Australia experiences surge in A350 flights, more than quadrupling in one year

Australia now has 111 weekly return flights operated with A350s – or the equivalent of almost 16 flights daily. A year ago, there were only 26 weekly A350 flights to Australia.


Summary:

  • The rapid increase in A350 flights has enabled several airlines to upgrade their products in the Australia market as well as add capacity;
  • The number of A350 flights to Australia has more than quadrupled over the last year from 26 to 111 weekly frequencies;
  • Vietnam Airlines earlier this week became the sixth airline to operate A350s to Australia;
  • Qatar Airways was the first airline to operate A350s to Australia;
  • Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have the most A350 flights to Australia, followed closely by China Airlines.

All six airlines operating A350 equipment to Australia have configured them with all-aisle access, lie flat business class seats. Four of the airlines also offer a premium economy product.

On 29-Jul-2018, Vietnam Airlines became the sixth airline with A350 services to Australia, joining Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines (SIA), Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and China Airlines (CAL). Vietnam Airlines is using the A350 on its daily Melbourne-Ho Chi Minh service until end of Oct-2018, when it switches back to the slightly smaller 787-9.

There will temporarily be seven airlines operating the A350 to Australia in Sep/Oct-2018, as Malaysia Airlines plans to operate the A350-900 on one of its daily Sydney-Kuala Lumpur frequencies from 01-Sep-2018 to 27-Oct-2018.

In Sep/Oct-2018 there will a total of 118 weekly frequencies operated by A350 aircraft to Australia, including 28 from Cathay, 28 from SIA, 27 from CAL, 14 from Thai and seven each from Malaysia, Qatar and Vietnam. A year ago, there were only 26 weekly A350 flights to Australia including 14 from Cathay, seven from SIA and five from Qatar.

A350 flights to Australia by airline and configuration (seats per cabin): Sep-2018

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation

Qatar became the first airline to operate the A350 to Australia in May-2016. It currently deploys the A350-900 on its daily Doha-Adelaide service. Qatar was the global launch operator of the A350-900 and A350-1000 but is not using the larger A350-1000 for Australia.

SIA became the second airline operating A350s to Australia in Aug-2016. It currently deploys 253-seat three class A350-900s on three daily flights to Brisbane and one daily flight to Melbourne.

Later in 2018, SIA will take delivery of its A350-900s in a new higher density regional configuration, which will be used for medium haul operations within Asia Pacific including Australia. Blue Swan expects Adelaide will be SIA’s first permanent route with the new regional A350-900 followed by Brisbane. SIA is installing all aisle access lie flat business class seats on the regional A350-900s, using the same seat as its new fleet of 787-10, but the aircraft will not have a premium economy cabin.

On Singapore-Adelaide, the regional A350-900 will replace A330-300s by the end of 2018. The A330s are operating with SIA’s now-outdated angled flat business class product, in a 2x2x2 configuration. Singapore-Brisbane is now served with three daily flights using the existing three class A350-900s, some or all of which will likely transition to the regional A350-900 and one daily flight using the 777-200ER. As SIA is phasing out its 777-200ER fleet this could be the first Brisbane flight for the regional A350-900.

With the launch of A350 flights to Adelaide in 4Q2018, SIA will become the largest A350 operator in Australia. SIA now shares this distinction with Cathay Pacific.

Cathay began operating the A350 to Australia in Feb-2017 and currently has four daily A350 frequencies to Australia, including one to Brisbane, two to Melbourne and one to Perth. Cathay also recently became the second global A350-1000 operator after Qatar. Cathay is expected to deploy the A350-1000 on some flights to Sydney but has not yet set a launch date for its first A350-1000 flight to Australia. Cathay could eventually retake SIA to again become the largest A350 operator in Australia as it deploys the A350-1000 to Sydney and replaces some of its existing A330 flights with A350-900s.

Thai Airways became the fourth airline to operate the A350 to Australia in Oct-2017. It currently deploys the A350 on its twice daily Melbourne-Bangkok service. Thai has the densest A350-900 configuration (321 seats) among Australia operators.

CAL became the fifth airline to operate the A350 to Australia in Dec-2017. It now deploys the A350 on all its Australia flights, which currently consists of 10 weekly flights to Sydney, seven weekly flights to Brisbane and three weekly flights to Melbourne. All seven of the Brisbane flights continue to Auckland with fifth freedom pick up rights, giving CAL 27 weekly return A350 flights in the Australia market – or just one fewer frequency than Cathay Pacific and SIA.

CAL was the first and is now the only airline operating A350s to Sydney. Brisbane and Melbourne have benefitted the most from the rapid increase in A350 operations to Australia and currently account for 42 and 38 of the total 111 weekly frequencies.