Cathay Pacific Succumbs To 10-Across Economy Class Cabins And We’re To Blame

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I expect airlines like American, Air France and Emirates to cram their passengers in to annoyingly tight seats that no human should have to endure but there are other airlines where we’ve come to expect better…and Cathay Pacific is one of those airlines.

Cathay Pacific has long been considered one of the all-round premium airlines in the skies and that’s a reputation that has been earned not only because of the amazing service in its First Class cabin but also because the airline hasn’t historically treated its passengers like self-loading cargo. But it looks like those days are nearly over.

The South China Morning Post reported over the weekend that Cathay’s chief executive confirmed that the airline is almost certain to add extra seats to its long-haul Boeing Economy Class cabins. Ivan Chu Kwok-leung is quoted as saying:

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 towards that stage, it’s very clear.

The chief executive went on to tell SCMP that Cathay was committed to maintaining a 32″ seat pitch in its Economy Class cabin but admitted that the seat widths would fall from a luxurious 18.5″ to a tight and confining 17″.

That’s horrible.

10-across-seating-77710-across seating on American Airlines’ 777-300ER

Cathay may well be “committed” to maintaining a 32″ seat pitch but don’t let that fool you – not all 32″ seat-pitches are created equal.

The airline is talking about adding at least one additional row of seats to its 777 aircraft and the space for that extra row is going to have to come from somewhere….and I suspect it will come by reducing the size of the seat cushion passengers sit on. That’s not going to make life any more comfortable.

Why The Change?


Hong Kong airport is severely slot restricted and a good number of Cathay’s competitors are flying more passengers per slot because they already have 10 seats across their aircraft cabins. American Airlines flys its 10-across 777s to Hong Kong from Dallas, Air France does the same from Paris and Emirates follows suit from Dubai…and there are more examples just like that.

Cathay Pacific is finding that it can’t compete with the 10-across airlines because passengers haven’t been prepared to pay the premium that Cathay charges for its more comfortable Economy Class cabins…so it has been losing passengers to the cheaper but less comfortable competitors.

It’s a perfect example of the “you get what you pay for” mantra.

SWISS 777-300ERThe SWISS 10-across Economy Class may look ok but 17″ of seat width is not fun!

The fact is that passengers love to complain about terrible conditions in Economy Class but then they go and pick their flights based on the cheapest fare with little consideration for what they’re actually getting for the price.

That behavior only rewards the airlines that cram passengers in like animals on the way to market and penalizes airlines, like Cathay Pacific, that offer something better…so is it any surprise that Cathay has thrown the towel in?

Bottom Line

It’s very sad to see a great airline like Cathay Pacific forced into a move like this but, if you want to look for someone to blame, don’t blame the airline.

Cathay Pacific has been flying 777’s with more seat pitch and more seat width than most of its competitors for years but it’s been the lack of support from the flying public that has brought this change about. If travelers had been prepared to pay a little more to have a bit more comfort in Economy Class then this issue probably wouldn’t have reared its ugly head…but they weren’t so it did.

Singapore Airlines and JAL still fly 777’s with a proper amount of seat width and a good amount of leg room but they’ll be next to fall if they don’t get support from passengers.

So, the next time you find yourself complaining that the airline you’ve chosen to fly is squeezing you into a ridiculously tight seat with your knees squashed against the seat in front of you, ask yourself whether you could have avoided that situation by paying a little bit more on another airline.

If the answer to that is yes then you only have yourself to blame….and you’ll also be to blame (at least in part) when the option to pay a bit more for a bit more comfort is no longer an option at all.

Featured image courtesy of Aero Icarus via Flickr


  1. Qatar has also moved from the very comfortable and generous 3-3-3 layout it used to have to the horrible 3-4-3 on its B77Ws which is really a shame! And for once I thought for an airline to be classified as a true 5-star airline the Y class cabin should be 9 abreast as opposed to 10! This is really a downgrade to the global standard of economy class. What a shame!

    • I completely agree….what makes it even more galling is that the Qatar Airlines CEO called the 10-accross seating “comfortable”!

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