I thought this sounded like a horrible move downwards, based on 10-abreast experiences I have had with other airlines, but had not yet experienced it. Recently, however, I stepped onto CX880 bound for Los Angeles. It was operated by B-KQV and on stepping into the economy cabin things looked different. The first thing that I noticed was that the cabin felt darker than Cathay’s 777-300ERs usually do, as the former blue upholstery had been replaced with dark green seating as on the A350. Looking around I realized that this was a 10-abreast cabin, configured 3-4-3 most of the way down (at the back, as the fuselage narrows, the middle row reverts to three seats).
As well as making the cabin much denser, the refit also introduced a new type of seat.
On the positive side, some of the updates to the seat versus the 9-abreast 777s are good. The screen is larger than before and the resolution is better. The tray table extends further towards one, which is convenient when eating, and there is an additional smaller tray table above it for drinks, phones, tablets and the like. That is a small but very useful innovation. There is still a USB outlet and power socket.
However, in some ways the seat design is worse. The folding table seems small, and indeed even the small Cathay meal trays overhang it. The audio jack has been moved to the seatback from the armrest, which means that when meals are served or removed, or a passenger inside wants to leave the row midflight, it Is much more faff than before – a definite step backwards. The headrest also is narrower than before, so not as useful, though it does move up quite far if desired. The armrests are smaller.
The seat was thinner but on this flight at least that made only a little difference to my comfort. There is also more space under the seat in front for one’s feet, and no footrest.
The main problem is the space. First, the width is definitely narrower and feels narrower – I am an average size passenger, but was bumping people on the aisle on one side and would have bumped the middle seat passenger had there been one. Secondly, the gap between my seat and the one in front felt narrower. This was particularly so when they reclined their seat, at which point it was impossible to get in or out of my aisle seat without some contortion, let alone one of the seats further in the row.
I also miss having a remote control for the screen, as touchscreens can often be temperamental after a couple of years, not to mention when one has a child behind one jabbing away at the screen as sometimes happens.
Cathay has significantly downgraded passenger comfort with the setup.
The toilet configuration at the back of the plane where I was was unchanged, despite the increase in seat capacity. Meal service also took noticeably longer and trays were collected more slowly than normal on a 9-abreast configuration.
I was happy to see some seat improvements with the new seats, but in terms of comfort, Cathay’s cramming in of seats on its 10-abreast 777 is a definite degradation of the passenger experience.
Many airlines have had 10-abreast for a while, but Cathay positions itself as one of the world’s leading premium airlines. If Cathay is serious about maintaining a premium image, this move is hard to justify.