Today saw the launch of Cathay Pacific’s 4-times-a-week service between Hong Kong and Gatwick airport. The airline has rolled out it’s most technologically advanced airframe on the route, the A350-900, which also flies to Dusseldorf from Hong Kong.
Being one of the lucky few invited for the inaugural event at Gatwick, TheDesignAir was able to take a look at the beautiful aircraft up-close before the waiting passengers boarded.
The new A350-900 for Cathay sports both the new livery for the carrier, and the newest economy, premium economy and business class seating, IFE system and even WiFi connectivity, a first for Cathay. With 44 aircraft on order, this new aircraft hints at the future for Cathay’s next-gem fleet.
The livery works beautifully on the aircraft, with the new logotype and Brushwing taking pride of place at the front and the tail fin. The famous ‘raccoon’ eyes that airbus has adorned on the A350 works well with such a simple and elegant livery treatment.
Inside, things get even better. Starting from the rear of the aircraft, the economy cabin is spacious, modern and bright. Featuring the signature 3 x 3 x 3 configuration for Cathay, the seats feel like thrones in comparison to the 777 10-abreast layout that other carriers use.
While the seats only have 32″ pitch according to the press release, the pitch feels a lot more generous.
Every seat features an in seat power outlet as well as a USB port at the bottom of every IFE screen to charge personal devices. This is now perfectly situated to work with the new tablet holder shelf, situated just below each passenger’s personal screen.
The shelf has a groove which comfortably will hold a tablet or mobile, as well as a cup holder which removes the need to have the tray table down just to have a drink, increasing personal space.
The A350 Panasonic ex3 entertainment system offers Hi-Def screens in all classes. The system features Satellite TV including BBC, CNN and Euronews, as well as live text news. The system menu is even easier to use and compared to the 777’s smaller 9″ screen, the A350 features a large 11″ screen, which dominates the passenger’s field of vision.
The smaller intimate premium economy cabin features seats designed by Studio F.A. Porsche which set the new standard for Cathay’s premium economy seats.
The seats are a lot more contemporary than the cathay premium trip report, and feature cleaner lines, more space and more amenities to enhance the passenger experience.
There is now a full length leg-rest at each seat, compared to just the front rows on the 777-300ER, and seat pitch has been increased to 40″. There is also a newly designed, dimmable, and fairly beautiful reading lamp that sits in the head rest and extends for passengers who wish to read during the flight.
The seats offer ample storage, in the sides of the seats as well as underneath the tablet holder. Within the centre armrest there is a cocktail table for each passenger as well as USB ports and in-seat power, providing ample connectivity for personal devices.
One of the most beneficial elements to the premium economy seat is the retractable armrest which not only allows passengers with disabilities to use the seats, but increase the personal space for passengers wanting a couple of extra inches seat width, which will be of comfort, as the seats have lost almost an inch in width from the 777 seats.
There is a sense of understated luxury that comes from the fabrication of the seats and soft furnishings. New pillow cases, light weight comforters and headrest covers add a home away from home atmosphere.
The screens are larger, with 12.1″ screen which makes viewing movies, shows or even the moving map a dream. The front row of the cabin offers the most space although they also feature bassinets meaning there is a higher chance of being sat near a baby during the flight. Although the TV screens are too far away to reach, meaning the use of the handheld controller is required.
At the front of the aircraft (there are is no First Class cabin on the A350-900) the business class is split into two smaller cabins in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration.
The forward of the two cabins features thirty seats, and the second smaller cabin only 8. The seats, at first look, could be easily misidentified as the current product, however Studio F.A. Porsche have managed to completely redesign the seat to offer a much updated product.
The design throughout the aircraft comes to life in the business class cabin, where bulkheads, toilets and cabin walls have all been given an extra special treatment to impart a luxurious atmosphere, that has design cues that match the new lounge products found in certain key airports.
The seats in real life are beautiful, and perhaps some of the best trim and finish we have seen in a business class cabin. Each seat retains the best features of the award-winning long haul business class product, such as sculpted seat wings, large cocktail table and a seat that can track forward for travellers in the centre seats travelling together.
The seat now turns into an amazingly large flat sleeping surface. Certain seat areas have been redesigned, such as a storage area next to the seat that forms part of the bed, and an enhanced side wing that can support more passenger weight which is a huge improvement on the previous seat.
The large 18.5″ screen is now cantilevered, similar to those found in the first class cabin of Etihad, which means the screen now not only swings out to the passenger, but simultaneously shifts back, to provide greater viewing distance to the passenger.
This is also supported by a smaller 4.3″ video handset which allows passengers to multi-task on the IFE system while still enjoying whatever they may be watching on the larger screen.
The toilets in the business class cabin feature clean lines, and a very luxurious trim and detail, with the front toilets also featuring a window. A lovely addition, however, this could potentially cause upset to passengers in the front row of the cabin, who are now literally next to the toilet.
On some night flights, when it is actually daylight outside, the window if opened could flood the cabin with light, and those in the front row taking the most of the brunt. On the other hand, passengers in the front row of the second, more intimate cabin won’t suffer from this, yet will still benefit from what will feel like enhanced passenger space, due to the bulkhead design meaning the passengers feet slip into the galley architecture.
All in all, we are impressed with the attention to detail, contemporary interiors, technological advancements that all sit in line with Cathay’s philosophy of ‘considered simplicity’ where advancements have been made to improve passenger experience rather than hinder them. We for one, cannot wait to try the aircraft out first hand.