Change Your Altitude

Cathay Joins the Race to the Bottom: Airline to go 3-4-3 in Y on the 777

The 777 is the backbone of Cathay Pacific's long haul fleet

The 777 is the backbone of Cathay Pacific’s long haul fleet

Well, it was inevitable wasn’t it? Cathay Pacific (CX) – considered one of the world’s finest carriers and a SkyTrax ‘5 Star’ airline – has announced that they will be introducing a 3-4-3 layout in Economy Class on their 777 fleet. The airline’s CEO, Ivan Chu, gave out a press release announcing it with some of the best PR spin we’ve seen in a long time:

Currently the airline has maintained a 3-3-3 layout that their other perceived ‘premium’ counterparts in the region – namely Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Asiana, ANA and Japan Airlines – offer. Well, not so beginning real soon, and one must worry a bit what airline is next to follow suit.

By offering more seats (at the expense of passenger comfort with reduced seat width) the airline will be able to undercut their rivals in pricing so others might be forced into doing the same just to compete.

China Airlines and EVA Air already do 3-4-3 and also have been undercutting Cathay on connecting routes from South East Asia to the United States from their hub in Taipei, right next door to Cathay’s own hub in Hong Kong (HKG).

Surely this was a major driving force in the decision for CX.

Also, a pre-requisite for a 5 Star rating from SkyTrax is offering 3-3-3 in Economy on the 777 – this is a main reason why Emirates is rated as 4 Star – so what this means for Cathay’s rating is yet to be seen.

Granted, let’s not forget that SkyTrax is probably one of the most crooked organizations out there, with airlines being able to buy ratings. Isn’t it interesting that Qatar Airways constantly gets their 5 Star rating and ranked the best in the world despite them too having gone 3-4-3 on the 777? So if CX is willing to dole out a bribe or two, we’re sure they’ll keep their 5 Star status.

Not so comfy anymore

Not so comfy anymore

Now what does this mean for you? It means that for almost all flights, well over 10 hours keep in mind, from Hong Kong to the United States, Canada and Europe will be in a very cramped cabin – you’re going to lose about 1.5 to 2 inches of seat width and have a very narrow aisle. It will also mean more seats – many more – so more time to board and disembark and more time waiting for the bathroom (we doubt they’ll do a corresponding increase in available lavatories with the seat increase).  

Now we suppose it is true that this might open up more award space for oneworld members in Economy, we’re not sure if it’s even worth the hassle given the product.

Flying from JFK to Hong Kong? A 16 hour flight (15 on a good day) – have fun with that in Economy. As a oneworld elite we would be very annoyed with this latest development. I think we’d rather do a SkyTeam and fly on one of Delta’s 3-3-3 777s to HKG despite their inferior soft product.

It’s that bad.

Oh, and the airline’s crew aren’t happy about it either, telling the South China Morning Post:

Flight attendants union leader says move will be bad for customers and airline will need more staff working on planes

So right then. Who’s next in Asia to go 3-4-3? Singapore Airlines? Thai? One of the Japanese majors? Our bet is unfortunately on Singapore who’s own financial results have been underwhelming of late.

Let’s see but we are continually disappointed at airlines’ race to the bottom in cutting their Economy product.

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