a row of blue and white seats on an airplane

Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class (HKG-NRT)

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Review Overview

While we were swapped from an A350-1000 to this older aircraft last minute, Cathay Pacific's A330 economy seats are trusty, feature storage space, and are very plush, which is better than most economy seats.


I wanted to spice things up and make my reviews interesting, so specifically sought out a flight on Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 so I could review the airline’s most updated economy product. Unfortunately on the morning of our flight I received a notification that our flight had been swapped out to an A330, along with a further notification that we’d been delayed.

Especially since I was flying with friends, I was tempted to just put my camera away and not review the flight, though quickly realised that it’s been over three years since I’ve last Cathay Pacific’s A330 economy product. I decided it was worth a revisit, since this seat will still be flying around on longer flights to Australia and the Middle East, as well as various intra-Asia flights.

Our plane rolled into the gate at 10:15 AM, ahead of our new departure time at 11 AM – interestingly I’d flown this exact airframe before (B-HLP), also in economy class to Kuala Lumpur in 2016. Since then, it had received a fresh coat of paint, in Cathay Pacific’s new livery.

an airplane on the tarmac
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Hong Kong Airport

When scheduled as an A350-1000 we were looking at a pretty empty flight. Even after being swapped to an A330, we still had quite a few empty seats on board in economy, as you can see from the somewhat empty gate area below.

people sitting in a large room with a large screen
Hong Kong Airport Gate Area

From the gate area we had a clear view of the 21+ year old regional 777-300 parked next to us, suited in Cathay Pacific’s sleek new livery.

a plane on the tarmac
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Hong Kong Airport

Cathay Pacific boards oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members and business class passengers first, followed by premium economy and Marco Polo Green members, followed by everybody else. I don’t have status with oneworld, so I was one of the first in the economy lane.

a sign in an airport
Cathay Pacific Economy Class Boarding Sign

The new boarding time of 10:30 AM rolled by, and we stood around waiting for quite a long time without any updates whatsoever. Boarding didn’t start until 11 AM, though the plane was boarded quite briskly after that.

Cathay Pacific Flight CX520
Monday, June 10, 2019
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 47  Dep: 10:35 (11:20)
Destination: Tokyo Narita (NRT) Gate: 75 Arr: 16:05 (16:45)
Duration: 4 hr 30 min (4 hr 25 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300 Reg: B-HLP
Seat: 66A (Economy Class)

Once we boarded I passed through Cathay Pacific’s older reverse herringbone business class cabin, which I find to be quite comfortable. If anything, I was quite glad on behalf of the business class passengers that we didn’t get swapped to a plane with a regional business class configuration.

a seat with a seat belt and a pillow on it
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Business Class

This was one of Cathay Pacific’s few longhaul-configured A330s with no premium economy cabin. Since premium economy was bookable on our flight, the protocol is that revenue passengers get upgraded, whereas award passengers get downgraded.

In plane of a premium economy cabin was a slightly smaller forward economy cabin, with 94 economy class seats.

a row of blue seats on an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Forward Cabin

We were seated in the rear economy cabin with 129 economy class seats. As is the norm for A330s, Cathay Pacific’s economy cabin is laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.

a person walking on an airplane a man sitting in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Rear Cabin

I assigned ourselves seats 66A, 66B and 66C on the A350, though one of us was relocated to 66E due to the aircraft change (we managed to switch him back to 66D in the end, since it ended up being empty).

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Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Seats 66A and 66C

Now that Cathay Pacific is retrofitting all of their 777s with a 3-4-3 configuration (which I’ll review on the inbound) and retired all of their 777-200s, their A330s are the only planes that feature this economy product.

