Cathay Pacific Expected to Replace Pain-Inducing Coach Seats

I thought it would be good to end the week on a happy note. Cathay Pacific has apparently decided to replace its torturous coach seats. I’ve never flown in these seats, but I don’t recall ever seeing such backlash at a simple coach seat.

I first wrote about these seats way back in September 2006. At the time, I said “These have some great new features that couldCathay Pacific Torture Seat help make flying economy much more bearable.” It appears that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

These were some of the first seats to recline into themselves. In other words, instead of the seat reclining backwards, it had the front slide forward to create the recline. That reduced legroom a little, but it also meant that the person behind you wouldn’t feel the pain of your recline. To make up for the legroom loss, Cathay relocated the seatback pocket to be under the seat so that gave back some legroom.

Great, right? Not so much. In fact, I continued to get about a comment a month on the blog about how horrible these seats are with the most recent one coming in earlier this week. Here are some of the highlights of the pain these seats have caused.

It doesn’t recline – it slides you into the seat in front. Since my knees are touching teh seat in front to start with, this leaves me with nowhere to go – other than the chiropractor when I get off.

The new seat is terrible: the seat recline, but not the headset!!!
So your head stays vertical all along.
Which means that your head falls forwards when you fall asleep.

Really ergonomically speaking, it just forces you into a slouch, with your spine bending into itself. This might be bearable for a short flight but is unforgivable for these long hauls.

It’s been since says since I got back from my HKG to NYC flight and my BACK STILL HURTS.

But then as the flight progressed the 10mm of padding on the seats became the real problem and I had very uncomfortable pressure points on my back.

I will be increasing my travel to Asia (3-4 times per year) and I will NEVER fly Cathay again unless/until these seats are recognized for the huge mistake they are and are removed. This fiasco is worthy of a case study in business school on the same bonehead level as “New Coke”

Seen enough? These seats appear to be the worst things ever invented, according to those who flew in them. And now, they’re finally, mercifully going to be put out to pasture. Actually, maybe some of the torture museums around the world can get some copies to scare tall people. In reality, they’ll just be going into shorter haul aircraft, so the pain won’t be nearly as noticeable.

This will also result in a new premium economy cabin as well as a refresh to the fancy pants seats at the pointy-end of the plane. Kudos to Cathay for listening. Let’s hope they get better info from focus groups this time so they don’t have to replace the seats again in another couple years.

[Original Photo via Flickr user kevingessner]


33 Responses to Cathay Pacific Expected to Replace Pain-Inducing Coach Seats

  1. Aaron says:

    Well, they can give their seats to AA, because they seem to be putting them on their new 737’s.

  2. “””””Let’s hope they get better info from focus groups this time……”””””

    Maybe the last focus group was people from Asia who tend not to be as tall as other people from different regions of the world.

    For something like an airplane seat, they need to make them to fit the rider so manufactures should only use Americans as test subjects. We seem to have plenty of fat and tall people to use as a guideline for the rest of the world.

  3. Mike says:

    Exactly what Aaron said. AA is putting larger versions of this ergonomic ‘design’ in the new 737 retrofits in First Class.

    I flew Cathay Pacific LHR/HKG/KUL in October 2009 in Coach. Honestly, I didn’t mind the seats. I’m 6’1″, 220lbs. The seat cushions are indeed very think, but my back wasn’t screaming at me anywhere along the way, and my back is far from perfect. It was, however, a strange sensation to be ‘sliding’ under the seat in front of me. In fact, I think I recall a bit of a slant to the seat as it slid me forward. The seat cushion acts as a sort of ‘shelf’ in the reclined position.

    The lower-back support is non-existent, however, I usually tighten my belt on every seat except for the AA Business Class robo-seats, to compensate for my weak back.

    • Darby says:

      I was thrilled to see these seats on the new AA 737s. I am so tired of having to involuntarily give up my space (as small as it already is) to the person setting in front of me that wants to recline. Now, the person deciding to recline gives up some of their space and not taking all of mine. Before, I was reduced to setting sideways when the person reclined because it took all of my available leg space.

