EVA Air’s 777 Economy Seats Are Getting Tighter

Per @airlineroute, EVA Air’s newly delivered Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will feature 10 seats per row in economy, rather than the current nine. The new planes will feature a total of 39 business class seats, 56 premium economy seats, and 258 economy seats. This represents a capacity increase of 20 economy seats, as the current 777-300ERs feature 238 economy seats.

EVA-Air-777

This change is hardly surprising, as 10 seats per row in 777 economy is becoming the norm rather than the exception nowadays. I can think of fewer than a dozen airlines that still have only nine seats per row in economy.

Singapore-Airlines-777-First-Class-45
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER economy (9 abreast seating)

Meanwhile most airlines, many of which are considered to be “premium” carriers, have 10 across seating nowadays.

Emirates-Economy
Emirates 777-300ER economy (10 abreast seating)

In many ways I really can’t blame airlines for packing in seats like sardines, because there’s simply no return on offering a more spacious configuration as a standard offering. While extra legroom and premium economy seats sell, bigger basic seats as such can’t command enough of a premium to justify them.

That’s especially true given how little awareness there is of the different seating configurations. It’s not like people booking through an online travel agency (or even an airline’s website) are told “hey, we only have nine seats per row, while most airlines have 10.” And even if they did, most people traveling economy are looking for the lowest price.

But here’s what makes this change for EVA Air interesting. A few weeks ago, EVA Air became the world’s eighth Skytrax 5-star airline, joining the following 5-star airline:

Skytrax-Five-Stars

All of these airlines featured only nine seats per row in 777 economy when they were certified as 5-star airlines, and several of them still only have nine seats per row. EVA Air’s rating with Skytrax includes a 5-star rating for economy:

EVA-Air-Economy

Is it a coincidence that EVA Air announced they were going 10 abreast in economy just weeks after they got a 5-star rating from Skytrax?

I don’t place much value on Skytrax ratings, since the system seems questionable at best. Skytrax makes money doing consulting for airlines, so you have to wonder what the correlation is between airlines with a 5-star rating and airlines that have paid Skytrax for consulting. I’d note that Etihad has called into question the credibility of Skytrax, and refuses to participate in their ratings.

Bottom line

I can’t blame EVA Air for adding an extra seat per row in economy, since the airlines with more spacious configurations haven’t been able to command a price premium. At the same time, I do find the timing of this change to be rather curious, as it comes just weeks after EVA was rated a Skytrax 5-star airline, with the quality of their economy product being one of the major factors.

Do you think the timing of EVA Air’s introduction of 10 abreast seating in economy is a coincidence?

Comments

  1. We spend a lot of time talking about who has the best economy class product internationally, but I think that it’s kind of a waste of time. No amount of food, drink, TV shows, etc. can make a 17 or 18 inch wide seat that much better. At the end of the day, I think price is at least 90% of what someone takes into consideration when booking an international economy ticket. The ceiling in international economy is way lower than it is in business or first class.

  2. I agree that the timing of the announcement is suspicious. However, I am not surprised that EVA is trying to maximize profits based on my recent Royal Laurel business class Hello Kitty (IAH-TPE) roundtrip experience this weekend. I was disappointed in the deterioration of soft products and cutbacks in services.

  3. Boo, increasing density after receiving the rating should lead to an automatic lowering of the score. How’s 4.5 stars sound EVA?

  4. “there’s simply no return on offering a more spacious configuration as a standard offering”

    That is so true. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, AA increased the pitch on their economy seats, thinking it would give them a competitive edge over their rivals. Instead they found out that people would book the sardine seating airline if the tickets cost just a dollar less. AA’s highly advertised “More Space In Economy” quietly went away as they went back to ‘less space in Economy.’

    While many of us might know the difference from flight reports, even perhaps check with Seat Guru before booking a flight, most people only check the price. And they won’t pay even a few cents more for a much better experience on board.

