Cathay Pacific Removing First Class From Boeing 777-300ERs

Cathay Pacific Removing First Class From Boeing 777-300ERs

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Cathay Pacific plans to remove first class from its Boeing 777-300ERs as it installs a new business class product, which has some pretty major implications…

Cathay Pacific eliminating first class with business class retrofit

Cathay Pacific is in the process of introducing a new Boeing 777-300ER business class product, which will be known as Aria Suites. This is a significant upgrade over the carrier’s current 777 business class, and it’s one of the most anticipated new business class products. The plan is for the first aircraft with new cabins to be in service in the coming months.

New Cathay Pacific Aria Suites business class

One question up until now has been what will happen to the carrier’s existing Boeing 777-300ER first class, which is generally very well regarded. We know that Cathay Pacific eventually plans to introduce a new first class product, which will be known as Halo Suites, but that’s only planned for Boeing 777-9s (the next generation 777 aircraft, which hasn’t yet been certified).

We now have our answer. Cathay Pacific will be retrofitting all existing Boeing 777-300ERs to introduce Aria Suites, and as that happens, first class will be removed from these aircraft.

Current Cathay Pacific 777 first class

It’s expected that all of these will be reconfigured over roughly three years, between mid-2024 and mid-2027. In the future, Cathay Pacific will exclusively have first class on Boeing 777-9s. The airline has 21 of these jets on order, and they’ll start to be delivered in late 2025 at the earliest.

I’m curious how the first class swap is executed

Logically, it makes perfect sense that Cathay Pacific would remove its old first class as the airline installs its new business class. Cathay Pacific is an airline dedicated to quality, and no matter how you slice it, it’s not very luxurious to have a nearly two decade old first class suite alongside a brand new business class product.

This is also in line with Cathay Pacific’s long term strategy, since the airline only wants first class on a subset of its fleet, and the 21 Boeing 777-9s on order meet that need, flying to key global hubs.

What I’m curious about here is how exactly this strategy will be implemented:

  • Will Cathay Pacific intentionally first reconfigure its 777-300ERs without first class, to keep the existing first class flying for as long as possible?
  • When will Cathay Pacific actually take delivery of its first 777-9s? Cathay Pacific isn’t the launch customer, and the aircraft is not even certified, so with the increased scrutiny on Boeing, one can’t help but wonder
  • Will there be a period where Cathay Pacific offers no first class at all? At a minimum I’m confident there will be a period where Cathay Pacific has at most a very small first class feet, as it’s not like Cathay Pacific will have 20+ 777-9s flying in the next few years
  • Will Cathay Pacific keep all of its first class facilities open throughout this transition, including The Pier First Lounge and The Wing First Lounge in Hong Kong?
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Lounge Hong Kong

Ultimately this seems like a smart strategy on Cathay Pacific’s part, and the airline is doing what it can to manage the delay of five years (so far) on the 777-9.

I guess mentally I’m just prepared for the 777-9 to not actually enter service in 2025, or even 2026, or 2027, given that Boeing can’t even get the 737 MAX 7 or 737 MAX 10 certified. Admittedly those planes are requiring some redesign, but it doesn’t change the fact that the 777-9 was designed under the same leadership team behind these jets, so we’ll have to see how this plays out…

Bottom line

Cathay Pacific will soon start introducing its new Aria Suites business class on Boeing 777s. The airline will install this product throughout its 777-300ER fleet, and as that happens, we can expect first class to be eliminated on the planes that do feature first class.

So eventually no 777-300ERs will have first class, but rather the plan is that first class will once again make an appearance on the 777-9s, which will be delivered… well, at some point. Who knows, because we’re talking about Boeing.

It’s anyone’s guess how small Cathay Pacific’s first class fleet gets for some time, as it all depends on Cathay Pacific’s aircraft retrofit speed, plus Boeing’s ability to deliver the 777-9. I think it’s safe to assume the first class fleet will at some point be down to under 10 aircraft. The question is whether there will be a period where Cathay Pacific has no planes with first class — I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

What do you make of Cathay Pacific’s first class plans?

Conversations (40)
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  1. Sandra Mawson Guest

    It sounds like a lot of time has been spent in improving business class, where airlines make a lot of money. But it would be good if they could improve their economy class seating plane. Recently flew from Hong Kong to London Heathrow and was crammed in like sardines. I am only 5ft 3ins but could hardly move. Will never fly with or recommend Cathay Pacific again.

