Cathay Pacific confirms "no first class" for Airbus A350-1000

By David Flynn, May 23 2016
Cathay Pacific confirms

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 classpremium 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.

Also read: Airbus reveals innovative A350 first class cabin concept

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 AirlinesEmirates 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.

Read more: Cathay Pacific gets its first Airbus A350 on May 27

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


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 733

This is where I feign disappointment so people think I actually fly first class.

Oh, woe is me! Now I have to slum it in business with all the photocopier salesmen!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 386

What's wrong with photocopier salesmen Hugo?

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

I'm guessing nothing wrong...@ least he won't hv to "slump it" with the photocopier salesmen assistants further down the tube in Y.... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 386

Maybe he is envious of the salary of salesmen in Photocopier world.

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

Noooooo CX is one of only 3 airlines first class I use as it is so good hope they don't get rid of it all together 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2013

Total posts 366

I enjoy Cathay in j or f both are excellent products

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

Its obvious that Cathay's First is on the way out - they have barely spent a dime on it in recent years and instead focused all their attention on the other cabins :)

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

Not sure F "is on the way out" fm CX.  As long as HKG remain as  the financial capital of the whole region, there will be sufficient F demand(i.e. fm fare-paying F pax, not upgrades with FFP miles) to shuttle giant listed global companies' execs, bankers, M&A /Corp lawyers, etc. between HKG and JFK, ORD, LHR, ZRH, etc.  In other words, the kinda pax who would never consider any routing options(e.g. connecting in the Gulf) other than nonstops even if EY 1 day decide to add a swimming pool inside each F Residence across its 380 fleet.  This is fundamentally why CX offers nearly zero F capacity to/fm AU...CX deploys equal or more F capacity on regional financial trunk routes HKG-SIN /HND /PVG than the far longer HKG-SYD route.  Connecting F pax in HKG between AU and Europe is actually far LESS profitable(And far more competitive thx to Gulf Big3 +SQ) for CX than simply doing OD to/fm HKG in the F niche.

The real issue is that global demand fm this small mkt niche has been growing extremely slow or not growing at all and is projected to remain so for yrs to come.  Given this mkt backdrop, I don't think CX wants to ditch F.  CX wants to protect /defend their existing F mktshare and will continue to offer F.

"..they have barely spent a dime on it in recent years..."

This is a fact and has been so for nearly 10yrs.  With slow  growth in this mkt niche overall and little desire nor need to fight against Gulf Big3 to grab mktshares, why invest significantly in F?  Unlike SQ or Gulf Big3 which must rely heavily on connection traffic even in F, CX has a large home mkt for F demand which is mostly captive due to avoidance of connection.

CX only needs a decent enough F to keep its F clients, not a villa in the sky like EY /EK /SQ must offer in order to out-do each other to connect F pax.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

01 Feb 2015

Total posts 111

Disapointing from a passenger point of view for redemptions- however understandable from a business POV...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 1

Thats a pity. Cant fly direct MEL to HKG in first class with CX or QF now already. The CX first bed is a lot more comfortable than the business class one. Looks like Etihad,SQ and Emirates are all excited about first class offerings, but a lot of others are not.

So, basically the A350-1000 is replacing the non-First-Class 777-300ERs, and the 777-9 will replace the First-Class 777-300ERs (and I guess the remaining 747s, at least from a capacity angle).

The A350-900 replaces some A330s and also the A340s. I guess that CX will look into the A350-900 regional variant as well, to replace shorter-range A330s and also 777-200s.

It seems like a pretty great fleet rationalization strategy. Given how important HKG is as a destination and how CX focuses on longhaul air travel, I don't think they really need a smaller jet.

As for CX's new First Class... I wonder if they keep the 6-capacity cabin and then go for an Etihad-style apartment. That would be extraordinarily spacious and very cool indeed. And it would go with the whole "residential" theme that their lounge designer, Isle Crawford, keeps pushing.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

"..the A350-1000 is replacing the non-First-Class 777-300ERs, and the 777-9 will replace the First-Class 777-300ERs.."

Agreed and in fact, precisely what I hv been predicting ever since CX firmed its 779 order back in Dec13 in addition to its 35K order already on backlog fm yrs earlier.  Fm as early as 2yrs ago, there're only 2 configs existing today in CX's 77W fleet=

4-class(F+J+PY+Y)= A.k.a. Low-den config total 275seats

3-class(J+PY+Y)= A.k.a. Hi-den config total 340seats

Eventually, both will be replaced by:

35K to replace all 3-class 77Ws.  77W and 35K hv nearly identical total usable cabin floor areas.

779 to replace all 4-class 77Ws.  779 has significantly more total usable cabin floor area than 77W or 35K.

"A350-900 replaces some A330s and also the A340s."

