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Flying long-haul premium cabins on short-haul Asia Pacific flights – Part 1: Business Class

Premium Business Class seats designed for long-haul flights can be experienced on short sectors of only a couple of hours across Asia Pacific.

CX Long-haul Business (Cathay Pacific)

We all know airlines save their finest First and Business Class seats for their most lucrative long-haul routes, especially on city pairs where competition is fierce and they must stand out from the crowd.

The complex world of aircraft scheduling, however, is not always so accommodating and the drive to keep the best seats on the right routes can leave aircraft idle, usually at home base, for awkward periods. Rather than leave them on the ground losing money airlines often take advantage of these windows to ‘plug the gap’ using these planes on short sectors in between their more lucrative long-haul duties.

In other examples airlines serve thinner long-haul markets with ‘double-drop’ flights, tagging a short extra destination onto a long-haul service to a city which can’t necessarily sustain a full load non-stop.

Scheduling Example

On the aircraft scheduling side EVA Air is a good example. They fly a daily Boeing 777-300ER flight from Taipei to Los Angeles – taking 11 hours 40 minutes to fly there then 14 hours 10 minutes to get back against the winds. By the time the aircraft returns to Taipei in the early hours of the morning the next flight to Los Angeles has already long departed.

BR 77W (Boeing)
EVA Air Boeing 777-300ERs are flown on long-haul and shorter flights. (Photo: Boeing)

The airline’s long-haul departure ‘bank’ doesn’t kick off again until the early evening with flights to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Chicago all departing between 7pm and 8pm – so the airline must think of something else to do with their aircraft rather than leave it sitting around all day.

So they send it to Hong Kong. That’s right – a flight of just under 2 hours each way, on an aircraft designed to fly 14 hour sectors, fitted out with long-haul seats including flat-beds in Business Class.

Double-drop Example

Qatar Airways fly a daily flight from their home base in Doha to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, but it’s a route which can’t currently sustain a lucrative year-round daily load to make it commercially viable. The airline therefore operates the service via Ho Chi Minh, supplementing its daily flight there with an additional flight which can then serve both markets.

Furthermore on the short 45 minute flight Qatar Airways has fifth-freedom traffic rights between Vietnam and Cambodia, so can pick up additional passengers purely flying between these two Asian cities who have no interest in continuing their journey to Doha or beyond.

Our Analysis

We looked at flights operating in the Asia Pacific region (excluding India) on wide-body aircraft with long-haul Business Class seats installed, planned for a total scheduled flight duration of up to 4 hours.

Check our Part 2 of our guide, focussed on First Class seats.

July 2018 was used as the benchmark month of operation. We used ExpertFlyer to generate the schedules from major hubs in the region including flight number and aircraft equipment / configuration details, alongside some of our own knowledge and research.

Google’s ITA Matrix was used to find the cheapest one-way fares on these routes during July 2018 and we did our own research to determine the number of frequent flyer miles needed with the most popular schemes.

A couple of points to note:

  • Wide-body (twin-aisle) aircraft are assessed, narrow-body aircraft are excluded even if they feature long-haul Business Class seats.
  • The longest sector on a route takes precedence. For example a Perth – Melbourne flight may be scheduled at 3 hours 30 minutes due to seasonal winds, but the shortest Melbourne – Perth flight with that airline on the same wide-body aircraft with the same long-haul Business Class product clocks in at 4 hours 20 minutes. The whole route is excluded.

Air New Zealand

Ivory leather, flat-beds and direct aisle access are the name of the game in Air New Zealand Business Class on the 777-200ER/-300ER (1-2-1 configuration) and the 787-9 (1-1-1 configuration).

ANZ 777 J (OMAAT)
Air New Zealand Business Class seats on the Boeing 777. (Photo: One Mile at a Time)

Not an original design – they actually pinched it (legitimately!) from Virgin Atlantic and pay an ongoing royalty fee for use of this seat.

Longer term however it was revealed earlier this month that the seat will be replaced by a new design for introduction a few years from now.

