After a good amount of speculation, Cathay Pacific has finally revealed plans to switch to a 10 abreast economy class seating on its long-haul 777 fleet. This means that the cabin will be changed to a 3-4-3 instead of the current 9 abreast 3-3-3 configuration. While this means that aircraft will have more seats and can carry more passengers, it also equates to decreased passenger comfort as there will be less space for each passenger. As a result of the new configuration, seat width decrease from 18.5 inches to 17 inches while total capacity of the aircraft will increase by up to 35 seats. Seat pitch, which is the distance between two front-and-back rows of seats, will not change with the new configuration.
The Boeing 777 was designed to be fitted with a 9 abreast seating configuration, however most operators (including Emirates, American, Air France, and Air Canada) outfit their fleet with a 10 abreast layout. Cathay Pacific, together with British Airways and Singapore Airlines, is one of the few airlines with 9 abreast seating on the 777. This is mainly because Cathay establishes itself as a premium carrier, one that offers slightly better service than the rest in exchange for higher prices. By changing to a 10 abreast seating they are giving up one of their main advantages over regular airlines from a passenger’s point of view. But as most passengers probably won’t be aware of the change (I probably wouldn’t if I hadn’t been following the story), Cathay can still maintain their status as a premium airline and charge premium fares whilst cramming extra passengers so long as they continue with their marketing ploys.
Yes I know it’s a very sneaky move on the part of Cathay, but I feel like I saw it coming. The airline industry is one that is not very transparent but also tough to be profitable in (especially given the rise of LCC’s), so I’m hardly surprised that airlines have to resort to these kinds of sneaky antics in order to stay in the green.