The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific business class

Cathay Pacific business class connects Australia with Hong Kong and the rest of the world in style.

By Staff Writers, April 6 2023
The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific business class

Cathay Pacifics wings span the globe, jetting off to around 74 destinations across 29 countries from its Hong Kong hub.

After a couple of bumpy years, the five-star carrier is reclaiming its place among the world’s top airlines. 

With a solid business class service providing fully-flat beds on every long range flight, not to mention comfortable regional business class seating on shorter flights within Asia (plus an all-new suite on the way), heres what you need to know before flying on Cathay Pacific.

In this guide:

What is Cathay Pacific business class like?

Business class is Cathay Pacifics second-highest level of service, bested only by first class. However, first class is limited to a relatively small number of Cathay Pacifics busiest routes on its flagship Boeing 777-300ER jets.

Almost all Cathay Pacific flights feature a modern business class seat which converts into a fully lie-flat bed and also has direct aisle access for every passenger, due to the 1-2-1 seating layout: one seat between the window and the aisle, two seats in the middle, and a seat between the aisle and the window.

Theres also a good degree of personal space and storage space around the seat such as a wide shelf, a cabinet, a nook for your water bottle and even somewhere to stow your shoes.

Naturally, every seat has its own large video screen loaded with movies, TV shows and music from around the world, plus AC and USB power outlets within easy reach.

Some Cathay Pacific flights around Asia feature a ‘regional business class’ designed for shorter flights of up to around 4-5 hours. This seat reclines, rather than going fully-flat, and you’ll always have a passenger (or at least an empty seat) next to you, so it’s more like the premium economy seat you’d see on a longer flight.

Beyond the seat, the Cathay Pacific business class experience begins with airport lounge access – Cathay has some of the best lounges, especially at its Hong Kong hub – and includes attentive if somewhat reserved inflight service, enjoyable meals, a good wine list and on most flights, WiFi. 

Four reasons we love Cathay Pacific business class

1. Fully-flat beds on all long-range flights

If you’re travelling between Hong Kong, Australia, Europe or The Americas, you can be certain that your business class seat can recline into a fully-flat bed. After all, being able to stretch out and sleep on a 12-hour flight is the major drawcard of flying in business class.

2. Excellent business class lounges

Cathay Pacific excels in the quality of its business class lounges, especially those which sport the latest design, which sees the space thoughtfully and artfully crafted by Studioisle’s Isle Crawford. The chairs and lounges, lighting and overall decor wouldn’t look out of place in an upmarket apartment.

The best place to experience this for yourself is in Hong Kong at Cathay Pacific’s The Pier Business Class lounge, which we rate as among the world’s best business class lounges.

It has everything from secure luggage lockers and dedicated working areas to a large ‘food hall’ dining area and Noodle Bar where tasty dishes are made to order, to a cocktail bar, tea room, nap room and spacious well-appointed shower suites.

Cathay Pacific has a total of four business class lounges in Hong Kong, including The Wing, First in Terminal 1 (near Gates 1-4) and The Pier, Business in Terminal 1 near Gate 65. The Deck, Business near Gate 6 and The Wing, Business, which is co-sited with The Wing First lounge at the ‘top’ of the airport terminal.

3. A focus on better sleeping, dining

Prior to 2020, Cathay Pacific was continuously refreshing its business class experience, adding appreciated enhancements such as the sleep service (always welcome on overnight flights) and inflight dining (always weclome on any flights). While that hasn’t happened much in recent years, it’s a space to watch as Cathay takes off again.  

The business class bedding from UK luxury brand Bamford includes a soft mattress topper, a two-piece duvet made from 100% sustainably-sourced cotton, and comfy slippers. Add a small ‘day blanket’ and two pillows, and you’re pretty much set to snooze.

On medium-range and long-range flights there are a great variety of starters and mains to choose from, with special featured dishes and an inflight menu which also suggests restaurants to vist when you’re on the ground.

4. Quality amenities

On long-range international flights, business class passengers receive a unisex amenity kit by Bamford stocked with the botanical skincare products such as hand lotion, lip balm and a hydrating facial mist, along with the usual creature comforts like a dental kit, ear plugs, a face-mask and socks.

The handy-sized bags themselves come in four colours which are rotated across the seasons. 

Three tips on flying business class with Cathay Pacific

1. Pack your own PJs

As good as Cathay Pacific’s business class amenities are, pyjamas are not included. If you’d like to rest easier and not wrinkle your day clothes, bring a lightweight set of PJs or some lightweight, non-restrictive clothing.

2. Get your work done with inflight WiFi

You’ll find WiFi onboard all Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 and A321neo jets, with a progressive rollout across its Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft. 

Inflight WiFi is available in three pricing tiers, each with unlimited data – although the speeds certainly aren’t as fast as your home, office or even your local cafe.

