Cathay Pacific's lovely 777s, soon to become pain machines in economy?
Cathay Pacific’s lovely 777s, soon to become pain machines in economy?

The white flag on quality seating in long haul economy class has been run up the editorial flag pole by Cathay Pacific 國泰航空 in this story in the South China Morning Post.

Those, like the writer, who deeply admire and respect the Hong Kong airline, have cause to reflect with sadness and annoyance at the reasons for this as given by Chief executive Ivan Chu Kwok-leung in this story.

Particularly this bit: “If you look at the Boeing 777s, which everybody uses from the Gulf to the US to European carriers and ourselves, the standard is 3-4-3. I think we are moving towards that stage, it’s very clear.”

Cathay Pacific is a quality carrier. Why should it move to a stage where quite frankly, it isn’t going to make a compelling economy class alternative to say Hong Kong Airlines, or Jetstar, should Qantas decide volume and commodity pricing is a good reason to throttle back on the much more comfortable A330s and occasional A380s it deploys on Hong Kong routes.

Why should Cathay Pacific follow rather than lead? What is this about hurting your customers for an extra quoted 17 seats on a long haul 777 when you might well drive more than 17 loyal customers away by being as nasty as anyone else?

The story mentions an extra 35 seats on regional CX jets. Hang on. Cathay Pacific is replacing its regional 777s and A330s with A350s. Does this mean an incredibly even tighter 10 across seat in the current nine across A350s? Does it mean nine across in its A330s, some of which are quite new and unlikely to be retired any day soon.

If Cathay Pacific doesn’t make those generally shorter haul flights as miserable as it intends making its 777s then it will be, but to its credit, mercifully illogical in its use of flight assets.

Questions about such a logical disconnect have been asked of Cathay Pacific in the past, and have been asked again, just in case an answer is forthcoming.

Passengers are getting larger as economy seats are getting smaller. Where is this headed? Will people who fly a lot be selected in the future for their physique or dimensions as being ‘sized to fly’, or do we just have to settle for a shot of hard liquor and a ‘safe’ pharmaceutical pain killer?

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