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Which Cathay Pacific flight is right for you? (Photos)

Chris McGinnis economy Cathay Pacific Economy class Cathay 777 Knee room Cathay 777 Economy Class on Cathay Pacific 777 Overhead bins Cathay Pacific B777 Row 72 Cathay Pacific 777ER Personal TV Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 300 ER Cathay Pacific business class 777ER Business Class Cathay B777 Premium Economy Cathy Pacific B777 Cathay Pacific Business Class 747-400 Cathay Pacific Fixed Economy
That's 6 feet of me in an economy class seat on Cathay's B777-300-ER (Chris McGinnis)
Economy Class seats on Cathay Pacific's new B777 (Chris McGinnis)
Knee room on Cathay's B777 economy class (Chris McGinnis)
Knee room in economy on Cathay Pacific's B777-300ER (Chris McGinnis)
Huge overhead bins in Cathay Pacific's new B777 (Chris McGinnis)
Back of the plane on Cathay Pacific's B777-300ER with new economy seat (Chris McGinnis)
Cathay Pacific's personal seatback touchscreen AVOD system in economy (Chris McGinnis)
A brand new Boeing 777-300 ER at the factory in Seattle (Chris McGinnis)
New business class on the Cathay Pacific 777-300ER (Chris McGinnis)
Roomy business class seats on Cathay Pacific's B777 (Chris McGinnis)
That's Chris in full recline in Premium Economy on a Cathay Pacific B777 (David Flynn)
Cathay Pacific Business Class onboard its 747-400 (Chris McGinnis)
Cathay Pacific's fixed shell economy seat onboard its Boeing 747-400 (Tom Mascardo 3)

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Cathay Pacific now has a Boeing 777-300ER and a Boeing 747-400 flying between San Francisco and Hong Kong every day. BAT reader AG emailed us for some help on choosing the right flight.

>>Please click thru the slideshow above- click on white circle with arrow on right side of photo<<

Dear Chris: I’m a long time reader of your travel articles on SFGate & The BAT.  You provide some great insider knowledge of travel all over the world and I look forward to each new story that you post. I was wondering if you could do an update to the story you originally posted about Cathay Pacific’s updated long haul cabins

In particular I was wondering if you could do an update on their plans on completing the swap out of their fixed shell economy class seating. When will that be finished for the SFO to Hong Kong route? 

Cathay Pacific's fixed shell economy seat onboard its Boeing 747-400 (Tom Mascardo 3)

Cathay Pacific’s fixed shell economy seat onboard its Boeing 747-400 (Tom Mascardo 3)

I am not sure if you are aware how horrible those seats are in long haul economy.   There is no recline in the seat shell.  This helped keep your personal space as the passenger in the seat in front of you couldn’t recline into your space.  But the sacrifice with this design is that when you push the recline button, the seat slides down into the shell pushing your legs out and putting all the pressure in your lower back.  Long haul flights in these types of seats are a nightmare for me and plenty of others have complained in reviews that can be found all over the internet.

I’m a frequent flyer on Cathay and I was elated when I heard that they were swapping out those seats.

The question I have is when are they going to swap them out for their twice daily flights out of SFO to Hong Kong and back?   I read the Cathay website for information on the new Economy Class and I am even more confused.  Some say only the Boeing 777-300ER’s are getting the new seats.  But which ones?  The ones flying out of SFO to HKG?

I have a trip planed for August and if they still have the old seats, I think I’m going to flip over to Singapore Airlines as my back will not be able to tolerate those old Cathay economy seats on another international flight.

Thank you very much. — AG

Thanks for this note AG! I think you’ll be pleased with the quick response from Cathay Pacific regarding recent aircraft changes on the SFO-HKG route—it now sounds like you have a choice between the fixed shell seat and the newer, more standard model. I’ve heard both sides on this issue… some folks love the protected personal space offered by a fixed shell. But it’s uncomfortable for others. I guess it just depends!