    Oh, sure, they will complain about it, but they are getting the pathetic hard and soft products they refuse to pay more for… ;(

  5. And I take card recommendations here with a sack of salt. Talk about conflict of interest 🙂

  6. Interesting. With the 20 extra seats in EY, I wonder if the flights to say TPE-JFK will be payload restricted? Sure, you’re adding more seats, but you’re also giving up the ability to fly further with a heavier payload.

  7. I think there is a big difference between leisure and business travel in Economy.

    For business travel, routing, schedule and even loyalty program will justify higher prices. I have my doubts though if a flight with a better hard product would be preferred over a flight with a better schedule even if not more expensive.

    For me same criteria apply in business class. If it is leisure I consider product and pricing more. On business trips it comes down to schedule

  8. Big disappointment. This comes right after the 5 star announcement. My mom just flew TPE-IAH in Y and was blown away by their product. Guess she spoke too soon.

    With that said, I do hope they do something similar to what ANA did when they went 10 abreast. Keep the 10 abreast planes on the West Coast and Chicago flights and continue with 9 abreast to East Coast and Houston. I’ve taken NH 10 abreast between SFO/LAX-NRT and for a 10 hour flight, it was very manageable. Then again, they do have 34″ pitch in Y.

  9. @Colin, these planes will only fly YVR, SEA, CGK, and HKG. IAH will still have the 9 abreast

  10. That is a shame. Can the 5th star be taken away? However, with the other Taiwanese carrier China Airlines deploying 3-4-3 on its 777-300ER, the move is not completely surprising. My hope is that the new “high density” EVA 777 will be used primarily for the shorter intra-Asia routes. Prior to this move to 3-4-3, EVA actually has been quietly shrinking the seat pitch and increasing the number of seats in Y. The original 777 configuration (77N) carries 313 total; while the newer configuration (77A) caries 333 total and seat pitch went down from 33 inch to “32/31” inch according EVA’s own published spec (although the lack of the under-seat IFE box is helpful to create more room). Currently EVA is also reconfiguring some of the 77Ns to carry 323 total (by installing new seats at Y and Y+) and designating it as 77M.

  11. What most concerns me is when you purchase a seat with an expected width and then end up on an aircraft with narrower seats. This happened to me on ANA 787 when I had specifically purchased ANA due to the wider seats and then new aircraft came out with the narrower seats and I got stuck with that. What happened to getting the product you paid for? If you pay for “economy” you only get whatever “economy” is at time of flight, not time of purchase.

  12. “I don’t place much value on Skytrax ratings, since the system seems questionable at best. Skytrax makes money doing consulting for airlines, so you have to wonder what the correlation is between airlines with a 5-star rating and airlines that have paid Skytrax for consulting.”

    Even though I appreciate the information provided, that quote should strike a familiar note to those who tout credit cards for a living.

  13. Strange, I didn’t know that 9-abreast was becoming so rare. I guess that all of the 777’s ive flown in the past few years (United, Asiana, and Singapore) just all happened to have 9-abreast.

  14. @Ben I’d like to see you write more about the questionable Skytrax ratings process. Until you mentioned it, I was unaware that they made money for consulting from the very airlines they are rating and I don’t think most people are aware of that. I always thought the ratings were based on passenger surveys, but it turns out that those only determine the airline awards and are unrelated to the ratings. Perhaps you can report further and get a reply from them.

  15. Local Taiwanese media is reporting the ten abreast will be trialed on TPE-SEA 3x weekly before going onto SE Asia routes like CGK. Existing configurations will remain for the time being

  16. When will Eva be deploying the new 3-4-3 configurations on its LAX-TPE flights? This is most disappointing as EVA has always had the upper hand over China Airline’s economy

  17. The first commenter says you have a pic of an A380. He is simply incorrect. But it is sad news that EVA is going 10 abreast. Avoiding them here on out. In time, Boeing will be synonymous with low-end travel, and Airbus with the higher end.

  18. Just booked SFO-TPE in Y on the new 3-4-3 configuration for May 2017. Disappointed as I paid a premium for EVA. However, my return flight TPE-LAX is still the 3-3-3.

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