While airlines have focused on “enhancing” economy products by enlarging TV screens and making seats razor-thin in order to maximise legroom without reducing seat count (*ahem* Qatar Airways), Cathay Pacific’s economy class department gets all the basics right, in my opinion. Cathay Pacific debuted this version of their economy seat in 2012, and it’s extremely well-padded, has a decent amount of recline, isn’t too short on legroom, and has seatback storage, which I really like – fortunately (most of) these details aren’t forgotten with their latest economy products.

a row of blue seats in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Recline

Legroom in these seats is not insane (I’m “average” Asian height, but we’re talking 5’9″), though it’s around the industry standard. Seat pitch is at 32″ for these seats, which is pretty standard for Asian airlines.

a person's legs and a seat pocket
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Legroom

One of my favourite elements of Cathay Pacific’s economy class seat is the storage nook under the TV screen, which is perfect for a phone or small items inflight. One pet peeve I have is when “industry leading” economy seats don’t have a dedicated space for leaving phones to charge – even public bathroom stalls have a ledge for phones these days!

a close up of a device
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Storage Nook

Above the storage nook was a USB port, as well as a specialised port for Cathay Pacific-provided Lightning cables.

a close up of a computer
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Power Ports

The bi-fold tray table was sturdy, and large enough for a 15″ laptop.

a white rectangular object with a black strap
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Tray Table

Unfortunately Cathay Pacific doesn’t have overhead air nozzles on their A330s (apart from a select bunch of seats), though that wasn’t a problem on this flight, since the cabin was kept quite cool.

a pair of speakers on a plane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Overhead PSU

Overall, while Cathay Pacific has come up with more modern economy class seats that have more extensive storage options, these seats continue to be some of the most well-padded economy seats out there. Cathay Pacific might not have much finesse, though they certainly do economy class seats right.

A pillow and blanket were available on request, though at my seat I found a pair of (low-quality, economy style) headphones.

a hand holding a plastic bag
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Headphones

It was somewhat of a gloomy day in Hong Kong, and we were also parked by the edge of the airport, so we only had views of the cargo terminal whilst we were still parked at the gate.

an airplane wing on a runway
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Wingview

Pushback occurred at roughly 11:30 AM. The middle block of row 66 stayed empty, so my seatmate moved to sit there so we could each have two seats to ourselves. Captain Jonathan came onto the PA to announce our flight time of 3 hours and 30 minutes, saying that we’d try to make up some of the time we lost from our delay in the air.

A note for groups of three travelling in Cathay Pacific’s A330 – if you’re planning to assign yourself one center aisle seat and a window “block” of two, the center rows are slightly offset from the window rows, to the point where row 67 seemed closer to us than row 66 did. If you’re planning on assigning a center aisle seat across two window seats, you’re best off assigning the center aisle seat in the row behind the two window seats (e.g. 66A, 66C, 67D) if you want to talk across the aisle during the flight, at least if you’re seated in the rear cabin.

We had nice views of a United 777 and a China Airlines 747 taking off, as we waited in line to taxi off runway 07R.

a large airplane on a runway a large airplane on the runway an airplane wing on a runway
Traffic at Hong Kong Airport

Right as it began to rain in Hong Kong, we jetted off runway 07R at 11:50 AM, around an hour and 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time. The weather began to clear up a bit as we flew past the city, though many of the best views were covered by thick clouds.

an airplane wing on a runway an airplane wing over a body of water an airplane wing in the sky an airplane wing above the clouds an airplane wing in the sky
Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

After takeoff I took the opportunity to photograph a cabin shot of Cathay Pacific’s A330 economy class (I didn’t notice the blanket draped across a block of economy seats in the bottom of the picture until I was choosing my pictures for this review, so I’m not sure what happened there – whether it was reserved for crew, or merely an inconsiderate passenger).

a group of people sitting in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

I also took the chance to check out the lavatory, which was basic but featured Nobility toiletries.

a sink and toilet in a bathroom a group of bottles of liquid soap
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Lavatory

We hit some chop prior to the meal service, to the point where crew members were asked to take a seat. Since Cathay’s A330s don’t have WiFi, I decided to edit some footage for my YouTube channel.

a man sitting on an airplane with a laptop
Working happily in Cathay Pacific’s A330 Economy Class!