NZ.png
Business Class
NZ 777 J (Phillip Capper).jpg
AKL-SYD-AKL AKL-BNE-AKL
Aircraft Type 777-200 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$624 S$626
Flight Time 03:35 03:45
Miles & Points
KFtrans 28,000 28,000
LMtrans.png 33,000 33,000
UAtrans.png 25,000 25,000
MMtrans 27,000 27,000
EVtrans 27,500 27,500
NZ.png
Business Class
NZ 789 J (Point Hacks).jpg
AKL-NAN-AKL AKL-TBU-AKL
Aircraft Type 787-9
777-200
787-9
777-200
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$772 S$786
Flight Time 03:10 03:05
Miles & Points
KFtrans 28,000 28,000
LMtrans.png 33,000 33,000
UAtrans.png 25,000 25,000
MMtrans 27,000 27,000
EVtrans 27,500 27,500

(Photos: 777 – Phillip Capper, 787 – Point Hacks)

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s long-haul Business Class with flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration is found on all of their Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and some of their Airbus A330s.

The remaining A330s plus all 777-200 and 777-300 (non-ER) planes are fitted with the regional Business Class product.

While Cathay fly many regional sectors with the A350 and 777-300ER the problem on regional routes is equipment swaps. They are absolute masters at it. It means for example even if you book a Singapore to Hong Kong itinerary on a flight operated by the A350 to secure the long-haul Business Class seat it could easily change a week out, a day out or even on the day of operation.

You might then find yourself on an A330 in regional config or a 777-200/-300, which also have regional seats.

We’ve therefore just looked at a couple of Cathay routes most likely to be of interest to our readers based on the July 2018 schedule where A350 or 777-300ERs are scheduled to be deployed. We’ve also listed all the routes from Hong Kong where long-haul configurations are planned on shorter flights in case you’d like to do your own research on those.

CXtrans2.png

Business Class

CX A330 J.jpg
HKG-BKK-HKG BKK-SIN-BKK
Aircraft Type A350-900
A350-1000
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$682 S$526
Flight Time 02:55 02:35
Miles & Points
Asia 25,000 25,000
QFF.png 38,000 38,000
QRtrans.png 40,000 30,000
AAtrans 22,500 22,500
AVIOStrans.png 15,000 15,000
AStrans 22,500 22,500
CXtrans2.png

Business Class

CX A330 J.jpg
SIN-HKG-SIN
Aircraft Type A350-900
A350-1000
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$1,403
Flight Time 04:00
Miles & Points
Asia 30,000
QFF.png 38,000
QRtrans.png 50,000
AAtrans 22,500
AVIOStrans.png 20,000
AStrans 22,500

Other regional Cathay Pacific routes featuring long-haul business configurations we found with up to 4 hours flight duration from Hong Kong in the July 2018 schedules were:

777-300ER

  • Beijing, Cebu, Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Nagoya, Seoul and Taipei

A350-900 / A350-1000

  • Ho Chi Minh, Seoul and Taipei

China Airlines

For China Airlines we focused on the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft as feature their latest long-haul Business Class product. We didn’t assess the A330, which is only used regionally and has an angled bed (actually it’s the same product as Singapore Airlines use as their 2009 RJ regional Business Class).

CItrans.png
Business Class
CI B77W J (One Mile at a Time).jpg
TPE-ICN-TPE TPE-PVG-TPE
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$580 S$721
Flight Time 02:35 02:00
Miles & Points
CItrans.png 30,000 30,000
AFKLtrans.png 34,000 34,000
DLtrans.png 30,000 30,000
GAtrans.png 25,000 25,000
CItrans.png
Business Class
CI B77W J (One Mile at a Time).jpg CI A350 J (Live and Let's Fly).jpg
TPE-HAN-TPE TPE-BKK-TPE
Aircraft Type 777-300ER A350
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$580 S$774
Flight Time 03:10 03:40
Miles & Points
CItrans.png 30,000 30,000
AFKLtrans.png 45,000 45,000
DLtrans.png 40,000 40,000
GAtrans.png 30,000 37,500
CItrans.png
Business Class
CI A350 J (Live and Let's Fly).jpg
TPE-NRT-TPE
Aircraft Type A350
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$1,256
Flight Time 03:45
Miles & Points
CItrans.png 30,000
AFKLtrans.png 41,000
DLtrans.png 30,000
GAtrans.png 30,000

(Photo: 777 – One Mile at a Time, A350 – Live and Let’s Fly)

Emirates

You can experience the Business Class cabin and indeed the First Class cabin featuring shower suites with the Emirates A380 on daily flights between Bangkok and Hong Kong. More on the First Class option in part 2 of our article coming soon.

