Cathay Pacific Will Improve Meal Service In Business Class…But Only A Little


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In an interview given to Bloomberg back in March the Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg was keen to stress that, as part of its efforts to get back to profitability, the airline planned to do “a lot more on food” and that “food is going to be a concentration” for the airline going forward.

Things have been quiet on the Cathay front for a few weeks now but now Australian Business Traveller has got its hands on an internal email that appears to shed some light on what’s coming.

According to the email seen by AUBT Cathay Pacific will introduce “restaurant-style dining, improved menu offerings and a new level of inflight hospitality” to its Business Class cabins later this year.

The email goes on to say that….

[T]he new Business Class service elevates the customer experience towards the First Class service, offering a far higher degree of personalisation. First Class will continue to offer higher degrees of privacy, more space, better amenities and fine dining menus.

The aim of the changes is to allow passengers to enjoy good meals onboard and to give them “restaurant-style food presentation, greater choice and flexibility and more personalised service” which will lead to “a memorable dining experience and personalisation“.

Cathay Pacific cabin crew will be given a comprehensive two-day training program to bring them up to speed on the new service with the program being divided into three sections:

  • service philosophy
  • galley facilitation
  • service delivery in the cabin

Aside: It’s amusing to think of the chaos and uproar there would be if any of the US legacy airlines attempted to introduces this.

Service Roll-Out

The new service will be rolled out on the Hong Kong – Chicago route in July and will be expanded to the Hong Kong – London Gatwick route in August.

The roll-out gathers pace from there as flights to Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington D.C get the service from September and flights to Amsterdam, Johannesburg and Paris join in from October.

In November it’s routes to Barcelona, Brussels and Madrid that are being added to the service roster and the Hong Kong – London Heathrow service closes out the year in December.

As far as other routes go, Cathay has indicated that the service should be available on all of its long-haul routes by the middle of next year.

Although it’s only the airline’s long-haul (and ultra long-haul) routes that will see the full restaurant-style service in action, Cathay has said that, eventually, all off its flights will feature one part or another of the new service.

Thoughts

In the past we’ve heard stories that Cathay Pacific was considering introducing a “dine on demand” service like you’ll find on Qatar Airways but this definitely isn’t that. It’s not even close to being that.

Rather than giving customers the flexibility of when they dine on board this is more about improving the existing offering and making it a bit more refined.

I’m not sure I care.

Some passengers may choose their airline based on which offers the more fancy onboard dining but I’m certainly not one of them. As long as the food is good it doesn’t have to be spectacular or presented in a way that reminds me of the Ritz in London – I’m more about the cabin, the seat, the convenience and the overall service as they have a far greater bearing on how good or bad my flights are than anything reheated at 38,000 feet.

I would have been delighted if Cathay had decided to offer a dine on demand service as that’s something that has a real value to me (I like to eat when I’m actually hungry and not when an airline says I should be hungry) but while upgraded dining is nice it’s ultimately inconsequential.

The truth is that, as far as in-flight service goes, Cathay is living off its past right now as service levels have been dropping year on year (at least in my experience). The lounge offering as still very good indeed but in the air it’s definitely not the airline it once was.

If Cathay can use this new meal service to kickstart an overall improvement in what’s offered onboard that will be very good for passengers but, if this is just a case of putting lipstick on a pig, I’m don’t think many of us will care.