Cathay Pacific's first A350 from HKG to YVR is ready for a tug to pull it to the gate

Cathay Pacific’s first A350 from HKG to YVR is ready for a tug to pull it to the gate

Almost 35 years ago, Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) began its international expansion to North America, flying a Boeing 747-200 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Vancouver, BC (YVR). It was the first airline to fly nonstop between the two key Pacific Rim cities, and on Tuesday morning, Cathay Pacific introduced a new aircraft type on the route.

The airline’s Airbus A350-900XWB, B-LRI, touched down in the pouring rain just after sunrise, almost an hour ahead of its 8:00 AM scheduled arrival time. I was with the media group, set up on the south ramp for the A350’s expected arrival on YVR’s runway 08R. But just a few minutes before landing, the plane’s approach was changed to the north runway, 08L.

The special More to Love livery at SFO - Photo: Alaska Airlines

The special More to Love livery celebrating Virgin and Alaska becoming one – Photo: Alaska Airlines

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Alaska Airlines. I feel that they provide consistent, friendly service while having a nice product. They are like your really great friend that you always look forward to hanging out with.

Even though Alaska and I have a friendly relationship, they know I see other airlines from time-to-time. Often it is just for price or timing, but I end up back to Alaska. Mostly.

When Virgin America came to the Seattle market, things changed. Here you had a hip, friendly, cheap airline with more bells and whistles than any other domestic airline at the time. WiFi? Yup. In-seat entertainment? Of course. Fancy cabins? The fanciest. Great food? Yummy! Fun toys? Yes to all that and more. Virgin America spiced up my airline life.

A British Airways Boeing 747-400 – Photo: Cory W Watts | Flickr CC

I think of my nearest airport as the world’s biggest little airport. Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) serves the 12th-largest metro area in the country, yet its only intercontinental flight is a daily British Airways 747-400 to London Heathrow (LHR). The laundry list of reasons to explain this doesn’t make the situation any more palatable when I book a long-haul flight … and have to go through Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Francisco. I even get envious when I see the international flights from cities like Portland, Seattle, or even Charlotte.

Often overlooked, there are many great international options are smaller airports. There are benefits like being less busy, parking is cheaper, and it provides a little different experience. I started researching long-haul flights that would let me skip the big airports as much as possible. Here’s what I learned:

Edelweiss Air A340 Melchsee-Frutt – Photo: Edelweiss

Recently, I received a press release email from my local airport, San Diego International. The title read: “Edelweiss to begin nonstop seasonal service between Zurich and San Diego.” You’ve got to love it when your local airport adds new service, but this time was a little different than usual. Normally, KSAN “new service” press releases involve Southwest or Alaska, and to places like Newark, Tampa, or Cabo San Lucas. Did this one really say Zurich? And who exactly is Edelweiss? For an airport that receives very little wide-body international service (JL to Narita and BA to Heathrow), this KSAN press release was big news.

Being a card-carrying #AvGeek, I’ve heard of Edelweiss but I can’t say I know much else about them or what they do. In fact, my first thoughts when hearing the name weren’t even related to the airline.