Cathay Pacific Is Revamping Meal Service In Business Class

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

While Cathay Pacific is generally regarded as one of the best airlines in the world, I haven’t been terribly impressed by their longhaul business class product. While they have excellent reverse herringbone seats throughout their longhaul fleet, there’s not much else that’s great about the experience.

Their service flow has always felt robotic and impersonal to me, as everyone is served at the same time off a cart, and you really just feel like you’re part of an assembly line. The airline has realized this weakness for a while, and has been trying to figure out the best way to improve. They want to make sure that they can actually deliver on whatever permanent changes they make.

For example, last year Cathay Pacific offered dine on demand on select routes as a trial, and apparently it didn’t go well, because the airline decided against expanding the concept. I can appreciate that they were at least realistic — it’s unfortunate that they felt they couldn’t make it work, but I’d rather that then have them add it and the service flow is then a disaster. As I’ve explained in a previous post, a dine on demand concept doesn’t work for all airlines.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Cathay Pacific’s new business class dining experience

Cathay Pacific isn’t introducing dine on demand in business class, but rather is trying to revamp the way in which they serve meals to add flexibility. They say that the new meal service should offer a restaurant style experience. What should passengers expect?

  • The way in which crews interact with passengers should improve, as they’ll no longer be using trolleys, but rather passengers will have more opportunities to interact with crew one-on-one, and will be brought their dishes individually
  • The presentation of food should be improved greatly, as flight attendants will plate dishes themselves; previously the dishes came pre-loaded, crews would just place them in the oven, and then serve them as is
  • There will be more variety, as they’ll have three appetizers and up to six main courses to choose from
  • There will be more flexibility, as there will be options for those who want a lighter or healthier meal, rather than giving passengers no choice
  • On overnight flights there will be breakfast cards, so that passengers can place their order for breakfast before going to sleep, including the option to have a full breakfast, a light breakfast, or just a coffee and a pastry

While this new service isn’t anything revolutionary (at least from a service flow perspective), it’s a massive improvement over what Cathay Pacific currently offers, especially in terms of the additional variety and more personalized service. Here’s to hoping they can train the crews on this new service flow well so that it’s not a total mess. Fortunately the airline seems to be doing lots of testing of the new service procedure, which will hopefully lead to a smooth rollout.

If you want to read more about the general philosophy of the new service concept, check out Cathay Pacific’s internal magazine, “The Journey,” where they describe it in more detail. Here’s part of how they describe the new service:

The way we serve our customers in Business is set to change. CEO Rupert Hogg says: “With increased competition and changing customer expectations, it’s time to evolve to ensure we offer an experience that meets and exceeds those expectations.”

The new Business service puts Cathay Pacific’s heartfelt service at its centre.

There will be a change to a “restaurant-style” service – food will be plated in the galleys and taken to customers individually, rather than entrées being heated and served in the same dish and delivered from a trolley.

But what’s really important is how the food service is conducted. General Manager Inflight Service Delivery Ed Higgs says: “The focus will be more on the interactions cabin crew have with customers during the service and the memorable experiences that come from those.”

Ed adds: “The change comes in response to feedback from our customers. They told us they wanted to see an improvement in food quality, better presentation, more choice and more personalisation of service.”

When will Cathay Pacific’s new business class service be available?

Unlike Cathay Pacific’s previous dine on demand trial, this isn’t an experiment, but rather the airline is committed to rolling it out. However, they plan on doing so progressively, given that it will require additional crew training. Here’s Cathay Pacific’s timeline for rolling out their new business class service by destination:

  • July 2017 — ORD
  • August 2018 — LGW
  • September 2018 — FRA, MAN, IAD
  • October 2018 — AMS, CDG, JNB
  • November 2018 — MAD, BRU, BCN
  • December 2018 — LHR
  • January 2019 — BOS, EWR
  • February 2019 — AKL, SYD, DUB, MXP, FCO
  • March 2019 — LAX, SFO, TLV
  • April 2019 — JFK, YVR, YYZ
  • May 2019 — CNS, BNE, ADL, MEL, PER
  • June 2019 — DXB, BAH, MLE, ZRH

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Bottom line

I can’t wait to see these positive changes to Cathay Pacific’s business class meal service introduced over the coming months.

