Cathay chairman: most passengers see refurbed 777s as improvement

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Cathay Pacific has no regrets about its decision to densify its Boeing 777-300 family with 10-abreast seating in economy class, telling Runway Girl Network at a Wings Club luncheon in New York that market forces necessitated the refurbishment which is now well underway, and that most passengers consider the retrofit to be an improvement.

Early on, a few 777 operators – including premium carriers like Emirates – adopted 3-4-3 configurations instead of the then-standard 3-3-3 layout. But over time, more and more airlines migrated to the higher-density cabin, noted Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar on Friday. United, EVA, Qatar Airways and ANA are among the carriers that retrofitted their 777 fleets to increase seat count.

Part of what facilitated the transition to 10-abreast for Cathay Pacific, said Slosar, was the introduction of a new and improved economy class hard product. Seat enhancements include a better IFE screen with no intrusive under-seat electronics boxes, adjustable headrests and what the carrier has described as a more ergonomic slimline profile.

Innovations made the seat better, said Slosar in New York, “and at the end of the day, 10-abreast has become the standard and if we hadn’t gone there, we would have stood out as people who weren’t paying attention to the marketplace. The primary reason was the market said 10-abreast works in the airplane especially with new and better seats.”

Capacity constraints at Hong Kong International Airport have been a concern for Cathay Pacific. Slosar noted that the two-runway system “is pretty much maxed out”, and the third runway is not arriving until 2024. “That doesn’t mean growth turns to zero, we can upgauge some things,” he said. To wit, Cathay Pacific in 2018 turned around its string of losses, with densified 777s and their added capacity being very much part of that transformation plan.

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It’s true that 10-abreast on the 777 is now considered standard, but there remains a few celebrated 9-across outliers, including Delta Air Lines. And educated passengers are absolutely paying attention.

Interestingly, Slosar suggested that while some people will say that 10-abreast is a downgrade, “most” consider it an improvement. Yet, one does not need to look very far to find complaints about Cathay Pacific’s new configuration, with western-sized flyers bemoaning the 17.2-inch-wide seats, reduced shoulder room, and narrower aisle on various online forums. Individuals with smaller physiques, including in the Asian market, may have fewer concerns about the living space provided.

On the premium seating front, Cathay Pacific has faced production quality challenges on the Airbus A350 XWB. As extensively reported by RGN, business class passengers have not only had to contend with seat materials separating from their structures, but also with the strange optics of toilets taped together and lavatories sealed with shabbily rough caulking.

Slosar is unperturbed about the issue, saying in answer to a question posed by RGN that there are bound to be challenges when rolling out a new type. “We focus on long-term consistency of service and when people feel that, and feel that’s what you’re doing they stay with us.”

Image at top credited to Cathay Pacific

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16 Comments

  1. Raksiam

    Yes, I’m people are thrilled about being stuffed into smaller seats. At this point I think everyone is just resigned to the fact the economy class is a torture chamber no matter which airline you fly

    • Matt

      Talk about tone deaf.

      I’ve flown Business in the affected A350 and was shocked at how worn they were. I have another long haul on one soon and am curious if anything has improved. My reaction is that this is not normal for a new program and certainly not normal for someone who pays good money for “premium”. It really does make me rethink my commitment to Cathay.

      The notion Cathay had to respond to the market by adding 10-seat rows is nonsense corporate speak.

      A serious question to Slosar and Cathay management: given these changes and pressure from competition, what does “premium” actually mean to the brand and to your customers?

  2. 10 across with flimsy seats is a downgrade. We just did it Air Canada and American. Both flights were just plane awful. We usually fly in econ plus, but it was unavailable.

  3. Kha Le

    This is laughable. 10 seat abreast is not an improvement with any seat design. The sad thing is that with the new 777X which is 4 inches wider, ALL 777Xs will have 10 seat abreast. Currently there are a few airlines such as Japan Airlines and EVA that still have 9 seat abreast.

    • Howard Miller

      @Paul,

      Hear! Hear! – and Spot on!

      With respect to Mr. Slosar’s claims that “most” view his airline’s densification featuring seats narrowed by 1.3” each as an “improvement”, my rebuttal to this claim is that Slosar’s (and those like him) actions speak louder than words, and if Chairpersons and other industry senior executives like Mr. Slosar, Doug Parker,
      Alex Cruz, Scott Kirby (et al) don’t bother flying in the too small/too narrow seats they expect others to fly in, then they certainly have no legitimate right to say if the seats are comfortable or not for the 5–15 (or more) hours flights they NEVER, EVER fly as they expect most of us to do.

      In most dictionaries, the word for people who have a “do as I say, NOT as I do” “morality” is flaming hypocrites.

