Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines (SIA) have unveiled major revamps of their long-haul product offerings that they claim will put them well ahead of the competition.

SIA's new products will debut in December when it puts its first Boeing 777-300ERs into service, while Hong Kong-based Cathay will start installations on existing long-haul aircraft in January. SIA's Airbus A380s, to be delivered from late next year, will also feature similar products with some enhancements to be unveiled later.

SIA's new first class will feature leather seats that are 35in wide and which will be able to be converted into "full-sized" flat beds. Its new business class will feature 30in-wide forward-facing seats that will also recline to fully-flat positions. The carrier says both seats will be the widest in the industry.

SIA is also introducing new wider economy class seats that will recline in a way that does not affect passengers behind as much as existing seats.

Cathay says its new first class product will increase individual privacy, "creating the ambience and convenience of a five-star hotel room". The seat will convert into a bed that is "believed to be the largest provided on any commercial airline".

Its business class will also feature a full lie-flat seat, as opposed to the angled lie-flat seat the airline introduced in 2001. It also says that "the cabin employs a fishbone layout that allows unrestricted aisle access from each seat".

Cathay's new economy class will arguably be its most innovative new feature. The airline says it will be the first to offer a seat which has a "fixed back" design similar to a mini business class seat, allowing "the passenger to recline without intruding on those seated behind".

The new economy seats also feature a three-point seat belt, a literature pocket located below the seat to create more legroom and a larger television monitor and tray table. "Economy class travel will be revolutionised by our new cabin design," the carrier claims.

SIA executive vice-president Huang Cheng Eng says SIA plans to charge more for flights on which its new products will be offered. "There will be some pricing differential," he says, adding there will be a premium of "10-20% over the price of the seat on the existing aircraft". SIA's Singapore-Paris service will be the first to receive the upgrade followed by Singapore-Zurich.

SIA senior executive vice-president operations and services Bey Soo Khiang adds that "as we innovate we expect our competitors to catch up to us", requiring it to refresh its offerings now.

Cathay and SIA will also be upgrading their in-flight entertainment offerings. SIA's new system will feature more than 1,000 on-demand options and will have business applications built in, such as word processor and spreadsheet software. USB ports will enable passengers to save their work to flash memory drives and handsets will have built-in full keyboard "thumbboards".

The two carriers have been trendsetters in the in-flight entertainment and services sector, with both offering personal monitors in all classes for several years. Their new products will likely be matched by competitors.

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Cathay and SIA are improving economy legroom and introducing wider seats in business class

Source: Airline Business