The Airbus A350-1000 is the largest single-deck jet from the European aircraft manufacturer and joins the Cathay Pacific fleet this week as a stretched sibling of the A350-900.
However, despite the advanced jet’s size, Cathay Pacific opted to skip first class and lead with business class – admittedly in a sizeable cabin of 46 business class seats.
Why didn’t Cathay Pacific add a small first class cabin to the front of the A350-1000?
“We have the right configuration to suit the needs of the market, and first class consumes quite a bit of space in the aircraft,” reflects Cathay Pacific Chief Customer & Commercial Offer Paul Loo.
“We need a trade-off between having the cabin and having the extra costs (of first class) and having sufficient demand.”
While Cathay Pacific retains first class on some of its long-range Boeing 777-300ER jets for flagship routes such as London and New York, Loo sees part of the Airbus A350’s role as being to open up new markets “that may not be available to us today” and where tipping out at business class is the safest bet.
“All the new routes that we have been serving with the A350-900 – Barcelona, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Brussels – are great examples of how the current A350 configuration is working very well.”
But a new first class is on the way…
However, Loo tells Australian Business Traveller that Cathay Pacific is certainly not giving up on first class. “We just want to make it better,” he says of the next-gen suites due to debut on the Boeing 777-9 in 2021.
While many of Cathay’s competitors are flying the Airbus A380 and therefore have more space at their disposal – “they go with the direction of having big heavy first class cabins,” Loo says opines – the Hong Kong flag-carrier has “ to work with the limited space that we’ve got.”
“It is not just about space and how we use the space, it’s more than just the physical seat.”
“We are trying out different prototypes and new technologies. It’s going to be a great product and very different from our competition.”
Cathay Pacific is known to be considering private suites with high walls as well as the current open design of its Boeing 777-300ER first class. The Boeing 777-9s will also see an all-new business class seat.