Cathay Pacific's Airbus A321neo is set to soar from August 4 across a range of routes to mainland China and Taipei.
The A321neo jets were originally intended for regional carrier Cathay Dragon, but after that airline was unceremoniously shut down in October 2020, its parent inherited the Cathay Dragon fleet as well as most of its routes.
First up will be Shanghai/Pudong, which will host the advanced jet's inaugural flight on August 4. That'll be followed throughout August by Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Taipei and Kaohsiung, the airline says.
Four A321neos are already in Cathay's Hong Kong hangars, with two more due in the second half of this year, building to a total of 16 by the end of 2023.
"We're incredibly excited to see our next-generation A321neo take to the skies for the first time next month as we continue to add more passenger services in the region," says Cathay Pacific Group CEO Augustus Tang.
"The single-aisle A321neo is the newest addition to our fleet and has been designed and fitted with an array of new features that offer the most enjoyable short-haul experience in the world to our customers."
Inside Cathay Pacific's Airbus A321neo
The A321neo is fitted with 202 seats, with 12 business class seats – half as many business class seats as on Cathay's current Airbus A321 'classic' jets, but 50% more than the A320s – followed by 190 economy seats across two cabins (a 25% increase over the A320/A321 aircraft).
As previously reported, the business class seats – arranged in three rows of two-across – take the same cues as Cathay's previous regional product.
This means generous recliners rather than the fully lie-flat beds which regional competitor Singapore Airlines intends to roll out on its forthcoming regional Boeing 737 MAX jets.
Like its predecessor, the Cathay Pacific A321neo business class seat – developed by JPA Design – is enclosed in its own hard shell cocoon.
As the seat reclines it also slides down, while the base and legrest extend into a 'lazy Z' position, so that the passenger behind doesn't lose any of 'their' personal space.
Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager of Customer Experience & Design, has previously told Executive Traveller that as "the majority of the (A321neo) flights are below two hours, stretched to four and at most six", those flight durations did not require the relative luxury of a business class bed.
Extended partitions provide a feeling of privacy between the paired seats, with a 15.6" 4K Ultra HD video screen and noise-cancelling headphones for inflight entertainment.
There are few surprises in the 190 economy seats, which are arranged in the familiar 3-3 layout and each fitted with an 11.6" 4K UHD screen plus a fold-down shelf for your tablet or smartphone.
However, very new and highly notable is that each screen from tip to tail will beam its audio across Bluetooth so that passengers can use their own headphones or earbuds.
Every seat also boasts both USB-A and USB-C sockets for topping up your tech inflight, while high-speed WiFi will also be "progressively introduced" on the A321neo fleet, Cathay says.
Finally, Cathay is keen to point out that the extra-large overhead storage bins in all cabins "provide 60% more space for passengers to stow their carry-on luggage."
The factory-fresh A321neos will allow Cathay to retire many of its ageing A320 and A321 jets while both increasing passenger capacity to cater for popular destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai, and extending the network's reach through a greater flying range.