  4. Oliver says:

    Hmmm, that’s interesting. My only Cathey flights were SFO-HKG and then a few days later HKG-DPS. The only memory I have of that transpac flight is that I fell asleep shortly after the midnight departure and that I woke up maybe an hour or two before arrival. That was in coach, and I usually cannot sleep in coach. I wonder if that 747 four years ago had those torture seats – maybe it wasn’t really sleep but rather shock-induced coma? Or caused by something they put in those post-departure drinks?

  5. Roger says:

    It cost Cathay money. For my trans-Pacific trips I had a choice of Cathay, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. I ruled out Emirates due to cramped seats (10 abreast in the 777), Cathay due to this rigid shell idiocy and ended up repeatedly giving my money to SQ.

  6. Oh you have made my day! We flew SFO-HKG this past April and it was awful. I love Cathay Pacific – but those seats were torture on the 15 hour flight (strong head winds).

    Nice concept that the person ahead of you is not ever affected (rigid seat back doesn’t move if you grab on to seatback for balance) and person behind never has a seatback in their face.

    Other than that – they are terrible. So surprised they made it onto those beautiful planes.

    Thanks for making my day Cranky!

  7. AA are installing similar seat (only less leg room & smaller dimension seat) in the new economy class cabin on AA 737-800 fleet. No wonder they get 12 more seats per aircraft. Thank goodness only short haul flights (4.5 hours or less.) AA has done a good job of presenting “more comfort product and thinner seat” in the press. How thinner seat can equal more comfort, so may be just spin.

  8. Roger, I don’t know where your journey was starting or finishing, but I cannot imagine why a flight via Dubai – the only route they offer – would have been very practical even if the seats were wider. Are their fares competitive?

  9. ptahcha says:

    The Cathay economy seats are horrible. There is no lumbar support when you are in the slide forward mode, so your lower back ended up in the abyss where the seat bottom meets the seat back.. not so comfort for 12+ hour flight, regardless of how many movies you can watch.

    FWIW, AA’s new product is different. Cathay’s seat has a fixed shell, while AA’s new seat is slimline, but does recline.

  10. Oliver says:

    Gee, Cranky, that “review” (yeah, I know, you probably didn’t sit in it) from four years ago sounded pretty upbeat and positive. Guess it’s a poster child post for “better try it before making a judgement”, eh? Or as they say, looks can be deceiving, and the devil is in the details. ;)

    • CF says:

      So easy to be critical from the other side . . .

      I believe that when I wrote that, it was simply announced and not on airplanes. If I waited to comment only on products I’d experienced, there wouldn’t be that much to read here.

  11. Darkwater says:

    Is CX one of the airlines that puts an extra seat per row in economy a la EK? I seem to remember their L-1011s being 3-4-3 instead of the DL/EA/TW standard of 2-5-2. (Of course, this was after the 2-5-2 standard was settled on after a brief flirtation with 2-4-2.)

  12. Jason says:

    I always dreaded when I had to fly CX in Economy HKG-LAX-HKG those seats were brutal, I will be happy to see them gone!

  13. Those seats were horrific. I always flew BA from HKG in preference.

  14. Tom says:

    I just flew with Cathay from Melbourne to Hong Kong in Economy and took a good look at the seats after I read this post. I must say they are a bit awkward but have their pro’s and con’s. I guess the cons are the slightly wrong angle of your body which probably is particularly noticeable for taller people (I’m not one of them, so didn’t feel this as much). On the positive side, I really like it when the person in front of you doesn’t affect your experience. This is particularly important when you’re working on a laptop during the flight. Plus don’t forget, Cathay introduced these seats quite a while back and they also all feature a proper power-plug which is, again, invaluable when you want to work (or watch a lot of movies on your laptop).

  15. Pingback: Good News, Bad News From Cranky | antibride.com

  16. Viv says:

    My friend and I have made 15 flights, mainly with Star Alliance in September. Our final flight from Hong Kong to Sydney was with Cathay Pacific. The seats were truly horrendous. I had sore spots on my back for over two weeks. Have never had a worse seat on a plane. Pity as the flight attendants are good but no way would I ever fly with them while I might cop those seats again

  17. RollV says:

    These new seats are dreadful. My back screamed for 12 hrs each on 2 seperate Cathay flights for a total of 30 hrs. Sorry, never again on Cathay whilst they have these seats. Not even for 8 hours.

