Cathay Pacific to bring A350-900 and 777-300ER to Melbourne in 2017

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Cathay Pacific is boosting passenger and cargo capacity between Melbourne and Hong Kong with the use of the larger Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 777-300ER on the route from early 2017.

The oneworld alliance member said on Thursday it would deploy the A350-900 on one of its three daily flights to Melbourne from February 1 2017, with the Boeing 777-300ER to be used on the route a month later on March 1.

Currently, all three of Cathay’s Melbourne-Hong Kong rotations are operated with Airbus A330-300s configured with 251 seats comprising 39 in business, 21 in premium economy and 191 in economy.

By contrast, the A350-900s have 280 seats (38 business, 28 premium economy and 214 economy) and feature the airline’s latest cabin products such as on-board wifi, new premium economy seat and refreshed business and economy seats. In particular, the aircraft features Cathay’s innovative “six-way” headrest designed to make it easier for passengers to sleep.

And the airline’s three-class Boeing 777-300ERs have 40 business class, 32 premium economy and 268 economy seats for a total of 340.

The upgauge of aircraft type of two of Cathay’s three daily flights represented a capacity increase of 15.7 per cent to Melbourne.

Cathay general manager for southwest Pacific Nelson Chin said passengers would notice the difference travelling on the latest generation A350.

Further, Chin also talked up the benefits of Cathay’s freight operations out of Australia with the use of the 777-300ER.

“It is really exciting to be introducing the Airbus A350 into Melbourne,” Chin said in a statement.

“I know people are going to love the quieter, more comfortable inflight experience with larger windows, new seats and a spacious aesthetically-pleasing cabin with LED mood lighting.

“The introduction of the Boeing 777-300ER onto CX178, which departs daily at 2330, not only adds more Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class seats, but it also provides better payload which will help facilitate cargo uplift.”

The A350-900 has been scheduled to operate the CX104/CX105 rotation, which is an afternoon departure from Melbourne and red-eye service from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the 777-300ER will take over the CX178 overnight flight from Melbourne and CX163 morning service from Hong Kong

Cathay, which picked up its first A350-900 in May, has 22 of the type on order due to be delivered between now and the end of 2017. It has also signed for 26 of the larger A350-1000, which are due to arrive between 2018-2020

In addition to some regional routes, the A350-900 operates long-haul services from Hong Kong to Dusseldorf and London Gatwick, with Paris, Auckland and Rome to receive the aircraft by the end of 2016, according to the June 2016 edition of Cathay’s staff magazine CXWorld.

The use of larger aircraft follows a similar move in Sydney, where two of Cathay’s four daily flights are now operated with Boeing 777-300ERs.

Cathay has utilised all available traffic rights for Hong Kong carriers to Australia’s four major international gateways of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, which currently sits at 70 flights a week. As a result, the only way to add capacity is to upgauge to larger equipment.

The decision to add extra capacity to Melbourne also comes as Virgin Australia prepares to mount flights to Hong Kong and Beijing from a yet-to-be-disclosed Australian city from June 2017 in partnership with HNA Group.

Cathay Pacific flight CX100, operated by 777-300ER B-KQR, at Sydney Airport. (Cathay Pacific)

Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the first airline to operate the A350 to Melbourne when it began a short stint with the aircraft in August. Thai Airways was due to replace its Boeing 777-200ER with the A350 on its Bangkok-Melbourne flights later in September.


Australian Aviation

Cathay posts big profit decline as premium demand dries up

A supplied image of Cathay Pacific's first A350's maiden flight. (Airbus)

Cathay Pacific says a difficult operating environment due to economic fragility and intense competition is expected to persist for the rest of calendar 2016 after reporting a sharp decline in first half profit and fewer passengers travelling in its business and first class cabins.

The Hong Kong flag carrier said net profit for the six months to June 30 2016 tumbled 82 per cent to HK$353 million, compared with HK$1.97 billion in the prior corresponding period.

Revenue slipped 9.3 per cent to HK$45.68 billion, Cathay said in a regulatory filing in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon.

