a seat with armrests and arm rest

I Tried Cathay Pacific’s New Premium Economy Seat

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Several months ago, Cathay Pacific unveiled a brand new Premium Economy seat for its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. To showcase the new product, Cathay ran a pop-up event over the last week, which attracted a lot of attention from local influencers. With all the hype surrounding the product, I dragged my jet-lagged self straight off a long-haul Cathay Pacific Premium Economy flight to the pop-up event.

a woman standing in a room with a curtain
Cathay Pacific New Premium Economy Showcase

A Couple of Caveats On My Thoughts…

First, it’s quite hard to judge an airline seat in a non-aircraft setting. I can think of multiple instances where Premium Economy products (ahem… Air New Zealand and Qantas) didn’t translate well from mock-ups to real-life. Hence, I won’t be commenting on the personal space or legroom-related aspects of the seat in this post.

Next, as I mentioned above, I pretty much walked straight off of a long-haul flight in Cathay Pacific’s A350 Premium Economy product to the mall for the event.

  • On the plus side, this meant that I got to make a more direct comparison between the existing product and the new product as my flight was still “fresh” on my mind.
  • On the flip side, I was a little tired and might have missed some things about the new product.

With that out of the way…

The Basics of Cathay’s New Premium Economy Product

Cathay Pacific’s latest Premium Economy seat is manufactured by recaro Recaro. These seats look like an updated version of Recaro’s PL3530 seat, which is also used by British Airways, Starlux, and Emirates.

  • Much like on Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350 aircraft, the seats will have 40 inches of pitch (slightly above the industry average of 38 inches) and 8 inches of recline.
  • The new seats will be slightly wider than Cathay’s existing Premium Economy seats at 21 inches (up from 19 and 20 inches respectively on the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777).
  • According to Executive Traveller, the Premium Economy cabin will grow from 32 to 48 seats and be re-fitted with two dedicated lavatories.

For a frame of reference, I find the current seats on both the A350 and 777 to be perfectly spacious. From my time exploring the product, the new seats look a little bulkier than the current seat, which might reduce overall legroom. However, we’ll have to wait and see once the product is actually introduced.

a row of seats in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Premium Economy Cabin

Premium Economy has really exploded in popularity in recent years. On my flights with Cathay Pacific in the past year, I’ve found the cabin to be consistently full – even when other cabin classes are empty. I hope that the increase in Premium Economy capacity might (slightly) lower prices and increase award and upgrade availability.

I’m also glad to see that Cathay is installing dedicated lavatories. Currently, Premium Economy passengers have to walk through the Economy cabin to use the lavatory, which is a minor inconvenience. The new dedicated bathrooms will make the cabin feel more exclusive – even with an increased seat count.

Some Observations on the New Seat:

In no particular order, here are some of my observations on the new seat.

1 – A new privacy shield

The most obvious difference between Cathay Pacific’s current and new Premium Economy seats is the inclusion of a privacy “shield” between seats.

a man standing in a chair
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Privacy Shield

The new privacy shield is a nice improvement from the old seats. When I tried out the seat, I found that the shield fully blocked the face of the person sitting next to me. The privacy shield also includes embedded reading light. I find the current reading light on the A350 to be a bit challenging to access – especially when the cabin lights are off. Meanwhile, the new reading light looks a lot more intuitive and easy-to-use.

The seat also has an adjustable headrest, which I felt provided better neck support than current versions of the seat.

2 – New entertainment offering

In my opinion, the most impressive new feature on Cathay’s new Premium Economy product is a 15.6 inch 4K entertainment screen. This is a significant increase from the 10-inch last-generation entertainment screen found on Cathay Pacific’s current 777 aircraft.

a screen on a seat
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Entertainment Screen

While the entertainment system was deactivated for the showcase, I had the chance to try out Cathay Pacific’s next-generation entertainment system on their Airbus A350 aircraft. I found the new entertainment system to be responsive, high-definition, functional, and filled with many useful features. These next generation touchscreens will likely be even better

I was, however, very surprised that there is no tablet/phone holder on the seat. I’m curious about the rationale behind this decision. Is Cathay confident that its new 4K television screen will offer a better viewing experience than a tablet? Did Cathay conduct some market research that concluded that passengers simply weren’t using the tablet holders?

The lack of a tablet holder is all the more puzzling considering that Cathay’s new Aria Suite Business Class appears to have a small tablet holder mounted on the tray table. These new seats are certainly step back for passengers who bring their own entertainment onboard.

