Cathay Pacific US 747 Service Coming To An End

Cathay Pacific has been progressively retiring their 747s over the past couple of years, and for quite a while now their only remaining 747 service to the US has been on one of the two daily flights between San Francisco and Hong Kong. I’ve taken this exact flight on the 747 many times, including last November and this June, and have always enjoyed it.

It’s especially nice to snag seats 1A & 1K in the nose of the 747 when traveling with a companion.

Cathay Pacific 747 first class

We’ve all known the service would eventually end, and it looks like that date is now in sight. Per Cathay Pacific’s schedule, October 25, 2014, will be the last day of 747 service between San Francisco and Hong Kong. After that the flight that’s currently operated by a 747 will instead be operated by a 777-300ER in a three class configuration (business, premium economy, and economy).

That’s right, the 777-300ER replacing the 747 won’t have a first class cabin, which is especially disappointing since the 747s have nine first class seats, the most in Cathay Pacific’s fleet. To go from nine to six first class seats sucks, but to go from nine to zero is even worse. That represents a 60% reduction in first class seats in the market for Cathay Pacific.

For business class passengers this represents an upgrade, since the 747 was the only longhaul aircraft in Cathay Pacific’s fleet that didn’t feature the new business class product. That being said, the three cabin 777-300ERs are high density and only have 40 business class seats, while the four cabin 777-300ERs have 53 business class seats plus six first class seats, so this represents a huge capacity reduction as well.

Cathay Pacific’s new business class

As I wrote about in October, Cathay Pacific is getting progressively stingier with releasing first class award space. Up until earlier this year they’d usually release two first class award seats on most flights as soon as the booking window opened up, which is especially generous given that most of their first class cabins have just six seats. Unfortunately they’ve started opening up much less award space, and in most cases when they do release award space on the 777s it’s just one first class seat.

That was the one nice thing about the 747 — because it has nine first class seats they’ve continued to usually release two first class seats on the flight.

Two first class award seats on 747

So if you still want to sit in the nose of a Cathay Pacific 747 to/from the US, this is a good time to book!

(Tip of the hat to altimetr)

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific
  1. Ouch. Surprised they don’t see the demand for more biz though. Although there is a fair amount of competition on the route.

  2. @ mileswhore — In terms of planes with first class:
    LAX: 4x daily
    ORD: 1x daily
    YVR: 1x daily
    SFO: 1x daily
    JFK: 3-4x daily

  3. @ mileswhore — The remaining SFO flight, and for that matter all US bound flights with a first class cabin, are operated by 777-300ERs with six first class seats.

  4. Sad news. I have two trips on that SFO-HKG flight in F on the 747 next year.

    Will CX offer F in any SFO-HKG flights after they pull the 747s?

  5. My family of 5 are scheduled to fly the 747 from SFO to HK before Christmas, in First and Business. I am hoping to move up travel date if Cathay opens up more F seats. In your opinion, do you like the F in 747 better or 777? I guess with F down to 1x daily next Oct, I’d better fly F this time if I can get the seats.

  6. @ Sharon – How did you manage to get 5 seats before X-mas. I thought that was the toughest time to find award space. How early did you book and around what dates?

  7. @Sharon I have flown both. I preferred the 747 as I had a seat in row 1 and that is about as cool as it gets in my mind with the sort of forward looking view on take off and landing. Marginally nicer bathroom also on the 747. But I think you will be happy with either. Seat itself is the same.

  8. @Sharon, I think the 777 bathroom was better (I flew the new version though.) When I flew the 747 in first, there was always a line for the bathroom since a lot of business class pax were using them too. There was a curtain that separated them but the biz pax would always sneak in.

  9. As you well know Ben, Cathay Pacific is far from the only carrier to reduce or remove genuine First Class. With 7-8 years is suspect that only a tiny few premium routes will still have FC; it is the way of the industry for the vast majority of routes. Enjoy it while you can, because it is nearly history. It is all about revenue and very few will pay true FC fares, while many do pay for the also profitable BC. Points/miles are worth far less as well. I hope that you have a backup professional skill because the miles consultancy business is dying as I write… and anyone who has a substantial war chest of miles should be burning… That fun game is almost over.

