Cathay Pacific will begin flying the new Airbus A321neo by the end of this year as the airline inherits the entire fleet – new and old – of regional sibling Cathay Dragon, which is being closed down 'with immediate effect".
16 A321neo jets have been ordered for Cathay Dragon, with the first two due for delivery in the next two months.
Those aircraft will also see the debut of a new regional business class seat, which – like the current Cathay Dragon seat – is expected to be a recliner rather than a fully lie-flat bed.
Cathay Pacific Group Chairman Patrick Healy confirmed today that while Cathay Dragon's routes would be split between Cathay Pacific and low-cost sibling HK Express, "the Cathay Dragon fleet will be incorporated into the Cathay Pacific fleet, including the A321neos which are slated for delivery to Cathay Dragon."
According to the group's latest fleet plan, four more A321neo jets are headed for the Hong Kong hangars in 2021, with 10 to follow in 2022 "and beyond."
To date, Cathay Pacific operates only medium- to long-range twin aisle jets such as the Airbus A330 and A350, and its flagship Boeing 777-300ER, with the next-generation Boeing 777-9 jetliners now pushed back to "beyond 2025", Healy said.
The Cathay Dragon Pacific Airbus A321neo jets feature 12 regional business class seats, arranged in three rows of two-across, followed by 190 economy seats in the familiar 3-3 layout.
In adopting Cathay Dragon's 48-strong fleet, Cathay Pacific will also take under its wing some 22 older Airbus A320 and A321 jets – several of which are likely to be retired in short order as the airline leans towards more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft.
Cathay Dragon also flies 26 twin-aisle Airbus A330s, many of which offer a lie-flat first class seat identical to Cathay Pacific's standard business class seat.
If Cathay Pacific retains the Dragon's A330s for regional routes, which typically range from two to six hours including some red-eye flights, this first class seat will offer pleasing consistency for business class travellers transferring from international Cathay Pacific flights.
Cathay Dragon's network encompasses some 50 destinations across Asia, with around half of those being in mainland China.
It's expected that the more popular and premium-heavy routes will be handed over to Cathay Pacific, while leisure routes frequented by more price-sensitive passengers will be transferred to HK Express.
More to follow...