Saturday, December 18, 2010


I was surprised to read Cathay Pacific's (CX) announcement of yet another new business class configuration.

It doesn't seem that long ago (certainly not a standard product generation) that the airline launched its herringbone product, following Virgin Atlantic's lead, and the similar configurations subsequently rolled out by Air Canada, Delta, Jet Airways and Air New Zealand (licensed from Virgin Atlantic).

I flew in Cathay's herringbone seat a few years ago between JFK and Hong Kong and, to be honest, I thought it was bloody terrific. I was working for Virgin Atlantic at the time and had fairly low expectations of the Cathay seat  for the following reasons:

  1. I was working for a competitor
  2. Our sales manager reported high levels of dissatisfaction from the local Chinese VFR market used to a much more conventional business class product
My own experience was brilliant. Very comfy. Great food and one of the best Inflight Entertainment (IFE) systems I'd ever seen. The 16 hour + sector literally flew by and I landed in HKG well-rested, fed and entertained. It felt very familiar, and was so good it annoyed me considerably.

The herringbone configuration works so well for Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class because (generalisation here) the type of passenger it attracts likes a chat. The cabin is designed in such a way as to encourage you to get up and walk around. Sure, you have a seat but there's a sit-down bar at the back of the cabin, and every suite has an ottoman seat (equipped with a seatbelt) for a guest. It's very much, Hi, do you mind if I join you?

I did get a sense, however, that the similar facing-each-other across the aisle configuration (see below) was disconcerting for a number of passengers on my flight. It's just not Cathay Pacific. No's just not what the airline is about.

So, it's no surprise really that Cathay appears to have taken some herringbone benefits (direct aisle access, space efficiency), and turned the configuration in on itself. Passengers on the window side of the aisle will now face the windows (that sounds nice), and those in the centre of the aircraft will face, well, the centre of the aircraft.

The image below kind of tells the story.

The crew certainly seem happier with the new configuration, andI'm sure this will offer a much more satisfactory inflight experience for your average CX business class passenger.

Not too risque, but sensible and practical without the risk of any unwelcome flirtations across the aisle anymore.

Seems to back up the claims of one airline that your airline's either got it, or it hasn't.

You know what I mean? 

Thanks to Neil McDonald for the CX herringbone image from
Thanks to ETravelBlackboard for the new CX Business Class pic

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