Singapore and Tokyo are on the cards for the launch of Cathay Pacific’s new regional business class in January next year.
The seat, which we profiled on its launch in Hong Kong earlier this month, represents a new approach to regional business class.
Its hybrid design borrows some elements from an angled lie-flat or ‘sloping sleeper’ seat and weaves them into the more conventional form of a recliner.
Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager, Product, tells Australian Business Traveller that the airline gearing up for a super-fast rollout of the new seat which will be retrofitted across Cathay’s regional Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 fleet.
“That will come into service starting in January 2013, and there’s just under a two-year roll out program, completing in late 2014” Smith says, with the seat slated for “short-haul flights – such as Singapore, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo."
It will also appear on some flights to India and the Middle East which route via Bangkok, although direct flights to India and the Middle East will get Cathay's new business class, with the rollout of that due by April 2013.
A Cathay Pacific spokesperson subsequently confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that Singapore, Tokyo and Osaka would be among the first to see flights with the new regional business class seats on upgraded Boeing 777s.
The refit of the Boeing 777s will continue throughout 2013, with the focus shifting to upgrading the Airbus A330s towards the tail end of the year. This will be followed in 2014 by delivery of new Airbus A330s with the seats factory-installed.
"Flatbed no, features yes" say travellers
“The average flying time of our regional flights is around three hours and the longest is five”, Smith explains, “and a flatbed is not required for that.”
In fact, Smith says that feedback from passengers was that a lie-flat bed was not a priority for regional business class.
“We followed a similar process with our long-haul business class in terms of intensive and extensive passenger research and trialling of mock-ups, including input from Marco Polo Club members” Smith says.
The overwhelming response, he recalls, was clear: travellers “told us they didn’t want a flatbed.”
“What they wanted was a bit more personal space in a more comfortable seat, a good working space, better AV, more personal storage and iPod-iPad connectivity.”
The Recarro Comfort Line 5510 seat chosen by and customised for Cathay Pacific certainly ticks all those boxes.
The fixed shell design protects your space from the recline of the passenger in front, with a moulded shell providing 45-47” of pitch or for keeping your laptop bag handy during the flight.
The fold-down tray table is quite wide (at just over 20 inches) and deep (14.5 inches), with a CX premium economy-style cocktail table for both passengers in the centre armrest.
Adjacent to the 12.1 inch video screen is a USB port to keep your travel tech charged up plus a multi-pin video plug which can pipe video from your iPhone or iPod onto the seatback screen.
(This requires a special adaptor cable which the Cathay cabin crew will have on hand, although we suggest frequent flyers buy their own and add it to their carry-on travel kit – Griffin's eXport will do the trick.)
Every passenger also gets their own laptop power supply courtesy of a universal AC port.
The seat itself swings into uber-relaxation ‘lazy-Z’ mode by combining the 36 degree recline with the extendable legrest’s 60 degree upswing, with both settings able to be fine-tuned using independent electronic controls.
At 21” wide from edge to edge of the cushion, with a little extra wiggle-room under each armrest, travellers shouldn’t feel squashed on even the longest short-haul trek.
The deep literature pocket in the centre console will help get magazines, books and even smaller tablets out of the way – especially if you dump all of the CX-supplied bumpf into the overhead bin.
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.