3 – New seatback storage

The seat has a small storage compartment for smaller items like glasses, mobile phones, and charging cables.

a pocket in the back of a seat
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Storage 

While the storage compartment is a nice improvement over the small exposed cubby on Cathay’s current 777 seat, I feel like it’s a bit of a step back compared to the current product on the A350. Unlike on the A350, the new seat-back storage compartment cannot be used for taxi, take-off, and landing. I know that many passengers like to unpack their belongings at the start of each flight to avoid having to rummage through the overhead lockers inflight. This will no longer be possible on the new seats.

Under the cubby is a small seat pocket. There’s also a water bottle holder hidden in the leg area between the seats.

Finally, the new seats have a storage pocket in the armrest, which should be big enough to store a tablet or small laptop. There’s also a USB-C power outlet and a small light hidden around the storage pocket. The seat also comes with a USB-A and universal power outlet in the centre armrest.

a close up of a device
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Storage 

4 – Tray table

One of my (admittedly very minor) gripes about the current Premium Economy seats on both the 777 and the A350 is that the tray tables are flimsy and – in the case of the A350 – difficult to operate. However, the new tray tables are much each to use and appear to be quite sturdy. I also appreciate that the table can be folded in half.

a close up of a table
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Tray Table

Additionally, I like the wooden finishes on the tray table, which gives the seat a more “premium” look and feel.

5 – Seat comfort – leg-rests and recline

The new seats recline around the same amount as the current seats, which I’m certainly not complaining about!

a seat with armrests and arm rest
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy

Each seat is equipped with a fold-up leg-rest. Bulkhead seats (shown in the picture above) come with a footrest which unfolds from the leg-rest, while non-bulkhead seats come with a foot-bar which unfolds from the seat in front.

I’m not a fan of the leg-rest set-up on the bulkhead seats:

  • First, the leg-rest itself doesn’t actually go up that far, which makes it more difficult to get into a comfortable resting position.
  • Additionally, the fold-out foot bar doesn’t extend very far – and won’t be very useful to anyone over 5 feet tall. When I tried out the seat, my legs were forced up in a rather uncomfortable 90-degree angle.

a seat with a magazine in it
Cathay Pacific New Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Footrest

Rather interestingly, I felt that the non-bulkhead seats offered even better seat comfort. The leg-rest goes up quite high which, combined with the generous seat recline, made for a comfortable lazy-boy position. Additionally, the foot-bar was easy to use, and extended into a comfortable position for taller passengers to rest their feet.


Overall, I found Cathay Pacific’s new Premium Economy to be a nice evolution from the airline’s product. While the new seat isn’t the best Premium Economy seat on the market, it’s highly competitive. The technology on these new seats are excellent, especially considering Cathay Pacific’s industry-leading entertainment offering. I also appreciated some thoughtful touches on the seat, from the new privacy shield to the additional storage compartments.

That being said, there’s always room for improvement with the seat. I’m puzzled by the lack of a tablet holder. Additionally, I feel like Cathay could have done a little more to make the seat even more private (e.g., by adding a “full” divider between seats like on Japan Airlines’ A350).

Regardless, the new seat should be a significant improvement from the current product on the Boeing 777. I’m excited for the product to enter into service with Cathay Pacific’s new Aria Suite Business Class, and hope to have the chance to try the seat in the near future.

1 comment

  1. To me it is inane for an airline to provide a two-seat, one-row mockup of a new seat. It doesn’t allow any kind of real comparison, as you note. I wish they would have done it where you could sit in the second row to try out the leg space in a more realistic fashion.

    Secondly I think the bulkhead leg rest makes perfect sense- if you are longer legged you probably don’t need much help supporting dangling feet you get bulkhead to stretch legs out- those of us who are short, do need support. Ditto with a lot of people’s complaints about the footrests in other rows- I’ve seen a number of reviews lamenting the waste of space and lack of comfort and storage due to foot rests because they don’t really need them anyway and all it does is cram their legs upwards, or if not used, contribute to a lack of access to the under-seat storage and overall room for shins/knees, etc.

    Though to be fair, I am not a target demographic for this class of service because I can only really sleep laying down, so its either spend more for business class or just suck it up in economy and pay a lot less. The middle of the road (and in an unfortunate number of cases barely better than an economy seat with extra leg room) premium economy is too much money for very little overall benefit to me. Thank you for looking at it and showing us what it offers.

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