Cathay Pacific has long had one of my favourite economy products. While I have listed improvements for their (still amazing) business class product (as well as on the A350) and their premium economy product, I literally cannot find any faults to their economy class product.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-200 Economy Class
While I haven’t flown the economy product on Cathay Pacific’s 777 in a very long time, I’m pretty sure these are a step up, as economy seats are 18 inches wide on the A330, but 18.5 inches wide on the 777. That’s pretty comfortable for an economy class seat.
Well, it looks like we’re getting a little too comfy, because Cathay Pacific will gradually move to a 10-abreast economy configuration. So seats are going from 18.5 inches to 17 inches.
The changes will be “bad” for passengers, says the airline’s cabin crew union under plans that will see an extra row of economy seats installed on its Boeing aircraft and the width of each seat reduced by up to 1.5 inches (3.8cm).
Chief executive Ivan Chu Kwok-leung said in an exclusive interview: “If you look at the Boeing 777s, which everybody uses from the Gulf to the US to European carriers and ourselves, the standard is 3-4-3. I think we are moving towards that stage, it’s very clear.”
SCMP isn’t wrong, the changes are certainly “bad” for passengers. Cathay Pacific’s 777s fly 16-hour flights to New York, and I struggled in a 787 seat for 13 hours. Even worse is that a lot of routes from Hong Kong to North America will exclusively have 3-4-3 economy seating – New York and Boston are Cathay Pacific monopolies, while the only other airline operating Hong Kong to Los Angeles is American, which also has 3-4-3 seating (same is true for Air Canada on Hong Kong to Vancouver and Toronto flights, the latter of which is 15 hours long). This also puts United at a considerable advantage over Cathay Pacific, which is painful.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-200 Economy Class (3-3-3 seating)
The same is true for many Hong Kong to Europe flights. Cathay Pacific has a lot of monopolies in Europe, including Madrid, Manchester and Milan. Zurich will also have exclusive 3-4-3 economy seating, as Swiss has had 3-4-3 economy seating on their 777s since they were introduced.
Swiss Boeing 777-300ER Economy Class Cabin (3-4-3 seating)
Now that Cathay Pacific’s put behind, what does Ivan Chu have to say about Cathay Pacific?
Chu explained he wanted to offer the best in economy seats to ensure customers felt comfortable in the smaller seats. Cathay said it was committed to maintaining 32 inches of legroom as standard but the seat width would narrow – estimated to come down from 18.5 inches to around 17 inches per seat, based on changes made by rival airlines.
The Cathay chief said he was confident he could maximise the cabin real estate to ease the “pain” associated with travelling in a full long-haul economy-class flight through the latest seat and cushion technology.
No matter what you do to an economy seat, you can’t make it any easier to bear if you’ve squeezed in one more than the (previous?) industry standard. I get it, though. With an extra economy seat in each row, airlines are able to squeeze in 250-400 economy seats, while Cathay Pacific has 182 economy seats on most 777s, and 268 economy seats on those with a massively reduced premium footprint.
Korean Air’s 777s will continue to have 3-3-3 seating, putting them ahead of Cathay Pacific
Air New Zealand had a fairly comfortable 3-3-3 economy seating, but also gave it up for a much less comfortable 3-4-3
While this may start introducing more profit to Cathay Pacific, I’m struggling to see how I’d choose Cathay Pacific in the future. What hurts is that Cathay Pacific singlehandedly had my favourite economy seat. If I were to fly to Europe or the US now, I’d have to pick out other aircraft, such as the Cathay Pacific A350 (which seems like it’s staying 3-3-3). Cathay Pacific is also the fourth out of seven Skytrax 5-star airlines (Hainan doesn’t have any 777s) to switch to 3-4-3 seating on their 777s, which is an interesting trend.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Economy Class
What are your thoughts on Cathay Pacific switching to tighter economy seats on their 777s?
Considering that most economy travellers just choose based on lowest price, I suppose CX has no choice but to go 3-4-3 to stay competitive. With that being said, I personally try to avoid 3-4-3 on B777 and 3-3-3 on B787 whenever possible. A few years ago before QR went 3-4-3 on their B777, I chose QR instead of EK to fly Asia-Europe return despite EK being US$70 cheaper (I was willing to pay up to US$100 more to fly in a 3-3-3 config rather than EK’s 3-4-3). From Europe-Asia earlier this month, I flew BA + CX254 + CX753 instead of flying QR as CX still has 3-3-3.
When CX goes 3-4-3, I would probably prefer QR to CX. At least with QR, a passenger without status could and have a decent chance to get an emergency row seat for free upon request at check-in. With CX, emergency seat can’t be requested for free at check-in unless one has status.
Currently, my preferred way to/from USA is through HKG on CX due to CX’s superb policy of allowing long layovers of up to 24 hours in HKG to need not claim bags. On the contrary, UA+NH required me to claim my bags at NRT for a 12 hour layover. When the B777’s go 3-4-3, I will explore other options:
-Look into routing through ICN or mainland China
-Look into flying CX but routing through YVR on the CX855/856 (A350-9) + take a bus to/from USA.
Interesting thoughts. While it is still a comparatively long time before CX goes 10-across on the 777, I have already boycotted CX, for a very different reason – they introduced the A350 to YVR and soon SFO and EWR, but not YYZ, where I live!! I just thought that it was really unfair for YYZ not to get A350 while most of the nearby cities get it. From now on, I travel on Finnair, and with the multi-stop itinerary with Helsinki between YYZ/YUL and HKG, I can experience the wonderful A350 and also BA’s 787 as AY and BA have a joint venture. Best of all, the whole multi-stop journey costs about the same as a Cathay direct flight between YYZ and HKG! After going on the A350, the 777 interior looks so drab and dark and depressing – certainly not an inviting appearance especially those going on a CX 777 the first time; and the seats on Finnair were way better than those on CX.