  2. Anthony Joseph Guest

    It's okay that they discontinue FC seats, but I hope the new business class seats will be on par with Qatar and ANA BC seats. What has been disappointing with Cathay is the horrible menus and service in general (even before COVID) on the aircraft that were launched without FC as in the Airbus 350.
    Also, haven't seen much award inventory of economy class except for occassional availability last minute on Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

  3. Chad Guest

    I flew a CX 777-300ER First class BOS-HKG (as an award flight, ha) and while it was wonderful I do wonder the real distinction between F and J and to how many people that can really be sold. It's fun to have meals-on-demand, but beyond the caviar and I assume what was slightly better champagne and amenities bag it's really hard to see how many people are going to want F over a J lie-flat...

    I flew a CX 777-300ER First class BOS-HKG (as an award flight, ha) and while it was wonderful I do wonder the real distinction between F and J and to how many people that can really be sold. It's fun to have meals-on-demand, but beyond the caviar and I assume what was slightly better champagne and amenities bag it's really hard to see how many people are going to want F over a J lie-flat seat with sufficient privacy. I think a few routes are going to see Emirates style "rooms" but otherwise it's hard to imagine the kinds of airfare even halfway reasonable people can be convinced to shell out 3-5x the airfare for.

  4. Pete Guest

    Of course they'll keep the lounges open at Hong Kong. Where else would the voracious, entitled hordes of OneWorld Emeralds traveling in business & economy class have to pose if they were closed?

  5. ClownDancer Guest

    Ben, you write: “I’m curious how the first class swap is executed.”
    It is executed the same way communists have always executed those who fly first class. Blind folded. Hands tied behind back. On knees in front of a huge public audience.
    You are welcome.

    1. Troy Schwamb Guest

      It's all so similar to the enslaved people who build the wonderland cities of the Middle East! I must travel worldwide for business but try to stick with UA or DL. I've had Chinese friends who have just vanished, as well as a gay fellow we can't seem to get out of jail in a particular Middle Eastern country. It is strange that these travel rags never consider writing about the safety of their readers....

      It's all so similar to the enslaved people who build the wonderland cities of the Middle East! I must travel worldwide for business but try to stick with UA or DL. I've had Chinese friends who have just vanished, as well as a gay fellow we can't seem to get out of jail in a particular Middle Eastern country. It is strange that these travel rags never consider writing about the safety of their readers. China isn't even recommended by our government as a safe place to visit despite the caviar on oyster spoons!

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Fearmongers over China (with questionable story that may or may not have even happened)...

      ...ignores 58 people per day (excluding suicides and adjudicated self-defense) getting killed in his own country:

      https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/04/26/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/

      ...yet wonders why "travel rags" don't focus on countries with less homicides per capita and in total.

      Strange.

  6. Henry Guest

    Well , it probably will not make any difference with just cancelling first class completely as who knows if these 779s will ever come to the market lol

  7. observer Guest

    Maybe another sign of Air China takeover in the works.
    I still miss Cathay's 747 - always trying to book seat 2A arriving at JFK as the plane takes a right turn to align with the runway, you can see almost the entire runway like you are in the cockpit. In general by far my most favourite subsonic aircraft.
    I can still see CX Cargo 747 daily, passing over my balcony - engine...

    Maybe another sign of Air China takeover in the works.
    I still miss Cathay's 747 - always trying to book seat 2A arriving at JFK as the plane takes a right turn to align with the runway, you can see almost the entire runway like you are in the cockpit. In general by far my most favourite subsonic aircraft.
    I can still see CX Cargo 747 daily, passing over my balcony - engine noise so recognizable.
    I guess we should be happy, having lived in the glory days of mileage earnings and redemptions - even if it meant suffering through a couple of million miles flying on AA to earn them.

  8. Bill n DC Diamond

    Well I’m glad I’ve booked CX First for October Round the World. JFK HKG HND on outbound - 160K CX miles. Then QR 1st on CX B77W DOH HKG. then HKG HND again :-)

    Get me to the Wing Cabana!

    1. Mick Guest

      Bill, was there more availability on CX miles than Alaska was showing?
      How do you generate all your points?! I’m envious of your itineraries!

  9. Lee Guest

    Ben, is the Aria the same business class suite that Air France is putting in its 777-300ERs?

  10. Randy Diamond

    Perhaps CX will stop selling FC when conversion starts, and just allow top elites in business class sit in the F seats.

    1. FMLAX Guest

      I've heard they will allow this! But only on domestic HK flights.

    2. Chris W Guest

      There are no domestic flights in Hong Kong lol.

  11. AS Guest

    There is zero Cathay first class availability on HKG-LHR on any date until October 28. This is on their largest first class route. Ive never seen anything like it.

  12. Julia Guest

    The question (for me anyway) is if first is reduced but not removed entirely for now, which routes will still keep first class? New York? London? Anywhere in Asia?

