Is Cathay’s Regional Business Class That Bad?

Cathay Pacific’s regional business class appears to be a source of constant scrutiny from travelers (including Alvin), alongside their catering services. It’s constantly been referred to as a disappointing product, with criticism surrounding seat comfort. However, given that Cathay seems to have an abundance of haters, I thought I’d bite the bullet and do a breakdown of the seat to see if it’s as bad as the pundits say it is.

img_2538.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class

Cathay’s regional business class is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration aboard their Airbus A330 aircraft, and in a 2-3-2 configuration aboard their Boeing 777 aircraft. While Cathay’s A330 seats are pretty standard amongst the industry in terms of cabin density, Cathay has an extra middle seat aboard their Boeing 777’s in contrast to competitors including Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines.

While it’s certainly not nice to get a middle seat on a flight in business class, it’s not the end of the world. Cathay’s regional business class is generally very spacious with ample separation between seats. Middle seat passengers also receive extra storage as compensation for being stuck in the crappy seats. It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s not a horror story.

Most importantly, it’s noteworthy that Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines have very wide aisles aboard their Boeing 777’s, given that they’re missing a whole seat in the middle of the aircraft, so adding an extra seat is a much better use of space than providing passengers with a lot of empty space.

IMG_5177.jpgCathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Business Class Regional Business Class (featuring the middle seat) 

Cathay offers a decent amount of legroom in the regional business class seat. While it’s not as much space as you’d find on Cathay’s internationally configured aircraft, it’s nice enough for the intra-Asian hops that the seats are rostered on.

img_2553Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class Legroom

In lieu of installing seats that went even somewhat flat, Cathay Pacific picked a recliner that reclines into a lounging position, much like a lazy-boy chair. It’s actually quite comfortable for relaxation, although the angle of the footrest makes it feel a little bit like sitting in a dentists chair. Overall, it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours seated.

Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 4.49.00 PM.pngCathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Regional Business Class Recline

While I’m happy with a recliner, this is something that Cathay Pacific gets a lot of criticism for, especially when Singapore Airlines offers an angled lie flat seat on much of their regional services. However, it’s important to stress that the Singapore Airlines regional seat is also used on some flights to Australia, which last around 8 hours. Meanwhile, the longest flight that Cathay flies these seats on lasts around 5 hours.

People have also slammed Cathay for not making the seat comfortable enough for sleeping. While it’s true that a recliner isn’t very comfortable for sleeping, I’d argue that it’s around on par with sleeping on an angled lie flat surface. While the seats aren’t flat or in a position that would even resemble a bed, angled lie flat seats can also be extremely uncomfortable for sleeping. They’re not called “wedgie-sleepers” for no reason…

IMG_1418Does that honestly look comfortable for sleeping? 

The seat also offers many very decent storage options. There’s a small pouch next to the entertainment screen that’s a perfect place to store an iPhone 5, which you can charge with the conveniently located USB port right next to the pouch. Unfortunately, it’s too small to fit any phone larger than or equivalent to the iPhone 6.

img_2552Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Business Class Storage Pouch

There’s also a small storage area underneath the simple seat controls where you can easily store an iPad or even a small laptop. You’ll also find a headphone jack, which is two pronged in the area. I wish Cathay would allow customers to use their own headphones, as the ones they offer with their Regional Business Class are uncomfortable and have horrible sound quality.

img_2602Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Regional Business Class Storage

There’s also a bi-fold tray table, which reminds a little of a table from Economy as it was pulled out from the seat in front of you. While it’s a perfectly adequate setup, my only gripe is that the “gears” of the table often get stuck, making it harder to pull the tray table out.

DSCF6044Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Regional Business Class Table

When the table is fully extended, there’s more than enough space to fit a very large laptop, as well as another drink.

DSCF6105Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Regional Business Class Table

As is expected, the seat has both Universal and USB power in easily accessible spaces, which is great for road warriors catching up on their work (or in my case, harried students struggling to finish up papers that were due a couple of months ago). Productivity is very important to the average Business Class traveller, so it’s something that Cathay has nailed.

Bottom Line: 

I really don’t understand the hate surrounding Cathay’s regional Business Class. While it would be fantastic if they offered fully flat seats across the board, that’s not necessarily economically viable. There has also been some speculation that Cathay will introduce a new regional Business Class product alongside tighter seating in Economy, but that’s still a couple of years into the future. However, for the time being, a comfortable, well-designed seat is a perfectly adequate way to get around Asia.

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4 thoughts on “Is Cathay’s Regional Business Class That Bad?

  1. Fully agree with this. I’ve flown this seat around 8 times this year between HK and Singapore and Shanghai. Totally fine for regional flights.

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  2. Adequate, absolutely, but CX charges top dollar for its business product – for those who are paying “adequate” doesn’t cut it

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    1. @ gl – And there you have my opinion, which is that the discrepancy between Cathay Pacific’s regional and international products are much too wide. I mean, why would you pay for a regional product when you get an international reverse herringbone business class product for the same price? Remember that both times I’ve given stick to the product, I’d been equip-swapped from the international seats to the domestic seats (first time from a 777-300ER to a 777-300, and the second time from an A350 to a 777-200). It really isn’t worth the price especially when you’re paying three times as much for what essentially is an enhanced premium economy product.

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      1. @alvinythk @gl – While it’s true that Cathay Pacific charges astronomical amounts of their product, it’s not like they’re offering a sub-par product. It’s still a product that’s well above the industry average. While passengers may receive more value with reverse herringbone seating, it’s not like most regional travellers need a fully flat seat. The current seat allows travellers to both relax and work comfortable which is ultimately what matters to the average regional business traveller.

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