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Cathay Pacific has confirmed it will be densifying its Economy Class cabins on the B777, following rumours that have been flying about for the better part of a year, and the airline recently reporting its first loss in almost a decade.

Cathay Pacific will be adding an extra seat to each row of Economy Class on its B777 fleet. This will take it from 9-abreast to 10-abreast, and shrinks the 9-abreast club by one.

This will see Economy Class, in its current iteration of a 3-3-3 layout, replaced with a 3-4-3 structure at the back of the bus. Per the South China Morning Post (SCMP), however, these new seats will have peripheral improvements over the existing ones.

This will include the same 32” pitch, improved padding, larger IFE screens and the removal of the under-seat service boxes that previously obstructed the foot-well.

Although not surprising, it is certainly disappointing to see a previous stalwart of providing premium customer experience in every cabin succumbing to this trend. In their defense, however, Cathay Pacific objectively has a much more valid excuse for pursuing this option over its 10-abreast brethren: Hong Kong is a fantastically congested airport, with very low slot availability (slots are rights for each flight to take off from the airport) and increasing the capacity of each aircraft leaving the ground is one way of overcoming this.

This move isn’t without its passenger experience consequences. As I’ve been through on previous posts, taking just the industry averages for each of these layouts, Cathay’s future B777s can be expected to sport an Economy Class seat width of 17.1”. That is almost an inch less than the 9-abreast average (18”), and a full 2.5” less than the industry maximum for 9-abreast layouts.

For passengers in aircraft offering 9-abreast, passenger feedback gives a satisfaction rating of 72% and can be as high as 89% – excellent in an industry in which it is difficult to please everyone, and Cathay is right at the top end of that. Throw in an extra seat, and the score plummets to 58% – and that’s in line with some of the most cramped low-cost-carrier B737 layouts out there. This isn’t to even explore the flow on consequences of this dense layout – narrower aisle and narrower armrests.

In further reference to the SCMP article, I would finish by offering a firm caution to Achim Czerny (quoted) and those who also believe “…passengers would be happy to get a seat at all. They don’t care, at least they can fly.” Passengers are getting more choice than ever over how they fly, and the days when passengers simply accept what they are given is over. Watch them vote with their feet.

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Posted by Tom

Tom is a consultant and founder of FlightMaestro.net, the online travel tool that rates, ranks and dissects every facet of in-flight passenger experience. All views expressed are his own.

One Comment

  1. […] Cathay Pacific uses a combination of the B777, A330 and A350 between Melbourne and London. For now, all three of these planes are world-beating products, and Cathay Pacific is a fantastic alternative. However, this will all change next year. […]

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