On top of the new meal service, Cathay Pacific is also rolling out Gogo 2Ku wifi throughout their fleet, which should be available fleetwide by 2020. That makes a huge difference for business travelers as well. Late last year Cathay Pacific also trialed offering mattress pads in business class, though as far as I know that hasn’t been expanded further.

What do you make of Cathay Pacific’s new business class meal service?

(Tip of the hat to @JournoDannyAero)

  1. Three app choices. Six entree choices. Lighter options. Heavier options. How many people do they estimate will actually get what they want? Seems like a nightmare waiting to happen

  2. I was never bothered much by the way they serve the food. I am consistently disappointed by WHAT they serve and really hope they work on improving the quality of the food.

  3. To be honest, on my last flight from NRT back to HK on business, the food they served is just a dismal. The steak, my goodness, i thought i was chewing a rubber. I hardly complain on presentation and portion, but both are just awful. It’s like economy class food put on the business class cutlery…

    Seriously, whatever they will revamp, i have no expectation on CX as the management has been focusing on how to cut cost. The only good thing about the CX J is the seat and the attentive FAs, that’s all.

  4. FINALLY! Honestly, I’ve started avoiding Cathay biz class, mainly for this reason. They’re regarded as such a great airline for business passengers but I really can’t stand the food. I don’t like that they serve everything in those ceramic ramekins and there’s just really no thought that goes into the meal or the service, plus it’s really not very tasty, either. So glad to see this change as I think it will improve their product greatly.

  5. In the list of changes, quality isn’t mentioned. They’re trying everything that doesn’t involve paying more for the food.

  6. I have mixed feelings. Most of CX’s east coast flights leave 1-2am, so I’m honestly not interested in a “restaurant” service but rather a “quick” service so I can get to sleep. Also, the combination of options sounds like a nightmare for catering logistics — only F gets all options catered for all pax so the likelihood that a customer won’t have their first choice increases with each option unless they are also planning to allow meal selection in advance.

    Second the comments that declining food quality is a more pressing concern than personalization of service. I honestly don’t care if they wheel a cart of aluminum buffet tins Air India-style if the food is actually good.

  7. It seems like a rather drawn out schedule for implementation, even considering the extra training. Expanding the number of choices is great on the surface, but it won’t mean much if they run out. I wonder how they’ll deal with catering enough appetizers/mains without overdoing it and having too much waste.

    @lucky – Also, “…but I’d rather that then have them add it and the service flow is then a disaster.”
    should be
    “…I’d rather that THAN…” 😉 It’s a bit surprising, since you’re usually good with avoiding these mistakes! :-p

  8. The timeline would suggest that ORD has already been getting this service for 11 months?

  9. One other comment that I have is that is in CX business class, they don’t have “competitive” bedding for their long-haul flights! There is no mattress pad and the pillow and duvet isnt as good as other long-haul business class airlines. If they provided a mattress pad– it would really make those long overnight flights to HKG much more competitive.

  10. Typo error: ORD 2018? I’m going to change my award ticket so I can fly from hkg to ord instead to LAX!

  11. @Michael
    Wholeheartedly agree. CX foods are terrible, even in F. They should spend more thoughts and MONEY in improving the food quality (and the wines in J.) Just pouring Krug in F is not going to cut it other than AS sweet spot makes it still worthwhile.

    Can’t agree more. The CX J seats are old and very hard. Their bedding is worse than the new AA bedding which we just flew MXP-MIA and were very pleased. Also AA J foods on long hauls actually are better than what CX feeds you. Shocker to many I am sure but that is how it is these days.

  12. The MAIN problem BY FAR is the quality of the food, not the flow or the number of options. The taste and quality are consistently shocking.