  10. This is why I didn’t get all hot and bothered with UA’s f deval. Yes, they are two different alliances, but with fully flat j, there is much less justification for f. When the partners remove f or greatly reduce its availability, it simply doesn’t matter what the us carriers do in terms of mileage cost. The trend is going to be much less f capacity in he future… And more premium Y.

  11. Lucky, what non-US routes does Cathay still offer FC on? Hopefully they won’t be getting rid of those as well.

  12. @lucky, I remember reading that article and because of it, I requested 2A 2K when I called Cathay exactly 6 months before the schedule travel date.

    And @Adam and @Joey, thanks for your input. I guess ultimately I will have to see what is available for the very few options I might have for the dates I want.

    @cavemen, I booked way back in Feb when AA’s reservation opened up. It was challenging to get all 5 of us together due to availability and my oldest daughter’s high school final schedule which I didn’t want to mess around. So we ended up flying separately, I will leaves 3 days earlier with 2 kids in Biz (which I think is sufficient for us), and my husband waits for the highschooler. The challenge really was the return flight from China back to SFO. I checked few times a day on and watched the Cathay availability disappearing in front of me everyday! But I knew I could always book AA from Shanghai to LAX to SFO on the first day it opens for reservation and it usually has six F seats on a Monday flight. I think I stayed up midnight for AA to load those seats into their system. It was stressful as I must get the highschooler back in time for school to starts on Wednesday. For HK to Shanghai, I used BA avios to fly biz on DragonAir.

    I am seeing seats available for purchase on Cathay’s website every day before our departure date, so I hope Cathay will open those seats for award redemption if they aren’t sold by then.

  13. A Quick question for CX award specialists..
    CX still releases far ahead 2 F seats on some intra Asian route (still offering F service).
    If both awards are booked, do you expect that they will release further F award seats in case they don’t get any revenue tickets ?
    Would this happen few days / weeks before departure ?

  14. I can’t edit so I’m adding: Whoops, the above article is dated 15 November so you may have seen it already. I’ve been traveling the past couple of weeks and I’m behind on things.

  15. @Sharon
    Thank you for sharing your experiences in redeeming miles with school-age children. Booking families on same flight in different classes of service, chasing tail #s looking to avoid old F and old C on LH, splitting PNRs and paying change fees to upgrade adults while ensuring award space exists for kids, canceling booked awards trusting agent to be able to book the upgrade class of service, getting kiddos back on Sat/Sun for back-to-school are all nuances of travelling with large groups and kids, specifically, especially when trying to avoid US metal and economy service. Boarding Area would benefit from content targeting to travelling groups with school-age children. @trentswanson on twitter if you’d like to connect to share experiences. Thanks again.

  16. @ wwk5d — They still offer it on a vast majority of their 777-300ER routes, so most major destinations in Europe (London, Paris, Frankfurt, etc.) still have a first class cabin.

  17. @ Eddy — Yes, if seats go unsold, Cathay Pacific is still fairly good about releasing more award space as the departure date approaches.

  18. Lucky,

    I think the date is being brought forward – I had a HKG-SFO flight (CX870) on a 744 for late September 2014 and just got an email from AA (F award booking) saying there is a change that I need to contact them about. I haven’t contacted them yet but this is my guess.

    Expertflyer shows that on that day, CX870 is now being operated by a 77W with no F cabin. However the 77W operating CX872 on the same day does have an F cabin.

    The last day of 747 service from HKG-SFO is 31 August, 2014 according to the CX schedule.

    It’s a shame because I wanted to try CX 747 F before it became discontinued.

  19. Hi Ben

    I was looking at flights for March/april of 2015 for LAX to HKG. On the British airways search tools, its not showing the column marked for first class availability. Do you know if this is an issue with their new update or has Cathay switched that route to planes without a first class configuration?

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