Review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 business class

Review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 business class

Cathay Pacific's new Airbus A350 business class takes what is already a great seat for the business traveller and makes it even better.

Australian Business Traveller puts it to the test on one of the A350's first flights.

If you've previously flown in Cathay Pacific business class on the airline's Airbus A330 or Boeing 777 flights from Australia, the A350 seat (based on the Zodiac Cirrus III design) is immediately familiar...

... being in a 1-2-1 layout that provides direct and uninterrupted aisle access for every passenger, and with the seats angled away from the aisles for privacy.

Setting it apart are a number of subtle yet beneficial changes that frequent travellers will appreciate, beginning with a new closable storage compartment aside the seat...

... and which, when closed, gives you extra knee room as you stretch out in your 75 inch, 190cm fully-flat bed:

Speaking of knee room, a new fold-up side panel provides you with more of it on the aisle side...

... but which you'll have to raise manually after the seat transforms into a bed.

Width of the main seat cushion, excluding the knee extension areas, is a comfortable 20.2 inches.

The aisle-side arm rest also lowers for even more space or raises to reveal a water bottle holder...

... while the previous seat's functional privacy shell has been retained yet refined by Studio F.A. Porsche with an ever-so-slightly more modern and upmarket feel:

A two-hour hop within Asia is obviously too short to get any decent shut-eye, but we still put the bed flat and our 180cm frame fit comfortably with room to spare.

On an overnight flight it wouldn't seem hard to get settled here, and while the seat's padding is on the firm side, you could always drape a blanket to soften things up.

You can also stash your shoes under the end of the seat before forming the bed: a strong improvement over the old shoe storage cupboard that never managed to actually fit our size elevens:

While sleeping or indeed working, you can also make use of an improved storage cupboard...

... now offering a pouch for smartphones and the like plus a larger mirror for the odd hair tweak or make-up touch-up...

... which passengers in the middle seats can utilise for added privacy in lieu of a dedicated privacy divider:

Inside that door are easy-reach and multi-country AC and USB power ports, along with the headphone outlet...

... but for travellers who usually bring their own headphones, note that this is a two pin plug – one slightly larger than the other to power the headset's noise cancelling features – rather than a typical three pin adaptor.

Aside those is an also-familiar but refreshed side panel with a dimmable reading light, one-touch seat controls and a new remote control with a full colour screen...

(Press 'bed' and release while your seat keeps moving: no need to hold it down.)

... which can help navigate through the options provided on your 18.5-inch HD entertainment screen, which comes stowed away at first...

... but is partially released with the press of a button...

... and which you then pull towards you to correct the angle, and can keep in this position for take-off and landing.

Speaking of angles, that whole mechanism unfortunately proves troublesome as the moment you tap anything on the inward side of the screen the entire monitor twists slightly away from you...

... and on some of the seats, including our neighbour's, the screen refused to lock flush - instead reverting to that slight angle which just begs to be pushed back into place, again and again.

(It's hard to photograph, but you'll notice the screen above is angled, whereas this screen is in the correct position and directly facing the passenger.)

Position aside, the new Studio CX entertainment system is incredibly easy to use and responds just like an iPad, with a 'quick help guide' for first-time users, live satellite TV including BBC World News, Euronews and CNN...

... a wide selection of movies and TV shows, and access to the Airbus A350's tail camera...

... and the nose camera too:

The only other real downside? Cathay Pacific hasn't done much, or indeed anything, with the mood lighting that the A350 is capable of, with the cabin lights instead defaulting to solid white...

... and almost instantly moving from 'off' to 'bright' which took us by surprise, rather than a more gradual transition that even older-generation aircraft seem to adopt.

Better-utilised is the A350's native inflight Internet service which functioned just fine on our flight at a price of US$9.95 for one hour or US$12.95 for the entire flight.

All up, Cathay Pacific's new Airbus A350 business class seat is a step forward from the airline's already-solid offering on other aircraft, and if not for a few minor tweaks that are easily fixed, would net an almost-perfect score.

Also read: Up close with Cathay Pacific's A350 premium economy seat

Chris Chamberlin flew on the Airbus A350 as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

27 comments

  • jubbing

    jubbing

    6 Jun, 2016 05:53 pm

    Looks like a fantastic service, I wonder why they went with Gatwick over LHR. I guess their slots were full, but still looks like a good service. 

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  • Ryan Stephen

    RaptorNation158

    6 Jun, 2016 10:20 pm

    Yeah especially with them renovating their lounge at LHR, one would expect them to send the bird to LHR instead of LGW.

