin aisles with economy seats configured 3-3-3.

There are softer pillows and blankets in all classes and economy passengers will find new headrests that can be adjusted six ways – up, down and angled at the sides. Economy seats have a 32-inch (81cm) pitch, 18-inch (46cm) seat width, 6-inch (15cm) recline and larger, 11-inch (28cm) personal TV. There's in-seat power, tablet holder and USB port that displays on the seat screen. 

Business class seating retains the Cathay Pacific herringbone pattern and 75-inch (190cm) flatbed but the TV is larger at 18.5 inches (47cm). 

Premium economy has the greatest improvements and they make for a significant contrast with economy. The new seats here, and in business, are created by iconic designers F.A. Porsche Studio.

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There's a full-length leg-rest bringing the seat pitch to 40 inches (101cm) and more storage. Passengers find an in-seat reading light, six-way headrest and greater seat recline, to nine inches (23cm). The TV is wider.

For a fee, all passengers can use the internet.

There are multiple technical improvements. It's 25 per cent more fuel efficient and uses biofuels, while 70 per cent of its structure is made of materials such as carbon fibre, making it more cost effective. For those on the ground, these planes will seem 50 per cent quieter. 

Finally, the pilots will no longer need to carry 70 kilograms of documents. It's a paperless cockpit.

The airline is first using the A350 for local, Asian destinations with Dusseldorf and London Gatwick to follow at the end of the year. Australia awaits its timeslot.

Sue Bennett travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

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