airliner designs

Apr 1, 2017

New Planes, Tighter seats for CX but roomier ones for Virgin Australia cabins

Virgin Australia goes against the tide with more room in economy, for a small price

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

GWS co-captain Callan Ward, presenter Ksenija Lukich and Virgin group executive John Thomas in Economy X class.

Boeing first flew it largest Dreamliner variant, the 787-10 this week while Airbus gave its smallest member of the A320NEO single aisle jet, the A319NEO, its maiden flight.

Airbus A319 NEO first flight

At home Virgin Australia rolled out an extra legroom section of its economy class cabins, called Economy X seats, and in Hong Kong Cathay Pacific confirmed it would squeeze passengers into smaller seats in some of its jets to improve its premium quality offering. Go figure.

Ryanair 737 line up

Ryanair, Europe’s largest regional carrier, warned that if the UK stuffed up its Brexit negotiations over air routes, it could find itself without any flights to EU countries for a period of months.

Who would have thought at the turn of the century that low cost giant Ryanair would offer slightly roomier seats in terms of legroom its single aisle jets than some British Airways and Lufthansa aircraft?

Promo graphic of 787-10

The new Boeing wide body variant and the Airbus single aisle new engine technology version of the A319 show the determination of the two major airliner makers to get the most out of fully current families of airliners for the mass market.

However in a world of upsizing of capacity, the A319 is more about the rounding off of a highly successful line of jets than the 787-10, which bets on a range-payload trade off where more seats can be added to the current largest Dreamliner in service, the -9, in return for a reduced range capability.

At least so far. The big jet rivals have always found room for both more range and more capacity as their designs mature.

Expect to see Singapore Airlines’ 787-10s on its Australia and medium range routes onwards to other Asia destinations in the near future. Don’t expect to see any A319 NEOs for some time in this country. The market seems to be betting much more heavily on the larger A320 NEO and A321 NEO versions.

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10 thoughts on “New Planes, Tighter seats for CX but roomier ones for Virgin Australia cabins

  1. Craig Joseph

    maybe CX are increasing legroom, while at same time decreasing seat pitch, by using seats with paper thin backs on them ?

    1. comet

      I don’t think so. They’re going to keep the seat pitch as tight as possible as well as narrow as possible to force passengers to upgrade to premium economy.

      1. JW (aka James Wilson)

        According to reports in the South China Morning Post and Australian Business Traveller, the seat pitch will remain the same at 32″. The SCMP says “On the comfort side, the newly designed seats would be smaller but have more comfort and better padding, plus having supporting headrest to benefit sleeping passengers”.
        Now that some of the world’s leading carriers (Air Canada, Air France, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, China Airlines, Emirates, EVA Air, Qatar Airways, United and now Cathay Pacific) have 10-abreast Economy class seating in their B777s, you can bet your ass (literally) the others won’t be too far behind.

      2. JW (aka James Wilson)

        I’m also willing to bet that, within a few years, most passengers won’t even remember that 9-abreast ever existed.

  2. Creeper

    ‘presenter Ksenija Lukich’


  3. StickShaker

    So what will be the width of the economy seats in Singapore Airlines 787-10’s ?
    They (SQ) have retained the generous 9 across in their 777’s and currently have the comfortable 18 inch seats in their regional A330’s (not to mention the 380’s). It would be a massive comedown for SQ to enforce the dreaded 17 inch seat on its economy passengers.

  4. comet

    The Airbus A319 NEO will allow the Middle East 3 carriers to reach further into Europe with single-aisle jets.

    Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific has lost the plot. My next flight with them will be my last. Once they convert their 777s from 9-across to 10-across I’ll stop flying with them.

    Cathay says this extra squeeze is to “to improve its premium quality offering.” What they really mean is that they’ll torcher economy passengers to force them to upgrade to premium economy. No thanks, Cathay. Bye bye.

    1. Dan Dair

      “The Airbus A319 NEO will allow the Middle East 3 carriers to reach further into Europe with single-aisle jets”

      I’d have thought that the ME3 would have been much more interested in the A321 than the 319.?
      Unless of course, they’re just planning on flying direct to London City (LCY).?

    2. freddagg

      Do you know when CX will start with the 10 across SYD-HKG?

  5. beardfear

    The South China Morning Post has run a few articles now about Cathay’s 777 squeeze. Whether it’s enough to raise public awareness in Hong Kong remains to be seen – but there are enough competitors on enough routes out of HKG which still offer human-scale seats at the back of the plane.

    How long before “full service” airlines are punished for this sort of stinginess, with an extra seat per row but fewer passengers willing to subject themselves to the experience?

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