Cathay's new Airbus A321neo business class set for October debut

The factory-fresh A321neo will sport a new-look regional business class for Cathay Dragon.

By David Flynn, June 16 2020
Cathay's new Airbus A321neo business class set for October debut

Cathay Dragon's Airbus A321neo looks set to make its debut in October, and with it, an all-new business class for Cathay Pacific's regional offshoot.

Delivery of the fuel-efficient A321neo has been pushed back from the first half of this year, but while a firm delivery date has not been revealed, a preliminary schedule filed by Cathay Pacific lists the next-gen jet against the Hong Kong-Zhengzhou route starting October 26.

This three-hour dash is unlikely to be the A321neo's actual inaugural, as schedules remain in flux, and the A321neo is certain to pop up elsewhere on the Cathay Dragon roster.

The seatmap for the Cathay Dragon Airbus A321neo shows 12 business class seats, arranged in three rows of two-across: that's half as many business class seats as on Cathay's current Airbus A321 'classic' jets, but 50% more than the A320s.

While those premium pews will be a fresh design for Cathay Dragon business class, their layout indicates that Cathay will continue with the same 'regional recliner' approach as its current seat, which began flying in 2013, rather than taking the leap to a fully-flat business class as has been done by competitor Singapore Airlines for its own regional Silk Air arm.

Cathay Dragon's current regional business class seat.
Cathay Dragon's current regional business class seat.

This is in keeping with what Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s Head of Customer Experience & Design, previously indicated to Executive Traveller, noting that with "the majority of the flights are below two hours, stretched to four and at most six", those flight durations did not require the lie-flat luxury of a business class bed.

However, Lo emphasised that "the product for the A321neo will be a next-generational product for Cathay Dragon. The A321neo is a very modern aircraft, with a lot of the technology that our customers love from the A350 in a narrow-body environment."

Vivian Lo: for short flights, a relaxing recliner is more appropriate than a flat bed.
Vivian Lo: for short flights, a relaxing recliner is more appropriate than a flat bed.

Behind the business class cabin of Cathay Dragon's Airbus A321neo will be 190 economy seats in a conventional 3-3 layout.

This gives the A321neo a total of 202 seats, against the 164-seat A320 and 172-seat A321 which it was intended to replace.

However, Cathay Pacific has since split its order for 32 A321neo jets to allocate just 16 to Cathay Dragon and 16 to low-cost carrier HK Express, which Cathay acquired in 2019 for $915 million to focus on leisure destinations.

Those deliveries, staggered across 2020-2022 for Cathay Dragon and then following from 2022-2024 onwards for HK Express, are themselves subject to renegotiation with Cathay Pacific as it faces the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cathay Dragon may continue flying its older seat and A320-series jets for a while longer.
Cathay Dragon may continue flying its older seat and A320-series jets for a while longer.

"Cathay Pacific is a very good customer when times are good, but we expect all our vendors and business partners to come to the table now, when we need them to," Cathay Pacific Group Chairman Patrick Healy noted in March 2020.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon reported a loss of HK$4.5 billion (A$835m) in the first four months of 2020, capped by a staggering 99.6% drop in passengers in April.

The group has since been extended a $7 billion rescue plan led by the Hong Kong government as it battles through unprecedented difficulties, although "this< infusion (of capital) does not mean we can relax, indeed, quite the opposite," Healy notes. "We must must redouble our efforts to transform our business to be more competitive."

"What is certain is that our future will be very differing from our recent past. We will be re-evaluating all aspects of our business model in light of this rapidly-changing environment."

“Tough decisions will need to be made in the fourth quarter of this year to get Cathay Pacific to the right size and shape in which to compete successfully. Nothing is off the table."

David

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.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 65

Hi David, my wife and I flew Cathay from Melbourne to HK in Y a couple of years ago and from there to Danang with the 'dragon' and as they say you get what you pay for. The return trip was the same except the HK to Melb leg was in premium econ. For what it is worth, Cathay is up there delivering what they promise and the upgrade to the A321neo will only enhance their appeal. This company is a great alternative to our national carrier and as a One World partner you get a better schedule and points and SC as well. Stop off in HK airport to other Asian destinations is great and supremely welcoming.


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