An odd article in the SCMP about Cathay Pacific possibly introducing Premium Economy:
An option of 'premium economy' seats likely to be ready by end of the year
May 09, 2011
The remodelling of Cathay Pacific's business-class seats is completed and the airline is hoping to finalise the roll-out of new "premium economy" seats by the end of this year. The new cabin class announced last year aims to offer an option for passengers wishing to trade down from business class - for reasons of cost-cutting - as well as those who don't want economy class.
Remodelling is completed? But only a handful of planes have the new seating (as they confirm later in this same article), and I don’t think they’ll complete the rollout this year.
Details of the new seating configuration have not yet been revealed, but people familiar with the situation said the new seats would be 20 to 30 per cent larger than existing economy seats in terms of floor area. The cheapest seats of Hong Kong's flag-carrying airline are 44cm wide and rows are spaced 81cm apart in the economy section. With an enlargement of 25 per cent, the width and so-called seat pitch will be roughly 53cm and 1 metre respectively.
That will put the seats in line with, if not better than, the same class of seats offered by other airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.
But this is all speculation - "20-30% larger" is incredibly vague, and does anyone expect Cathay to offer anything very different to BA or Virgin? Then there’s one of those stupid number boxes telling us the Premium Economy fare to New York will be between $13,200 and $82,000. Well, yes, it probably will. But more likely it will be in the range of HK$20,000 – HK$25,000.
Cathay Pacific chairman Christopher Pratt said earlier he hoped the new seats could be rolled out by next year to capture a clientele looking to trade down from business class, and those who don't want to be in economy class, because despite a return in passenger traffic and prices for business class, passenger yield had yet to return to 2007 levels.
At a ceremony to mark the reception at Boeing's delivery centre in Seattle last month of a 777-300ER - the third aircraft fitted with Cathay's latest business-class seats - the airline's chief executive, John Slosar, said four seats were cut to make the new product more spacious. But he said the sacrifice in space would be rewarded by a higher loading.
The reviews I have read say that the new seats don’t provide any extra space, but just a different configuration. However, the SCMP reporter has no doubts:
A test of the new business class cabin by a South China Morning Post reporter confirmed that it is not only wider but also more comfortable than the cabin it will replace, particularly its sleeping configuration, which is more spacious.
The new seats enable passengers to look out of their windows without the need to turn their heads at a right angle, and the two middle seats are angled towards each other, allowing travelling couples to be closer. Passengers wanting more privacy can use a cabin door equipped with a mirror as a partition.
Attention is also paid to finer details. The new seats have a recess at their base which may be used as a step to help smaller air hostesses and passengers to load and unload luggage from their overhead racks. Small lights next to the recess are intended to alert cabin crew during take-off and landing that the seats have not been fully restored to the upright position.
OK, the steps are a clever feature, but where's the objectivity?