Smaller seats, bigger TV screens: Cathay Pacific begins refitting aircraft

Seeking a return to profitability, Cathay Pacific will begin squeezing in more economy passengers with a new formula: smaller seats, bigger TV screens.

The Hong Kong airline will this month begin refitting its Boeing 777-300s and 777-300ERs to increase the number of seats in the old cattle class, moving to rows of 3-4-3 from the current 3-3-3 configuration.

The move, reported the SCMP today, is expected to add HK$700 million (nearly US$90 million) to the carrier’s bottom line, which has suffered in recent years amid tough competition, recording back-to-back losses of HK$1.25 billion (US$160 million) last year and HK$575 million (US$73 million) in 2016.

The new seats will be an inch smaller while the armrests, among the most key battlefields in passenger Space Wars, will be slightly narrower.

The entertainment screens, however, will be increased in size to 11.6 inches and package full of more pacifying movie and TV content, reported the SCMP.

More padding too will be added to the thinner seats, the newspaper added, noting that many international carriers including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air France had flown with similar increases in density for some time.

It quoted a transport research firm expert, who said losing an inch would “not significantly  affect” passenger comfort, though presumably people who were almost too big for Cathay economy seats to begin with will certainly feel the squeeze.

According to Flight Global, work on 65 aircraft will start this month and finish by the end of next year, with the new seats to be 17.2 inches wide, down from the current width of 18.1 inches.

The 10-abreast seating will add an additional 40 seats to Cathay’s regional 777s — growing the economy section from 356 to 396. The three-class 300ERs will get an extra 28 seats, while the four-class 300ERs will add an extra 19.

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