Boeing has released full technical details of its future B777-9 series aircraft.
These enter service in a few years’ time and have been purchased by the world’s most prestigious carriers including Japan’s ANA, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines (SIA).
Included amongst the B777-9’s details are Boeing’s recommended seating plans.
These reveal that the unpopular 10-across (3-4-3) economy class layout will almost certainly be adopted by all airline customers.
It is true that airlines are the manufacturers’ customers and that the latter must dance to their tune (when it comes to seating layouts and so on).
However while I am sure airlines will tinker with their premium classes it’s almost impossible to imagine them doing the same with their economy cabins.
Currently many B777 operators continue to provide the original, Boeing-recommended and roomier economy seating (disposed 3-3-3). These carriers include British Airways (although the Gatwick B777-200s are being retrofitted 10-across), Cathay Pacific, SIA and Thai Airways.
Why change? Simply because today’s cost pressures are too great. Airlines must keep their costs low to stay competitive. And a 10-across layout enables them to carry dozens more passengers per flight.
Just look at how Cathay Pacific has been forced to join its B777 airline rivals (in mainland China, Taiwan, Philippines, North America, the Gulf, Europe and so on).
In a year or so it will change its B777-300ERs from 9-across to 10-across in economy.
Cathay Pacific has realised that the economics of a 10-across cabin (which allow dozens of extra passengers to be accommodated) are now too great to ignore.
However there is some better news. Negative passenger feedback (from those flying 10-across economy on the current B777s) has prompted Boeing to create a wider cabin on the B777-9.
It has allowed seat manufacturer Zodiac to devise a lightweight seat providing 17.4 ins of width for the B777-9.
Although this seat is not quite as wide as those configured 9-across it should provide a roomier feel to the cabin.
However I must stress that some airlines may decide to purchase other manufacturers’ seats, possibly a little narrower, in order to provide passengers and onboard crew with more aisle space.
Finally two matters to ponder:
- Lufthansa was the B777-9’s launch customer. It has ordered 20 of these aircraft. Lufthansa is known for roomier seating (it does not currently operate any B777s) so what will its passengers make of a 10-across layout?
- SIA is renowned for its economy class which wins many accolades. SIA remains a solid spacious 9-across B777 operator. But SIA has ordered 20 B777-9s (for 2021 delivery). So, finally, will we now see SIA joining the 10-across B777 economy club?
Note: Expect to see tighter economy seating at SIA before the B777-9s arrive. SIA takes delivery of 19 B787-10s from 2020. These will almost certainly be configured 9-across 3-3-3 in economy in line with almost every B787 operator worldwide.