Let’s keep catching up with recent route developments with a look at what’s happening across the Pacific. Hong Kong Airlines, which plans to begin Los Angeles flights later this year, now has its eye on San Francisco and New York as well – a threat to Cathay Pacific, which said it will soon upgrade aircraft on its SFO and Newark routes; American Airlines finally nails down a launch date for its long-planned LAX-Beijing flights; Delta will bring a new plane to its Atlanta-Seoul route, and expands code-sharing to China; United drops a China route and expands capacity to New Zealand; Hainan Airlines will add a new U.S. route, and Air China sets a start for an LAX route.
Hong Kong Airlines, which is partly owned by China’s Hainan Airlines, said last month it plans to begin daily Hong Kong-Los Angeles flights in mid-December with its first new Airbus A350. And now it looks like that will just be the beginning: Hong Kong Airlines said that as it takes delivery of more new A350s – it has ordered 21 of them – the carrier plans to start flying from Hong Kong to New York and San Francisco in 2018, as well as Hong Kong-London “and other European and American destinations.” The carrier said its A350s will have 33 fully-reclining business class seats, 108 in “Economy Comfort” class, and 193 in regular economy. It didn’t provide any schedule information for next year’s new routes.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post suggested that Hong Kong Airlines’ ambitious expansion plans couldn’t come at a worse time for Hong Kong’s major carrier: “The airline’s push poses a fresh challenge to Cathay Pacific, which has already suffered huge losses in recent years, caused by competition from mainland and Middle Eastern carriers,” the newspaper said.
For its part, Cathay Pacific recently announced plans to start flying its own A350s on select U.S. routes. The carrier said that effective October 29, it will replace the 777-300ER currently used on its Hong Kong-Newark route with an A350, and will also put an A350 onto one of its three daily San Francisco-Hong Kong fights on the same date. Cathay has 16 A350-900s, with six more on order. Cathay’s A350s also offer business, premium economy and regular economy seating.
Have you flown an A350 yet? I did last fall on Singapore Airlines inaugural 17-hour SFO-SIN flight. Read the Trip Report here.
After months of delays as it negotiated with China for acceptable takeoff and landing slot times, American Airlines has now settled on November 5 for the inauguration of service on its new Los Angeles-Beijing route. The carrier had to secure DOT’s approval for the late start, and had to fend off regulatory challenges from Delta, which had sought the same route. American had originally said it would use a 777-200 for the LAX-Beijing service, but Routesonline.com now reports that American will begin flying the route with a 787-8, then switch to a 787-9 on March 25 of next year.
Delta Air Lines has started taking delivery of its own new Airbus A350s, which it previously announced will start flying October 30 between Detroit and Tokyo Narita. Now Delta says it will also deploy one of the new wide-bodies on its Atlanta-Seoul Incheon route starting March 24 of next year- but the first A350s will fly between Detroit and Tokyo starting this fall. In other transpacific news, Delta this week expanded its code-sharing arrangement with China Eastern, putting the Delta code onto the Chinese carrier’s flights from Shanghai Pudong to Chiang Mai, Ningbo and Urumqi; from Beijing to Chongqing, Haikou and Wuxi; and on its San Francisco-Qingdao-Kunming route. Delta’s code will also go onto the flights of Shanghai Airlines (a China eastern subsidiary) from Pudong to Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and Weihai.
United has been flying from San Francisco to Hangzhou, China three times a week with a 787-9, but the carrier plans to discontinue that route on October 14, according to a notice in Routesonline.com. Elsewhere, United will make an aircraft change on its San Francisco-Auckland route, which is now seasonal, operating from October 29 through March 22. Instead of a 787-9, United will put a 777-300ER on the route, and will trim frequencies from seven a week to six through December 17, and from 10 a week to seven from December 18 to March 22.
China’s Hainan Airlines plans an October 26 start for new service between New York JFK and Chengdu, flying the route twice a week with a 787-9. And Air China, which had originally planned a mid-summer start for Los Angeles-Shenzen service, has now set December 7 as the launch date; it will fly the route three days a week with a 787-9.