Note: Our mistake – the Emirates A380 flying between Bangkok and Hong Kong each day is now one of their 2-class versions with no First Class cabin. Sorry if we got anyone’s hopes up!

See Part 2 of our guide, focussed on First Class seats.

Emirates also flies their 777-300ER between Yangon and Phnom Penh each day though this features the slightly less attractive 2-3-2 Business Class cabin and is a 2-class aircraft meaning no chance to try the First Class product on that route.

If that wasn’t enough you can fly daily between Singapore and Sri Lanka with Emirates Business Class or First Class offered on the 777-300ER to and from Colombo.

EKtrans

Business Class

EK A380 J (OneMoreWeekToGo).jpg EK B77W J (The Luxury Travel Expert).jpg
BKK-HKG-BKK RGN-PNH-RGN
Aircraft Type A380 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lie-flat
(165o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$702 S$920
Flight Time 03:00 02:00
Miles & Points
QFF.png 24,000 24,000
EKtrans.png 27,500 27,500
EKtrans

Business Class

EK B77W J (The Luxury Travel Expert).jpg
SIN-CMB-SIN
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Lie-flat
(165o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$594
Flight Time 04:00
Miles & Points
QFF.png 36,000
EKtrans.png 38,750

(Photos: A380 – OneMoreWeekToGo, 777 – The Luxury Travel Expert)

Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian fly their Boeing 787-8 between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur five days per week with an afternoon flight on SIN-KUL and a very late evening service from KUL-SIN.

ET
Business Class
ET 787 J (The Luxury Travel Expert)
SIN-KUL-SIN
Aircraft Type 787-8
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$829
Flight Time 01:20
Miles & Points
UAtrans 30,000
KFtrans 17,500
LMtrans 30,000
MMtrans 27,000
EVtrans 27,500

(Photo: The Luxury Travel Expert)

Not a cheap option for such a short flight, especially considering there’s barely time even to go to the toilet on a Singapore – KL sector! Even the KrisFlyer mileage rate is unattractive here for such a short flight, with mileage requirements for other FFPs we looked at even more outrageous.

EVA Air

EVA have a well-renowned long-haul Business Class product on their Boeing 777-300ER and you can sample it on shorter sectors to and from Taipei.

BR.png
Business Class

BR 77W J (The Shutterwhale)
TPE-HKG-TPE TPE-MNL-TPE
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$1,518 S$565
Flight Time 01:50 02:20
Miles & Points
EVtrans 25,000 25,000
KFtrans 20,000 37,500
TGtrans.png 37,500 37,500
LMtrans 22,500 22,500
UAtrans 45,000 45,000
MMtrans.png 27,000 35,000

BR.png
Business Class

BR 77W J (The Shutterwhale)
TPE-BKK-TPE TPE-PVG-TPE
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$1,057 S$1,021
Flight Time 03:50 01:55
Miles & Points
EVtrans 25,000 25,000
KFtrans 37,000 22,500
TGtrans.png 37,500 45,000
LMtrans 36,000 22,500
UAtrans 45,000 22,500
MMtrans.png 35,000 27,000

(Photo: The Shutterwhale)

Garuda Indonesia

Garuda operate their older 2-2-2 Business Class configuration on A330 flights from Jakarta to Surabaya, Makassar, Bali and Singapore on a daily basis. The newer A330s have a 1-2-1 product but it is used primarily on Australia routes.

GAtrans.png
Business Class

GA A330 Old J (Holysmithereens).jpg
CGK-DPS-CGK CGK-UPG-CGK
Aircraft Type A330
Seat Type Lie-bed
(165o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$442 S$552
Flight Time 02:00 02:30
Miles & Points