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Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 to get new first, business class seats

By David Flynn     Filed under: cathay pacific, business class, first class, Airbus A350

Cathay Pacific will launch all-new designs for its business class and economy seats on its Airbus A350 fleet from early 2016.

The airline has hired Porsche Design Group to craft its new business class seats, codenamed ‘FB3’ as it will be Cathay’s third flatbed business class.

Also on the roster is London-based Tangerine, perhaps best known as the former home of Apple design guru Jony Ive, which is responsible for Cathay's new economy seats.

In addition Tangerine has won a ‘tip to tail’ brief to design the cabin interiors for all three classes on the Airbus A350.

A spokesman for the airline confirmed to Australian Business Traveller “we are working with the companies mentioned” but declined to comment further.

Cathay Pacific is likely to roll out a new first class for the larger A350-1000 jets, of which it has 26 on order from 2018. However, the spokesman told Australian Business Traveller “we have not begun work on first class yet and no decisions of any sort have been made.”

The Hong Kong flag-carrier is buying 48 of the next-gen Airbus jets, generally held as a challenger to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which will allow Cathay to retire its current Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s for the advanced and more fuel-efficient airplane.

Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager, Product, tells Australian Business Traveller that the first of 22 mid-size Airbus A350-900s “is scheduled for February 2016”, and will sport a three-class configuration with business, premium economy and economy class.

This will be followed “sometime in 2018, we don’t have an exact month yet” by the larger A350-1000, for which Cathay has 26 on order and will carry a compact first class cabin.

“We’ll have (all) 48 of the A350s by 2020” Smith forecasts.

CX: "We can't afford to stand still"

Speaking to Australian Business Traveller in late 2012 Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager, Product, said the airline was “very proud” of its current business class seat (below) – a second-generation flatbed product "which we internally call FB2.

"But it’s going to be just over three years before our first A350-900 delivery in early 2016 and a lot can happen in a competitive marketplace.”

“We can’t afford to stand still, and our competitors don’t stand still either. So we’re continuing to look to see whether there are further enhancements, essentially something new we might deliver in FB3.”

Airlines have adopted lie-flat beds, direct aisle access and increased personal space as the cornerstones of ‘state of the art’ business class, putting pressure on Cathay Pacific which is widely considered as having the world’s best business class seat.

Increasing the stakes is the wave of orders for new aircraft designs such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-9, and from 2020 the Boeing 777X. Airlines often align the debut of new seats to the launch of their impressive new flagships.

What goes into making a great business class seat? Here are seven things you didn't know about Cathay Pacific's new business class.

While many airlines have moved to fully flat beds, Smith believes that the laggards with sloping sleepers are poised to close the gap.

“There is a risk over the next few years that competitors that (today) have slightly sloped seats are going to catch up, and flatbeds and a 15” screen becomes the minimum expectation.”

Beyond lie-flat

So how do you make today’s first class suites and business class seats even better? 

“I think that’s the challenge for us, what do you do next? I mean, you can’t get flatter than flat!” Smith laughs. “You might make it a little bit wider or a little bit longer, but if you’ve got a bed that takes someone who’s 6’ 2”, 6’ 3”, that’s probably going to be good enough.”

“There are clearly enhancements in IT and connectivity which we’ll be focusing on” he predicts, along with suggestions that the next wave of seats will embrace incredibly fine attention to detail and the overall experience rather than any single killer feature.

“For us it’s (about) some of the smaller details in terms of the finish and really making sure that when passengers get onboard they know they’ve deserved an absolutely premium product” Smith reasons.

“Perhaps it’s trying to think of some of those smaller details that just make that journey that much better.”

Keep up with the latest news for frequent flyers by following us on Twitter – we're @AusBT.


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 21/5/13 by Will

Wow I wish Qantas would make new and better seats

1 on 30/12/13 by AJW

On a flatbed generation count Qantas and CX would seem to be equal. Both have MKI flat beds and MKII, with both now planning MKIII's. In Qantas's case introducing them on their refurbished A330's. It is far to early to talk about putting these on the A380's or the refurbed 747's.

PS whats the go with the date of this article? The date shows today 30/12/13 yet the comments are from May.  

1 on 30/12/13 by David

AJW: over the 'quiet' Christmas/New Year period we're publishing a selection of popular-and-still-of-interest articles from throughout the year.

2 on 25/5/13 by Stephen787

Having flown on CX First a few weeks ago I agree that although there is plenty of space in the First seats they feel a bit dated and basic compared to other carriers.

1 on 29/5/13 by petrhsr

Dated?  Basic?  Compared to which airlines?

Seriously, I'm confounded by this comment.

CX F is great.  Understated and elegant, unlike the garish, laughably tacky EK F, the overdone splendour of SQ R, the very ordinary QF A380 F, and the cringe-worthily embarrassing F update that BA has wasted millions on.

1 on 29/8/13 by Stephen787

The fact that CX are updating their First suites proves my point.

3 on 30/12/13 by Alvin

Get First and use that seat in Business and use another better wider seat (enclosed 1-1 suite?) in First.


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