  13. pstm91 Diamond

    Scheduled to fly CX F (for the first time) in October, so I sincerely hope not!

  14. lavanderialarry Guest

    CX's 777-300ER First Class cabins are plush, but dated. The decision to remove them makes sense. Hong Kong as a business destination is dying a slow but steady death. No longer as relevant a hub of commerce or finance, that will continue to be the case. Hong Kong is simply another city in greater China nowadays, albeit a more expensive one. CX will eventually be just another China-based airline, perhaps even merged into one of the mainland carriers.

    1. ripty Guest

      It's unfortunate, but Hong Kong is no longer relevant in today's economy. Originally used as a way to circumvent trade restrictions between the West and China, now with free trade agreements between such countries, political unrest, and Beijing's desire to push for companies to directly enter the Chinese market, Hong Kong no longer has that 'special' advantage that drew all the international business in the first place.

      Honestly, China Southern, Hainan Airways and Cathay...

      It's unfortunate, but Hong Kong is no longer relevant in today's economy. Originally used as a way to circumvent trade restrictions between the West and China, now with free trade agreements between such countries, political unrest, and Beijing's desire to push for companies to directly enter the Chinese market, Hong Kong no longer has that 'special' advantage that drew all the international business in the first place.

      Honestly, China Southern, Hainan Airways and Cathay are best off to do a merger and base themselves in Hong Kong/Guangzhou/Shenzhen. Hainan Airways has one of the better products as a Chinese carrier but lacks the brand recognition that Cathay holds. If they merged under the Cathay brand, maybe Cathay could salvage it's dwindling product offering and turn a profit.

  15. Frank Guest

    The MAX 7 and MAX 10 require a major redesign to their engine inlets , that's why they are both are delayed to 2026/2027. This has no relation with the 777X . There is absolutely no indication of any major flaws on the 777X that could require the program to be delayed until 2027. The end of 2025 is about 2 years from now , which is still sufficient to have the jet certified . Rumours of delays to 2026/ 2027 is just baseless speculation

    1. ImmortalSynn Guest

      "There is absolutely no indication of any major flaws on the 777X that could require the program to be delayed until 2027"

      Other than abrupt uncommanded pitch change, leading to near-stall; to which the FAA has still not (publicly, anyway) indicated satisfaction with a fix thereto?

    2. Justin Guest

      That incident happened 3 years ago and made headlines, so resolving that must have been a work in progress over the last 3 years

  16. Ray Guest

    List of airlines waiting for the 777X:
    1. Emirates (launch customer);
    2. Lufthansa;
    3. Etihad Airways;
    4. Cathay Pacific;
    5. Qatar Airways;
    6. ANA;
    7. Singapore Airlines;
    8. British Airways;
    9. Air India

    Plus 2 cargo customers and unidentified customer(s). I'm glad I have Cathay F booked for next month, but Cathay management needs to be honest with themselves that there's a very real risk the...

    List of airlines waiting for the 777X:
    1. Emirates (launch customer);
    2. Lufthansa;
    3. Etihad Airways;
    4. Cathay Pacific;
    5. Qatar Airways;
    6. ANA;
    7. Singapore Airlines;
    8. British Airways;
    9. Air India

    Plus 2 cargo customers and unidentified customer(s). I'm glad I have Cathay F booked for next month, but Cathay management needs to be honest with themselves that there's a very real risk the 777X won't be certified in time. They could face the same capacity crunch that's plaguing Qatar right now. If delayed beyond 2025, I hope at least Singapore management will just install their supposedly ready new F Suites for the 777-300ER.

  17. Paul Guest

    I am thinking the change will be gradual, and hopefully there won't be a time when there is no single aircraft with First flying? As it is, there's already a gradual wind-down of First availability. When I was booking HKG-CDG for December, usually served once a day with a four-class 777-300ER, I notice the service will be replaced with an A350 without First. As of this month, First still exists on this route.

    By December,...

    I am thinking the change will be gradual, and hopefully there won't be a time when there is no single aircraft with First flying? As it is, there's already a gradual wind-down of First availability. When I was booking HKG-CDG for December, usually served once a day with a four-class 777-300ER, I notice the service will be replaced with an A350 without First. As of this month, First still exists on this route.

    By December, LHR will have just one aircraft with First daily, compared to two daily now.

  18. Jacob Guest

    Ha. Figures. Think I will stick with Japan Airlines instead. Cathaway Pacific has become a joke.

  19. Sinky Guest

    There will be ten four class 77W retained which will then be gradually withdrawn and retrofitted to three class on a 1-to-1 swap with the introduction of a four class 77X. All other four class 77W and existing three class 77W will be retrofitted as and when they come due. The first aircraft to be retrofitted will be a four class one.

