EXCLUSIVE | Cathay Pacific will rip out and replace the business class seats in a quarter of its Airbus A350 fleet in response to a series of issues with poor-quality fit and finish which has been widely reported on social media
The A350 seats were supplied by Zodiac Aerospace and represent an update of the airline’s flagship business class on its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A330 fleet.
However, the seats – which have been flying for less than a year on the advanced A350 jetliners – have been beset by problems such as ill-fitting seat fabric and trim, peeling and flaking laminate surfaces and broken latch mechanisms.
“Zodiac has agreed to replace all business class seats on the first three A350 aircraft to join the Cathay fleet,” James Evans, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager of Product, confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
“The first three (aircraft) have the most acute issues with the finishing,” Evans explained, “so next month we will take all the business class seats out of the very first A350-900 and put in a whole new set.”
The process is expected to take several weeks for each aircraft, with the troublesome trio overhauled by mid-year.
The bulk of the A350 fleet will see remediation rather than replacement, Evans said.
“With the fourth (A350) right up until the tenth there are still issues, that is true. But the engineering team remedy those issues and bring those seats back to a state that we are satisfied with and which meets our product specification.”
Zodiac Aerospace has faced ongoing problems with production quality of seats and lavatories provided for several airlines buying the A350, which delayed deliveries of the jet and earned the wrath of Airbus, which in turn removed Zodiac from its list of seat suppliers for new A330neo jets.
The company has also held back United's rollout of new Boeing 777-300ER jets with the airline's much-trumpeted Polaris business class and is being sued by American for delaying its Boeing 787 delivery schedule.
Cathay Pacific already has a dozen A350 jets in its fleet, “and by the end of this year we will have all 22 of our A350-900 order,” Evans said.
“Then from the middle of next year we’ll start seeing the A350-1000, and we have 26 of those to come.”
The A350-1000 – which will carry more passengers than the A350-900 but do so over a slightly shorter distance – will sport the same business class and premium economy seats as its sibling.
Zodiac will contunue to produce the A350-1000's business class seats, Evans told Australian Business Traveller.
However, the economy seats will use the Vector Y+ design from Hong Kong-based seat maker Haeco – which like Cathay pacific is also part of the Swire empire – instead of the B/E Aerospace Pinnacle of the A350-900.