18 October 2015

Cathay Pacific and inflight connectivity on A350s.

The lack of inflight connectivity at Cathay Pacific has been surprising to some given the carrier’s well-established premium position.

Source: Airbus

But 5 years after signing a memorandum of understanding with Panasonic Avionics for Ku service fleet-wide, Cathay is poised to finally break into the connectivity space in 2016 with its Airbus A350s.

Yet the Hong Kong-headquartered carrier remains conservative; it questions whether a consistent experience can be offered, whether passengers will pay for it, and whether connectivity will even be profitable.

Source: Cythia Drescher

“The feedback we’re getting is that the experience is often disappointing,” Cathay GM product Toby Smith remarked earlier in the summer.

“We want to make sure when we launch it that we don’t raise expectations and people go ‘It’s too slow and it keeps dropping off.’”

Source: Cythia Drescher

Cathay included connectivity on its specification for the A350-900 along with Panasonic’s eX3 embedded IFE and eXW wireless IFE.

The first -900 is due to be delivered to Cathay in February/2016.

Source: Airbus

Smith expects the carrier’s Panasonic Ku connectivity trial to commence once Cathay has a few A350s; 12 are expected by the end of 2016.

It is not uncommon for airlines to commit to offering connectivity without a full business plans.

Source: Airbus

But Cathay wants first-hand experience before making a deeper commitment. “Let’s get a clearer picture on our own passengers on our own fleet rather than listen to industry speak,” Smith said.

The trial will give Cathay insights on take rates and what exactly passengers use inflight connectivity for.

With concerns about connectivity’s reliability, passenger demand and costs, Cathay expects its Ku trial to guide the carrier about further deployment and what the business model should look like.
Source: DN280

It is not a passing decision: “We need to understand the value because we could choose to make significant investments in other aspects of the customer experience,” Smith said.

Consistency – a hallmark of the airline – is also a factor. “We’re always trying to deliver a consistent customer experience. We need to take that into consideration,” Smith said.

“If we have 5 flights a day to London, 2 of which might in the future be operated by the A350 and 3 by the 777, we don’t want passengers to go ‘Oh which flight should I take because this one has it and this one doesn’t?’”

Even so, the carrier expects the service to be unprofitable. “It’s an investment in the customer experience,” Smith said.

Based on the article “Cathay Pacific says A350 connectivity trial will determine rollout” published in Runway Girl Network


  1. Where will Cathay Pacific test the A350 before schedule flights begin?

  2. Cathay Pacific plans long haul debut in New Zealand Mat 2016.
    For roughly 3months of regional deployment/crew familiarisation and build up of station support readiness; Manila, Taipei, Singapore, Osaka, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City are among first cities.
    Still subject to change are the proposals to change the two B777 routes, Manchester and Dusseldorf into A350-900's