Cathay Pacific has rolled out a new economy class seat product that is currently being retrofitted across its fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft, as the airline transitions from a nine-across configuration on the airplane to a higher-capacity 10-across layout.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier aims to have completed reconfiguration of six of its B777s by this summer, and by end of the first quarter in 2019 it will have more than 48 B777-300ERs and 17 regional B777-300s outfitted with the new seats. The retrofit programme is expected to be fully completed by end of next year.
Cathay Pacific launched its first retrofitted B777-300ER with the new seat and configuration on April 13, on its Nagoya route, with Mumbai also now seeing the refitted aircraft.
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to attend a media tour on the refitted B777-300ER and experienced the seat while flying to Nagoya.
The new 368-seat B777-300ER is divided into six cabins. The first two cabins are installed with 40 business class from row 11 to 19 (without 13 and 14) and 20 to 23. This is followed by 32 premium economy seats from rows 30 to 33 in the third cabin. The remaining three cabins are filled with the new economy seats from rows 39 to 42, 43 to 57, and 59 to 72, with a total of 296 seats.
The design of the seat is similar to that offered on the airline’s Airbus A350, and features the same trademark “Cathay-green” colour. As with the A350, each of the new seats on the retrofitted B777s have a 32-inch pitch (legroom) and a recline of six inches.
At 190cm tall, I’m used to feeling quite cramped in economy seats, however in CX’s new economy product I still had about two inches of space between my knees and the seat in front when it was in the upright position (though my knees did end up touching the seat in front when that passenger reclined).
The improved space has been markedly helped by changing the position of the in-flight entertainment box. Previously lying in the footwell, it is now hidden within the seat structure – thereby providing more legroom.
When Cathay Pacific announced the introduction of 10-across economy seats on its B777s, a move that brings it in line with the majority of full-service carriers nowadays, the primary concern for travellers was the effect this would have on the seat width. There is no doubt that the space of the width has decreased, now set at 17.2 inches compared to the previous 18.1 to 18.5 inches.
For two average-sized passengers, there is still a bit of space between the shoulders of you and your neighbour, however our shoulders did often bump against each other. Passengers with bulkier shoulders or a more generous girth are likely to find the width even more noticeably restricted.
Another change Cathay Pacific has made with these new seats is their thickness. According to the airline the seats are thinner while also having been “ergonomically designed” with thick, customised cushioning. The headrests are full leather and can provide added neck and head support by adjusting the height as well as the angle of both the centre section and both end sections. Fortunately, the thinner seating doesn’t equate to less comfortable back support, and I was easily able to take a nap when I reclined.
Among the most notable upgrades to the new seats is the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. The touchscreen TV has been enlarged to 11.6 inches, making these screens larger than both the A350’s 11.1-inch and the B777-300ER’s previous nine inch screens. The screens offer high definition and will be able to play select HD films starting from May.
As for the content of the system, this is quite wide-ranging, with movies, music (though the albums are a bit outdated), TV programmes and games (such as Angry Birds).
Perhaps the best part of the TV is that the touch controls have significantly improved to the point that the screen is now akin to using a tablet device. For example, passengers can use two fingers to zoom in and out of the 3D Earth map that displays the aircraft’s flight path, and tapping on a particular city causes destination information to pop up on the screen. Located just beneath the monitor are earphone and USB outlets, while a power output is also located underneath the seat.
By pulling down the shelf under the TV, there is a space to store personal items such as personal electronic devices or reading glasses.
The shelf also acts as a cup and tablet holder, providing a place to position items without needing to lower the entire tray table. This is particularly useful for those wishing to use their own devices rather than the aircraft’s IFE system.
As for the tray table, this is located is beneath said shelf. Unlike Cathay Pacific’s existing designs, which feature a rotating lock, tray tables on the new seats are lowered by simply pulling a handle.
What was also impressive about the tray tables was that I still had about two inches of space between it and my thighs when it was lowered, something I seldom find when flying on most carriers.
Beneath the tray is the seat pocket, which holds magazines and the safety card. There is also a small pouch on the outside, providing a convenient space to stow small items such as earphones.
Cathay Pacific is also rolling out in-flight wifi on board all its B777s starting this summer, with plans to expand this to its entire wide-body fleet by 2020.
Front row seats
As is to be expected, bulkhead seats differ slightly from other seats in the economy cabin. Notably, this entails having the tray table stowed in the armrest, which also features a tablet holder that can be pulled out from the far side of the table.
TVs also differ in the front-row seats. For seats DEFG in rows 43 and 60, screens are located on the bulkhead. This places them rather far from the passenger, so while they are still touchscreens, it may be easier to use the in-seat TV handset in order to navigate the system. Meanwhile, seats ABC and HJK on rows 43 and 59 have their screens stowed in the armrest.
Which seat to choose?
All front row seats – AC/DEFG/HK in row 39; ABC/DEFG/HJK in row 43; ABC/HJK in row 59; and DEFG in row 60 – have more legroom, as do seats 40C and 40H due to there being only eight seats in row 39.
You may want to avoid rows 42 and 72, as these are located closest to the lavatory. Seats ABC in rows 56 and 57 are also adjacent to the galley, meaning noise and potential disruption from meal services could be more of a factor.