The meal trolley eventually got to my row 30 minutes after takeoff, and I was offered a beverage. I chose water, which was given to me alongside a bag of salted peanuts.

a small package of peanuts and a glass of water on a table
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Pre-Meal Service Beverage

20 minutes later I was served my main meal, and I decided to have the teriyaki beef (I don’t remember what the other option was). It’s not easy to screw up sliced beef, rice and teriyaki sauce, and Cathay Pacific always does their cold soba side dish right – though this was one of the best meals I remember having in economy class. Cathay needs to tell me what store they get their teriyaki sauce from, because I sure loved it, and cleared my plate.

a tray of food on a plane a tray of food on a table
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Meal – Teriyaki Beef

The ice cream, unfortunately, was rock hard (as expected in an economy class cabin).

a container of yogurt in a plastic container
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Ice Cream

One thing I do love about Cathay Pacific’s economy class soft product is the awesome cutlery, which is made of high-quality plastic. I always hate when airlines give you party plastic forks that break within seconds of using them, so this was a welcome change.

a hand holding a fork and a bowl of rice
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cutlery

The cabin crew on this flight went through the motions, though exuded no charm (which, surprisingly, was in stark contrast to my return flight, also in economy). The crew started serving lunch right after I used the lavatory, so I had to sit in 66G (with my friends), since the other aisle was blocked by the trolley. When I asked for a meal, the flight attendant serving the right aisle said “didn’t the other flight attendant serve you already?” (though I got my meal anyway).

After returning to my seat I briefly opened the window to find a pretty sky and some thin clouds, which made the perfect backdrop for the sleek Cathay Pacific wing.

an airplane wing in the sky
Wingview over Japan!

After working for another while, I decided to nap – I did so comfortably in Cathay Pacific’s economy class. The comfortable cabin temperature and awesome padding made for a decent nap on a short flight.

After I woke up I briefly browsed the entertainment system. Cathay Pacific’s entertainment system is one of the best out there – it features an abundance of movies, though I dislike how it doesn’t have entire seasons of TV shows (the updated entertainment system on A350s and 777s fixes that). My biggest complaint, however, is that the airshow wasn’t working properly – the left side of the screen would black off whenever I played the airshow, which showed the age of this otherwise new-seeming 18-year-old aircraft.

a screen shot of a television a black rectangular device with a screen a screen with a screen on it a screen with a screen on it a screen shot of a computer a close-up of a screen
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Entertainment System

The clouds got thicker as we descended into Tokyo Narita. Unfortunately the weather was terrible and it rained upon landing, so I couldn’t get any great photos of Tokyo from above (fortunately the weather eventually cleared up during the course of our stay).

the wing of an airplane above the clouds a plane wing in the rain water drops on a window
Landing into Tokyo Narita

We landed into Tokyo Narita Airport at 4:35 PM, and began a 10-minute taxi to gate 75. From there, we headed to our airbnb in Oshiage, northeast of Tokyo’s city center (I won’t be reviewing it).

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class

Cathay Pacific doesn’t have a great track record in terms of equipment swaps, so I can’t believe I couldn’t see this equipment swap coming. On top of that, none of my Cathay Pacific flights boarded anywhere near on time, which is a little disconcerting for me. Cathay Pacific gets worse by the day when it comes to punctuality, in my opinion.

The crew on this flight was also nothing special, and went through the motions without any further interactions. That being said, I was surprised that this was the only Cathay Pacific flight I took in recent history where this was the case.

At the end of the day, despite being 7 years old, Cathay Pacific’s A330 economy class seat continues to rise above the competition, both in terms of comfort and storage space. That being said, I did try Cathay Pacific’s new 10-abreast 777 seat on the return (which replaced this seat), and was surprised that it came close in terms of comfort, and had even more storage. Stay tuned for that review.

Read more from this trip:

Do you find Cathay Pacific’s A330 economy class better or worse than their newer economy class products?

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