Qantas is making a determined run at Cathay Pacific’s dominance on the Australia-Hong Kong routes with an additional four A330-300 flights a week from Sydney from 26 October.
It has also added a seasonal additional weekly A330 to the Sydney-Manila route from early December to late March, corresponding with peak holiday demand.
The moves are interesting for a number of reasons. Neither Qantas nor Cathay Pacific have the necessary slots nor the larger sized aircraft needed to cope with projected strong demand on the Sydney route, and on historic demand growth, a similar capacity crisis can be anticipated by the end of the decade out of Melbourne and slightly later than that, Brisbane.
Cathay Pacific has been replacing its A330-300s with Boeing 777-300ERs, trading extra seats for reduced per seat operating efficiency on that route with flight time of less than 10 hours. If it in turn replaces them with A350-1000s later this decade they are unlikely to add much if anything in terms of seats for sale, since the two types are very similar in capacity.
Qantas in turn is unlikely to consider the route suitable for its forthcoming Boeing 787-9s, since they will be configured with about 250 seats, compared to 297 in the QF jets with its new business class product installed.
On the Manila route the big challenge to Qantas and Philippine Airlines has been the arrival of Cebu Pacific since last September. Cebu Pacific uses an all economy 436 seat format so tight in its A330-300s that average sized adults cannot fit into them but the headline fares have been as low as $49 one way with all sorts of asterisks attached, which is comparable to an outer suburban Uber or an inner city taxi fare to Sydney airport.
While it is possible Qantas also intends to take on Cebu Pacific with Jetstar flights, its use of the much more humanely configured full service 297 seat A330-300 on the Manila route implies that quality can be an answer to bone pain and general discomfort for a much cheaper fare.
The Qantas statement about the expanded Hong Kong and Manila services, including scheduling details for the former, can be read here.