Last week I was invited by Cathay Pacific, the great luxury airline, to join them for a very special celebration – the delivery of their 50th Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. It was a remarkable and rare experience and I wanted to share with you all what traveling on a delivery flight is really like and to once again offer a passenger’s point of view of flying with Cathay Pacific.
What’s a delivery flight?
Unless you’re deep into the aviation community, a delivery flight is probably a new concept for you – I know it was for me. It’s pretty simple though, whenever an airline orders a new aircraft they have to pick it up and deliver it to the home airport once the plane has been built. In this case, Boeing manufactured the new 777-300ER in their Everett, Washington plant and so Cathay Pacific needed to transport the plane from Washington to its hub airport in Hong Kong. These are often times routine affairs and almost every day a new airplane is taken possession of from Boeing and flown to its new home. This was a special occasion for Cathay Pacific though, the delivery of its 50th 777-300ER marks a significant milestone for the company and so they wanted to highlight this occasion with a celebration.
Boeing and the Delivery Terminal
Located just outside of Seattle, Washington, a visit to the Boeing plant was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. They offer daily tours, and walking around the plant and seeing some of the many production lines in operation is one of the top tourist activities in town. For this occasion though, the experience was a little different.
Going beyond the normal tour, I was granted unique access to the floor of the final assembly lines themselves, watching as employees worked on the Boeing 777, 787 and even the 747 – The Queen of the Skies. It’s amazing to see the care and attention to detail required in assembling these massive, and expensive, machines, and as a frequent flyer it was a treat to see the manufacturing process up close. But nothing prepared me for what was one of the most unique aspects of the day, a visit to Paine Field and the Boeing Delivery Terminal.
Since Boeing produces so many aircraft, they need to have an fully functioning airport in order to test the planes and so that companies can pick them up and fly them back home. To facilitate this, Boeing created a special terminal just for these rare flights, with all of the functionality of a normal airport.
Standing at the windows of the terminal and looking out I saw logos for: Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Jetstar, Vietnam Airlines and more, a rare assemblage of planes that will soon be strewn all around the world. It was against this backdrop that I joined executives and other Cathay Pacific VIPs to board this remarkable flight to Hong Kong aboard their newest aircraft.
Cathay Pacific and the 50th 777-300ER
I wrote that this is a significant milestone for Cathay Pacific, and it definitely is. The company operates 67 777s with this newest aircraft, and the company is one of the launch customers for the 777x with 21 777-9x airplanes on order.
The 777-300ER really is the backbone of the company’s long-haul fleet and Cathay Pacific operates the largest fleet in Asia. The plane is the most fuel and cost-efficient airplane in its class as well as the most reliable twin-aisle aircraft in the world. This enables Cathay Pacific to operate multiple daily intercontinental flights in a variety of markets around the world, included the newest one – Boston.
Walking through the special Boeing security station, similar to ones you’d find in a commercial aviation airport, and picking up my boarding pass I joined the others onboard the newest 777-300ER.
This wasn’t a revenue flight, which means normal customers weren’t onboard. Instead it was a small group of people with an interest in Cathay Pacific, invited especially for this remarkable opportunity.
Since it was a small group, the only sections occupied were Premium Economy and Business Class, with the back of the plane left oddly, but beautifully empty. It’s a strange feeling to be one of so few people onboard a flight, but it was just one of many special moments during the 13 hour flight to Hong Kong.
It’s an extreme honor to work on any delivery flight, but especially so for a milestone as important as this one. Selected for their service and excellent reviews, the flight attendants were as excited as the passengers for this experience onboard a completely new aircraft.
This professionalism quickly translated to the flight experience and before I knew it, I was enjoying the Cathay Pacific service and quality that I’ve come to know and love. Sitting in Business Class, the experience was just as great as flights I’ve taken before with a special emphasis on the quality of the overall flying experience.
From inflight pajamas normally reserved for First Class passengers, to great food and a comprehensive entertainment system, it was one of the best flights I’ve ever been on not just because it was a special occasion, but because Cathay Pacific is just that great.
The time flew by and before I knew it we were in Hong Kong, sadly departing the plane but thankful for the once in a lifetime experience to be a part of such an important occasion for Cathay Pacific.
More than behind the scenes access and a nice flight, the experience in my opinion says a lot about Cathay Pacific. They could’ve taken delivery of this plane without any fanfare, but in deciding to celebrate it in grand style it’s a signal that this remarkable company isn’t just providing excellent service to customers around the world today, but that they also have an eye on the horizon, looking for new and better ways to surprise and delight and to offer a long-haul experience unlike any other in the world.
Do you have any questions about my delivery flight experience?