Cathay Pacific celebrates 40 years of flying to New Zealand

  • 05/05/2023
The Boeing 747-200 used on Cathay Pacific's inaugural flight to New Zealand in 1983.
The Boeing 747-200 used on Cathay Pacific's inaugural flight to New Zealand in 1983. Photo credit: supplied

Cathay Pacific has just celebrated an important milestone: four full decades of services to and from New Zealand.

The Hong Kong-based airline's first commercial flight to Aotearoa touched down in Auckland on May 4, 1983, operated on a Boeing 747-200 aircraft captained by New Zealander Ian Steven with 35 first class, 36 business class and 337 economy seats.

"Flying has changed a lot in the past 40 years and certainly for the better. There's no smoking for one," said Dennis Basten, Cathay Pacific's NZ Country Lead.

"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 whilst travelling between New Zealand and our home, Hong Kong."

In 2021, Cathay Pacific celebrated 75 years of flying since its inaugural flight took place in 1946 using a DC3 propeller plane affectionately known as 'Betsy', flying from Sydney to Hong Kong carrying 2000 one-day-old chicks.

As of December 2022, Cathay Pacific has a fleet of 181 aircraft including new Airbus A321neos and Airbus A350s, with new Boeing 777-9s due to enter service in a few years.

After a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, it restarted direct flights between Auckland and Hong Kong in June, 2022. Currently it operates the route three times per week, but also offers a codeshare option with Air New Zealand, which flies it daily.

The two airlines have a relationship that goes back to 1983, Cathay Pacific said.

"New Zealand is a market that has played an integral role in our history and remains as important as ever," said Dominic Perret, the airline's regional general manager for Southeast Asia and Southwest Pacific.

"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."