Cathay said there was “sustained pressure” on revenues in the first half due to the suspension of fuel surcharges, weak currencies in some markets, weak premium class demand, particularly on long-haul routes, and a higher proportion of passengers transiting through Hong Kong.

As a consequence, yields – an industry term measuring revenue per passenger per kilometre – fell 10.1 per cent to HK54.3 cents in the half.

Cathay chairman John Slosar said the outlook for the period ahead was difficult.

“We expect the operating environment in the second half of the year to continue to be impacted by the same adverse factors as in the first half,” Slosar said in a statement.

“We expect passenger yield to remain under pressure.

“In this difficult environment, we will manage capacity and strive to make further improvements in operational efficiency. We will also continue to be vigilant on costs.”

Cathay, and others, have battled the rapid international expansion of Chinese airlines and the ongoing rise of Middle East carriers offering long-haul to long-haul connections through their hubs which have eaten into previously lucrative markets. And in Asia, low-cost carriers have won passengers happy to pay lower fares for a no-frills product on short- and medium-haul routes.

Further, the economic slowdown – both in China and elsewhere – had led to a “significant reduction in premium corporate travel” in business and first class, particularly on long-haul routes.

In response, Cathay cut prices for business class travel in a bid to stimulate demand.

“Premium class yield and load factor were lower than in the first half of 2015,” Cathay said.

“Corporate travel originating in Hong Kong was well below expectations, particularly to London and New York. Numbers travelling declined for the first time since 2009, when business was affected by the financial crisis.

“We sold premium class tickets on a promotional basis to leisure travellers, in an effort to counter the shortfall in corporate travel.

The oneworld alliance member said demand on its Australian routes was “robust”. However, the recent increase in capacity from Chinese carriers and a lower Australian dollar put pressure on yields.

“Tourism from Mainland China to Hong Kong is weak,” Cathay said.

“To compensate, we have been trying to get passengers from Mainland China to connect through Hong Kong, with some success. Demand for connecting flights to Australia and North America was strong in the first six months of 2016.”

Cathay flies 74 times a week from Hong Kong to Australia, serving Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Cathay said its total fuel cost fell 31.9 per cent to HK$13.26 billion in the half thanks to a 33.3 per cent decrease in the average price of oil. However, the full benefit of the lower fuel price was offset by losses from Cathay’s fuel hedging contracts.

The company booked a HK$4.49 billion fuel-hedging loss in the first half, larger than the HK$3.74 billion fuel-hedging loss a year earlier.

There were also pressures on Cathay’s cargo operation, where revenues tumbled 17.2 per cent to HK$9.42 billion, compared with the prior corresponding period due to “overcapacity and economic fragility”. Yields were also down, dropping 17.6 per cent in the half in response to “strong competition, overcapacity and the suspension of fuel surcharges.

“Demand on European routes continued to be weak and demand on transpacific routes weakened. India was one of the few routes where demand strengthened,” Cathay said.

“The Group managed freighter capacity in line with demand and carried a higher percentage of cargo in the bellies of its passenger aircraft.”

In terms of the fleet, Cathay said it expected to take delivery of nine new Airbus A350-900s between now and December. The airline picked up its third A350-900 in August.

Meanwhile, the remaining five A340-300s were scheduled to be completely withdrawn in 2017, while the last three Boeing 747-400 superjumbos were expected to be retired by October 2016.

Australian Aviation

Air freight volumes soften in May

Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-8F with its nose freight door open at Wellcamp Airport. (Jordan Chong)

Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-8F with its nose freight door open at Wellcamp Airport. (Jordan Chong)

Air freight volumes went backwards in May as economic jitters and political uncertainty stymied efforts to boost global trade and excess capacity pressured yields, new figures show.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said freight tonne kilometres (FTK) fell 0.9 per cent in May, compared with the prior corresponding period.

And with capacity, measured by available freight tonne kilometres (AFTK), rising by 4.9 per cent in the month, IATA said yields remained under pressure. Freight load factors dropped to 41.9 per cent in May – a record low for the month and down 1.7 percentage points from a year ago.

Although there were signs of encouragement towards the end of 2015, that positive momentum in air freight had slowed at the start of 2016 amid weakness in global trade growth.

This was highlighted by global trade volumes falling in the first quarter of 2016 for the first time since the end of 2009.

IATA director general and chief executive Tony Tyler said the sluggish state of the cargo market looked set to continue for the period ahead.

“Global trade has basically moved sideways since the end of 2014 taking air cargo with it,” Tyler said in a statement on Wednesday (European time).

“Hopes for a stronger 2016 are fading as economic and political uncertainty increases. Air cargo is vital to the global economy. But the business environment is extremely difficult and there are few signs of any immediate relief.”

In terms of the regional picture, Asia Pacific carriers suffered an 0.7 per cent decline in demand, or FTKs, in May, while capacity rose 3.7 per cent. The region was responsible for 40 per cent of all air freight.

“Airlines in Asia-Pacific continue to face headwinds from weak trade in the region and globally,” IATA said.

Freight demand also declined in North America, as the stronger US dollar kept exports from that country under pressure, and was also weaker in Latin America due to the struggling Brazil economy.

On a positive note, air freight demand European airlines rose by 4.5 per cent, while capacity was up 5.7 per cent, reflecting a boost to export orders from Germany over the past few months.

There was also growing demand in the Middle East, with airlines in the region boosting FTKs by 3.2 per cent. However, capacity rose by a far larger 9.5 per cent.

“Despite carriers in the region reporting the fastest growth in aggregate, demand conditions have weakened considerably,” IATA said.

“Annual growth in May 2016 was one-fifth of the pace registered in May 2015. This reflects both an easing in network expansion by the region’s main carriers over the past six months and weak trading conditions.”

There was also moderate growth in demand from airlines in Africa.

“All told, 2016 is shaping up to be another disappointing year for air freight,” IATA said.

Australian Aviation

Cathay Pacific takes delivery of first A350

CX A350 arrives HKG

Cathay Pacific has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350, with A350-900 B-LRA touching down at Hong Kong International Airport on Sunday morning after a nonstop flight from Toulouse.

Flight tracking website shows B-LRA departing Toulouse at 2:16pm on Saturday, touching down at Cathay Pacific’s home base of Hong Kong at 7:53am on Sunday, operating as CX3350. The aircraft is due to be formally unveiled to media and staff in a function at Hong Kong Airport on Monday evening.

The A350 is planned to enter service with Cathay on June 1, operating to Manila. Daily flights to Manila and Taipei are then planned initially, while the delivery of the airline’s second A350 in July will see services expanded to Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Osaka Kansai.

Ultimately, after three months in service as Cathay builds up operational experience and crew training on the type the A350 will be deployed on long-haul routes from September, including London and Auckland.

B-LRA’s delivery was originally planned for February but had been pushed back due to issues in certifying and manufacturing the aircraft’s Zodiac-supplied business class seat.

“The key challenges have been for the supplier to meet a stringent set of seat certification requirements and overcome seat production issues,” Cathay Pacific’s head of A350 project Bob Taylor told the airline’s in-house newspaper CX World recently.

Cathay is configuring its A350-900s with 214 economy, 28 premium business seats and 38 business class seats.

The Hong Kong airline has 22 A350-900s and 26 A350-1000s on order.


Australian Aviation

Cathay boosts Hong Kong hub with new business class lounge

A supplied image of Cathay Pacific's The Pier business class lounge. (Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific General Manager Product Leslie Lu (centre), General Manager Hong Kong International Airport Liza Ng (left) and General Manager Sales & Distribution Toby Smith pictured at The Pier Business Class Lounge. (Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific has boosted the strength of its Hong Kong hub with the reopening of business class lounge “The Pier” as it takes the fight up to its rivals for premium passengers amid sluggish market conditions.

Following the upgrade, The Pier business class lounge has been expanded by 1,000 square metres (to 3,306 square metres) has enough seating for 550 people. Located in the north-west part of the airport, it is the airline’s largest lounge.

The refurbished Pier, designed by London-based Studioilse, features Cathay’s signature noodle bar as well as showers, workstations and a tea house. It aims to replicate elements of Hong Kong street life, “albeit elevated to a more luxurious standard, to give a distinctly Hong Kong identity to the lounge offering”, Cathay said.

