Yesterday saw the arrival of Cathay Pacific‘s first A350 in Hong Kong. When we saw a glimpse of the aircraft from the airport terminal, the new A350 shape was instantly recognisable, and to us signalled a new era for the carrier.
Cathay have been working hard in the past two years, aligning two brands, opening world-leading impressive lounges across the network, and introducing the new brand direction with simpler websites and airport signage. It is all about considered simplicity – removing the clutter and focusing on the elements that really matter to the passenger experience.
The first of 48 A350’s brings this new ethos to the skies, refining their existing products and addressing the needs and requirements of their passengers – which has come about by speaking with the people that matter, frequent Cathay Pacific fliers, Marco Polo members and cabin crew.
Each of the cabins features brand new products. In business class the seat has been refined with new enhancements, in premium economy there are brand new seats, and economy class features larger screens, and more intelligent storage to increase passenger space and comfort.
Starting with the pointy racoon-eyed end, business class has had a complete refresh. While there is no first class cabin on the A350, the business class finish and trim mirrors what would be expected in a private jet. The existing seats have been completely reworked to offer enhanced automotive lines, new finishes that are calmer, and reduce the heavier forest green found in the current cabin.
Everything feels cleaner, from the seat controls to the seat cushion. The biggest and most noticeable differences are the new IFE screen, which is much larger and has a more intuitive and simpler interface, the bed extender, which no longer flips up from the seat, but instead from the armrest – which makes it stronger, and more practical – and also a new tray table which isn’t fixed in one position unlike its predecessor.
There are other things we love about the seat, the way the bed fits snuggly into the cushioning around the seat, making for a more seamless bed experience, the addition of red into the headphone cabinet and the increased storage areas around the seat to allow for storing extra personal items.
In premium economy, passengers will enjoy brand new B/E Aerospace MiQ seats, which will offer enhanced passenger comfort compared to the previous generation premium economy seats. The new seats biggest enhancements include leg rests for each passenger and enhanced IFE Screen size. Responding to passengers needs, the A350 is the first aircraft for Cathay to offer WiFi for passengers (at a fee).
The seats also offer push down arm rests on the aisle, which allow for passengers requiring assistance to be seated easily, as well as offering increased space for passengers who want a bit more room. The premium economy section is arranged in a 2 x 4 x 2 arrangement, matching the current 777 layout. The new colour way is also very appealing, smart as well as calming.
In economy, Tangerine, a London based company, were brought in to reimagine the seats, inspired by glass skyscrapers and bamboo. The finishes, like the other cabins are inspired by Asian minimalist tradition. Bulkheads feature an embossed irregular-striped pattern that is evocative of bamboo, contrasting with the natural textured finishes that are incorporated throughout the interior across all classes. Green is an essential colour palette for Cathay Pacific’s brand and three shades of green, blended with natural tones, were used.
The economy seat features significant developments including an innovative headrest that provides significantly increased lateral support, which is crucial for rest and sleep when seated in an upright position.
Another innovation is the BYOD solution is a ‘back pack’ integrated in the seat, which features a combined shelf and storage area for tablets and other devices, storage for personal items and a drinks holder all in one place.
The most noticable improvement is the screen size, featuring the latest IFE system, meaning those long haul flights such as Gatwick and Dusseldorf (the two first long haul flights) will fly by.
We salute Cathay Pacific once again for not necessarily creating the worlds most innovative cabin, but one that has responded to the needs of their passengers and crew, and created a product that answers the needs of today’s travellers. They are living up to their latest promise of a Life Well Travelled.
The Big Picture
Pictures by Sven Hennig – our trusted TheDesignAir reporter at the launch event.