Cathay Pacific’s 777s Are Getting Tighter Economy Seats & Wifi

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Last October I wrote about how Cathay Pacific’s CEO said that the airline was planning to move towards a 3-4-3 layout in economy on their 777s, as many other airlines have done. However, no timeline was given, and it sounded more like an idea than something that was finalized.

When the 777 was first introduced, a vast majority of airlines had nine seats per row in economy. However, over the years we’ve seen airlines try to cram more seats into the back of the plane (while making first and business class more spacious), and one by one airlines began to install 10 seats per row in economy on the 777.

Singapore Airlines has just nine seats per row in 777 economy

Now having nine seats per row is the exception rather than the norm. Well, Cathay Pacific had horrible financial results last year — they lost 575 million HKD (~74 million USD), so they’re looking for ways to cut costs and improve their revenue per seat.

It’s now being officially reported that Cathay Pacific will be going to 10 abreast seating on the 777. Cathay Pacific will overhaul their 777s with more seats as part of a three year project, which will kick off around the middle of next year.

Cathay Pacific 777

Per the South China Morning Post:

Leg room will remain at 32 inches, but passengers with bigger frames will want to note that the width of each seat will shrink by 1.3 inches to 17.2 inches.

New seats will have a bigger 12 inch in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen – with the IFE box hidden inside chairs and not taking up legroom, plus more personal storage and Wi-Fi is also set to be added to planes.

On the comfort side, the newly designed seats would be smaller but have more comfort and better padding, plus have supporting headrests to benefit sleeping passengers.

In total, Cathay Pacific will be reconfiguring a total of 48 longhaul aircraft, and they’ll be adding anywhere between 19 and 28 seats, depending on the configuration. Meanwhile Cathay Pacific’s 17 short-haul 777s will be reconfigured with an additional 40 seats. These denser cabins are expected to give Cathay Pacific an additional 1.4 million seats per year.

Now, of course adding additional seats is mostly bad news, though I do think there’s something to be said for the improved technology that seats have. IFE screens will be bigger, IFE boxes will be hidden inside the seats rather than obstruct legroom, etc. So while it’s ultimately bad to lose 1.3 inches of seat width, at least the seat should otherwise be better than before.

The other consideration is that Cathay Pacific is finally getting wifi on their 777s as part of this project, which is great news. So over the next 1-4 years you can expect to see wifi progressively installed throughout Cathay Pacific’s 777 fleet. As it stands, only the A350s have wifi, which Cathay Pacific recently started taking delivery of.

Cathay Pacific A350

Bottom line

Tighter economy seats are ultimately bad news, though at least we can expect the seats to otherwise be more comfortable. Furthermore, I’m at least excited that the planes will be getting wifi at the same time, which is long overdue.

Now the real question is whether Singapore Airlines will finally switch to 10 seats per row in 777 economy. They’re one of the few major airlines remaining with only nine seats per row.

  1. I thought as an award/upgrade/discount J “premium” pax you’d never be found in Y-cabin on a long haul flight, let alone on CX. Still get a good chuckle out of your 2013 JFK-GRU post on narrowly avoiding Y.

  2. It would be great to see some US carriers adopt the in-seat technology for the IFE box. Some of these boxes take up a significant amount of the footwell area.

  3. Sad idea, but it makes sense, since Cathay planes are consistently packed.

  4. So the days of CX upgrading Y passengers to J and J to F because of the chronic overbooking issues they face are soon to be history.. I can only think of DL, SQ, TG, and GA as major airlines not packing 3-4-3 on their 777s. It’s probably a matter of last man standing..

  5. At this point I’m pretty confident GA and SQ will remain the final two airlines with 9 across. SQ because they sell themselves on comfort, GA because their 777s are really just a status symbol.

  6. @Karens

    Very true. Also just learned that KE, OZ, and NH still have a 3-3-3 configuration on their 777s. Moreover, the Koreans also have above-average legroom.

    If anything, perhaps we’ll see them pull a Delta and reduce legroom before adding an extra seat per row. The Koreans might be the last to do it (if they do it) because if they can afford to equip only 277 seats on something as expensive to run as a 77W, then reducing legroom per economy seat is more likely to be considered first methinks

  7. It makes sense, people who care about comfort and don’t just want the cheapest ticket would probably not pay for economy anyway.

  8. @milgom, pretty ridiculous statement. The gap between economy and premium economy prices are huge. For someone who is broad shouldered and actually lifted weights, this adds CX to EK and EY to airlines I’ll avoid with the 777 from my airport.

    After flying on an Etihad 777 10 seat across, all I can say is never again. Thankfully I believe CX is replacing the 777 with a A350 on the MAN-HKG route so it shouldn’t be too bad, even a QR 787 is better than a 777 with a 3-4-3

  9. Flew on an LX 777 in Y – never again. On 9-abreast configs I’d fly any day – but the 3-4-3 seats are just wrong.
    Even though technically similar in terms of width, I didn’t mind seats on DLs 744 or LATAMs 787 for example…not exactly roomy, but not brutal.

  10. Air NZ went to 3-4-3 with 773s and all I ever see on traveller forums is gripes, aisle seat pax get bumped all the time by passing crew and pax. Crew also hate them as the narrow aisles make trolley movements difficult.

  11. Great, so with WIFI, CX will become just like the MTR in Hong Kong. Can’t wait to hear the sounds of candy crush, war games and Chinese opera blaring from pax devices, just like my morning commute.

  12. BA cattle is also 3-3-3 on the 777 -> yes they are changing this now for flights out of Gatwick to 3-4-3; but LHR are not yet subject to this!

    On the route from HKG-Europe or vice versa i find it the most specious and comfortable cattle class (I tired them all)

  13. My wife 5 ‘5″ just reported that neither she or the normal height passengers had enough leg room. Traveling from Hong Kong to Boston on Cathay Pacific.
    A month from now I will be traveling on the same leg.
    I called the airline and Audrey informed me that the legroom on economy is 32″ on the 777.
    I did assure her that I will bring a tape measure and if the leg room is not 32″ (according to the contract) hell will break loose on line and off line.

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