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40 Years And Counting: The Story Of Cathay Pacific's Flights To Auckland

7 May, 2023

Cathay Pacific now uses an Airbus A350-1000 on the Hong Kong to Auckland route.

Today we will look at Cathay Pacific's inaugural passenger flight between Hong Kong and Auckland, New Zealand. Forty years ago last week, on May 4th, 1983, a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-200 registered as VR-HIA landed at Auckland Airport (AKL) in New Zealand for the first time.

Configured to carry 35 passengers in first class, 36 in business, and 337 in economy, the flight became a gateway to the world for millions of New Zealanders. The first commercial passenger flight between Hong Kong and New Zealand followed a tripartite agreement between Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea national flag carrier Air Niugini.

Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, and Air Niugini shared the route

The agreement allowed all three nations' airlines to operate the once-weekly flight on a six-month rotation. Air New Zealand started the route, followed by Cathay Pacific and then Air Niugini. En route, the plane made a brief stop at Port Moresby International Airport (POM), but the passengers stayed onboard the aircraft as the airport's terminal was too small for so many people. In control of Cathay Pacific's first flight to Auckland was New Zealander and Senior Cathay Pacific pilot Captain Ian Steven.

Cathay Pacific is committed to flying between Hong Kong and Auckland

When speaking in a company statement about Cathay Pacific's first passenger's flight to New Zealand and the airline's commitment to flying the route, Cathay Pacific's Regional General Manager for Southeast Asia & Southwest Pacific, Dominic Perret, said:

"This is a significant milestone for us. New Zealand is a market that has played an integral role in our history and remains as important as ever. We're grateful to the many passengers who have flown with us over the past 40 years and for the fantastic working relationship we have with our joint alliance partner, Air New Zealand. Long may it continue."

When Cathay Pacific began flying to New Zealand in 1983, the airline was based at Kai Tak International Airport (HKG). This particularly demanding airport required pilots to make sharp turns as they navigated their way down to the runway. In 1998 the airport closed after the completion of Hong Kong's new airport Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), situated on Chek Lap Kok Island.

Cathay Pacific now uses fuel-efficient Airbus A350s on the Hong Kong Auckland route

When speaking in the same company statement about the first Hong Kong to Auckland flight and how things have changed, New Zealand Area Cargo Manager & Country Lead for Cathay Pacific Dennis Basten said:

"Flying has changed a lot in the past 40 years and certainly for the better, there's no smoking for one, the cuisine and entertainment offering has vastly improved and overall, the industry is now much more focused on sustainability and fuel efficiency."

"Gone are the 747s with the old green and white livery, affectionately known as the lettuce leaf sandwich. We are now operating the route with our newer Airbus A350-1000s, one of the quietest and most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. But what has never changed is our commitment to our customers and ensuring they receive the very best service while traveling between New Zealand and our home, Hong Kong."

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