Cathay Pacific to introduce fully flat beds in business class

28 Sep 2006 by business traveller

Cathay Pacific promises state-of-the-art seating from next year. The Hong Kong-based airline says it will begin installing the new and more comfortable seating throughout its long-haul fleet commencing in January. It will take three years to complete the refitting.

The big news is that Cathay will now adopt fully flat beds in business class. Although Cathay was the first Asian airline to install angled lie-flat style seating in business class back in 2001 its competitors have caught up in the meantime.

Air New Zealand, Air Canada, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are just four carriers who either have or are poised to launch fully flat beds on key business routes linking their home countries with Hong Kong.

So Cathay has followed suit. Says a spokesperson, "Research has shown there is a strong expectation among passengers for a fully lie-flat bed together with improved living space and enhanced individual privacy."

The carrier's new business class will adopt the "herringbone" layout seen on Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic where seats are arranged east-west rather than north-south. Full details have yet to emerge but the carrier is expected to adopt a six across (1-2-1) configuration on its B747s and B777s with the layout on the A340's narrower cabin being the same or less.

Economy class undergoes something of a revolution compared to what other carriers have been offering recently. Cathay is adopting an entirely new "fixed back" shell design, similar to a mini-business class seat (see picture) which allows a passenger to recline without intruding on those seated behind. The airline maintains that it will be the first economy class seat to provide a fixed living space and recline.

First class passengers are in line for even greater space and privacy with new accommodation in the style of a private suite. To find room for the new first class layout, the number of seats is being slimmed down from 12 to just nine seats on the B747 and A340 (the only planes in Cathay's fleet to feature first class).

This could make seat availability an issue for those passengers wishing to redeem frequent flyer miles in first class. Reader feedback also suggests that round-the-world passengers (whose special fares don't provide the same booking priority as those paying full fare) might have difficulty securing first class seats on popular business routes like New York to Hong Kong.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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