Cathay Dragon's first Airbus A321neo is expected to make its debut in October, and with it, Cathay Pacific's regional offshoot will reveal an all-new business class seat.
"At this point in time we expect two deliveries to occur, roughly in October-November of this year," Greg Hughes, Chief Operations and Service Delivery Officer for the Cathay Pacific Group, told Executive Traveller during a press briefing following the airline's presentation of its interim results for the 2020 financial year.
However, which cities in the Cathay Dragon network will be served by the two fuel-efficient jets will depend on the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on border restrictions and overall travel demand.
"The entry into service and the routes onto which those aircraft will be deployed really depends on the recovery," Hughes added, "and how that develops over the coming months, so we don’t yet have a firm plan on that."
According to the group's latest fleet plan, four more A321neo jets are headed for the Cathay Dragon hangars in 2022, with 10 to follow in 2022 "and beyond".
A seatmap for the Cathay Dragon Airbus A321neo sighted by Executive Traveller 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.
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."
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.
As previously reported, Cathay Pacific has also 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.