Cathay Pacific's business class refresh for Airbus A340s

By David Flynn, April 24 2013
Cathay Pacific's business class refresh for Airbus A340s

Cathay Pacific will embark on a refresh of the high-walled herringbone business class seats across its Airbus A340-300 fleet, along with the introduction of a new premium economy cabin.

All 11 of the long-range A340s – which fly from Cathay's Hong Kong  hub to several cities including Auckland, Amsterdam and Paris – are set for the refit, with Paris flights CX279/278 first on the list from mid-July.

The upgraded A340s will add Amsterdam and Auckland to their roster in October.

The first-generation flatbed seats, which Cathay codenamed FB1 or Hercules – although less kind travellers have dubbed 'cubicle class' (or, less charitably, 'coffin class') – will  be refreshed "with new colour and trim as per the 747s" Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager of Product, confirmed to Australian Business Traveller earlier today.

"The refresh lightens up the cabin and has a much calmer, more relaxing feel and gives the herringbone seat a new lease of life. We will be progressively retiring the A340s as we take on more Boeing 777s and the Airbus 350."

The A350's early 2016 arrival into the CX fleet could also see the debut of Cathay's third-generation or FB3 business class seat, Smith says – although he admits that topping today's highly-regarded design will be a hard task.

“I think that’s the challenge for us, what do you do next? I mean, you can’t get flatter than flat!” Smith laughs. “You might make it a little bit wider or a little bit longer, but if you’ve got a bed that takes someone who’s 6’ 2”, 6’ 3”, that’s probably going to be good enough.”

Read: Cathay Pacific mulls new first, business class for Airbus A350

However, while the upgraded Airbus A340s will boast a refresh at the pointy end plus new premium economy seating just behind, the bulk of the plane will still sport the older and infamously uncomfortable 'fixed shell' design seats which declare a jihad on your lower back.

Cathay Pacific confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the airline's new long-haul economy seat would not be included in the refit.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the A340 upgrade would see the current business class seats replaced by Cathay's newest business class product. This was based on incorrect information supplied by a Cathay Pacific spokesperson. Cathay Pacific has since advised that the existing business class cabin will be refreshed rather than replaced, and we've updated this article to reflect that.

For the latest business travel and frequent flyer news, 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.


06 Nov 2012

Total posts 46

Having endured four long flights in the "fixed shell" Y seats a couple of years ago I vowed never to fly CX again. Very disappointing to see that these seats are still in use. 

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 543

They are, but just because if they are refurbished it would make no sense since the 747 and A340 will be retired by 2016 and 2018 (respectively) anyway. Enduring the seat will be painful but they're already being brought to shorter routes.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

27 Nov 2012

Total posts 44

Just returned from HKK on CX in J. The A330 seats were in the 1-2-1 layout, and it's the best I've slept in for years, and no one climbing over me during the night!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 416

Very poor effort on CX's part. That 1st gen seat is terrible. Why bother refurbing at all then. Replace those horrid seats.

26 May 2012

Total posts 149

I hope Qantas adapts the American 77L / new Cathay Business in its A330s. Would be superb!

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

I love the herringbone arrangement, it provides a semi-private area that's relaxing to travel in. Believe it or not I managed to get back to sleep after an engine blew up on a Hong Kong - Rome A340 flight and we had a long haul back to HK !! 

Hope Cathay holds onto the design when it introduces new planes.

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 125

Cathay has already left this design!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2012

Total posts 7

As mentioned in other ausbt articles, the herringbone days are certainly numbered for CX. The airline will replace the old 744 with a 777 on the Hong Kong-Frankfurt route from October, finally bringing it in-line with LHR and CDG! The new business class seats are superb.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 543

And already January will see CX 255/252 (the last LHR 747) move to a 777-300ER.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Cathay Pacific's business class refresh for Airbus A340s