  18. nicole says:

    Im flying to hong kong on cathay in late july 2011 have the cathay pacific coach seats been changed yet?
    thanks

  19. Did LHR to HKG recently and they were still there. AWFUL THINGS.

  20. Eugene says:

    I don’t fly to Asia too often, like once or twice a year, but Cathay definitely had the worst seats out of Air Canada, Air China and JAL.

    Until they change these seats, why would you bother paying a premium to fly to Hong Kong from Vancouver on Cathay. Go with Air China.

  21. zygmondy says:

    I flew from Paris to Hing Kong and it was a nightmare. Those seats are a real torture. The worst is to have a vertical position of the head. Impossible to sleep. I could see around me everybody moving around trying to find a proper position that did not exist.
    I will NEVER fly again CX unless they change these seats.

  22. I flew from HKG to Perth last night. It was my single worst experience in Air Travel. I am 6 foot and 120KG and towards the end of the Flight could think of nothing else but getting off the Plane to stop the pain. Its a hard plastic torture device with a 15mm low density foam. Thats it! I will never Fly Cathay ever again. I was perversely looking forward to the Flight as my Father in Law counts as his friends a number of ex Cathay Captains whom he often visits in the UK. It seems the Glory Days of the 747 services to Australia 20 years ago have been replaced by a Nazi Death Train experience.
    My advice is to avoid this turgid Airline and its ergonomicly tourturous seats seats at any cost. On reflection I would have been better off flying Qantas to Adelaide earlier in the day and then a further 5 Hr domestic flight to Perth………..its really THAT bad.

  23. Olli says:

    Thinking to cancel my already purchased ticket after reading this. I heard many good things about Cathay Pacific (service, food, etc), but reading all these comments on the internet about the bad non reclinging seats makes me very concerned.

    I have a bad back as it is (L4,L5 disc not too well placed) and without lumbar support this would likely result in a stretcher off the plane on arrival.

    A call to Cathay’s service centre confirmed my fears. They still have these seats, and the flight is fully booked. When was this announcement made that they replacing these seats? And why, seemingly two years after, they are still on their fleet?

    On a separate note, has anyone had any luck with removing the head rest completely (maybe use a small cushion in place!?)?

    Guess I cancel and use Aeroflot instead, shorter flight times, (from PEK-FRA) and good recline, although the food is just ok

  24. Rosie says:

    The seats really are as uncomfortable as everyone describes. It makes you slouch and after a few hours this causes your back to ache. The fact that there is no cushioning on the seat makes it all the worse.

    I wasn’t too impressed with their service either. On Malaysian airlines and Singapore airlines from the minute it’s safe for the flight
    attendants to do so, they are offering drinks
    and snacks. I wasn’t offered a drink on both
    flights until the meal was served.

    I am actually horrified to think I have to fly cathay again back to Australia.

    I have sent a complaint letter to their customer service centre asking if I will have any of the new seats on any of the aircrafts for my flights.

    I will never EVER fly Cathay again, even if they do end up
    changing all the seats. The fact it is taking them
    more than 2 years to replace them shows me they don’t really care about their customers.

    I much prefer to fly Garuda, Qantas, Singapore and Malaysian Airlines.

  25. Sylvilagus says:

    I just got off a 13 hours flight on Cathay…The seats are horrible!!!!! I swore on the flight that I have to warn people about it online! They do not recline! You cannot sleep in them, sliding forward doesn’t do anything but cause your head and back to bend forward. NO MORE CATHAY FOR ME until they do something about the seats! I got off the 13 hours flight and threw up because there’s no comfortable way to sleep in coach seat that makes you bend forward!

  26. Same problem with me. The seat slides down and you are left in a very uncomfortable position for over 12 hours. My flight was from London to HKG and HKG to Japan then back again.

    The problem isn’t just with tall people. I’m only 5ft1 and I struggled. Worse flight I’ve ever experienced…even aeroflot had more comfortable seats.

    I was determined not to fly with them again but unfortunately they are the only one offering the type of connecting flights I was after.

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