Cathay Pacific has decided against installing first class on its Airbus A350-1000 jets, opting instead for a larger premium cabin featuring its new international business class seats.
The move will see both the A350-900 and the larger, longer-range A350-1000, due from 2018, flying in a three-class configuration of business class, premium economy (featuring an all-new design) and economy seating.
However, Cathay Pacific General Manager Product Leslie Lu rejects the notion that the overall first class market is shrinking due to tighter budgets and continued advances in business class.
"We are not giving up on first class, we still think that is a niche segment that we need to tap into, so we retain first class on our long haul Boeing 777-300ERs for 'trunk routes' like London, New York and Los Angeles," Lu told Australian Business Traveller at a preview of The Pier Business Class Lounge, which will re-open in early June after extensive renovations.
Cathay Pacific's current first class seat was introduced in 2007...
.... and after receiving a 'mid-life refresh' in 2013 is still regarded as among the world's better first class seats.
Lu revealed that Cathay Pacific is currently "assessing" the prospects for a new first class suite, which may not appear until 2021 when its Boeing 777-9X jets will take to the skies – unless the airline pulls the trigger on a new first class for its Boeing 777-300ER fleet.
"There will be more development around our cabins, including first class" Lu said.
Cathay's confidence in its current business class is reflected in the decision to fit the A350s with a refresh of today's design (below) rather than an all-new seat.
"We have identified some of the key pain points (with the current seat) given the change of dimensions and space within the A350 cabin," Lu said, "and so we are taking the opportunity to revitalise some of the features, in order to further improve the sleeping comfort and the entertainment experience."
Travellers can expect to see improvements in storage space, the ability to slide the meal table forward and back, and a degree of tilt for the large HD video screen.
The Airbus A350 will also be fitted with inflight Internet, which is a first for Cathay Pacific's international fleet and an overdue catch-up to competitors such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad.
After three months of regional flights to popular Asian destinations including Manila, Taipei, Bangkok and Singapore, Cathay Pacific will swing the fuel-efficient A350 onto longer-range international routes to Europe from September – among them Dusseldorf, London and Auckland.
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