Review: Cathay Pacific’s 10-Abreast 777 Economy Class Tokyo to Hong Kong

Introduction: Revisiting Tokyo…Twice
Cathay Pacific The Deck Lounge Hong Kong
Japan Airlines 777-200 Business Class Hong Kong to Tokyo
A Tale Of Two Observation Decks: Tokyo Haneda vs. Narita
Hotel Century Southern Tower Tokyo
Scoot 787 ScootBiz Tokyo to Taipei
Cathay Pacific A350-1000 Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class Hong Kong to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific 777 Economy Class Tokyo to Hong Kong


There’s not much I can add to Rupert Hogg’s “resignation” other than the fact that I’m shocked and disappointed by the entire situation, so I won’t be posting about it here.

In 2017, Cathay Pacific stated that they’d be replacing all of their 777 economy class seats with a new seat in a 10-abreast configuration. The first aircraft with these seats emerged in April 2018, and my initial comments of the seat were scathing based on pictures alone. A couple of readers spoke out to me after my initial report, saying that it was unfair of me to judge a seat purely based on the pictures, and the seat itself was more well-padded than they expected. So when I had the chance to get from Tokyo to Hong Kong, I was sure to snag myself a flight in Cathay’s 10-abreast economy class so I could give a firsthand review of the product.

Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777 Economy Class

I was redeeming some expiring Asia Miles for this flight, and successfully got myself a seat on this flight for 10,000 Asia Miles one-way.

One of my friends bought his ticket on the Cathay Pacific website, and was able to purchase a seat on this flight. Unfortunately, the third person travelling with us failed to snag an award seat, so she booked a JAL flight back to Hong Kong leaving at around the same time. I would’ve liked to try out JAL’s economy class product (since there was award space, despite a higher cost for partner awards), though ultimately decided that a review of this product would be more worthy, since JAL uses a regional 787 on their Tokyo Narita-Hong Kong route with an older economy class seat that is being phased out.

Go figure that we ended up leaving almost three hours after the JAL flight. At around 1 PM I received a notification that our 6:30 PM flight would be delayed until 8:20 PM. Eventually, as we made our way to the airport on the Narita Express, the delay was pushed further to 8:45 PM. The reason for our delay was that the weather in Hong Kong was pretty bad, which caused the inbound flight to be delayed by almost three hours.

When we got to the airport at around 6:15 PM and checked in our bags, we were given a JPY 1,000 (~HK$73) food voucher for a large list of restaurants in the airport, which we eventually spent on bento boxes.

After we passed through immigration at Narita’s Terminal 2 (which wasn’t as bad as usual, since there aren’t many flights leaving Narita at this time), we were able to catch an amazing sunset. Unfortunately we weren’t facing the sunset, so didn’t have a great vantage point to take great photos.

Sunset Tokyo Narita Airport

Our friend’s flight was also delayed, so we actually wound up seeing her off.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Tokyo Narita Airport

After watching our friend board, we schlepped back from the satellite pier to gate 72, which was near the immigration area. After walking through a duty-free alcohol shop (unfortunately Japan’s drinking age is 20, so I couldn’t take part in the free tasting), we made our way to gate 72, where our 777 was parked. This was the first of the ex-Emirates regional 777-300s to be transferred over to Cathay Pacific (B-HNS), and it was a touch over 17 years old.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Tokyo Narita Airport

While our gate only had a partial view of our 777, it did have a full view of the Japan Airlines 767 parked next to us.

Japan Airlines Boeing 767 Tokyo Narita Airport

I found it quite fascinating that Narita Airport’s boarding gates also specify the aircraft type, flight duration and meal services operated/provided by the flight leaving the gate.

Aircraft and Flight Information Tokyo Narita Airport

While boarding was initially pushed back to 8:30 PM, we ended up boarding from 8:25 PM, starting from business class passengers and oneworld Emerald/Sapphire members, then continuing with Marco Polo Green members (there was no premium economy on this flight). I was the first in the economy lane to board.

Cathay Pacific Flight 505
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Origin: Tokyo Narita (NRT) Gate: 72  Dep: 18:30 (21:00)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 50 Arr: 22:25 (00:10+1)
Duration: 4 hr 55 min (4 hr 10 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300 Reg: B-HNS
Seat: 78K (Economy Class)

While we were boarding, we had a view of the 777’s nose through the jetbridge.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Tokyo Narita Airport

I then stepped onto Cathay’s 777, which featured 42 business class seats and 396 economy class seats. I turned right into the first economy class cabin, and made my way to the very back of the aircraft.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

There are three massive economy class cabins on Cathay’s regional 777, separated by the exit doors throughout the aircraft. The two forward economy cabins feature 141 and 140 seats respectively, whereas the rearmost cabin was a little smaller, featuring 115 seats.

