While the performance, range and economy of the Airbus A321neo are spectacular, for passengers it’s what’s on the inside that matters – and they won’t be disappointed.
Cathay Pacific’s A321neos are thoroughly modern, connected, and beautifully specced aircraft. That includes 4K Ultra HD screens at every seat in both cabins – a first – and there are many of the comforts and amenities that you would expect to find on a long-haul, wide-body plane. We talk to some of the people who have made Cathay Pacific’s new A321neos the best short-haul flights in the skies.
There’s a sense of space across the cabins, accentuated by warm mood lighting, while closer examination reveals considered details at every seat to make flying a pleasure.
Take the baggage bins. Not the most exciting part of the aircraft experience, yet often the cause of anxiety at boarding – will there be enough space for your bag? Yes, is the short answer: the new Airbus XL bin provides more space for carry-on bags – in fact, 60 per cent more compared to the current A321. ‘This is an optional feature on the A321neo – you won’t find it on every airline,’ says Laurent Tremblay-Simard, Customer Experience Manager Inflight Premium Cabins for Cathay Pacific. ‘It’s a big change customers will notice straight away.’
The small, select Business cabin offers 12 seats in a 2×2 formation. The seats are perfectly formed; they offer width, comfort and an electronically controlled recline with leg support. Best of all, ‘our aircraft has the best privacy level of any other regional business product,’ says Tremblay-Simard. That’s thanks to a sliding screen between seats – and as the seats are mounted in a shell, reclining increases privacy further without encroaching on the seat behind.
There are multiple stowage options, with cup, bottle and digital tablet holders, while the star feature is a 15.6-inch 4K HD screen, up from a standard HD 12-inch screen. To charge your own devices, each seat offers an AC power outlet, plus USB-A and USB-C sockets. You’ll receive complimentary noise-cancelling headphones – and in a first, you’ll be able to connect your own Bluetooth earphones as well, progressively introduced across the planes.
There’s a real long-haul feel in the Economy cabin. Eyes are drawn straight away to the familiar-looking seats arranged in a 3×3 alignment. These are the same seats that are found on Cathay Pacific’s widebody A350-1000, with a few tweaks for their role.
‘As this is a single-aisle aircraft, the seats have been optimized for regional travel,’ says Tremblay-Simard. The optimisation sees the finessing of seat cushions to get the balance between comfort and legroom for flights of up to six hours. The headrest is a simplified version of those found on the A350-1000, while still offering the popular neck-support feature. Seats are a comfortable 18-inch width, while pitch – the space between seats – is 29-30 inches.
Charge your device via USB-A or USB-C outlets, and store them on the seatback cup and tablet holder that can be used without opening out the tray table. That frees up more space to relax and enjoy the clarity and detail of a movie on the 11.6-inch 4K ultra HD screen, upgraded from the 9-inch HD screens of previous aircraft. And just like in Business, you’ll be able to link up your own earphones via Bluetooth, a feature being progressively introduced across the planes.
Phrases like state-of-the-art can be overused, but in this case it stands up. Cathay Pacific’s A321neos are packed with the latest technical goodies that you would expect to find on a long-haul aircraft.
‘We rolled out connectivity on most of the Cathay Pacific widebody aircraft, and it was important for us to bring that experience on to the A321neos,’ says Tremblay-Simard. All the aircraft are Wi-Fi connected with the latest Gogo 2Ku satellite-based broadband inflight connectivity, the same found on the Boeing 777 fleet. And because this aircraft is flying regionally, strong consistent satellite coverage means it’s easy to check emails, browse, post and shop online.
Cathay Pacific’s A321neos are the first aircraft to offer a 4K Ultra HD experience throughout the aircraft. ‘A 4K screen is amazing if you buy one for your home,’ says Tremblay-Simard. ‘But 4K on an aircraft means you are so close to the screen that you can’t help but really notice the difference.’
As for what’s on – ‘It’s one thing having the screen, but you have to have the content to go with it,’ says Simon Cuthbert, Cathay Pacific’s Customer Experience Manager – Entertainment, Platforms and Connectivity. ‘We offer one of the largest entertainment libraries in the sky, and there’s more and more 4K content on the way.’
Expect the same-sized library you would expect to find on the Cathay Pacific long-haul fleet, with the latest Hollywood blockbusters, the largest collection of Chinese movies and subtitles in the skies, plus TV box sets, content to help you relax from Calm, and music playlists and podcasts.
‘Watching a 4K movie inflight has to be seen to be believed,’ adds Cuthbert. ‘On the A321neo, your flight won’t feel long enough.’