  13. See, I disagree about CX’s food. I know the food is an average aspect of an otherwise excellent J product, but I generally enjoy it. The Chinese options are generally better than the Western options. The congee for breakfast is always good and the stir fry dishes are always really tasty. Some of the regular Western dishes are good too – they had a lamb and rosemary pie with roast vegetables which was always excellent. I can’t remember being served anything I would describe as “shocking” in J.

    I agree they could improve the service and more flexibility is always welcome, but I think the complaints about CX’s food are overdone (pun intended). If you really think it is that bad, you must be devasted flying US domestic.

  14. @Edward “The steak, my goodness, i thought i was chewing a rubber”

    Chewing rubber……ewwww
    Chewing A rubber……EWWWW

  15. Service flow notwithstanding, do people actually enjoy the food in CX J? It’s always so damned salty.

  16. I flew them in January. I kind of liked the main course service followed by the “order whenever you want” option, but yes, the food quality wasn’t anything to write home about. Any positive changes will be welcome.

  17. CX long haul haul business class food is worse than the food offered in premium economy class (long haul) of EVA Air

  18. Eva food is pretty good

    I am glad they didn’t go with dine on-demand. It is disruptive and I prefer meals to be something of a ritual throughout the cabin. I wonder in practice too how many passengers really want to eat at different time. I doubt more than 25%.

  19. An idea of “Dine On Demand” sounds nice to ears.

    But the reality would be 40-50 J passengers ordering meals throughout 12+ hour flight that comes with all the non stop noise from the galley, silverware noise while passenger dining, the food smell, crew walking “thumps”. It would be an pain for business/frequent travelers.

    It works F in single digit number of seats. Not J with 40-50+ seats.

    As CX has squeezed seats as much as possible in the cabin in the past few decades, I assume that they must have had squeezed the galleries as small as they could. Not to mention the manpower. The service can be enchanced only when appropriate manpower and working environment/equipments are provides to crew.

    Let’s see how it’s going to turn out!

  20. Fortunately I have had excellent (albeit always Asian) food on CX and I am glad that they are not going with dine on demand because that never works properly on EY or QR, which appear to be the ones every one raves about. On several EY flights over the last 12 months, I have never once experienced the dine on demand at the time I had requested. So I avoid flying them just because of that.

    Historically, there was thought put into the timing of food service on long haul flights to help passengers adjust to time zones but I realise that has degraded to one major meal and one minor meal on long haul flights. That appears to work for some and not for others. First world problems, I guess!

  21. I think this sounds really nice in theory, but too difficult to achieve in real life. In my opinion they should improve the quality of their food. From my experience flying with them, the food is just okay. For the level of airline that it is, the food should be improved. That would be a much more realistic improvement.

  22. Such soft service improvements are a much needed improvement to compliment their excellent hard product. An improved meal service in J with a little crew warmth would go a long way to restoring CX’s premium reputation.

  23. Took a business class on CX from sfo – HK- CGK on 8/19/18. The foods quality and services were just like being in economy class with 3x the price. How dissapointing! Yikes.
    On my way back, JAL’s overall services and foods quality were so much better.

  24. Hello lucky, I recently took the new Cathay Pacific J class food service flights from Chicago O’Hare to HKG in August. On both legs of the journey, the service was extremely slow even though I was sitting in the forward smaller business class compartment which got served first. The food arrived cold and extended periods of time passed between courses and collection of dishes. Requests made to individual cabin crew for example, for an additional glass of wine or water refill or anything else was delivered by another cabin sometime later if at all. Hopefully the learning curve will improve in the service gets better. It would be interesting to hear your review of the service and share your thoughts with everyone now that a good number of months have passed since the new service has been rolled out.

  25. Recently flown Cathay business from Auckland to Hong Kong and I was surprised how dismal the service was. All very stilted and the food was mostly tasteless. There was barely any service bar the food and drinks and seemed a pain to them when I asked for some mid flight ice cream.

  26. 1) How does this affect special meals? Would those pax be limited to whatever special meal was loaded and not allowed to choose from the “anytime” menu?

    2) When does SEA get the new menus?

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