The entire economy class cabin on Cathay Pacific’s new 777s is laid out in a 3-4-3 configuration, with the exception of the last few rows, which are laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration (due to the tapering of the aircraft fuselage). The colour tones are in line with Cathay’s newer planes in economy – they’re recognisably green with notes of grey here and there, which were somewhat muted (especially with the yellowed cabin lights), though not in an unpleasant way.

For those uninformed, this is the definition of a 10-abreast economy cabin, where each row features 10 economy class seats across; on a 777, this configuration is generally frowned upon, as these planes were built to feature 9 economy seats per row. The reason airlines use 10-abreast economy class configurations is to increase capacity; by switching to this configuration, Cathay Pacific was able to fit 40 extra passengers in economy class per flight, which translates to a lot of added revenue.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Cabin

We were seated by the very back of the plane, in row 78. I like selecting the back of the plane as I don’t like reclining into someone else’s space, and generally don’t find recline to be limited in the last row – it’s also much emptier, as it’s unpopular with other passengers. Sure enough, both my friend and I had three seats to ourselves.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Rear Area

While I’m sharing cabin pictures, I might as well share the cabin pictures I took at the end of the flight, when we were allowed to stay behind to photograph the cabin for a short while:

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Cabin Shots

I found my seat 78K by the right window, in the last row of the economy class cabin. The seat itself featured decent legroom, though it wasn’t anything spectacular (I’m 5″9′ and though the seat was quite spacious, though you might struggle a little on a longhaul flight if you’re over 6″).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Legroom

Similarly to the old seat, the recline function featured a slight “cradle” effect, where the seat pan would move forward ever so slightly to compensate for the reduced legroom of the person behind you. I thought the recline was very good for an economy seat – it reclined far enough that you could get comfortable, but not too far as to impede the personal space of the person behind you too much.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Recline

What really impressed me about these seats, however, was the padding. When I first saw these seats online, I thought “these seats don’t have double padding, there’s no way they’re as well padded as their predecessors on the A330 and the older 777s“. However, the seat cushioning was easily comparable to the padding on the older seats.

Obviously I need to point out that these seats did feel narrow. In some ways, Cathay’s previous 777 seat felt somewhat like a nice office chair, as it was wide, well-padded, and had generous recline, whereas this seat wasn’t quite as wide. I had three seats to myself on the flight, which was a treat, though I do feel like shoulder space would be compromised if the seat next to mine was occupied.

This seat has storage that easily beats that of the old seat – there’s a large storage compartment under the TV, which can be folded out to create a platform/tablet holder and a cupholder. The storage compartment wasn’t just big enough for a phone, but fit my passport and boarding pass as well, which I wasn’t expecting. Since the storage compartment can be “opened” and “closed” (the platform folds out), you can put small items in there during takeoff and landing, which you previously couldn’t do in Cathay Pacific’s older seats. It’s my understanding that Cathay’s A350 seats have this upgraded storage platform too, though it’s noticeably shallower on the A350-900 (to the point where I question if you can put a phone there).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Seat Storage

The seatback pocket was also deeper and sturdier than that of the older seat, and could easily hold a laptop in place, whereas the older seatback pocket couldn’t.

The seat also featured an upgraded screen – in theory. It’s in my understanding that Cathay Pacific’s new 777-300ER economy class seats have been upgraded with Cathay’s latest touchscreen technology, whereas the regional 777-300s retained their “older” touchscreen technology. This was definitely true, to a fault – not only was my screen not receptive to touch at all (which is a problem, since these seats don’t have IFE remote controls), though upon turning the screen off it would automatically turn itself back on inflight, which meant a lot of unnecessary light when I was trying to sleep. It’s worth noting that the touchscreen function in aisle seat 78H was also wonky, and only middle seat 78J had a fully functional screen – for a recently refurbished plane, especially for one that previously came from another airline altogether, that’s unacceptable.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class TV Screen

Under the TV screen was a USB port, and there was also a 110V power port between seats.

The seat also featured a sturdy fold-out tray table. The black finish made the seat feel a little bit classier, as opposed to tacky and plasticky.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Tray Table

This seat also featured an adjustable headrest. I was surprised by how plush it was, and it was easily adjustable – though unlike the A350 seats, not much innovation has gone into these headrests.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Adjustable Headrest

Overall, despite the seat being narrower, I was pleasantly surprised by how plush and comfortable the seat was, and by the impressive storage the seat afforded. No, I’d still go out of my way to avoid a 3-4-3 configuration in favour of the more spacious 3-3-3 configuration on Cathay’s last few not-yet-reconfigured 777-300ERs; though this was a regional 777-300, and these seats replaced Cathay Pacific’s older, uncomfortable shell seats that I’d go out of my way to avoid. Relative to those seats, these newer 10-abreast seats were a marked improvement.

