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Cathay Pacific

Seat width, screen size and toilet ratios: which airlines are most generous?

From seats to cabin entertainment screens and toilet queues, airlines must have the measure of their passengers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 8:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 10:28am

As passengers seek flights that are the best value for money, the difference between the most and least generous carriers comes down to a matter of inches.

Cathay Pacific Airways ranks highly among its peers, research by the Post shows.

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The new economy class of the city’s flagship carrier tops its rivals, offering the most shoulder to shoulder space with 17.2 inches of in-seat width. At the other end of the scale, American Airlines offers as little as 16.2 inches.

Even among the best, airlines operating with a denser layout in economy still provide less seat width than a Citybus double decker, which offers 17.5 inches.

As regards legroom, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Air France, American Airlines and China Airlines share the spoils for most space – 32 inches – in a denser cabin. Air Canada and United Airlines are among the least generous, providing an inch less than the best in class.

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On the entertainment front,the Dubai-based carrier soars ahead with the biggest in-flight screen at 13.3 inches, on which passengers may watch thousands of movies and TV programmes. In its newly upgraded economy cabin, Cathay Pacific takes second spot as it moves to a 12-inch monitor from nine inches. Of the airlines sampled, almost five inches separate the best and worst – with British Airways offering screens of just 8.9 inches.

As Cathay Pacific adds more seats to its aircraft there must be sufficient toilets for passengers.

The airline has a ratio of 50 passengers per toilet, seven washrooms in economy, on long-haul flights. The worst is Air Canada with 66 passengers per toilet, six washrooms, but Emirates does best with a ratio of 39 passengers per toilet, eight washrooms.

The entire passenger experience is also governed by the total number of seats airlines offer in their denser economy class cabins.

On long-haul flights the difference in passenger numbers at the rear of an aircraft is significant. Air Canada sacrifices premium seats in order to squeeze in 398 economy seats per aircraft, while 201 economy seats are offered on one type of Cathay Pacific jet, which also caters for passengers in first, business and premium economy.

Walter Wong, who flies on average one round trip a month in Cathay Pacific economy or business class, said regular travellers would vote with their wallets if the product being offered was not as good as that of rival airlines.

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“My first priority is the comfort in term of personal space. Especially for flights of more than four hours,” he said. “Sitting in economy class, most of the passengers are price sensitive.”