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Cathay details issues with A350 business class seats

Cathay Pacific has detailed the issues with its Airbus A350-900s' interiors, and said that the entire business class cabin on its first three aircraft will be replaced with new seats in the coming months.

The first of the three jets – B-LRA, B-LRB and B-LRC – is already in the hangar for the retrofit, says Cathay's head of cabin engineering David Howgego in the airline's monthly magazine.

He explains that the issues with Cathay's business class seats arose as the seat supplier had "overcommitted themselves, struggling with a complicated supply chain, internal organisational issues and management changes". The seats are supplied by Zodiac Aerospace.

"The initial seats were hand-built prototypes, effectively…certain elements of the design were very challenging, with respect to certification and build, and the early seats just weren't there in terms of quality," says Howgego.

"We decided to push through to delivery as the aircraft were waiting and there were no near-term fixes available. All of the defects at delivery were recorded with contractual commitments in place to fix them later."

He says the main issues with the seats are with its armrests, which fall off their tracks and cannot be depressed to sit flush with the seat; the operation of the bed extension; peeling off of laminate on the cocktail table; the seat shell, as well as the softwall liners.

As a result of the defects, Cathay does a detailed inspection of the business class cabin on its A350s that transit at Hong Kong for more than two hours, and a detailed check for the entire cabin when the aircraft is parked overnight. Issues identified are then fixed or recorded to be rectified later. This has led to improvements, with faults from a high of 50 on average per seat, to nine at current.

Besides the seat, the airline also notes issues with galleys - particularly trash compactors, coffee-makers and latches - baggage bins and toilets. These, it adds, have affected every airline that operates the type.

"We have a fix for the baggage bins, the galley equipment is getting better and we are pushing very hard for a fix on the overhead crew rest panel in the front galley, which can come loose," says Howgego, adding that the issues can partly be attributed to Airbus stripping weight from the aircraft to drive up its fuel economy.

Cathay has set a target that all existing seat and cabin issues are to be addressed before the A350-1000s enter into service next year.

The airline will be taking delivery of all its -900s by the end of the year. It currently has 14 of the type in service, with a further eight on order.

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