Cathay Pacific will be shifting its economy class seating from nine abreast to the higher capacity but less spacious ten-across seating in its Boeing aircraft, according to reports by the South China Morning Post. The plans were revealed to the newspaper in an interview with the airline’s chief executive, Ivan Chu.

Cathay Pacific’s shift to the ten-abreast seating plan has been speculated for some time, and the carrier’s confirmation follows reports in late August that the airline had been surveying passengers regarding their views on ten-abreast B777 economy seating and testing “narrower seating” designed for a ten-across layout.

Though no official timeline has been confirmed for the changes, the shift to ten abreast is currently expected to take place around 2018, the Post reports.

The change will see the Hong Kong carrier follow what has now become standard on B777s among a large number of rival airlines. The ten-abreast plan will enable the carrier to increase capacity by up to 35 economy seats on regional aircraft and about 17 on long-haul flights.

A lack of takeoff and landing slots at Hong Kong International Airport is among the key factors behind the decision, according to Chu. The airport’s two runways operate at close to 100 per cent capacity, meaning carriers are unable to expand the number of flights and therefore need to maximise capacity in each slot available.

While the decision means greater capacity for the airline, it also means a reduction of space for passengers, with seats expected to be reduced in size from 18.5 inches (47cm) wide to 17 inches (43.2cm). According to the Post, the existing seat pitch of 32 inches (81.3cm) will remain unchanged, however. To counter the seat width reduction, Chu said the airline would aim to maximise cabin real estate using the most recent seat and cushion technology.