The three big changes coming to Cathay business class this year

The Hong Kong airline is primed to boost the pointy end experience...

By David Flynn, February 20 2024
The three big changes coming to Cathay business class this year

Cathay Pacific’s been flying essentially the same long-range international business class seat since 2010, although the refined version rolled out in 2016 for the Airbus A350 contained some improvements to make high flyers even more comfortable.

But that’s all about to change – and with not one, not two but three substantial changes planned for Cathay Pacific business class this year.

Here’s what you can expect to see.

1. Cathay ‘Aria Suites’ business class 

Sometime in the second quarter of 2024, Cathay will pull back the curtains on its next-generation business class, which will be marketed as ‘Aria Suites’.

Teaser images released by the airline indicate there’ll be a sliding privacy door – a ‘first class in business class’ touch introduced by Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways, and now being adopted by almost every airline’s latest business class (including Qantas).

One of the Aria Suites 'sneak peek' images released by Cathay Pacific.
One of the Aria Suites 'sneak peek' images released by Cathay Pacific.

The door on the Cathay Aria Suite is paired with extended ‘wings’ for a degree of privacy even when that door is open – something many travellers prefer when they're not sleeping or working in ‘do not disturb’ mode.

There’ll also be wirelessly charging for smartphones and tablets, alongside AC and USB-C outlets, while the large 4K video screens in each Aria Suite will offer Bluetooth audio streaming to the passenger's own headphones or earbuds – features already built into Cathay’s A321neo business and economy seats.

One of the Aria Suites 'sneak peek' images released by Cathay Pacific.
One of the Aria Suites 'sneak peek' images released by Cathay Pacific.

The Aria Suites will adorn a refit of the long-range Boeing 777 jets as well as the forthcoming Boeing 777X fleet.

While Cathay has yet to confirm exactly when the 777 Aria Suites business class will take wing, Executive Traveller understands it’ll launch alongside a fresh take on premium economy for the 777.

(And if you’re wondering about first class, Cathay also plans to unveil its ‘Halo Suites’ first class in 2025.)

2. Cathay’s new regional business class

It’s not only long-haul that’s set for an overhaul: Cathay Pacific has confirmed some of its Airbus A330 workhorses will move to a bespoke ‘regional business class’ seat for flights within the greater Asia market.

As with Cathay’s current regional business class, the new seat is likely to be a recliner rather than a lie-flat bed, with a more space-efficient and profitable 2-2-2 layout across each row.

Cathay's current A330 regional business class.
Cathay's current A330 regional business class.

Executive Traveller understands Cathay will put out the call to seatmakers around the globe in Q3 this year, inviting them to make their pitch to supply the new seat for launch in 2026.

The move will likely see Cathay streamline its A330 fleet into two groups: one for medium-length flights to the likes of Australia and New Zealand, which will retain lie-flat business class seats to suit overnight legs, and the other fitted with regional business class for shorter flights up to around six hours. 

3. Free WiFi in Cathay business class

From the middle of this year, Cathay’s business class flyers will no longer have to pay to keep connected above the clouds.

Cathay Pacific CEO Ronald Lam has confirmed the airline will make WiFi free for all business class passengers (along with top-tier Cathay Diamond members, although not their Oneworld Emerald siblings).

The free WiFi deal will of course also extend across Cathay’s Airbus A330, A350 and A321 fleet.

Cathay's business class passengers will soon enjoy free WiFi.
Cathay's business class passengers will soon enjoy free WiFi.

Under current pricing, a ‘flight pass’ from beginning to end of a Cathay flight costs up to US$20 depending on the length of the flight (for trips of less than six hours, the tariff is US$13), with a single hour charged at US$10.

On flights under six hours there’s also a US$4 messaging package for text messages (but not photos) on WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE and the like.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 138

Unless your flight is less than 2 hrs, these profitable 2-2-2 may not be well liked, most people may connect from a long haul or medium haul, paying for international travel business class nowadays means one would expect lie flats. With SQ you would always get consistent lie flats except for their max 8 aircraft, wonder why they would be silly to do this on their A330aircraft, they have plenty of room to keep them consistent, they could easily drop the number of lie flats and add premium to more upfront, and more economy...

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

16 Jul 2019

Total posts 26

"...most people may connect from a long haul or medium haul, paying for international travel business class nowadays means one would expect lie flats". 

Depends on the market. In Europe people connect in Business onto 1-4.5 hour intra-Europe flights and get an economy seat with an empty set next to them. Sure, SQ set a high standard on their regional wide-bodies but what other airlines in Asia do? Not everyone can / wants to fly through Singapore with SQ despite their excellent seating. 

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1519

Free WiFi is most welcome while fiddly sliding door that anyone can look over IMHO is plainly gimmick.

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 47

This seems to imply that CX would bring the A330 back to Australia. That would surprise me for a number of reasons including capacity (inclusive freight) and need to have a more updated product to serve the Aus market generally. My hope is that the lie flat product will rather be retained on longer mid haul routes in North and South Asia that do red eyes on the return to HKG where not served by the 350 or 777. 


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