Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 starts Melbourne flights

Cathay Pacific's new Airbus A350 aircraft arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday on its first flight into Australia.

It kicks off daily flights for the A350-900 on the Melbourne to Hong Kong route for the airline.

The new A350-900 is Airbus' rival to the Boeing Dreamliner. Like its rival, the A350 is also a lightweight aircraft, but with some key differences.

Unlike the Dreamliner, which has a body is composed primarily of carbon fibre, the A350 uses a combination of materials, including plastic reinforced by carbon fibre, along with titanium and aluminium alloys. More than 70 per cent of the aircraft is made of lightweight materials, helping airlines save on fuel.

The aircraft manufacturer says its A350 uses 25 per cent less fuel than Boeing's longest-range plane, the 777.

Airbus says that, also like the Dreamliner, the A350 helps reduce jet-lag on long-haul flights, thanks to a lower cabin altitude than previous generation planes, meaning higher oxygen levels. The airline says the draught-free air circulation system – filtering the cabin air every three minutes – will keep humidity levels in check.

The Cathay A350 features three classes - business, premium and economy - for a total of 280 seats. The 38-seat business class cabin features more legroom for passengers, with an extra three inches (7.6 cm) in seat pitch. The seat, which converts to a fully flat bed, also features extra storage space, 'do not disturb' and 'wake up call' functions.

One of the most unusual aspects of the economy class cabin is the 3-3-3 layout. For a large, twin-aisle aircraft, having only three seats in the middle of the cabin, instead of four or five, means there are only three "middle" seats per row.

Another unusual feature of the new economy class seat is the headrest - Cathay's new design is a six-way headrest with larger side-cushions that can be folded in and out at different angles.


Possibly the best seat outside the premium classes is row 60 on the window. The exit row in front of this seat features only two, not three, economy seats, meaning the passenger in the window seat enjoys significantly extra legroom.

Melbourne Airport chief of aviation, Simon Gandy, welcomed the arrival of the new plane into Melbourne.

"Right now we're witnessing the greatest revolution in aircraft technology since the invention of the jet engine. These aircraft are lighter, more fuel efficient, and have far greater range than their predecessors," he said.

Cathay will fly the A350 on one its three daily flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong. It will also begin flying an A350 on the Brisbane-Hong Kong route from March.

Qatar Airways became the first airline to fly the A350 to Australia when it started flights on the Adelaide-Doha route in May last year. Singapore Airlines also began A350 flights to Australia last year, but only for a brief period before moving the aircraft onto its Singapore to San Francisco route.

See also: A350 versus Dreamliner: Which plane is best for long haul flights?

See also: On board the new Cathay Pacific Airbus A350

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