Let me get this straight, before my words get twisted by any of Cathay’s directors. Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar says that “most” passengers consider the 10-abreast 777s an improvement over the older configuration. No, I don’t think Cathay Pacific’s movement to a 10-abreast configuration is an “improvement” by any stretch of the imagination, especially if you’re comparing this seat to their previous longhaul 777 configuration, which also featured a well-designed seat (their old regional 777 seat was so bad that this seat feels like a premium economy seat in comparison). Instead, I just appreciate that they made the most of this change by coming up with passenger-friendly features that made this narrower seat more bearable.

Anyway, waiting at my seat was a pair of low-quality headphones (as always, I used my Bose headphones).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Headphones

There were also pillows and blankets on request. I requested a pillow, which was a smaller version of Cathay’s business class pillows (rough on one side, softer on the other).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Pillow

Looking out of the window, we were parked next to a Philippine Airlines A321 which had just arrived Tokyo from Cebu.

Philippine Airlines Airbus A321 Tokyo Narita Airport

The cabin eventually filled up. The economy class cabin was quite full, though the few rows in front of us stayed empty, so my friend and I were happy to have that corner of the plane to ourselves.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Cabin During Takeoff

Despite the very late departure time, the crew smiled at each passenger, and they were also helpful with putting things in luggage compartments. I could immediately tell that this would be a great crew, especially for economy class.

Shortly before takeoff I checked out the lavatory, which was of a decent size and featured Nobility toiletries.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Lavatory

At around 8:55 PM, the safety video played, and we got ready to leave our gate at 9 PM – finally homebound, two and a half hours after our scheduled departure time.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Safety Video

During our taxi out to the runway, we passed by some interesting traffic, including a QSuite-configured Qatar Airways 777 (which was my next flight – review coming very shortly!) and a Korean Air Airbus A220, the latter of which I’d never seen before.

Traffic Tokyo Narita Airport

As per safety protocol, the lights were turned off completely during takeoff.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Cabin Lights Dimmed

We had great views over Tokyo during our climbout, though unfortunately I couldn’t grab great pictures due to the low lighting conditions.

Takeoff Tokyo Narita Airport

After takeoff, I wanted to change my phone’s SIM card, so went ahead and did so, carefully trying not to drop my SIM – and as luck would have it, we hit a patch of turbulence right at that point, causing my SIM tray to slide from the tray table in between seats. I moped around for a good 10 minutes or so (which included basically taking the seat apart), before asking a crewmember if she could find an engineer on the ground. I was simply expecting a “yes” or “no” answer.

Instead, the flight attendant proceeded to invite me to stand up, and also moped around my seat for a while as I stood helplessly mumbling “no, it’s okay”. We actually almost managed to retrieve my SIM tray before we hit another rough patch, and my SIM tray dropped into the entertainment box below. At this point I told the flight attendant it was okay, to which she said “are you sure?” She then proceeded to inform me that they’d try their best to find ground crew on arrival, though it was unlikely they’d be able to do so as we’d be landing past midnight. While I felt quite bad after, this crew was almost touchingly proactive.

Due to the rough chop as well as the fact that I was seated in the last row (not to mention that I took a good 5 minutes of a flight attendant’s time), the meal was served almost an hour and a half after takeoff, at around 10:30 PM Tokyo time. Once again, I can’t quite remember the other option I was offered, though I remember it was a congee of sorts; I selected a chicken with omelet and rice, which was served with imitation crab soba, some bread, and some water.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Meal

Miss me with the bastardisation of a Japanese omurice – I’d actually had two omurices while waiting for my delayed flight, so this one obviously paled in comparison. The chicken was decent, though, and the rice was well executed. I certainly preferred the imitation crab soba appetiser over the main dish, though.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Meal – Chicken with Omelet and Rice

We hit more chop after I received my meal, so the crew didn’t come to collect trays until 25-30 minutes after I was done with my main meal. They did come around with ice cream in the meantime, however. I was working on some farewell cards for my friends, as this flight occurred the night before the last day of school; the flight attendant pointed at my cards, beamed, and went “that’s so cute!”. Mind you, this was after she moped around my seat for five minutes straight, so I figured she’d be annoyed at this point – though she was so, so genuine and attentive, which I really enjoyed.

I’m also surprised that the ice cream was the right temperature (it was probably rock hard by the time they first started serving it, and thawed into the perfect temperature by the time I was served in the last row – though I need to give credit where credit is due, and that ice cream was delicious).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Dessert – Ice Cream

I’ve already made this clear, but despite the long wait times (which I blame on the rough chop), this crew was charming and proactive, and my compliments go to them. This plane had well over 300 passengers in it, and they worked the flight almost effortlessly; I have no doubts that they’d be able to execute a perfect service on a flight with 396 passengers. Unfortunately, on Cathay Pacific, not every crew is as competent as this crew was, and the inconsistency really kills the brand – to the point where the general consensus is that their soft product is heading on a downward spiral.