I believe CX will use nearly all 22 frames of its 359 order to A) replace all 343s(Only 5 remaining today) and B) launch new daily intercon routes /frequencies in mkts that are too small or  too new to support a single daily 3-class 77W(i.e. 340seats).  A) will require 5 frames while B) will require 16 frames just to maintain 8 new daily intercon frequencies(AKL, DUS and LGW are already firmed with MAD and BCN sitting @ the top of CX's unconfirmed 359 deployment priority list......leaving just enough 359s for only 3 more unknown CX routes and we've not even counted 359 to be deployed on @ least 1-2 new N.American CX  routes).  U can imagine how few 359 will actually be available to replace 330s @ CX in reality....

"...CX will look into the A350-900 regional variant as well, to replace shorter-range A330s and also 777-200s."

Which CX canNOT do with any reasonable clarity today nor in the nex few yrs thx to the lack of even basic design definitions /specs(let alone a formal Airbus commitment to launch) re such variant fm Airbus.  Until Airbus can resolve the 350 production ramp-up issues and more quickly raise delivery volume, undelievered 350 backlog will remain large and any 350 regional variant in addition to the regular ones will stay as an airplane only on paper.

In contrast, the 78J design is already optimized more for regional /medium-haul missions fm day1.....not to mention that program has been launched yrs ago and the 1st frame is in fact  already in pre-final assembly.  If CX really feel the urge to replace older 330s and 772s for regional /medium-haul missions, 78J provides far more design+delivery certainties today than a potential 359 regional variant.

" CX focuses on longhaul air travel.."

U wouldn't make this claim if U truly understand how extensive CX's regional /medium-haul network truly is relative to its longhaul network....

"...I don't think they really need a smaller jet.."

"a smaller jet" than 359?  So U're writing off the possibility of 339 in CX future fleet for regional missions?

"As for CX's new First Class... I wonder if they ke....go for an Eithad-style apartment."

If U understand the underlying nature/pax type profile of the F mkt niche for CX, U would understand why 'apartment' style F is needed for EY but not crucial for CX....a clue: it has nothing to do with "cool" nor a "residential theme" by some top-notch lounge designer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 464

It has been reported that the remaining 747-400s will be retired this year.

The 777-200s are all more than 20 years old, so I would think that they will be retired before some yet to be ordered type enters the fleet.

For a smaller-than-A350 aircraft CX could also look at A330-Neo.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

"...been reported that the remaining 747-400s will be retired this year."

More precisely, last flight scheduled in Oct16 on HND->HKG route per CX announced plan.  There're only 3 remaining with all of them @ very low avg daily utilization rate these days operating only peak frequencies(but generally low yield/fare) on shorthaul regional trunks.  As a result, relatively not much capacity loss(Even less in terms of profit loss) in reality fm pulling these 744s out of CX network by Oct.

"777-200s are all more than 20yrs old..."

Not exactly true.  There're only 5 and by delivery dates to CX(And therefore 1st Rev$ flights @ CX), 3 of them are below 20yrs old.  In contrast, the oldest CX 744 is already 24yrs old but still carrying pax last mth.

"I would think that they will be retired before some yet to be ordered type...."

All probably would by this mth nex yr and replaced by a type already ordered: 359.  CX is scheduled to receive a dozen 359 by 1Jan17 and it's perfect to slot them on short regional missions(Currently flown by 772) in-between their daily intercon rotations in order to maximize fleet utilization /crew familiarization.

"For a smaller-than-A350 aircraft CX could also look at A330-Neo."

Or could also go slightly larger than 359 with 78J like SQ has done and benefit fm slightly higher payload/range +lower fuel burn per seat +25% more belly cargo(CX's favorite pet subject) than any 339Neo can manage....

It should be noted that for the highly profitable CX trunks to the critically congested+slot restricted PVG, SHA and PEK, CX/Dragaon has long out-grown its 333Ceo gauge size.  339Neo won't provide any capacity relief  to CX/Dragon on these trunks but the 78J will.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 464

Hi FLX,  my comment on the age of the 772s was based on the Airfleets website, where they give the "plane age" based on the first flight of the aircraft, for which the youngest is 20years (by a matter of days).  Found it interesting that B-HNL is LN 1 and an ex-Boeing prototype.

What is 78J ? Sounds like 787-10 from your other comments.  If CX wanted something between the A350-900 and the 777-9 would they be better to not add a type and get A350-1000 ? 


31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

Hi GregXL:

"...they give the "plane age" based on the first flight of the aircraft."

Which isn't really indicative of exactly when an airframe actually started its econ useful life with a commercial operator in actual Rev$ service.....i.e. under the grinder of tough, day-to-day take-off/landing cycles repeatedly yr-round carrying payloads.

