UPDATE | Cathay Pacific has now revealed the first details of its new Premium Economy class as well as a replacement for the airline's much-criticised international economy seat, both of which will debut in March 2012 on flights between Hong Kong and Sydney – see our full report for details.
PREVIOUS | Cathay Pacific will introduce its all-new premium economy service in March 2012, and travellers between Sydney and Hong Kong will be among the first to sample the seats and cabin.
The Hong Kong flag carrier has earmarked the daily Sydney-Hong Kong service CX100 and CX101 for aircraft which have been upgraded to accommodate the new seats sandwiched between the airline's new business class and economy sections.
Cathay Pacific's new premium economy class will debut on flights between Hong Kong and Sydney, Singapore, Toronto, Singapore and Shanghai. Other North American, European and Middle East destinations will follow throughout 2012.
"The seat will be more like a regional business class seat" says John Slosar, CEO for the Hong Kong flag-carrier. "We’ll have great recline and plenty of leg space."
Slosar promises that "it’s not just the seat, we’ll have an improved service as well. The meal service will be improved and little extras will leave anyone who chooses Cathay Pacific’s premium economy feeling they really got value for their money. That’s the most important part, I think."
Earlier this year Alex McGowan, Cathay's General Manager for Product, revealed his 'premium economy playbook' to Australian Business Traveller by suggesting as "a quiet cabin, a more exclusive environment, with a larger more comfortable armchair that you can really sink into, recline and relax in."
“I think that any premium economy product needs to be its own seat, which needs to be wider and have more (legroom), it needs to have a legrest and footrest and be a better all-round experience.” McGowan also called out “upgraded catering and a larger (video) screen size” as key components.
“But it’s mainly its about being a small private cabin, set separately and having more interaction with the cabin crew and a better standard of service (compared to economy)."
However, the airline is keenly aware of the need to sharply differentiate premium economy from business class in order to protect its pointy-end profits.
“The key with something like premium economy is to understand that it’s an economy plus product, not a ‘business class minus’ product – at least from a philosophical perspective, but not as a product definition” McGowan told Australian Business Traveller.
“It’s not seeking to capture people who want to trade down from business class because realistically if you’re a frequent business traveller who has important deals to do when you get to your destination, you need that flat bed and you need an environment that’s conducive to sleep and work so you can be at your peak when you arrive.”
“Trading down from business class into premium economy is not the game we’re in. It’s for people in economy who want more space, more exclusivity, and a few details like better catering and wine. It’s also about capturing people who may want not to travel in economy but can’t afford to travel in business class.”
According to advance flight schedules logged by Cathay Pacific into the global distribution system (GDS) used by travel agents and reported by Airline Route, the daily Sydney-Hong Kong service CX100 and CX101 will be first to sport the new cabins, along with flights from Hong Kong to to Toronto, Singapore and Shanghai Pudong, on both Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.