Since my seat was broken and I was tired, I didn’t thoroughly check out the entertainment system on this flight. Cathay Pacific’s 10-abreast 777s feature an updated entertainment system – it’s the same as their A350 entertainment system (sans responsive screens), and it’s excellent. I’ve overviewed it during a review of my flight on Cathay’s A350-1000 a week prior to this flight, and I won’t rehash it here, so feel free to check out that review if you’re interested in what the entertainment system on this flight had to offer.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Entertainment System

I worked on my friends’/teacher cards for a while, and eventually reclined my seat and conked out, due to how late it was (I’d barely gotten any sleep the night prior, so I was really tired). The comfortable seat helped me get some decent sleep, whereas my dysfunctional TV screen didn’t, as it just wouldn’t turn itself off. Despite that, the next thing I knew the captain was on the PA with his “30 minutes until landing” announcement.

One thing I love about Cathay Pacific’s new entertainment system is the moving map – it features a “pilot” option that has a cool display of the plane’s speed, angle and altitude, which I enjoyed during the descent.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Moving Map

We also had cool views over Hong Kong, though it was foggy and dark, so I couldn’t get great pictures despite flying over the city.

Landing into Hong Kong Airport

We touched down into Hong Kong Airport at around 12:05 AM, and started making our way over to gate 50, where we’d be deplaning.

After the plane parked at the gate, the flight attendant who I’d been talking to proactively came over and told me that unfortunately the flight engineers had gone home for the night. I thanked her anyway, and asked for the opportunity to photograph the cabin, to which she agreed (most of the pictures I took during this time are included in the cabin pictures at the beginning of this review).

During this time I also managed to check out Cathay Pacific’s bulkhead seats at the front of the last economy cabin, which seemed spacious enough (though they’re even narrower, as the tray tables are in the armrests, and they don’t feature the extra seatback storage).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Extra-Legroom Seats

I also had a look at economy seats 78A and 78C, which are the only “duo” seats in Cathay Pacific’s regional 777 configuration. They looked comfortable enough, and would be my first choice if I were travelling with a significant other, as they’re tucked away in the corner (and you don’t have to climb over anyone else to get to the bathroom).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class Seats 78A and 78C

After around 5 minutes of photographing, we were asked to leave the plane. It took a while for us to get our checked bags from the carousel, though afterwards we took a taxi home.

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific’s 10-Abreast 777 Economy Class

Obviously, Cathay Pacific’s economy class is narrower, and definitely not an improvement over their older longhaul configuration (I do prefer it to their older regional seat – it was just that bad). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the new 10-abreast seat – it was much more well padded than I was expecting, the headrest was plush, and I loved the seatback storage. Overall I thought the seat was really well designed – Cathay Pacific does economy class seats very well, in my opinion. Admittedly, I did have three seats to myself – I may have more complaints on a fuller flight.

The food was mediocre on this flight, though the service was spectacular, especially for economy class. Once again (I’ve said exactly the same in my first impressions post of this flight), my compliments go out to the crew that served CX 505 on June 13th, 2019. I’ve heard that Cathay Pacific’s service standards have been going on somewhat of a downward spiral – if that’s really the case, I’ve experienced a couple of flukes lately, and I love it.

I love to give Cathay Pacific crap nowadays, though I need to give credit where credit is due – I’ve seen a few other economy class seats in recent history, and they just do not compare to Cathay Pacific’s economy class seats, from padding to seatback storage. Heck, Qatar Airways introduced a new “super economy seat” this year, and they hyped their increased storage areas and larger screens like crazy – Cathay Pacific had beaten them to the chase long ago. Considering their mediocrity when it comes to the soft product, it’s crazy how far Cathay Pacific leads the industry in the economy class seat department. The only airline that comes close seems to be Singapore Airlines, though I need to fly them firsthand.

Have you flown an economy class seat that you find to be better than Cathay Pacific’s?

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One thought on “Review: Cathay Pacific’s 10-Abreast 777 Economy Class Tokyo to Hong Kong

  1. You say that you like selecting the back of the plane – but don’t you find that’s it’s generally bumpier as well? I avoid it like the plague, though that could be due me to being prone to motion sickness.

    I think the fact that you had a row to yourself, and that it was a relatively short flight, made your 10-across experience bearable. 10-across seating, literally rubbing shoulders with randoms next to you, on a packed LHR-HKG flight is, I think, an entirely different experience…

    Like

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