      When the people who keep insisting these too narrow, claustrophobic, 10-abreast, densified Boeing 777s are seen routinely flying in these terrible, universally loathed and reviled, seats – then they’ll make for a more convincing, and believable, argument that these otherwise awful seats are as good as they want everyone else to believe.

      But until I see otherwise with my very own eyes, I’ll rely on my own personal experiences, plus the vast majority of flyers who have shared their own experiences that better match with mine than whatever tall tales industry executives like Mr. Slosar are fond of telling that have little, if any, resemblance to my own personal experiences in 17.2” wide seats versus 18.5” wide seats when I fly.

      I mean seriously, did anyone else see the recent interview segment on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and American Airlines Chairperson and CEO, Doug Parker, that was recorded aboard one of Parker’s 10-abreast, densified Boeing 777s where even when seated facing sideways in those too narrow economy seats NEITHER Parker NOR Holt could fit within the stingy 17” or so width of those seats❓

      Yes, that’s right – even when seated facing sideways (towards each other for the interview) NEITHER fit within those hideously narrow seats aboard American’s 10-abreast, densified Boeing 777s.

      And that was for an interview segment where they (and the off-camera production crew around them) were the only people aboard a plane that was parked on the tarmac for however long it took to shoot that interview.

      Don’t believe me?

      Watch the interview, and see for yourself, how neither of those adult
      males fit in those too narrow seats aboard Dougie P’s densified Boeing 777 during that interview.

      Yes, seeing IS believing – just like when I see Slosar, Parker, Cruz, Munoz, Kirby, et al seated in the seats they insist to everyone else are so comfortable to fly…

  4. Jason

    Back in 2016, I usually have 3-4 Cathay economy bookings coming up at any one time.
    now in 2019, upcoming Cathay booking => 0

    There are some passengers who have not flown with Cathay before, once they have flown with them they will pick another airline.

    I live in Sydney, my choice to Europe will be Singapore, Qantas to HK, and Delta to America, without these 10 abreast problem.

  5. Kurt leech

    I flew 9 a breast last year,then on next flight 10 a breast on 777 last year on my way to new zealand and i can confirm that after having someone in my space with elbows and legs for 13hrs,i was actualy glad to have 24 hour diversion due to weather in sydney,on return and to be put on different airlines 350!!Absolutly no comparison,777 10 abreast is a Big downgrade.

  6. Glenn

    I just finished a flight from kathmandu nepal to Los Angeles in a new seat configuration and I found the seats to be quite comfortable and the food was not 5 star but in this world you only get what you pay for , buy the way yes I always get a window seat

  7. Dominic

    Used to fly Cathay on my trip to Asia. However, since they raised their price and reduce their service quality, I have since switched to Singapore Airlines who still cares about providing excellent service. Other alternatives for me are either ANA or Qatar Airways. Not to mention that their price are cheaper than Cathay. I won’t be surprised to see Cathay fall into 4-star Skytrax rating if they continue this current state.

  8. Alain

    The CX Chairman is out of touch with his customers. Maybe he should sit in the new economy seats for 10+ hours.

    CX is going 10 across for purely profit margins and try to tell customers otherwise is just lying about it.

  9. Ricky Chan

    Bad service at all, Cathay Pacific missing my bike case at CX888 4 June 2019 flight. I’m a diamond member, all my luggage with the first piority tag. Suppose is loaded in the cargo container, it won’t be missing.
    I check with the ground staff, they told me bike case have been loaded, however I wait for an hour , it didn’t came out at the belt. And I call to macro polo they told me it is loaded at the tail of the flight and unloaded at the Vancouver airport.
    But it happened almost 21 hrs , no one can tell me where is my bike case I’m so piss off with this company.

  10. Eli Etsion

    I wonder how long it will take before passengers realize that if WE ban flying in these horrific narrow seats, that will prove the shift to such configurations as non economical for the airlines.
    As long as we keep flying with them, they really don’t mind our complaints.
    Aircrafts should be left in their original configuration – the 777 family was designed as a 3-3-3, not 3-4-3. The 787 Dreamliner family was designed as 2-4-2, not 3-3-3. Only one airline in the world kept those 787s as 8 abreast, that’s JAL.
    I live in Israel and have ceased flying to the USA with United, ever since they replaced the 9 abreast 777-200 performing flights from TLV to EWR with a 10 abreast 777-300.
    When Swiss started using such condensed planes on their TLV-ZRH route, I stopped flying with them too. Delta uses A330-300s in a classic 2-4-2 configuration, so I’m traveling with them, as with El Al, but only on flights operated by 777-200s with 9 abreast, I do not choose flights with the newly purchased Dreamliners.
    We, the passengers, have the power to make a change. Who’s with me?

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