The prospect of a long-haul flight, while exciting, can also be daunting. For South Islanders, the added palaver of having to fly to and from Auckland, to join many long-haul services, merely protracts the whole ordeal. So it’s always good to welcome another long-haul carrier to the Southern Skies and on Saturday, Cathay Pacific Airways touched down in Christchurch on their inaugural service to the Garden City.
There’s no question that it’s a major milestone for the South, with another premium long-haul carrier flying direct to Christchurch. In addition to existing and long-standing services out of Auckland, it’s now just one-stop away from Christchurch to wider Asia and Europe, through Hong Kong.
I’ve been a regular traveller with Cathay Pacific for a decade, particularly because they boast great reach into Europe, with an extensive route network across the continent. And I’ve always considered them as being one of the world’s truly best carriers, underpinned by outstanding service, leading-edge product and exemplary safety standards. Cathay’s home port of Hong Kong is an electrifying destination in its right.
Billed as Asia’s World City, this global metropolis is a pulsating cosmopolitan cauldron, with a slew of sights, lip-smacking dining, world-leading shopping and unbelievably scenic walking trails, high above the skyscrapers. No matter how many times I visit Hong Kong, I never grow tired of three great icons: the Star Ferry, the Peak Tram and the Symphony of Light.
The emblematic nightly light show, strung across the harbourside skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, is arguably the world’s greatest lighting spectacle. For the first time in its thirteen year history, Symphony of Light has just been given a makeover, with the all new show being revved up including the addition of gigantic LED panels slung on the sides of high-rises. The all-new show premiered last week, so that’s a must-see.
From Hong Kong Airport, you’ve also got another engrossing destination on your doorstep – Macao, by fast ferry. Later next year, the daring new overwater bridge will open, which will allow you to zip to Macao from Hong Kong airport in just twenty minutes - a quicker trip than travelling into Hong Kong itself, from the airport!
Coinciding with the launch of the Christchurch service, I had the pleasure of flying aboard the inaugural flight from Hong Kong last week. It’s certainly not every day you’re greeted at Christchurch Airport by the Christchurch Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, various dignitaries and a Maori performance group! Like the Auckland service, the Christchurch route is being operated by the technologically-advanced Airbus A350, the newest aircraft in Cathay Pacific’s fleet.
I’m sure I could detect new plane smell. It features the airline’s latest seats and cabin products, including an enhanced inflight entertainment system and Wi-Fi connectivity across all classes of travel, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. I’m a junkie for great viewing on long-haul flights and the refreshed Studio CX entertainment system is a class act.
The in-seat system is incredibly easy to use and intuitively responds like an iPad. In addition to an extensive library of movie and TV options, I also enjoyed getting my news fix, with the live satellite TV channels including BBC World News, and CNN. The inflight internet service faithfully functioned with ease and efficiency. On my flight, it was priced at US$9.95 for one hour or US$12.95 for the entire flight.
The A350 is the newest “new generation” aircraft offering, posing as a direct competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Being so cutting-edge, the A350 has improved upon the passenger experience trends pioneered by the Dreamliner. High ceilings, great air pressure, you can hear a pin drop. Seriously! Aviation analysts agree that the A350 has the best cabin pressure of any plane, with 5% more humidity than the 787, which means you won’t end up feeling like a dried prune, with gunk build-up in your eyes, on arrival.
Because the air quality is so much better, it minimises the curse of jet-lag. The high ceilings project a feeling of space and the in-flight environment is extremely quiet, only eclipsed by the A380. In addition to less noise, the aircraft is also more environmentally-friendly than its predecessors, being up to 25 per cent more fuel efficient. Other stand-out features include the push button full blackout window shades, the widest average economy seats and compelling live camera feeds, from the tail and the nose, viewable on-demand from take-off to touchdown.
Cathay Pacific’s three-times-weekly seasonal route from Christchurch will operate until 28 February 2018. If demand proves sufficiently popular, the service will be considered for expansion. Cathay Pacific Country Manager New Zealand & Pacific Islands, Mark Pirihi, says “the opening of this new route into New Zealand by Cathay Pacific is the first direct link between Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island, and Hong Kong.”
“Increased freight capacity between New Zealand and Hong Kong, an important cargo hub, will also provide significant opportunities for the region’s producers.” Meanwhile the Christchurch Airport CEO, Malcolm Johns, says “record numbers of visitors are arriving to experience our place in the world and residents want to take advantage of the many international connections that Cathay Pacific offers. New visitors will bring millions of new dollars to the South Island. The service is a definite winner.”
To celebrate the launch of the Christchurch route, enjoy NZ$100 off any flight and hotel package with promo code: CHC17, on the airline website. The offer is valid until 31 January 2018. For best fares and seats to suit, head to www.cathaypacific.com
Mike Yardley is our Travel Correspondent on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.