  • USD$12.95 for flight times of 6 hours or less 
  • USD$19.95 for flight times above 6 hours
  • USD$9.95 for one hour continuous use on all flights 

3. Snare a fully-flat seat on a regional flight

Many of Cathay Pacific’s flights around Asia – such as to Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo and Manila – feature the airline’s regional business class seat. There are two models currently in the sky.

The latest-generation is fitted exclusively on its single-aisle A321neo fleet, arranged in three rows of two-across with sliding panels between the paired seats for a bit of extra privacy.

And the previous-generation, which takes wing on select twin-aisle A330s covering short to medium-range routes out of Hong Kong. 

However, some of the aforementioned short-hops see a mix of aircraft types and business class seats, so one flight could have regional business class but the next could have the superior long-range business class.

If the timing suits your schedule and the price is about the same, then you may prefer to go on the flight with the better business class.

How can you tell the difference when you’re booking? Choose a flight on an Airbus A350 – these all have Cathay’s classic business class seat – or if the flight is on an Airbus A330 or a Boeing 777, see if it has a premium economy cabin, as the jets with regional business class only have business and economy.

Unfortunately, a last-minute swap of aircraft can happen, so on these routes your flatbed isn’t guaranteed until you’re on board.

Getting an upgrade on Cathay Pacific

There’s only one way for regular passengers to get a confirmed advance upgrade on Cathay Pacific – short of using cash to pay for the fare – and that’s through using Asia Miles.

These upgrades can be confirmed online if there is availability, or at the airport check-in counter for that last-minute treat.

(Elite Marco Polo Club members also earn upgrade certificates as part of their membership, but that’s beyond the scope of this piece.)

1. Upgrade to business class

All Asia Miles upgrades are one-class only. That means it’s not possible to upgrade from economy to business class on flights with premium economy, which is only applicable on some shorter regional flights within Asia.

Assuming you are on a two-cabin intra-Asia flight, your base economy ticket needs be booked in the Y, B, H, K, M, L or V fare classes to be eligible for an upgrade to business class.

Cathay Pacific's regional business class seat is the only one you can upgrade to straight from economy.
Cathay Pacific's regional business class seat is the only one you can upgrade to straight from economy.

Hoping to swap from premium economy to the lie-flat luxuries of business class on a longer flight, such as from Australia or to Europe? You’ll need to first hold a W or R ticket to be eligible.

Just 18,000 Asia Miles will get you that upgrade between Australia and Hong Kong, while 25,000 to 28,000 Asia Miles will see you flying flat to the likes of London and Los Angeles, respectively.

2. Upgrade from business class

If you’re booked into paid business class (fare classes J, C, D or I), then you have pole position when it comes to swapping that out for Cathay Pacific’s first class on select Boeing 777-300ERs.

First class isn’t found on Australian flights, but 50,000 Asia Miles could upgrade you to first class from Hong Kong to London, or 55,000 Asia Miles to Los Angeles. Take a look at our in-depth guide to upgrading to first from business here.

Best business class seats on Cathay Pacific

Owing to the 1-2-1 layout of Cathay Pacific’s long-range business class, solo passengers should always aim for a window seat (on the seatmaps, these are marked A and K). You get a great view – unlike some jets, the seat is angled towards the window – plus a surprising degree of privacy.

If you’re flying with a partner or colleague, consider the paired middle seats (D and G).Just be aware that the seats themselves aren’t directly next to one another – each one is angled towards the aisle – so you’ll still need to lean forward a bit to chat face-to-face.

Boeing 777 (long-range)

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER (long-range, with first class) business class seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER (long-range, with first class) business class seatmap.

This is Cathay Pacific’s flagship (though not newest) aircraft and the only to have a first class cabin in front.

There are 53 business class seats which all become a fully-flat bed. These jets are usually seen between Hong Kong, Europe and the United States.

Recommended seats: Row 11 for a ‘private jet feeling’. Anywhere in Rows 18 to 24 to be reasonably far from distractions on either end.

Seats to avoid: Rows 12, 15, 16 are all located near galleys and lavatories, which can be distracting. The bassinets are in seats 16D and 16G. Row 26 is right in front of the premium economy cabin.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER (long-range, without first class) business class seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER (long-range, without first class) business class seatmap.

Another variant of the long-range Boeing 777-300ER does not have a first class cabin. Instead, the pointy end of the plane is home to 40 of the same business class seats. You might see these jets on flights to Melbourne and Sydney.

Recommended seats: Row 11 or seat 21K for a ‘private jet feeling’. Rows 15 to 17 are reasonably far from distractions on either end.

Seats to avoid: 20D and 21A are close to a lavatory. Row 19 may suffer from noise from the galley.