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  • Arunabh Saha

    EKaviator

    7 Jun, 2016 03:50 am

    That is true but the Airbus A350 XWB represents a step down in capacity against the Boeing 777-300ER that fly five times a day to and from Heathrow. Cathay Pacific will obviously not want to down gauge equipment in one of the most heavily slot constrained airports in the world.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    7 Jun, 2016 11:06 am

    "..wonder why they went with Gatwick over LHR.."

    Possibly because CX finally realized there's demand specifically @ LGW fm around U.K. S.East /S.London area AND not much more to gain fm further frequency @ LHR beyond its current 5x daily?

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  • CPAFlyer

    CPAFlyer

    6 Jun, 2016 07:08 pm

    Thanks for the review - I’m looking forward to checking out the new seats.  

    A question though on the headphone plug.  I’ve always brought my own noise-cancelling headphones and have a 2pin 3.5mm adaptor, which I’ve happily used on other CX flights.  Are the 2pin jacks on the A350 totally different, (you mention 1 pin is slightly larger than the other)??  Has that always been the case on other CX aircraft, but have just never noticed that before?  So the question is, will regular 2pin 3.5mm adaptors still work or will we all have to go in search of a specific adaptor purely for CX?

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Jun, 2016 07:16 pm

    Best answer there would be from Cathay Pacific directly: on this flight I simply used the headphones supplied by the airline which were adequate, so can't guarantee any other specific type would work properly.

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  • moa999

    moa999

    7 Jun, 2016 11:58 am

    It's a good question -- I'm actually thinking that the smaller plug might be a normal stereo plug, and the larger one power only.

    Thus you would just use without the adapter

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  • CPAFlyer

    CPAFlyer

    8 Nov, 2016 01:56 am

    Recently, I had the good fortune to fly on the A350.  Turns out the larger of the sockets is a standard 3.5mm and the smaller is for 2.5mm. Using the 3.5mm socket alone for my own headphones was fine, albeit with a faint hiss.
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  • highflyer

    highflyer

    6 Jun, 2016 07:10 pm

    Any idea which flights they will be scheduled on between Taipei and HongKong or is it currently pot luck?

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Jun, 2016 07:15 pm

    At the moment it appears on CX400 to Taipei and CX409 back, but of course that's subject to change. The A350 appears in the booking system, however.

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  • highflyer

    highflyer

    6 Jun, 2016 09:20 pm

    Thanks Chris, have found those flights, and changed my bookings already!! Can't wait!

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  • lionelhutz

    lionelhutz

    7 Jun, 2016 09:59 am

    How were the internet speeds?

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  • 11sjw

    11sjw

    7 Jun, 2016 10:18 am

    I've found that at 6'2" I can lie on one side only as facing the other way my knees impact the seat wall.  Has the bed width improved at all?

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    7 Jun, 2016 11:48 am

    "Has the bed width improved at all?"

    In a nutshell, hardly.

    CX has already announced over 18mths ago that this new version would be a refresh /refinement /heavy re-customization of the old one(SQ took similar route re J on 359) which is the Cirrus by Zodiac(i.e. that seat manufacturer which caused CX to take 1st 359 delivery now instead of 3mths ago per original CX schedule).  The basic design dimensions+specs should remain similar.  Significant   commonalities between old and new are visually obvious when U compare photos of the old and new....it's still fundamentally a Cirrus.

    Main revisions as explained by CX in details back then are:

    1.  Addition & relocation of certain features(e.g. storage, side table, etc.) to make the seat more useful /user-friendly to pax.

    2. Revised styling+colour scheme+decorative fitments/panels(e.g. that silver metal strip running along the top of the partition is new....if we want to go into that kind of styling details).  CX commissioned Porsche Design to develop this   customization part and it's easy to see the colour scheme+styling elements do remind us of current Porsche car interiors(just look @ the dash & instrument clusters on a Cayenne or Boxter to get a clue).

    As 350 cabin is much narrower(10in less) than 777, CX might hv also tweaked the seat orientation a tiny bit such as angle of the seat relative to the cabin/fuselage centerline in order to maintain minumum aisle width.

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  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    8 Jun, 2016 04:10 pm

    Do I see over head lockers in the centre seats? 

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    8 Jun, 2016 11:46 pm

    "Do I see over head lockers in the centre seats?"

    Yes, there are.  Just look closer...all of them are in the open position on the photo.

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  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    9 Jun, 2016 11:18 am

    Great, some other carriers have gone with no overheads in the centre. Not a great idea. well done CX. 

