With 79 new aircraft headed for Cathay Pacific’s hangars by the end of 2024, the fresh fleet will see an overhaul of first class and business class for the Hong Kong flag carrier.
Australian Business Traveller sat down with Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg for an update on what’s to come.
New first class for Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-9
Cathay Pacific is already working on mock-ups for its new first class suites, which will take pride of place on the 21 Boeing 777-9 jets due from 2021.
“We’re building models and testing different concepts, but we haven’t finalised it yet,” Hogg says. “We spend a lot of time on product design and testing.”
High-walled private cribs and the more open design of the current Boeing 777 first class suites are both under consideration. “That’s the debate right now,’ Hogg says, “although I won’t tell you which side of that debate we’re on, mainly because it’s not over."
As to how many first class suites Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-9 will have – the same count of six as the Boeing 777-300ERs, or more, or even fewer – “we’re working through that,” Hogg says, by studying demand for the primo cabin.
“Demand for first class falls into three segments,” he explains. “There’s a corporate first class market, by and large that’s shrinking because the number of companies that offer first class travel are reducing.”
“There is a personal demand for first class, by very wealthy individuals, and that market is quite buoyant, and first class is also part of the reward program for a lot of people.”
“So it’s about getting the balance right as to how many seats you have for all of those segments.”
Cathay’s next-gen international business class
Cathay’s revamp of its 2011 Airbus A330 business class seat continues to fly on the Airbus A350, including the stretched A350-1000 due for delivery in mid-June.
“We took our award-winning business class on the A330 and worked with Zodiac to improve its design and ergonomics, and although I’m biased I think it’s a terrific seat with a very nice balance between privacy and open-ness,” Hogg says.
This seat will remain Cathay Pacific’s flagship business class product until the 2021 debut of the Boeing 777-9, although at this stage it’s not certain if this will see a further evolution of the A350 seat or an all-new design – although the airline is unlikely to abandon the angled layout which has become so popular its travellers.
As more A350s arrive, and eventually take over all of the airline’s Australian A330 routes by 2020, the older Airbus A330s will be shifted onto regional routes with Cathay Pacific or its sibling Cathay Dragon.
New regional Cathay business class for 2020
There’s definitely a new regional business class coming in early 2020, beginning with the first of 32 single-aisle Airbus A321neo jets bound for Cathay Dragon.
“That’ll be in a two-class configuration of about 200 seats,” Hogg says, but don’t expect to be able to go flat out at the pointy end.
“Our average regional sector length for Cathay Dragon is two hours, for Cathay Pacific it’s three hours, so at the moment we think we’ve got a very comfortable product for that service.”
So, potentially like Cathay Pacific’s long-range business class, the A321neo’s premium seat is more likely to be solid evolution of the current model than sweeping revolution such as the flat beds of FlyDubai's Boeing 737 MAX.
Earlier this year Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s Head of Customer Experience & Design, told Australian Business Traveller the airline was “in the early stage of design of the product for the A321neo… it will be a next-generational product for Cathay Dragon.”
However, Lo reiterated that Cathay Dragon’s shorter flight range obviated the need for a flat bed.
With 32 factory-fresh A321neo jets replacing Cathay Dragon’s 23 smaller A320s, Hogg says the fleet upgrade will not only mean “more capacity on key slots such as Shanghai and Beijing but (allow) a bit of growth in the fleet so we can open new destinations.”
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