Airbus A350

Cathay Pacific Boeing Airbus A350-900 business class seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Boeing Airbus A350-900 business class seatmap.

Cathay Pacific has both the Airbus A350-900 and the longer Airbus A350-1000 in its fleet. These are modern and quiet jets, offering a comfortable onboard experience for all passengers.

There are 38 business class seats which are somewhat similar to that of the Boeing 777-300ERs, but with modern design tweaks and improvements.

Recommended seats: Rows 15-17 for privacy, being in the middle of the cabin. 21A as the most private solo seat, while being away from the lavatories.

Seats to avoid: 11D/G and 20 D/G, as these seats have a direct view into the lavatories. Row 19 has the galleys right behind.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 business class seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 business class seatmap.

The stretched Airbus A350-1000 flies mainly to destinations in Europe and the US. Business class is one large cabin of 46 fully-flat seats.

Recommended seats: Most business class seats here are as good as one another, particularly between Rows 14 to 22.

Seats to avoid: 11D/G directly face the lavatories once more. Rows 11, 12 and 23 are subject to more noise from the galleys and other cabins.

Airbus A321neo (short to medium-range)

Cathay Pacific Airbus A321neo (short to medium-range) seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A321neo (short to medium-range) seatmap.

The newest aircraft to enter the Cathay Pacific fleet, the A321neo sports a fresh take on the regional business class. The cabin features just 12 seats in a 2-2 layout, with generous ‘Lazy Z’ recliners instead of fully-flat beds. 

Recommended seats: In the front row, 10 A, C, H and K benefit from additional legroom. 

Seats to avoid: With such a small cabin, there aren’t really any bad seats, although those seated in 12 A, C, H or K may experience slightly more noise due to their proximity to economy.  

Airbus A330 (medium-range)

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 (medium-range) seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 (medium-range) seatmap.

These Airbus A330s have the same lie-flat business class seats as the Boeing 777s and were once universally seen on Australian routes. With the Airbus A350s slowly taking over, the Airbus A330s are now being relegated to shorter flights.

Recommended seats: Rows 14-16 for maximum privacy and distance from noise. 19A has the ‘private jet feel’. 

Seats to avoid: Row 11 is close to lavatories and also has the baby bassinets. 

Boeing 777 (regional) and Airbus A330 (regional)

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 (regional) and Airbus A330-300 (regional) business class seatmap.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 (regional) and Airbus A330-300 (regional) business class seatmap.

Fly within Asia and chances are you’ll land one of these regionally-configured Boeing 777s or Airbus A330s in a 2-3-2 or 2-2-2 layout, respectively.

The business class ‘Lazy-Z’ recliners are still quite comfortable for a few hours of flying, but they do not become fully-flat.

Recommended seats: Pairs should select the window seats for privacy and a view. Solo travellers could consider a D or G seat for easier access to the aisle.

Seats to avoid: The middle ‘E’ seats on Boeing 777s should be avoided unless you are travelling as a trio.

Reviews of Cathay Pacific business class

Considering jetting off onboard Cathay Pacific? Browse Executive Traveller’s in-depth reviews of the Hong Kong flag carrier below. 

Cathay Pacific business lounge reviews

Not all Cathay Pacific lounges are created equal. These detailed lounge reviews offer a tease of what to expect when you step inside the doors of The Wing First and Business, The Deck and The Pier. 

Cathay Pacific business class FAQs

What’s the difference between business class and first class on Cathay Pacific?

Cathay Pacific business class offers passengers the usual suite of priority perks on the ground and spacious seating in the air, paired with a high standard of inflight meals and service.

First class takes this one step further, with significantly more personal space, true fine dining, first class lounge access and of course, pyjamas, for a well-rounded and luxurious experience.

How much does it cost to upgrade to business class on Cathay Pacific?

It’s possible to upgrade from economy or premium economy to business class on Cathay Pacific, using Asia Miles. Upgrades start from 7,500 Asia Miles and go up to 48,000 Asia Miles per person, depending on flight length and your original ticket class. Read the section on upgrades for more information.

Does Cathay Pacific business class have lay-down beds?

Yes, all long-range Cathay Pacific business class flights have fully-flat beds. This includes all flights to Australia, Europe and the USA. Some regional flights within Asia also have lie-flat beds in business class, but this isn’t as common.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 140

Pre pandemic, they have provided consistent seats on business class from Australia to Asia/Europe, and best of all, excellent pricing.

HKG was divine for transit. It would be great for CX to bring back more aircraft, and for us to enjoy true competition on fares on J to Europe and Asia.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 542

"or if the flight is on an Airbus A330 or a Boeing 777, see if it has a premium economy cabin, as the jets with regional business class only have business and economy."

None of the Cathay Pacific A330s have premium economy anymore, and their A330s with longhaul business class have economy straight behind row 21.

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