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Cathay Pacific (CX) new Economy Class seat review

In late 2009 Cathay Pacific introduced new seats on their 777-300ER long haul planes.  I experienced the new economy class as I departed JFK bound for Vietnam.  How does it compare to their old seats?

Cathay’s new seat represents a current trend in economy and premium economy cabins, the “shell back” seat.  The shell back seat supposedly solves the issue of reduced legroom from seat recline.  The seat slides up and down inside the shell instead of reclining back.  I like to believe that my over a decade of complaints made this change happen.

My biggest and constant pet peeve from flying economy on CX long haul was the steep recline of the seats in economy.  While it may be more comfortable for sleeping, I find it to be more of a pain in many other ways.  With the extreme recline of the old seats, I could expect the top of the passengers head in front of me, touching my face, immediately after hearing the first seat belt “ding”.  I did not appreciate having the top of someone’s head up my nose during the flight.  During meals I could not even see my food as the seat in front of me reclined over the whole tray.  Usually the elderly passenger in front of me would just sit forward in their seat instead of just moving their seat back up.  I would make a routine of motioning to the flight attendant to make the passenger in front of me raise their seat.  Also with the seat reclined so close to my face I couldn’t see the seatback personal TV unless I was also reclined all the way.

These new seats solve my biggest pet peeve but also compromise other things.  Since the shell seats are essentially a segmented pad that slides up and down inside the shell, seat padding was minimal and can almost be considered by some to be slightly uncomfortable.  This makes a difference for this product that is used on flights of over twelve hours.  The other negative is that since the seat slides downward for reclining, tall passengers may find themselves with a lot less knee room.  So in terms of the seat alone, its good and bad news.  The good news, the seat has legroom that is completely unaffected by the passenger in front of you.  The bad is that the new seats are sparsely cushioned and can be uncomfortable over long hauls.

The entertainment system is nice but fairly standard compared to other top airlines.  There are a large number of movies and tv shows on demand.  The screen is nice and large at about seven inches.  And now without the seat in front of you reclining, you can always see your tv.

Food is pretty typical for Cathay.  The Chinese meal option is usually better, and still features nice things like steamed white rice, baby bok choy, and congee for breakfast.  The self-service in-flight snacks seem to have fallen prey to cost cutting.  I didn’t see the old Toblerone chocolates and finger sandwiches I always associated with Cathay.   The same goes to the Economy amenity kits of socks, toothbrush and eye mask, which I never used anyway, but it always felt good to receive it in Economy.

In summary, the new Cathay Economy Class seats address the issue of obtrusive seat recline and hard to view monitors, but are less comfortable for the long haul flight times.  Overall Cathay Pacific still provides one of the best Economy Class experiences in the air, and I would still not hesitate to choose it over a US airline on the same route to Asia.

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4 comments to Cathay Pacific (CX) new Economy Class seat review

  • Brian

    You should take some shots of the seats on your way back!

  • Bessie

    I appreciate your reviews. You have touched upon issues that I noticed about Cathay. I liked the improvement in how the seats do not take away the personal space of others, the entertainment which kept me very occupied and the food that was better than I expected. I appreciated all of this and found my long ride to be pleasant.

  • Grace

    I have always loved Cathay Pacific and used to almost look forward to the long-hauls as a bit of a pampering and alone time.

    However the onset of the new thinly padded seats have made the trips unpleasant after a few hours for myself and nearly unbearable for my elderly parents.

    I liked the wonderfully comfortable recline of the previous models, especially for the long-hauls and have never had an issue with the passengers in front, they were always more then happy to put their seats either with or w/o a reminder.

    Arghhhh… I really hope that other airlines won’t follow suit.

  • Francis

    The economy class is a real cattle class. The shell seat is a horrible experience for a human being. They must include a warning in the booking system about the possible shellshock.