Cathay Pacific will use the arrival of the Boeing 777-9X to debut a new generation of first class suites and business class seats, cementing Boeing's advanced 777X series as the flagship of Cathay’s fleet for the next decade.
“At the moment we’re looking at what’s the optimal configuration for first class on the Boeing 777-9X,” James Evans, Cathay Pacific's General Manager of Product, revealed to Australian Business Traveller.
“We have a six-seat first class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ER, so it’s a question of forward planning and looking at the growth expectations in first class demand on premier routes the likes of New York, London, Frankfurt and Paris.”
Cathay Pacific currently flies first class only on its Boeing 777-300ER fleet, with the cabin getting a mid-life make-over in 2013.
Cathay is also considering adopting fully-enclosed first class suites similar those of Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad.
“A lot of seat manufactures are developing enclosed private suites, so we’re alert to that, and privacy is an important element of the experience which our customers love,” Evans said.
“But – and it seems a little bit of a contradiction – they also like that understanding of who's around them,” Evans pointed out.
“If you're a first class traveller there’s a ‘society’ piece to that as well. You like to know who’s travelling with you, so if (the seat) is too enclosed do you get that sense of the experience?”
Evans said that Cathay Pacific’s customer team is currently deep in “the research phase, so we haven’t locked that down yet.”
“At this stage in the journey we’re still doing a lot of research to see what resonates with customers and then trying to pitch into what would their expectations would be in 2021, which is exciting and also quite challenging.”
Third-gen business class
The Boeing 777-9X is also expected to launch a third-generation of the airline’s ‘fully flat business class bed’, to be developed under the internal moniker of FB3.
Cathay’s current Airbus A350 business class seat represents an finesse of the second-gen seat, which the airline tagged as FB2+, and while Evans allowed that “it would seem there is evolution beyond that, it that doesn't mean we are closed to revolutionary ideas as well.”
“There’s a psychological ‘anchoring’ that people have,” Evans elaborated. “If you're in a market where the national flag carrier has maybe a dovetail-type business class seat layout, you're so wedded to that that you wouldn't want to see anything different.”
“On Cathay Pacific our customers really enjoy our reverse herringbone seat, so it will be very important to build on that, if that’s what customer research does back with.”
“But you need to make sure that is right, so we’re going through customer research right now to see what really resonates with them.”