With Cathay Pacific pushing back the arrival of its first Boeing 777-9 jetliner to "beyond 2025", the airline is now overdue for the launch of its all-new first class suites: a launch which, if not for a domino effect of delays from Boeing and the impact of COVID-19, would have been happening this year.
After signing an order for 21 Boeing 777-9s in 2013, Cathay's deliveries were slated to begin in 2021 and stream through to 2024.
The Boeing 777-9 was always intended to become Cathay's new flagship and serve as the launchpad for new first and business class products – and in 2014, a year after placing its order with Boeing, the Hong Kong carrier began exploring fresh first class concepts.
European agency Yellow Window was among the firms shortlisted, and its work provides a tantalising take on the evolution of Cathay's first class.
"In the context of the delivery of its new Boeing B777-9X and the refit of the Boeing B777-300ER, Cathay Pacific wanted to rethink the passenger experience and the first-class cabin concept to strengthen its position as leader among the world’s top airlines," Yellow Project explains.
In fact, Yellow came up with two designs "inspired by a revisited Asian culture and a subtle quest for balance and harmony."
The first was this elongated suite: a luxury cocoon for Cathay's first class flyers.
"The design offers a new experience in the first class,' Yellow suggested at the time.
"The materials and colors are inspired by the current contemporary Asian style and offer standards worthy of the greatest hotels but in the air."
According to Yellow "the cabin design is based on a concept of 'metamorphosis' and the first-class suite must be able to offer different spaces for different points in the journey, becoming a lounge, an office, a dining room and a bedroom."
Here is Yellow's proposed Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-9 first class suite in 'work mode', creating a cosy corner office above the clouds.
The bottom part of the seating module would fold up to become a legrest, with under-seat stowage for small cabin bags.
Another clever touch: the shelving which holds the fold-out dining table also sports an LED lighting feature (presumably with adjustable brightness and colour), a smartphone holder-charger and a recess for your G&T.
Those straps along the bench conceal a fold-out surface which extends to the width of the suite and could them be dressed with a mattress to create a long, fully-flat bed.
Yellow Window followed Cathay's already-established 1-1-1 first class layout, putting one suite at either side of the cabin and one in the middle.
Although this puts the suites in an open configuration by default, a 'window shade' dropped down from the ceiling to provide privacy as needed.
It's no accident that this 'apartment' approach mirrored that of Air France's own Boeing 777-300ER La Première first class suites of 2014.
Yellow also designed that initial concept, which was then shaped by PriestmanGoode to evoke "sophisticated French luxury for international travel", with plush curtains to transform the suite into a boudoir.
Yellow Project's second exploration for Cathay Pacific used the Boeing 777's cabin cross-section to create two extra-large first class suites "where the bed is located near the seat and gives the space a sense of cocooning."
These would be paired to allow four first class berths on the Boeing 777-9.
None of Yellow Project's images show how passengers would transition from sitting to sleeping, and the armrest seems too substantial to retract.
Directly ahead of each passenger: a large flat-screen video panel and a newspaper and magazine rack.
The armrests include a small dock to keep your smartphone at hand, while a mirror sits atop the corner shelf.
Curved panels around each suite offered a degree of privacy, similar to Cathay's current Boeing 777-300ER first class without going to the extent of sliding panels or doors.
Personalised overhead LED lighting was just part of the package "in order to amaze and delight (passengers) during the flight and ensure well-being and physical regeneration afterwards."
As for what Cathay Pacific's actual Boeing 777-9 first class suites will look like, we'll probably have to wait several years to find out.