    1. Jeff Guest

      This is important info. I hope that's right and that F stays on the premier routes. What's your source? I've got a seat booked in F from LAX-HKG at the very end of the year and hope that the LAX route won't be retrofitted yet. It's an interesting question for CX -- keep old F and old J on the premier routes or give them new J but no F?

  20. Mick Guest

    Almost impossible to find even Cathay business class space atm (especially out of Australia).

    In 2018 my two kids and I flew Ord to hkg in first and then biz to Australia on Cathay with a three day stopover for I think 70k Alaska miles. What a deal that was.

  21. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    At least they're doing it at a time when their frequencies to many of their longhaul intercon routes (that routinely saw First) are WAY down, compared to pre-pandemic. Will make it sting less. :(

  22. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    Really seems like your dragging out your latest review trip to a prolonged length Ben, or is it just me.

    Get to the KLM review already

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ RetiredATLATC -- I really appreciate your interest, but maybe a little perspective would be valuable. I've published three installments over the past four days, with two days being over the weekend. Each installment takes hours to write, way longer than any other blog post (between pictures, the amount of writing, etc.). I try to work a bit less over the weekend to be able to spend time with family.

      I'm sorry if I can't...

      @ RetiredATLATC -- I really appreciate your interest, but maybe a little perspective would be valuable. I've published three installments over the past four days, with two days being over the weekend. Each installment takes hours to write, way longer than any other blog post (between pictures, the amount of writing, etc.). I try to work a bit less over the weekend to be able to spend time with family.

      I'm sorry if I can't meet your expectations in terms of the timeline with which you want to read the reviews, and I really appreciate your interest, but I can't go any faster than that. I'm going as fast as I realistically can...

    2. RetiredATLATC Diamond

      Looks like it's just me, no offense meant Ben

    3. Ben L. Diamond

      "No offense meant," grumbles person who somehow reached retirement age without learning how to say "please" or "I'm sorry."

    4. RetiredATLATC Diamond

      True enough, I'm sorry for the flippant tone.

      In fairness there were a few laughing lighthearted emojis after the second sentence, but I guess they don't migrate into comments

    5. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Ben, I love reading your content. Sometimes I'm able to check-in a few times a day, sometimes I can't for a few days and enjoy catching up on the headlines. Spend time with Family and don't worry about people who have nothing better to do than to comment on blogs demanding content. Really.

      Also, just came back from a great trip in AA Biz Class from DFW to Frankfurt and the Moselle River Valley....

      Ben, I love reading your content. Sometimes I'm able to check-in a few times a day, sometimes I can't for a few days and enjoy catching up on the headlines. Spend time with Family and don't worry about people who have nothing better to do than to comment on blogs demanding content. Really.

      Also, just came back from a great trip in AA Biz Class from DFW to Frankfurt and the Moselle River Valley. TONS of mechanical issues/plane swaps/not working Wifi+Bathrooms. The older 787-800s that AA has are really falling apart, that or maintenance is dragging their feet. I mean, it was actually sad to live through.

      All the best!

    6. Sam Guest

      Yes. American wide bodies are falling apart and especially the 777-200’s with old & mildew, roaches etc etc. Flying back from Japan on a newer 78-900 which as completely full with two out of eight in-op toilets, two fully broken BC sears with pax in them, completely in-op video & music system, 100% in-op Wi-Fi system. A mess.

    7. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      That was the most polite way of saying "F#ck off, you're getting this for free" that I've ever seen.

      Serious kudos! :)

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ RetiredATLATC -- I really appreciate your interest, but maybe a little perspective would be valuable. I've published three installments over the past four days, with two days being over the weekend. Each installment takes hours to write, way longer than any other blog post (between pictures, the amount of writing, etc.). I try to work a bit less over the weekend to be able to spend time with family. I'm sorry if I can't meet your expectations in terms of the timeline with which you want to read the reviews, and I really appreciate your interest, but I can't go any faster than that. I'm going as fast as I realistically can...

13
lavanderialarry Guest

CX's 777-300ER First Class cabins are plush, but dated. The decision to remove them makes sense. Hong Kong as a business destination is dying a slow but steady death. No longer as relevant a hub of commerce or finance, that will continue to be the case. Hong Kong is simply another city in greater China nowadays, albeit a more expensive one. CX will eventually be just another China-based airline, perhaps even merged into one of the mainland carriers.

7
Ben L. Diamond

"No offense meant," grumbles person who somehow reached retirement age without learning how to say "please" or "I'm sorry."

6
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