Cathay to dump herringbone seats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 December, 2010, 12:00am

More than HK$1 billion will be spent by Cathay Pacific Airways revamping its business class cabin on long-haul Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft.

The revamp will see an end to the herringbone seating layout, which has been criticised by some travellers, and although seating will still be slightly angled, people by the window will see outside rather than into the cabin. The new cabin will feature seats that transform into a wider and longer flat bed and have more storage.

The change, covering 56 aircraft in service and on order, was announced yesterday by chief operating officer John Slosar as part of events that saw the launch of new uniforms for cabin crew and ground staff, and lounge development.

It is three years since completion of the airline's previous business class upgrade.

Slosar declined to discuss the planned improvement of economy class seating or introduction of a premium economy section on the Cathay fleet, however, saying that details would be given in due course.

He said the revamped business cabin would be introduced on 36 extended-range Boeing 777s on North American and European services and 20 Airbus A330-300s operating flights to Australia, India and the Middle East.

The first aircraft - an A330 - with the upgraded business class is planned to start on the Sydney route in March. All 56 aircraft are expected to be equipped by February 2013. Retrofitting existing aircraft would start from late next year, depending on aircraft type.

Slosar said there would be a reduction in the number of business class seats from 57 to 53 on the Boeing 777s and from 41 to 39 on the A330s.

Asked when Cathay could expect to see a return on its investment, Slosar said that it would be within the seven- to 10-year life of the product. Cathay 'don't anticipate any specific fare changes' for business class tickets as a result of the upgrade, he said.

On whether the revamp would lure passengers away from first class, Slosar said people 'entitled to travel first class probably do'. He does not see people trading down, but says he would be flattered if passengers saw the new business class as comparable to first.

Slosar also said the management decision to go ahead with the revamp was taken between late 2008 and early last year, 'when the business was not in good shape, so we had it ready when business picked up'.