Cathay Pacific is to slim down its premium economy capacity.
The news might suggest the product has failed in Asia, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Although the Hong Kong airline has yet to officially confirm the news (at least to the UK media), a report in the Sydney Morning Herald reveals the cutback will occur only on medium-range A330s serving Australian routes.
It means that the size of the premium economy cabin on Cathay’s larger capacity aircraft — like the B777-300ERs that ply longer routes between Hong Kong, Europe and North America — will remain unchanged.
The carrier’s A330 premium economy zones accommodate 28 passengers. By removing seven premium economy seats it will find space for an extra 16 economy class ones.
So why is Cathay doing this? One reason is that there is a need for extra capacity on the Sydney route now that Virgin Atlantic no longer flies there from Hong Kong.
In addition, there is not much product competition from Qantas. The latter only offers premium economy out of Sydney to Hong Kong but not on its other two services into Hong Kong from Melbourne and Brisbane.
Finally, many travellers patronising Cathay into Australia are VFR (visiting friends and relatives), for whom a low price is all important.
But more relevant news to those passengers taking the kangaroo route is that Cathay will upgrade one of its four daily Sydney flights from an A330 to a larger B777-300ER.
The move takes effect in December, just in time for peak travel to down under. Initially, the larger plane will operate three-times weekly but the service will become daily from February.
In particular, passengers travelling through from Europe to Sydney will appreciate the upgraded product.
In June, Cathay announced that it had started trialling an online auction service allowing passengers to bid for seat upgrades (see news, June 20).