It is the latest facility in Cathay’s lounge network to get an upgrade, following the opening of refreshed lounges in external ports such as Bangkok, Manila, Tokyo (Haneda) and Vancouver in recent times, as the airline faces competition for premium travellers from the likes of Singapore Airlines and the rise and rise of China’s big three – Air China, China Eastern and China Southern.

The airline’s traffic statistics for April showed weakening passenger demand across most of the network, Cathay Pacific general manager for revenue management Patricia Hwang said.

“The number of passengers carried decreased compared to the same month in 2015, despite more capacity being operated, which resulted in another drop in load factor,” Hwang said in a statement.

“April figures received a boost from Easter returning traffic and the beginning of travel for the Labour Day holidays in China, but overall we are not seeing the high volumes we saw last year. Pressure on yield remains, with competition increasing and premium demand continuing to fall short of expectations.”

The oneworld alliance member, which serves Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney with a mix of Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-300ER equipment, will also get a boost to both its passenger offering and bottom line at the end of May, when it was due to receive the first of 22 new generation, fuel efficient Airbus A350-900s on order.

The A350-900s, will be configured with business, premium economy and economy, were expected to feature new seats and on board internet.

Cathay has announced previously Dusseldorf and London (Gatwick) were the first two long-haul destinations for the A350-900, with Auckland also expected to receive the type before the end of 2016.

The airline has also ordered 26 of the larger A350-1000.

Recent reports said Cathay chief executive Ivan Chu has initiated some cost-cutting measures such as cuts to non-essential discretionary expenditure, a hiring freeze for non-essential personnel and a review of operational budgets.


Australian Aviation

Cathay Pacific gets its first Airbus A350 on May 27

Cathay Pacific gets its first Airbus A350 on May 27

Cathay Pacific will take delivery of its first Airbus A350 model on May 27, with the advanced jet arriving into Hong Kong Airport on May 29.

The A350s will sport new-look seats fitted from tip to tail, starting with 38 business class seats based on the airline’s current highly-regarded business class (shown below) and in the same 1-2-1 layout – but with an updated design which CX is carefully positioning as a ‘refresh’ to improve the existing seat, based on extensive passenger surveys and in-person workshops.

Travellers can expect to see improvements in storage space, the ability to slide the meal table forward and back, and a degree of tilt for the large HD video screen.

The refreshed business class seat has been widely blamed for delays to the A350’s delivery, which was originally slated for March, with claims that seat supplier Zodiac fell far behind the schedule set by Airbus and Cathay Pacific.

There’s also a compact premium economy cabin of 28 seats in a 2-4-2 arrangement and an all-new design, followed by 214 new economy seats ranked in a 3-3-3 grid.

The Airbus A350 will also be fitted with inflight Internet, which is a first for Cathay Pacific’s international fleet and an overdue catch-up to competitors such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad.

Cathay Pacific will showcase the A350 to members of the media on Monday May 30, with the aircraft’s first commercial flight as CX907 to Manila on June 1.

it will then run a daily basis to Manila and Taipei until the second aircraft arrives in July, when fights will also commence to Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Kansai.

Cathay Pacific will swing the fuel-efficient jet onto longer-range international routes to Europe from September, beginning with Dusseldorf and London.

A350 flights between Hong Kong and Auckland will commence in the second half of the year.

Other likely starters for the A350’s route map include Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Milan and Zurich.

11 more A350-900s are due to be delivered this year, and another ten in 2017, to be followed by 26 of the larger and longer-range A350-1000s from 2018.

The A350-1000 fleet will feature an updated business class along with all-new premium economy and economy seats, although Cathay Pacific hasdecided against installing first class on the Airbus A350-1000, opting instead for a larger premium cabin featuring its new international business class seats.

Australian Business Traveller will travel to Hong Kong for the May 30 launch of the Airbus A350 as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

Source : Australian Business Traveller

Cathay Pacific getting closer to first A350 delivery

Completion of Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350-900 is into the home straight, with the aircraft’s first flight test on Easter Friday (European time).

