The next three years will be incredibly busy for Cathay Pacific. The Hong Kong-based airline is pushing to take its onboard experiences to new heights, with yearly launches of new cabin products between now and 2026. The broad investment in new seats aims to cement the carrier as ‘one of the world’s best premium airlines.’

It all starts later this year with the rollout of a new Premium Economy seat. That’s joined simultaneously by the new Aria Suite in Business Class. In 2025, a new First Class suite follows suit. And then in 2026, Cathay’s shorter flights get an upgrade too, with flatbeds coming even to the airline’s regional Airbus A330 jets.

Driving the premium push is Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager of Customer Experience and Design. Lo’s attention to detail is second to none – and goes beyond the aircraft cabin. Lo has been behind many of the airline’s other advancements and improvements, including the ‘home away from home’ style of Cathay’s newer lounges.

I catch up with Lo in Hong Kong at an invitation-only preview of Cathay Pacific’s new Premium Economy seat – months before the first passengers will get to fly on it.

Cathay Pacific’s seats take hints from the lounge

When customising the new Aria Suite, Cathay Pacific was mindful that its brand shines through in the seat design. In fact, the consideration was even for passengers to effortlessly transition from the atmosphere of the lounge to their suite on the plane.

Relax in the lounge, then board a flight that continues with the same relaxed vibe.

‘It’s not a copy and paste,’ Lo says of that transition in design. With Aria Suite, ‘you can see that there’s still a very strong residential feel, very comfortable.’

‘But then we didn’t want it to be a copy and paste of the lounge, because in a lounge, you use the space differently. (In a) lounge, you move around the actual space. In the aircraft, you stay with the same seat, but you rest, you eat, you dine, you watch movies. So you need to ensure that the seat can be adapted to the different atmosphere.’

‘Customer experience is extremely important for us. We are committing to becoming one of the world’s best premium airlines and continue listening to you. Investing in what is important for customers is what we do and what we live for.’

Hong Kong is back in full swing, and so is Cathay Pacific.

Lo also confirms the airline’s plans for the rollout of its updated cabin experiences.

‘In the next three years, we’ll be having major launch every year. So this year we’ll see the new business – the Aria Suite products, as well as the new Premium Economy, as well as some fresh design for the Economy classes. Today (on this Hong Kong visit) you’ll be experiencing the new Premium Economy. And next year with the delivery of the (Boeing) 777-9, we’ll be launching the new First Class.’

‘In 2026, we’ll be launching the new regional business class for the (Airbus) A330,’ Lo adds. For Cathay Pacific, that means ‘a lie-flat Business Class seat, as well as the new Economy.’

Ad – Scroll down to continue reading.Minimum spend, terms & conditions apply.

Privacy is paramount with Aria Suite

Cathay Pacific’s long-haul Business Class already follows the industry standard 1-2-1 layout. In fact, Cathay Pacific was an early pioneer of this format, bringing direct aisle access from every seat years before many of its major competitors. By nature, this means not having to step over another passenger – or being stepped across yourself, especially while sleeping.

But Cathay’s new Aria Suite brings a fresh amenity for the airline: a privacy door. It’s something that Cathay Pacific doesn’t currently offer on any of its aircraft – even in First Class. But in Business Class, it’s becoming increasingly standard around the world.

Within Cathay Pacific’s own oneworld Alliance, Qatar Airways’ Qsuite is no doubt the most notable, being the product that launched the trend. But that’s also been followed by British Airways’ Club Suite, and soon, American Airlines’ Flagship Suite. Other feted rivals include China Eastern’s newest Business Class, the Delta One Suite, and Etihad’s most recent Business Class.

‘I think on a long-haul flight, it would be almost – for premium airlines – an expectation,’ Lo reflects. ‘But having a door, not all doors are the same. I would say having a door will be important for the option of privacy. But you want to allow it to be an option for those people that didn’t really want the door.’ In other words, you don’t want passengers feeling too boxed-in, if they’d rather a clear path to the aisle.

‘So first and foremost, it cannot be claustrophobic.’ The design of Aria Suite was driven by ‘customer insights, because our customers told us (what’s) important. Just as privacy is important, (so too is the) comfort of the bed (and) storage.’

Speaking of Cathay Pacific’s current long-haul Business Class seats, ‘people still tell us that it’s one of the most comfortable beds, especially for tall people.’

Rollout of Cathay Pacific’s Aria Suite

Aria Suite will begin flying from late this year – alongside Cathay Pacific’s new Premium Economy seat. But with Cathay’s new First Class not launching until 2025, the airline is mindful that Business Class does not to outdo First Class on the same plane.

Instead, Aria Suite will begin its journey on Cathay Pacific’s refitted Boeing 777-300ERs. Over time, these will all shift to a standardised three-class layout for simplicity and consistency. This means that Cathay Pacific’s current First Class suites will be retired as those refurbishments continue.

Enjoy them while you can: Cathay Pacific’s current First Class suites are set for retirement.

‘So actually the First Class will move to the Boeing 777-9,’ Lo shares. On the other hand, ‘in the future, the Boeing 777-300ER will have one single configuration.’ That configuration will be Aria Suites for Business Class, the new Premium Economy seat behind that, and then a refreshed Economy cabin.

Ultimately, Aria Suite ‘will be on 30 of our Boeing 777-300ERs.’ No doubt, that’ll help avoid things like unexpected seat changes when aircraft are swapped around. But it will bring an end to the unwritten rule of free First Class seating upgrades on selected flights.

As it happens, Cathay Pacific currently flies some of its four-class jets on three-class routes. Or to say it more simply, some flights have First Class seats, but First Class isn’t actually sold – only Business Class. Cathay’s elite Diamond members may therefore be able to book Business Class and sit in First Class. Or for those lucky at check-in, the same privilege may be available to other oneworld Emerald members, too.

Read more: How to get a free First Class upgrade on Cathay Pacific

Photos and video courtesy of Cathay Pacific. Chris Chamberlin travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

Stay up to date with the latest news, reviews and guides by subscribing to Point Hacks’ email newsletter.
Cathay Pacific’s premium push brings yearly launches of new seats was last modified: April 12th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin