a seat with a pocket attached to it

What Is Cathay Pacific’s A350 Economy Class Seat Like?

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I recently had the chance to fly from Hong Kong to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350-900. While we’ve covered almost all hard products that Cathay Pacific offers, their A350 economy seat is the only one that no one in our team has tried, tested and reported back, so I was excited to have the chance to do so over the past few days.

Cathay Pacific’s A350-900 features 214 Economy Class seats. The seats are a slightly modified version of the Rockwell Collins’ popular Pinnacle Economy seat. You’ll also find these seats flying on EVA Air, Delta, and United. As is standard on the A350, these seats are arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, and are each 18 inches wide.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class 

I quite like the modern look and feel of the cabin. The cabin design is inspired by bamboo and Hong Kong’s famous skyscrapers, with the seats in shades of blue and green. I noticed that many passengers were commenting on how this was a new plane. While the seats certainly look very smart, it’s a bit of a departure from the warmer design concept that Cathay opted to go for with their new lounges.

One of the most talked about features of the new seat is a 6-way adjustable headrest. A unique feature of the seat is that the headrest can be pulled out, which reveals a thin leather “strap” which provides improved side support, and yet another place for passengers to rest their heads.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Headrest

The headrest also features a more typical “winged” configuration, and can also be moved up and down to support people of all different heights.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Headrest

While I appreciate Cathay Pacific at least trying to differentiate their Economy Class product and offering something unique, the headrest was a disappointment. The leather strap was really uncomfortable and the headrest didn’t provide as much support as a traditional one. I also didn’t notice many passengers actually using the headrest, so I hope Cathay is rethinking this design for their upcoming A350-1000.

In the seatback is what Cathay describes as a “back-pack”, which features a tablet or phone holder, a cup holder, a small mesh pocket and a pill-shaped hole, the purpose of which I still haven’t figured out. You can also find a USB port underneath the television screen. While Cathay used to offer HDMI ports in Economy Class, they weren’t widely used, so I understand the rationale behind ditching them.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Seatback Nook

In the time where passengers increasingly bringing their own devices onboard, I love the idea of a tablet holder, which I actively saw passengers using. On the other hand, the mesh pocket didn’t really provide much useful storage space and is a step down from Cathay’s former Economy Class seat storage situation.

In addition to a USB charging port, all passengers receive an international power port, which is something becoming increasingly rare in Economy Class seats.

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Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Power Ports

Since this seat is significantly thinner than Cathay’s older generation of seats, this meant that there wasn’t nearly as much padding and back support. The seat was pretty hard and actively uncomfortable at times. I didn’t have an issue with it on my short flight to Bangkok, though I could see the lack of padding posing substantially larger issues on longer flights.

The seat also offers 6 inches of recline, which is substantial and enough for a good night of sleep. The seat also features an articulating seat pan, which slides forward as the seat reclines. This means that the passenger being reclined into receives an inch of extra legroom, which is a nice touch.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Recline

The seat also features 32 inches of legroom, which is ample and in line with many Asian competitors.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom

The seat also features a seat pocket, as well as a bi-fold tray table. I liked that the table quite high, leaving quite a bit of space between a passengers thighs and the table. However, this, combined with the vast range of amenities in the seatback meant that the table had to be shrunk. While it should fit a 12″ Macbook snugly, I had trouble fitting my 13″ Macbook Pro on the table.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Seat Pocket

Each seat features a coat hook as well as a 10″ touchscreen, which features Cathay’s excellent StudioCX entertainment system. The television screen is at a slight angle to compensate for when the passenger in front is reclined.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class TV Screen

As a Marco Polo Gold member, I was able to select seat 60A, which is an extra legroom seat one row behind the extra row. The seat features a window, which is rare with most extra legroom seats. The aircraft is configured as such due to the thickness of the door, making it impossible to stick a row of three seats into the exit row.

Of course, the best thing about this seat is the abundance of legroom. I was able to access the aisle easily through the small passageway in front of me.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom from Seat 60A

For some reason, the seat also featured an entertainment controller, despite the fact that the television could also be operated by touchscreen.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Entertainment Console

The television in this seat was hidden away in the armrest. It required a bit of work to pull it out of the armrest into the optimum viewing position. Underneath the screen was a USB port.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Entertainment Screen

All seats in the bulkhead or exit rows have their tray tables stowed in the armrest. The tray table is much larger than the one featured in other Economy seats.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Tray Table

Does this beat Cathay Pacific’s existing Economy Seat?

Cathay’s A350-900 Economy Class product is without a doubt a very good seat. However, I personally prefer Cathay’s existing Economy product.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Cabin

While lacking the gadgets and gizmos that come with the seats on the A350-900, Cathay’s existing Economy seat blows the new seat out of the water in terms of general seat comfort. The padding on older seats is truly excellent and makes for a really comfortable flight, while the padding in the new seats is downright disappointing. In addition, although the storage options in the old seat was more simple than the storage in the new seat, I found that it worked much better from a practical standpoint. I also didn’t really think that the 6-way adjustable headrest provided a significantly better passenger experience.

a row of blue and white seats
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

Bottom Line

For a seat touted as something that would completely revolutionize the Economy game, I was disappointed at how some of the features of the product simply did not work very well. I applaud Cathay’s desire to innovate, but they unfortunately compromised on simple passenger comfort issues, instead choosing to throw in gimmicky features that were poorly executed. While this isn’t a bad seat by any means, I was just really underwhelmed by what I experienced.


  1. Not directly related to the seat per se, but I feel great improvements have been made on the A350-900’s entertainment system!

  2. The A350 900 head rests are a complete design disaster on an already forward tilting (seat above the shoulders) I am 5’3 and it ‘juts’ out pushing ones head even more forward – there should be an extra layer of seat padding to meet/match the head rest like the seats on the 777 300ER – I will never fly on the A350 again after a recent 8 hour flight from Perth to Hong Kong, which caused an immense amount of back and neck pain post flight because my head was forced forward in the most uncomfortable / unnatural position made worse without any back support! I am looking at flights to return at christmas and it appears the cheaper flights are on the longer haul flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco on this aircraft, or I can pay +$250 to fly the same leg on the 777 which I reluctantly will pay JUST to be comfortable. Sort it out Cathay!

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