Airbus said the aircraft, MSN 0029, which currently wears the test registration F-WZFX and is expected to take B-LRA once handed over to Cathay, made it maiden flight on March 25.

“The aircraft will now enter the final phase of production including cabin completion, further ground checks and test flights before being prepared for delivery in the second quarter of the year,” Airbus said in a statement.

Cathay said at its full year results announcement on March 9 the first of 22 A350-900s on firm order would be delivered in May.

The delivery date had previously been set down for the start of 2016, but was believed to have been pushed back due to delays with the production of seats and toilets, according to media reports.

“The first Airbus A350-900XWB aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in May 2016,” Cathay said in its calendar 2015 full year results.

“Twelve of these aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in 2016. The first of two Airbus A350 simulators was delivered to the airline in May 2015.”

“The new Airbus A350XWB aircraft will have new cabins, seats and entertainment systems.”

The A350-900s, to be configured with business, premium economy and economy, were expected to be used initially to Europe, with Hong Kong-London (Gatwick) to commence in September. Auckland was also due to transition from the A340-300 to A350-900 in 2016.

All of Cathay’s 22 A350-900s on order were forecast to be delivered in 2016 and 2017, the airline’s full year results showed, while the 26 of the larger A350-100s also on order were expected to arrive in 2018 and beyond.

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said in January the Toulouse-headquartered manufacturer hoped to deliver some 50 A350s in 2016, as production rates increased from the 14 frames delivered to the likes of Finnair, Qatar Airways, TAM and Vietnam Airlines in calendar 2015.

Singapore Airlines became the fifth A350 operator and second in Asia Pacific behind Vietnam Airways in March.

A supplied image of Cathay Pacific's first A350's maiden flight. (Airbus)

Australian Aviation

Cathay Pacific says weaker AUD has impacted yields on Australian routes

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER B-KQR at Sydney Airport. (Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific has reported a near doubling of full year net profit in 2015 and says its flights to Australia have been “satisfactory” over the past year amid a downturn in the mining sector and a weaker Australian dollar.

The airline group posted net profit of $HK6 billion for the 12 months to December 31 2015, up 90.5 per cent from $HK3.15 billion in the prior corresponding period.

The result was underpinned by lower fuel prices and strong demand in economy class, Cathay said in its full year results released on Wednesday. On a negative note, demand in its premium cabins was “not as strong as expected on some long-haul routes”, while cargo remained weak.

“The operating environment was better in 2015 than in 2014, but we faced some significant challenges, which we expect to continue in 2016,” Cathay chairman John Slosar said in a statement.

“Strong competition from other airlines in the region, foreign currency movements and weak premium class passenger demand will put pressure on passenger yield.

“Cargo demand will be adversely affected by industry overcapacity.

“Overall passenger demand remains strong and we expect to continue to benefit from low fuel prices.”

Cathay said fuel costs fell 18 per cent in 2015, compared with the prior year, even with some losses from old hedging positions. Meanwhile, passenger numbers rose 7.9 per cent to 34.1 million, and load factors rose 2.4 percentage points to 85.7 per cent.

However, passenger yields, which measure average airfares per passenger, fell 11 per cent in the year.

Cathay’s Australian network includes flights to Adelaide, Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, as well as seasonal service to the Gold Coast during Chinese New Year.

During the past year, the oneworld alliance member swapped an Airbus A330-300 with a Boeing 777-300ER on a second of its four daily Sydney flights, as well as added a fifth weekly flight to Adelaide.

Cathay said it continued to experience good demand from China to Australia. However, the financial performance of its Australian routes was hit by the weaker Australian dollar.

“The performance of our Australian routes was satisfactory in 2015. Demand for travel between Mainland China and Australia was stable,” Cathay said.

“The value of the Australian dollar fell significantly. This increased demand for travel to Australia but adversely affected yield.

“Business on the Perth route was affected by a downturn in the mining sector in Western Australia.”

Cathay said its Hong Kong-Auckland route, which it operates as part of an alliance with Air New Zealand, was steady in 2015.