In contrast, delivery date is a much better/accurate indicator of age because operator rarely let a new bird sit around idling for long after accepting delivery fresh fm the assembly line and making hundreds of million of  final payment to the manufacturer.  This is when real wear & tear /depreciation actually begin.  During the period before delivery but after 1st flight, a new widebody airframe mostly spend time only on or around the tarmac nex to the assembly line undergoing the process of final modifications(especially for a newly certified type), painting, cabin system installations, ground tests, inspections and of course, more tests.....none of these really stresses the airframe structure at all.

By the way, I'm also a regular user/member of

"...interesting that B-HNL is LN 1 and an ex-Boeing prototype."

It was the 1st 777 ever built(1st flight Jun94) and originally powered by PW turbofans.  It was used extensively by Boeing inhouse testing for yrs and supported the 772ER +773 development campaigns later.  Afterwards, it took Boeing 1-2yrs to swap all test gears +early config components on board +the PW engines for a normal production+cabin config(e.g. seats) +RR engines for delivery to CX in 2000 finally......another solid proof that the period(6yrs in this case) between 1st flight date and delivery date to airline has little to no bearing on the realistic airframe age.

"What is 78J?"

The 3 digits type code offically assigned by IATA(4 digits by ICAO....just add a 'B' in the front) for a Boeing airplane type branded as 787-10.   The letter J is the 'tenth' alphabet.  As U already know, IATA 3 digit type codes are often used in airline timetables /etickets worldwide to indicate equipment type assigned for a particular flight number.  Search wiki re similar codes for other types under List of ICAO aircraft type...

"If CX wanted something between the A350-900 and the 777-9 would they be better to not add a type and get A350-1000?"

1st of all, are U even aware that CX already has 35K(A350-1000) x26 on firm order scheduled to be delivered fm 2018 to slot between the 359 and 779?

2ndly, I think U are asking the wrong question.  The primary reason CX ordered 359 /35K /779 is CX's intercon network(i.e. EU/N.America/NZ-HKG or @ least 12-13hrs sectors).  All 3 will likely be used also in CX regional/medium-haul missions but that's a secondary reason aimed @ improving daily utilization(a.k.a. daily fillers) for these 3types beyond their primary intercon missions(CX did the same for decades re 343 /744 /77W).  All 3 are indeed designed /optimized for @ least 12-13hrs sectors along with the necessary extra structural weights(i.e. dead weights) to carry enough fuel+payload for such missions.  All 3 hv nothing to do with how to replace the current 333Ceo fleet purely dedicated to (And in fact designed for) CX regional/medium-haul missions in which none of them exceed 9.5hrs.

Finally, the only potential nex gen types designed/optimized specifically for regional/medium-haul missions and therefore suitable to replace the 333Ceo's role @ CX are 339Neo and 78J.  Unlike the 359 /35K /779, neither is designed to fly most efficiently near or beyond 11-12hrs but neither do they carry any extra dead weights UNnecessary to support regional/medium-haul mission fuel load.

In a nutshell, the 78J, sized roughly between the 359 and 35K indeed, has absolutely nothing to do with CX wanted something between the 359 and 779.....CX already has 35K for that role.  The 78J, along with the 339Neo, come into the picture when legions of 333Ceo across CX Group will be due for retirement.

There're 333Ceo x60 across CX Group today.  14 of these will be 20yrs or older just 2yrs fm now.  By 2021, 38% of this fleet will be 20yrs or older.  The intriguing aspect amid all the fanfares surrounding 350/779 @ CX is that CX still has not make any indication re 333Ceo replacement plan... 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1524

Does not affect me much – more than happy with J – but just curiosity why? Is it general trend to rid off First that looks like J on steroids and move to suites?

"Is it general trend to get rid of First that looks like J on steroids and move to suites?"

I'd suggest so. With business class being dominated by products like Cirrus or Vantage XL or the like, and with other carriers deploying private suites, the only way to have a competitive First is to have a private suite of some kind (and we'll probably start seeing more stuff like the Etihad apartments too).

First needs to present a compelling upgrade over Business in order to stop Business cannibalizing First. Suites are necessary, these days, in order to do that.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621

Depending on your design definition for "J on steroids" vs "suites".  Too many intercon F designs straddle both these days depending on who U talk to.....for the same design, some F pax will call it a J on steriods while other F pax will call it a suite.

Per my personal definition, a F is in suite category when it's big enough to comfortably accomodate 2 pax to dine together.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1524

“Per my personal definition, a F is in suite category when it's big enough to comfortably accomodate 2 pax to dine together.”

This would be my definition also and this is what I was talking about.

A rumour says that next CX A350-1000 will have more larger Business Class provided by B/E aerospace? If CX confirmed new First Class on other 777 that all 777-300ER will be completed transformed from 3 to 4 class and that Zodiac Business Class (like the A350) will be used on that aircraft as well including Wifi and Haeco Economy for the 50 777-300ER.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Cathay Pacific confirms "no first class" for Airbus A350-1000