Well this is certainly interesting news – it appears that Cathay Pacific is in talks with Airbus to develop a new extended range Airbus A350 that would be capable of connecting Hong Kong and Miami.
Per the Miami Herald, Cathay Pacific appears to be considering trying to connect Miami (MIA) and Hong Kong (HKG) directly with an ultra long range aircraft – the Airbus A350-8000.
Currently, Cathay Pacific has ordered 48 of the new Airbus A350 aircraft, which is Airbus’ answer to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. The A350-900’s that Cathay Pacific will be taking delivery of currently have a range of about 9,300 miles, which would just be on the cusp of feasible for a route between Hong Kong (HKG) and Miami (MIA). Instead though, Airbus is proposing a new ultra long range aircraft they are dubbing the A350-8000, which would presumably have a range of closer to 10,000 miles.
For those of you that do not know, Cathay Pacific’s current longest range U.S. route is the New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG) flight, which clocks in at 8,050 miles. That route (and all others between the U.S. and Hong Kong) is operated by Cathay Pacific’s current long range aircraft – the 777-300ER, which I have flown in both first and business class. The product is top notch, though that aircraft has a maximum range of about 9,000 miles. For reference, Miami (MIA) to Hong Kong (HKG) would clock in at 8,970 miles, which would be cutting it far too close in the event of a diversion due to weather or other issues for the 777-300ER to operate this route.
While Airbus has not committed to making the new ultra long range aircraft, it is interesting nonetheless that Cathay Pacific is considering this route. From a connecting standpoint, this flight actually makes a lot of sense given that Miami (MIA) is a central hub for traffic to and from Central and South America. When you consider that Cathay Pacific is a OneWorld alliance member with the likes of American Airlines, LAN and TAM (now collectively LATAM) which tend to have a stranglehold on the U.S.-Latin America market, having a direct flight from a hub like Miami (MIA) to Asia actually makes a lot of sense. In essence, it would allow 1-2 stop service between Latin America and Asia through a hub that was not Los Angeles (LAX) or New York (JFK) – markets already served by Cathay Pacific.
According to Miami Airport Authority, more than 400,000 passengers flew from Miami (MIA) to Asia in 2015. After living in Miami for 3 years while I was in law school, I have come to be skeptical of any figures put out by anyone in Miami, though I certainly do think a market exists for this flight. The question remains though – how big of a market?
Interestingly, Cathay Pacific is owned by the Swire Group, which also owns Swire Properties. Swire Properties just so happens to own Brickell City Center in the downtown Miami financial hub Brickell. So while this flight may make sense for connecting purposes, it also seems like there may be some ulterior motives here from Cathay Pacific’s parent company.
Regardless, an additional frequency to the U.S. means increased capacity. Increased capacity generally means an uptick in award availability. Considering how good the Cathay Pacific product is, I really do not see any downside to Cathay launching this route – especially since I am a 43 minute flight away from Miami (MIA).
While I am not sure whether the market really exists for this route, adding a frequency to the Continental United States on one of the best products in the sky is never a bad thing. I will be interested to see whether Airbus commits to building this ultra long haul aircraft or not as I do not really think there are many markets where this may be useful. Only time will tell though.
Do you think Airbus will ultimately build this aircraft for Cathay?
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