In terms of the fleet, Cathay said it expected to receive its first Airbus A350-900 in May. It will be one of 12 A350-900s due for delivery in calendar 2016. The airline already had two A350 simulators for flight training purposes.

“The new Airbus A350XWB aircraft will have new cabins, seats and entertainment systems,” Cathay confirmed in its full year results release.

Revenue service with the A350 was expected to begin in June. The airline has 22 A350-900s and 26 of the larger A350-1000s on order.

Meanwhile, Cathay’s three remaining Boeing 747-400s were due to be retired before the end of 2016, with the last flight set to take place in October. As previously announced, the company has brought forward the retirement of the 747-400s from 2017 to 2016.


Australian Aviation

New look for Cathay

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER featuring the airline's new livery. (Cathay)

Cathay Pacific has unveiled a subtle change to its aircraft livery that chief executive Ivan Chu says “represents the beginning of a new era” for the Hong Kong-based aviation powerhouse.

The airline showed off its first aircraft featuring the new look, a Boeing 777-300ER, at a special event at Hong Kong Airport on Sunday.

The changes feature a larger logo, or brushwing, at the front of the aircraft, as well as larger lettering for the airline’s name on the side of the fuselage and an all-green tail. The colours have also been simplified to green, grey and white.


Cathay Pacific flight CX100, operated by 777-300ER B-KQR, at Sydney Airport. (Cathay Pacific)

Cathay says the livery represented a “timeless, yet contemporary, elegance” that blended the airline’s Asian roots with a global outlook.

Chu told guests at the official unveiling the updated livery was the latest initiative to “refresh” the airline’s brand identity over the past year which in addition to a new logo has also included new-look premium lounges both at its Hong Kong hub and in foreign ports, as well as a new website and mobile app.

“We are very happy and proud to unveil our new aircraft livery which represents our journey into the future and also celebrates the many great things we have achieved over the past seven decades as the home carrier of Hong Kong,” Chu said.

“This new look is the latest – and most significant – development in our ongoing efforts to improve the overall customer experience at Cathay Pacific. It is also a highly visible representation of the huge investments we are making in new aircraft and products as part of our ongoing commitment to build Hong Kong’s position as an international aviation hub.”

Cathay said its existing fleet will be gradually repainted over the next five years as aircraft head to the hangar for their regular maintenance checks.

Meanwhile, Cathay’s new deliveries of Airbus A350s will come out of the factory with the new livery.


Australian Aviation

Cathay Pacific begins second 777-300ER service to Sydney

Cathay Pacific flight CX101, operated by 777-300ER B-KQR, arrives in Sydney. (Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific has commenced a second Boeing 777-300ER rotation to Sydney.

Flight CX101 from Hong Kong, operated by B-KQR, arrived at Sydney a little after 1030 local time on Friday.

The reciprocal CX100 took off from the NSW capital just past 1600.

Upgauging a second of four daily Cathay flights between Hong Kong and Sydney from the Airbus A330-300 to the 777-300ER represents an eight per cent increase in capacity.

“Having two 777-300ER flights will help cater to the increasing demand from our passengers wanting the best morning or night connections to our large network, which includes our newest destinations Manchester, Zurich, Boston, Dusseldorf and soon Madrid,” Cathay Pacific general manager for Southwest Pacific Nelson Chin said in a statement.

“It also serves those who simply wish to make the most of a whole day’s work or play in Hong Kong.”

Cathay’s three-class Boeing 777-300ERs have 340 seats (40 business, 32 premium economy, 268 economy), compared with either 242 seats (39 business, 28 premium economy, 175 economy) or 251 seats (39 business, 21 premium economy, 191 economy) on the A330-300s used to serve Australia.

The oneworld alliance member switched one of its four Sydney services to the 777-300ER in December 2014.

The airline flies 74 times a week to Australia and has utilised the full amount of available frequencies to the country’s four major gateways – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – for Hong Kong-designated carriers.

Therefore, any increase in capacity will have to come through larger aircraft and not additional flights.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER B-KQR at Sydney Airport. (Cathay Pacific)


Australian Aviation