Cathay Pacific Airways has raised the possibility of sacrificing seat width by squeezing more people into economy class on its long-haul flights, after surveying passengers' views on the idea. Hong Kong's biggest airline is flirting with a scheme that could affect the Boeing 777 fleet, but travellers in return could benefit from cheaper airfares or better food, free Wi-fi or enhanced in-flight entertainment. The move could add up to 17 seats. Nearly 70 per cent of 777 operators - more than 80 airlines operating 600 of the jets - have opted for the higher density economy layout, but Cathay Pacific is in an ever smaller minority favouring nine seats in a row. On the Hong Kong-Vancouver route, Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777 can carry up to 275 passengers, but Air Canada fits 458 passengers into the same make. A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said the airline periodically conducted research "to understand the trend and development of the airline industry and passengers' ever changing needs and preferences". Compared to its competitors, the airline still has one of the best economy class products among major airlines, offering 81cm (32 inches) of seat pitch (the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front), 47cm (18.5 inches) of width and no box under the seat in front containing the in-flight entertainment system, leaving passengers unobstructed legroom. At the other end of the spectrum, budget airline HK Express announced earlier this week it would take delivery of the world's first single-aisle Airbus A320neo planes next year fitted with 188 seats - eight more than its maximum at present - as it tries to maximise take-off and landing slots at the city's crowded airport. However, those seats would offer only 71cm (28 inches) of seat pitch. Cathay already shifted its focus to adding more seats to its aircraft. It added 28 more economy class seats at the expense of 18 in business class to its regional Airbus A330 aircraft in response to strong leisure demand on regional flights, raising the maximum capacity to 317 seats. Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based airline analyst for the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, said: "The unmistakable trend is that in an environment with uncertain yields [the average fare paid by a passenger], the way out is to lower your unit costs. Increasing seat density does that exactly." He said Cathay's biggest rivals - Japan's ANA, China Eastern and China Airlines - had recently changed to 10 seats abreast. Analyst Daniel Tsang of Aspire Aviation said the carrier risked harming the "Cathay Pacific experience" synonymous with high-quality, premium levels of service and comfort. He said: "It's a tricky balance as its ability to justify a premium versus other competitors that fly at nine-abreast such as Singapore Airlines would be eroded."