Checking out Cathay Pacific's A350

While issues with Boeing Dreamliner's continue to make headlines, eyes are turning to the Airbus A350 to see how it's progressing in its beginning years as an airliner.

Although the latest version - the A350-1000 - is only just beginning to take to the air, the 900 is quickly becoming a frequent visitor to New Zealand skies.

And that's not just Auckland skies either. Cathay Pacific operates a seasonal service direct to Hong Kong from Christchurch, and it was on this flight that I first experienced what this super modern aircraft can offer.

There are three things that I instantly noticed and loved about this Cathay flight. The first was the live cameras on the nose and on the tail. Regardless of where you are sitting, you have the best view of the entire journey.

A350 flying above Canterbury.
Flying above Canterbury. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

As you can see in the video, the cameras provided stunning views of Canterbury and the South Island as we headed north to Asia.

Secondly, there's Wi-Fi on board. It's pretty much available the entire flight except for a couple of blind spots, but that's understandable when you're travelling at over 900km/h.

There's something pretty cool about chatting with your friends and family while you're speeding through the skies. But for those who enjoy being forced to just sit and watch movies, you'll soon find the connection with the outside world a bit distracting. So while you may think you'd spend a lot of time online in the air, you probably won't - but it's still handy for connecting and planning ahead.

CNN on-board A350
This is 39,000 feet. Photo credit: Newshub/Dan Lake

Lastly, there's live television. Yes, actual live television channels streaming to your screen. When I travelled, it was during the peak of one of the many Trump scandals, so I ended up watching CNN for a couple of hours instead of the back catalogue of movies. What's even better, the seat next to me was empty - so I was cheeky and used that screen too.

From the outside the A350 is easy to spot, with amazing curved wingtips and darkened cockpit windows. The aircraft's sleek appearance stands out on any airport tarmac.

The A350 is often compared to the Dreamliner, which is not quite comparing apples with apples. The A350 is slightly wider than its Boeing rival, allowing for wider seats. As Airbus put it to me, "It's the extra inch that makes the difference." Only the French could get away with saying that.

Plus it can carry more passengers, is larger and can travel further.

The business class cabin on the Cathay Pacific A350 is as functional as it is comfortable. It allows you to lie flat, which should really be the bare minimum in business class travel these days.

There's also quite a lot of storage, including a small compartment for charging your phone.

From your entertainment screen you can not only watch television and movies, but you can also communicate with the crew. If you don't want to be woken for breakfast, just let them know.

Business class on Cathay Pacific A350.
Business class on Cathay Pacific A350 Photo credit: Supplied.

Your television is an impressive 18.8 inches (48cm) and the handset has a 4.3-inch (11cm) screen, so you can check the flights progress or look for your next movie choice without having to stop watching what's on the big screen.

Plane spotters and travellers keen to experience this can do so out of Christchurch three times a week during summer. Aucklanders have the luxury of choosing this aircraft daily on Cathay's flights to Hong Kong.

The food selection was great, as was the wine. The crew knew a lot about what they were serving and were able to answer questions about allergies, which is a big bonus for people like me.

Approaching Hong Kong, the cameras come into play again. You get amazing views of the landscape as you approach the airport. There's something cool and quite reminiscent of Star Wars about seeing the landing gear deploy. You don't even need to be a plane geek to enjoy the sight of the plane lining up for landing, from when the airport is a distant hazy blob to the moment the aircraft touches down right on the centre line.

The A350 is well worth checking out. Look for it next time you're at the airport, or better still head to Hong Kong and get the full experience.

Dan Lake travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Cathay Pacific.