After flirting with the proposal to change their B777 Economy seating configuration from 9 across to 10 across, Cathay Pacific has confirmed plans to join Qatar Airways, Eva Air, United Air, and British Airways in changing to a 3-4-3 seat configuration. The announcement comes after a relatively negative set of earnings was released by the airline. After the decision was made, Cathay released a statement saying “The airline will be aligning the practice of many notable premium carriers by adopting the industry standard of a 3-4-3 seating configuration in the Economy Class cabins of its 48 Boeing 777-300ER long-haul aircraft and 17 Boeing 777-300 regional aircraft”. Cathay plans to complete making the change by 2020, offering new seats with a width of 17.2 inches, recline of 6 inches, and pitch of 32 inches. Cathay says that these dimensions are “comparable to other premium airlines”.
“If you look at the Boeing 777s, which everybody uses from the Gulf to the US to European carriers and ourselves, the standard is 3-4-3. I think we are moving toward that stage, it’s very clear,” said Cathay Chief Executive Ivan Chu Kwok-leung.
The new seat configuration does mean that new seats will be smaller. However, Cathay believes that it’s worth it. First, it provides a larger profit margin by lowering cost per seat mile. It also means that more people can fly on the same amount of flights, which improves fuel efficiency. And, though the increase in seats could lead to a decrease in seat comfort and accessibility, the airline thinks that passengers will be able to sacrifice a little comfort in exchange for lower fares. Aviation website One Mile At A Time even argues that passengers aren’t willing to pay for additional seat width without upgrading to business class, first class, or an equivalent. This means that the switch to a 10-abreast economy class is all but inevitable.
“In contrast to the competitor’s products, the 777 has a wider fuselage that allows for more seats in each row while providing good passenger experience,” said Boeing spokesperson Elizabeth Fischtziur. “Airline acceptance of the 777 at 10-abreast has continued to grow over the years, now accounting for over 50 percent of 777 deliveries.”
Cathy made sure to stress that this decision was not taken lightly, saying that “The decision to adopt this industry standard has involved extensive research and customer testing to ensure that the new product not only meets the expectations of customers, but exceeds them”. The airline also pointed out that the new seats will help to keep its promise of growing capacity by 5%, even as airport capacities (especially Hong Kong) are constrained.
Cathay is making other big plans for its 777 fleet in the future. Most notably, they are considering adding WiFi to their entire 777 fleet.
A list of other airlines with 10-abreast configuration includes Aeroflot, Air Austral, Air Canada, Air France, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, China Airlines, China Eastern, Emirates, Etihad, Jet Airways, KLM, Kuwait Airways, LATAM, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Scoot, TAAG Angola, Qatar, Eva Air, United Airlines, and British Airways.