Cathay Pacific will fly A350 to Chicago, eliminating first class on that route

Jan 9, 2020

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Cathay Pacific has been an incredibly successful airline in recent years, though the ongoing protests in Hong Kong have weighed on the companies finances. As a result, we’ve seen a number of route changes and capacity reductions, including the end of the popular fifth freedom flight between New York (JFK) and Vancouver (YVR).

Now, One Mile At a Time is reporting that Cathay Pacific will begin flying an Airbus A350-1000 on its once-daily flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), replacing the Boeing 777-300ER that currently operates that route. Cathay has scheduled an A350 to fly to Chicago between June 1 and Oct. 24, though it’s possible that this change will be extended through the winter season and may even become permanent.

This represents a decrease in the number of premium seats available, though an overall capacity increase. Most notably, the A350 does not feature a first class cabin. While Cathay Pacific has a few different 777 configurations, the planes currently serving Chicago (77A/layout 4 for anyone using SeatGuru) feature the following configuration:

777-300ER A350-1000
First class 6 N/A (-6)
Business class 53 46 (-7)
Premium economy 34 32 (-2)
Economy 168 256 (+88)
One of the best uses of British Airways Avios is short flights around Asia on Oneworld partners (Photo by
Photo by


With this change, Cathay Pacific will be ending first class service to Chicago through the end of the published schedule, effective June 1st. Cathay Pacific’s first class has been a fan favorite, especially after a recent refresh to the carrier’s soft product that includes new bedding, amenity kits, and healthy menu options. You can still find Cathay Pacific flying first class equipped 777-300ERs to New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

Further Reading: The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific first class

While it’ll be sad to have six fewer first class seats flying between the US and Hong Kong every day (and presumably 1-2 fewer award seats as well), for passengers traveling in other cabins the A350 actually represents a real upgrade. Not only are these the newest planes in Cathay Pacific’s fleet, featuring the latest iteration of the carrier’s business class seat, but the A350 itself is a joy to fly. The plane is much quieter than older 777s, and features improved mood lighting and cabin pressurization that help fight jet lag on the very long journeys to and from Hong Kong. Oh, and don’t forget about the high definition tail camera which can provide endless entertainment if you ever run out of content on your inflight entertainment screen (though with Cathay’s “Studio CX” that’s highly unlikely).

The A350 is also a better choice for passengers in economy, where seats are laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration with 9 seats per row. By comparison, most of Cathay’s 777s feature 10 seats in a 3-4-3 layout, so the A350 means fewer middle seats.

Cathay business class on a A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Cathay business class on a A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Award travelers will surely be sad to see Cathay Pacific eliminating first class on its flights to Chicago effective June 1st. In addition, the smaller business class cabin means that premium award space is going to be much harder to come by. Still, there’s no denying the fact that the A350 is a much nicer and more comfortable plane to fly.

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