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 Jun, 2016 12:11 pm

    To be honest I've also flown on the A350s of Qatar and Finnair and even in a full business class cabin found no need for any centre lockers, as the outer lockers can fit 5-6 wheely bags each when stacked on their sides. As there's basically a locker above every window seat and each passenger can only bring 2 bags, bags were always a comfortable fit with room to spare. (In economy, of course, the centre lockers are always needed.)

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 03:09 pm

    "Not a great idea."

    Actually, I think it IS a great idea to eliminate surplus /rarely needed overhead bins space(Just count how many J seats per overhead bin are there in that J cabin.....simple math /statistics really) in order to A) reduce unnecessary dead weight from some overhead bins+their supporting structures(fuel burn reduction) and B) create a more open space below cabin ceiling(improve perception of spaciousness in the J cabin).

    Normally, overhead bins above center seats are the best candiates in the J cabin.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    9 Jun, 2016 12:39 pm

    I was also surprised at this, as Airbus says that most A350 customers drop the centre bins from the business class cabin – having travelled on a few A350s I found this wasn't much of an issue, as business class flyers are usually pretty good with carry-on and there's ample room in the over-window bins for everybody's bags.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 02:54 pm

    "..business class flyers are usually pretty good with carry-on.."

    I strongly believe the reason is 50% due to a lot higher checked bag allowance+priority handling J vs Y rather than diff in the inherent pax air travel habits /disciplines.

    "..ample room in the over-window bins for everybody's bags.."

    This is the remaining 50% reason why J pax rarely /almost never face overhead bin storage issue.  There's just so much overhead bin space available per seat in a 4abreast J layout that even if the J cabin is full, each J pax takes 2.5 carry-ons(0.5 more than typically allowed) and no bins installed above center seats, there's still enough room.

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  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    14 Jun, 2016 03:12 pm

    Yes, there is adequate space, but if you are in an aisle seat, centre passengers access their luggage over your head, this can be a bit disturbing if you are trying to sleep. I'm all about convenience.....I prefer a locker where I don't disturb people and they don't disturb me. 

    PS. I have seen a side locker crammed on AY flights....so heavy crew needed help to close. 

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    15 Jun, 2016 02:35 pm

    "..if you are in an aisle seat."

    In 4abreast layout, aren't all of them aisle seats?

    "..centre passengers access their luggage over your head, this can be a bit disturbing if you are trying to sleep.."

    I agree it can and I knew U would raise this issue.  1st of all, if a pax prioritize sleep quality and need guaranteed zero disturbance fm bin access, just pick the center seat assignment(50% chance to secure such seats in the worst case scenario)....a window will be non-essential in such case anyway.  2ndly, this is an issue only when sleeping by 1 pax and bin access(Out of any other available moment inflight when seat belt signs are off) by the other pax happen precisely @ the same time....possible but not that often.  What I hv observed in J on longhaul flights for over a decade is that most J pax rest/sleep & awake more or less during the same phase of cruise.  And if they need something fm their bags inside the bin,  they tend to retrieve these items @ the beginning of a flight(Typically upon boarding).  3rd, the issue assumes whatever needed to be access fm the overhead bin cannot be stored within an array of storage space built into a modern J seat(Actually, today's best J is more like an office cubicule/semi-suite than just a large chair)....again possible but rare.

    "I'm all about convenience...I prefer a locker where I don't disturb people and they don't disturb me."

    Fair enough re choice for convenience.  I prefer a F Residence of EY "where I don't disturb people and they don't disturb me" too....it's all about trade-off rather than a good idea vs a bad idea.

    "...seen a side locker crammed on AY flights"

    Bet you that wasn't a J cabin on 359 which has 1 of the largest overhead bin size among all aircraft types today.

    It obviously depending on which AY aircraft type /cabin config(i.e. seat count per overhead bin) you are talking about.

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  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    15 Jun, 2016 02:43 pm

    It was a J cabin on an AY new 350 last week . For the price of a J fare I expect comfort and convenience, and CX obviously agree with me. That's why I think they offer a great J class product and are my preferred carrier........ 

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    17 Jun, 2016 04:00 am

    It's very interesting situation when U think CX offers a great J and is your preferred carrier due to greater convenience+comfort(No need to wait for CX's 350 as current 77W fleet already has overhead bins above center seats) and yet just last wk, you still elected to be in a J cabin on AY 350 with inferior convenience+comfort....

    May be an involuntary transfer?

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  • Alvin Tse

    074061

    3 Jan, 2017 02:52 am

    maybe it's price related, FLX1. some people cannot be on their preferred carrier all the time because of price differences.
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  • Thomas  Bell

    Tbell101

    26 Oct, 2016 07:02 am

    Does anybody know if they will add this to their 777 and A330 fleet?
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24 Apr, 2019 04:22 pm

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