I was lucky enough not to have had one of Cathay’s 10-abreast 777s for almost a year after the first one was introduced. But then, from my first journey, I suddenly had a spate of flights on these heavily configured planes and really don’t like them.
At the Airport
The flight was scheduled to leave from gate 67. Before boarding I got a stream of messages saying there would be slight delays for reasons never clearly articulated. In the event, boarding was only about half an hour late. On the jetbridge there was a good range of newspapers.
The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER in a One World livery.
Once I boarded and saw the dark green of the economy seats, my heart sank: a ten-abreast 777.
What’s the difference between a 9-abreast and 10-abreast 777, you may be wondering. Here are the things I observed during this flight:
- The seats feel really cramped – one is constantly brushing elbows with the neighbouring passenger;
- People in the aisle constantly brush past one as they pass, if one is seated in the aisle seat;
- Walking through the aisle is harder: it is narrow and people spill out onto it more than before;
- The queue for toilets is more noticeable; and
- Service is slower, especially at meal times and when clearing trays.
More dense aircraft often also lead to slower baggage reclaim, although I have not yet personally experienced this with the Cathay 777s.
Overall, this led to a markedly less restful flight than I am used to even on a 9-abreast 777 in economy class. 10-abreast is increasingly the norm alas, so Cathay is hardly alone in this. However, Cathay’s prices from Hong Kong are typically fairly steep and it positions itself as a premium airline, so I find the move downmarket frustrating.
My bulkhead row seat (row 39) had folding tables. The table was not flat so whenever I rested something on it, such as a meal tray, it would keep on sliding towards me.
The inflight entertainment is decent. I also appreciate that the inflight magazine has paid more attention to design in recent years. The cover was beautiful I thought:
The economy class cabin was close to full.
It was a smooth flight all the way. After the late start, we arrived into Boston a little late. At that end there was no queue for immigration and luggage came out quickly.
The flight timings of this service work quite well – an aperitif, dinner, sleep on Hong Kong time then arrive into Boston in late evening.
I was in an aisle seat in the bulkhead row and after sitting down the cabin service manager came to ask if I would move. The passenger at the window was a very fat lady and she wanted to sit in the aisle. I felt this situation was a little socially awkward but I agreed and had the inside seat. After that I had little interaction with the cabin crew, who performed their duties in a rather perfunctory way.
Food and Drink
Cathay’s move to denser economy seating is simply one element of a wider set of cost cutting changes which have really damaged the carrier’s premium positioning in recent years, from lounge catering to changes to the Marco Polo club which seem to have lost the airline a lot of loyalty. Food is another example although as it has been getting worse for a while regular Cathay passengers are probably used to it by now. It’s not bad but it’s not at the level of a world-class, premium Asian carrier such as Cathay used to be.
Here was the menu for this flight.
Dinner – the beef stew – was unremarkable in flavour and the presentation was pretty unappealing.
I had the western breakfast and it was decent.
The ten-abreast 777 is horrible, and I changed travel plans on several upcoming long-haul trips from Cathay to another carrier to avoid the chance of being stuck in one. Cathay’s slip from the world’s top tier of airlines is accelerating across its economy and business cabins, and the ten-abreast 777 is a prime example sadly.