Photos: Cathay Pacific Underdelivers (Again) On New 10-Abreast Economy Class

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Last year we learned that Cathay Pacific is switching to a 3-4-3 configuration on their 777s. For those unfamiliar with configurations, Boeing created the 777 to fit 9 seats across per row in economy class, though the industry standard, in an effort to maximise profit, soon shifted to 10 seats across per row. This means that seat width was brought down from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. I personally haven’t flown a 777 in a high-density economy configuration, but writer Ethan has, and he’s reported back.

While that’s disappointing, Cathay Pacific was bleeding money faster than Lucy Westenra, so this shift was a move that they’d have to make sooner or later. This would allow Cathay Pacific to add 19-40 more seats across a range of different 777 aircraft across a lot of routes, hopefully bringing the airline out of the financial mess that they were in.

a row of seats in an airplaneCathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

In response to the shift Cathay Pacific promised a comfort focus for their new economy class seats, saying that they were “looking into customer feedback” based on their current economy class seat, and that they’d be “maximising every millimeter” of their new one.

Local news press SCMP has just released pictures of Cathay Pacific’s new 10-abreast economy class, and frankly the seats look rather depressing. It’s not because they look actively uncomfortable – after, new 3-4-3 seating is the industry standard – but there seems to be such a missed opportunity here.

Here’s the pictures that SCMP disclosed of the seat:

a close-up of a hand holding a wallet
a close-up of a device

A couple of days ago Jason managed to spot these seats in the comments section of an FB post, but that was quickly removed.

a group of chairs with laptops on them

Before I get into my beef with the seat, I’ll point out the positives: the seat covers look sleek, and the seat looks more pimped out than some older versions of their economy seat, which is good.

The seat advertises a coat hook, an appreciated storage nook, a tablet holder, power ports, a step for overhead bin accessibility, a headphone jack and a tray table. This is in addition to the power ports and the IFE screen, which they don’t seem to advertise. Obviously these are all great features, though they’re all otherwise featured on Cathay Pacific’s current economy seats.

IMG_0709Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Cabin

The single thing that I was most looking forward to was the padding situation. While Cathay Pacific’s A350 economy class seats more or less neglect padding, their older 777 and A330 economy seats feature something called “double padding”, which I really enjoyed. It essentially consisted of a dedicated seat cushion on top of the actual seat itself. In theory the difference shouldn’t be big as the actual seat is rock hard, but you’ll be surprised at how little padding new slimline economy seats have, so the difference of having a dedicated layer of padding is night and day.

IMG_8018Cathay Pacific Old Economy Class Seat Double Padding

While they weren’t featured on the A350 seat, they said they’d improve the padding on the new 777 seat, so I imagined they’d bring this back. Nope – they didn’t. I can’t judge the seat without sitting in it, but I can’t help but notice the crevices of the seatback peering through the upholstery in the above photos, suggesting that any padding that these seats have will be minimal.

I’m sure travelers will appreciate the tablet holder embedded in the tray table, and the headphone jack has one prong instead of two now, which non-Bose headphone owners will appreciate. However, this seems like a typical economy class seat, as opposed to the “maximised” economy class seat that Cathay Pacific promised.

Speaking of maximisation, Cathay Pacific introduced a new six-way headrest on the A350, where a new platform would allow passengers a crevice to rest their head in even if they weren’t flying in a window seat. Based on the above pictures alone this feature seems to have been eliminated – sure, the leather on the head “hammock” was too hard, but switching it to a more comfortable material seemed like such a quick fix. That’s another lost opportunity, and certainly isn’t “maximising every millimeter”.

IMG_4803Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Economy Class Headrest

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, switching to 10-abreast economy class is never a good thing. And that’s fine, because the economic viability of air travel itself is beyond the level that we could’ve ever foreseen, and airlines need to maximise profit in order to survive.

I can’t blame Cathay Pacific for aligning with the industry standard, but to come up with some corporate BS about “maximising every millimeter” and coming up with a seat that’s not much different from what they have now, or even your average “new” economy class seat, is just disingenuous, in my opinion. I appreciate that they were transparent about their switch, but there are so many lost opportunities here to be had, especially since once again they promised to launch one of the most ergonomic economy seats flying.

Cathay Pacific needs to stop taking their passengers for granted, and if they can’t offer a top notch product, they shouldn’t promise one. When flying to Los Angeles under a budget, I’ll looking forward to flying Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 economy class, which definitely seems to be the better option at this point.

What were you expecting when Cathay Pacific promised to bring a good 10-abreast A350 economy seat?


  1. This is very true, cx A350 padding in Y is light and really is a pain in long haul.
    seems the new 777 version is going the same way.

  2. Time to forever avoid every CX 777 from now on. The terrible 10 abreast seats combined with the terrible cabin design effectively makes it feel very much a different and a much more inferior airline compared to the A350. And the previous seats on the 777 have never been good either! I felt the previous reclining seats from 2012 and the non-reclining seats from 2008 all have very little padding and was very hard to sit on and impossible to sleep; the 2012 seats were also very thin and I could easily feel the knee of the person behind me. The most comfortable seats I have been on CX were the older A340 seats from 1998 and removed in 2008, and those have decent recline and enough padding. Furthermore, the excellent cabin design and higher cabin pressure/humidity on the A350 cancels out any possible shortcomings in the seat itself and overall is an excellent experience. I can’t wait till the day around two decades later when the last CX 777 is to be retired. It really is a terrible plane, and I have been on a few motorcoaches and buses (for instance, MCI J4500) that are much more comfortable than that. Until my planned move to Vancouver, I will continue to travel from Montreal/Toronto to Hong Kong by BA and Finnair through LHR and Helsinki where their 787/A350 seats respectively are significantly better than anything in CX.

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