The future of Cathay Pacific’s 747s

The last time I took a 747-400 was from Sapporo to Hong Kong in February 2011. (I’ve had some other sagas since then.) I took the plane in Business Class, and enjoyed my flight (I can fit in a 18.5in wide seat without squealing in pain – no, I’m not on a steak diet). I know people (including myself, actually) who have had desires to take another flight on the 747 since then.


Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400

However, September 1st marks the end of Cathay Pacific’s 747-400 longhaul career. After Cathay Pacific switches to three-class (no first class) 777-300ERs from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, the longest flight on a Cathay Pacific 747-400 will be from Sapporo to Hong Kong (it’s 5 hours and 45 minutes in the winter).

Cathay Pacific is also cutting some regional flights to smaller jets (they may have better products, but they’re still smaller). Bali will soon see a 777-200 instead of the queen of the skies. So will Osaka. Tokyo no longer sees a 747-400.

I’ll keep the facts short, as they’re not so important. But here are my thoughts about Cathay Pacific abandoning their 777s:

  • Ultimately this isn’t devastating, as the business class and economy products on the 747s are sub-stellar. Cathay Pacific has slightly claustrophobic seats in business class and slightly back-breaking seats in economy, so for these San Francisco long hauls, getting rid of the 747s is actually a good thing for most.
  • I do understand why they’re ridding the 747s (and the A340s, for that matter). These are four engines that use lots of fuel. And unlike the A380, range isn’t that long.
  • The biggest beef isn’t losing comfort, but for royalty. Well, ultimately safety matters most, but the beautiful curvature of the 747 (in Economy, and in the upper deck of Business, as Business’ lower deck doesn’t feel the same with something above it) is something worth remembering. It will always be an experience to sit under the 10-across curvature for 13-14 hours. Speaking of safety, there have been 9 747 crashes – all with deaths – since the 2000s, only 4 of which involved the 747-400 (which is most “homey” to me), so they’re not the worst, and I do feel safe on 747s.
  • Cathay’s shell seats feel like “home” to me. I’ve taken the shell seats only nine times (including twice this year), but that’s a total of fifty-four hours, which I think is impressive for my age. Hell, that’s more time than I’ve spent in the Hong Kong YMCA Self-Service Hotel, and by the time I left I could call that home. Although I’ve only taken the 747 in economy three times (HKG – CTS – HKG – NRT – HKG – CTS – I flew business from CTS to HKG since economy on that flight was full), I know that it feels so much more “royal” – it just isn’t the same on the A330 or A340, or any other 747 on any other airline (not that I’ve taken one – yet).

Rounding it up, I’m disappointed about the loss, even though I can list all the reasons why Cathay’s dumping the 747.

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