>>Please click through the slideshow above which illustrates the difference between cabins on the 777 and 747.<<

In any case, here’s what I heard from Cathay’s spokesperson Julie Jarratt:

Cathay Pacific now has the new long-haul Economy seats on our Boeing 777ER, which is operated on the night flight from San Francisco (CX873).

A brand new Boeing 777-300 ER at the factory in Seattle (Chris McGinnis)

A brand new Boeing 777-300 ER at the factory in Seattle (Chris McGinnis)

Regarding the 747, which is our daytime departure flight from SFO (CX879), we are not planning to replace it this year, and it will likely fly next year as well with the current Economy seats your reader refers to.

While we do understand your reader’s frustration, many customers do appreciate the fixed shell back, which generates extra space by preventing the passenger in front from reclining into your personal space.

The 747s serving SFO have been updated with a new personal TV content, a new Premium Economy cabin and refreshed business class product, but will retain the Economy seat for the foreseeable future.

Our recommendation to your reader would be to book CX873 to experience the new Economy seat.

Jarratt added that both Cathay flights from SFO to Hong Kong now have Premium Economy cabins.

-Chris McGinnis

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More United 747′s coming to SFO

A United 747 (Photo: United Airlines)

Starting in April of 2013, United plans to turn its San Francisco International Airport base into a 747 hub of sorts.

In an internal memo obtained by The BAT, United tells employees it’s doing this to concentrate all the 747 parts, tools and spares at one hub, resulting in a more reliable 747 fleet. Maintenance for United’s internationally configured 767s and 777s will be consolidated at Chicago, O’Hare.

This means in addition to current 747 flights from SFO to places like Sydney, Hong Kong or Tokyo, it will soon be all-747s-all-the-time between SFO and Frankfurt, Heathrow, Osaka and Taipei (starting in Oct). United’s new flights to Paris, which begin April 11, will use a B767.

It also means using 747′s on its Honolulu-Tokyo NRT flight. The 747s on the LAX-Sydney route will remain in place.

Cozy, updated United business class upstairs on a 747. (Photo: TransWorldProductions / Flickr)

United has 26 747s in its fleet, with an average age of 17 years.

While some fliers may consider the 747 the “Queen of the Skies,” many airlines have begun to dump the plane recently in favor of the more fuel efficient Boeing 777 and 787. For example, Singapore Airlines, which at one time operated more 747′s (37) than any other airline, retired the big bird last Spring.

Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and Malaysian have already or will soon phase the 747 out of their fleets. British Airways is now the largest 747 operator, with 55 in its fleet. Among US carriers, only United and Delta operate the 747. Delta recently did a nice job re-doing interiors (business and coach) on its fleet of 16 747′s.

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At an average age of 17 years, United’s 747 fleet is getting a little long in the tooth. For business and first class passengers, seats have been upgraded to true lie-flat seats — and it does not get much better than a nice lie-flat seat upstairs on a 747 (see photo above).

Back of the plane on United’s 747-400′s (Photo: Flikr / Altair78)

But the situation is a bit different at the back of the plane- Unlike its revamped 777s and 767s, there is no seatback entertainment in economy or premium economy classes on United’s 747s. Even United CEO Jeff Smisek has said that economy class on United’s 747s is “unacceptable.”

Brett Snyder, who runs the Cranky Concierge service told The BAT: “The good news is that having the 747 operation focused on SFO where maintenance is will help improve reliability.  The 747 fleet isn’t exactly the best operational performer for United, and I assume that’s why they’re making this change.  The bad news is that coach still sucks.  They still have overhead video screens back there and the 3-4-3 configuration isn’t going to be a favorite for many.  They say they are putting in some wireless streaming video that people can use on their own devices, but good luck finding a device with a battery that will last all the way to Hong Kong.”

What do YOU think about United’s fleet of 747s? Is a 747 base at SFO a good thing…or not? What’s your preferred bird for transoceanic flights? Why? Please leave your comments below.

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