What Are My Thoughts On Cathay Pacific’s Regional Business Class?

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A few days ago Jason wrote a post entitled “Is Cathay’s Regional Business Class That Bad?“. His points are beyond fair, as I know that I’m used to giving Cathay’s regional business class a really hard time.

img_2539Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class

I know that most travelers don’t have a need to lie flat on a short five-hour (tops) journey, so I get Jason’s perspective.

If you guys need some insight to what Jason and I actually think of Cathay Pacific’s business class products, here are all the reviews of their international reverse herringbone business class seat over the years:

DSCF4978Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Business Class

While I won’t be talking about these much, here are the reviews we have of Cathay Pacific’s first-generation fully flat business class product (some of the arguments still apply, though):

IMG_3003.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class

Meanwhile, here are the reviews we’ve given of the regional business class product:

DSCF6025Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Business Class

Now, Jason raises a few interesting points that I, ultimately, agree with, the main reasons being:

  • Why fault Cathay Pacific running regional seats that are fully capable of reclining on five-hour routes when Singapore Airlines runs regional seats on eight-hour routes?
  • Cathay Pacific’s regional business class is a solution that’s both somewhat comfortable and economically viable

Ultimately Jason is correct, but the goal of this blog is for people traveling on the routes we fly to make sensible travel decisions. So what do I think Cathay Pacific’s regional business class needs to become a sensible product that can measure up against the competition?

You wouldn’t want to be seated in the middle seat

Cathay Pacific’s 777 regional business class seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, which means that the E seat is a middle seat.

img_2242Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-200 Business Class

Yes, this is more economically viable, but I’m sure there are times when a premium economy window seat would sound good to the guy in the middle seat. Are you really paying for the bed when you’re flying business class on a short flight? No, you’re paying for personal spaceupright comfort and the ability to work. I’d argue that Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seats aren’t any better padded than their premium economy seats.

IMG_0575Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Premium Economy Class

I’ve consistently compared Cathay Pacific’s A350 premium economy product to their 777, as they aren’t far apart in legroom, are in similar configurations (2-4-2 vs. 2-3-2, so you’d get a little extra width in business class as expected), and the seats have similar storage gadgets.

IMG_0579Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Premium Economy Class

DSCF6031Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Business Class

Keep in mind that for a little extra width and a little extra recline, Cathay Pacific can go up to charging three times the price. I took the Hong Kong to Singapore route – the premium economy fares are around ~HK$5,000, and the business class fares are around ~HK$15,000.



Jason says that “other airlines do this too”. Well, there’s a reason they don’t put that middle seat in, isn’t there, Singapore Airlines/Thai?

IMG_7249Korean Air doesn’t have a premium economy cabin, though I do know some of their regional aircraft (and even longhaul aircraft) have angled lie-flat seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. Keep in mind their prices stay at around ~HK$7,000 tops, whereas you’re seeing double as much on Cathay Pacific

There’s no information about what product you’ll get at all, apart from three numbers by the side that don’t mean much to business travelers

When 90% of business travelers book flights, they book based on schedule. They have no idea that they’re flying on this type of business class configuration…

img_2540Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class

…when, for the same price and maybe a couple of hours earlier/later, they would be flying in this configuration.

IMG_0567Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Business Class

I’ve said this when my flights got equipped swapped twice (here and here) this year – there’s no way Cathay Pacific can manage expectations. My mom’s completely out of this industry, and she was surprised that people were paying twenty-five grand to sit in what was essentially a pimped out premium economy seat.

Or I guess I can’t call it that while being fair. I acknowledge that their regional business class goes much further back than their premium economy.

DSCF6132Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Business Class Reclined Seat

But again, can’t we use the same logic to say that if travelers are going to be reclined throughout the journey, they’d enjoy the added recline of a fully flat business class seat?

DSCF5064Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Business Class Bed

Again, it wouldn’t hurt to give a little picture of what the configurations would be like when they book their flights. If you don’t really care about the bed and need to converse with your seatmate and have a conversation, fine – there’s the option. It’s just not fine when you have a longer flight (the longest their regional seats go are five hours) and you’ve had two options, gone with one, and realised the other one had a much better product.

Does personal space matter?

You get a large cubicle of your own space, including direct aisle access, in your own reverse herringbone business class seat…

dscf4982Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Business Class Seat

…and around half that space in a regional business class seat.

DSCF6032Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Business Class Seat

That’s a lot of space you can set stuff aside in, put a book on, and stretch out on in your international business class seat that you’re not getting in your regional business class seat. I can comfortably plop my computer on the side when I’m working in a reverse herringbone seat when I need to eat, while I have to stow it away into the little side pocket when I’m in regional business class, as the armrest is shared. Technically, that’s fine with me, and just a tiny niggle.

But if you can, why not avoid it? That’s my major beef – Cathay Pacific completely blinding their customers to the ups and downs of what they’re going to be seated in. Of course, other airlines don’t do this, so I’m not exactly blaming Cathay Pacific – I’m just saying that since your seat can be easily checked by the seatmap, you should avoid the regional business class seat wherever possible, and Cathay Pacific hasn’t done a good job managing expectations, especially when equipment swaps go unnotified.

Bottom Line

No matter how long your flight is, most people can come to the consensus that business class is about the seat. When you have no choice, I admit that Cathay’s regional business class isn’t the end of the world, and is on par with what other airlines do. But when you have a choice, that’s where you should realize exactly how much the international business class shines over the regional business class.

When you choose a flight with international business class on purpose and you don’t get notified when there’s an equipment swap, especially when it’s early on, that’s when I start to get annoyed, and that’s the only time I’ve truly given the seat the complaints that Jason’s been talking about. Do many people care? No. But I’m sure the general public would agree with me that if you’ve booked yourself in an international business class seat, seeing a regional business class seat will be a little bit of a disappointment. The discrepancy between premium economy and business class only is the icing on the cake.

1 comment

  1. I completely agree, Cathay’s regional business J seat is junk— I would go so far as to say it is a scam, selling premium economy seating at business class price. If they were to cut the price of regional business J to the same price as economy, then it might make more sense— just as in economy, the regional business seat offers no lie-flat, no amenities, no personal space. On that last point, private space isn’t just a matter of preference— if your seat neighbor can see your laptop screen and its contents, that’s actually a compliance risk for many business travelers.

    I unintentionally flew this very Cathay regional business seat today, when my flight became code-share with Cathay. I was so shocked I searched on the web for an explanation (I thought they had somehow downgraded the entire business class!) and came upon this blog.

    When you’re tired from an hard work trip and you just want to squeeze in even a few hours of rest, it is severely disappointing to see a bus seat instead of lie flat.

    Not to mention in Asia, even the short haul flights can be uncomfortable because of turbulence— you need the lie-flat just to be comfortable, even if you don’t intend to sleep.

    Everyone should avoid Cathay until they retire these ridiculous regional business seats, or at least stop exporting these poor standard seats via code share flights with better airlines (SQ, JAL)— totally unacceptable.

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