Who needs a 747-8I? Air Canada puts 458 seats in 777-300ER

Holy crammed-in-coach, Batman!

Air Canada has configured its latest Boeing 777-300ER with 458 seats, in three classes. How in the world? Airline Reporter tells how, and we wouldn’t want to be stuck in coach.

We’ve been writing for some time the Boeing 747-8I is squeezed from the bottom by the -300ER and from the top by the Airbus A380, but this configuration on the -300ER is pretty extreme. Boeing claims seating of 467 for its 747-8I when it compares its Very Large Aircraft with the A380 (a configuration that is unrealistic–it should be 405 in typically airline layout).

Seatguru.com has this illustration of Air Canada’s -300ER seating.

Airline Reporter doesn’t say who makes Air Canada’s new coach seats. Recaro seems to be a popular supplier, providing its slimline seats to Qatar and Alaska Airlines, among others. We’ve been in Alaska’s Recaro-equipped coach class and while AS touts these as state-of-the-art comfort, we were less impressed. There was little lower back support unless sitting firmly in the seat, and the recline isn’t enough unless you slouch. The headrest is in the wrong position for good neck support (for a 6-footer). We also sat in Qatar’s Recaro coach seat when the airline showed its first Boeing 787 off to media and invitees, and we weren’t impressed then, either. Slimline design notwithstanding, it was still cramped. On the other hand, Qatar uses BE Aerospace-designed fancy business class seats and these were the first we’d seen where you don’t have to be an engineer to figure out the controls, figuratively speaking.

Since we started out with a Hollywood saying, we’ll end with one. Coach class on international flights, especially considering 17 inch wide seats and narrow seat pitch: as Danny Glover’s character in Lethal Weapon said, “I’m too old for this [stuff].”

32 Comments on “Who needs a 747-8I? Air Canada puts 458 seats in 777-300ER

  1. Pingback: Announcing Premium Economy & new 777-300ERs - Page 56 - FlyerTalk Forums

  2. More and more carriers are going to the 3-4-3 base on the B77W.

    Also, other carriers such as EK have 17′ on their B77’s and it hasn’t stopped flyers from flying on EK. EK’s 2-class B77W (which I’ve flown on a few times) have a staggering 427 seats.

    At the end of the day, people will buy tickets based on a number of other factors such as price, routing, FF, etc.

    • You’re certainly right about the number of other factors. For me personally, 18″ vs. 17″ wide seats is not the discriminator that it is for some. I’m uncomfortable either way.

  3. As much as the title was supposed to be slightly humorous, it’s actually the truth and probably what lots of airlines are asking themselves too, and one of the reasons why the 777-9X is the final nail in the 747-8i’ coffin.

  4. Boeing claims seating of 467 for its 747-8I when it compares its Very Large Aircraft with the A380 (a configuration that is unrealistic–it should be 405 in typically airline layout).

    Actually, since the B-747-8I is longer than the B-747-400, seating 467 in a two class set-up should work very well and be comfortable. The B-747-400 seated 416 in a two class set-up. Both configurations are Boeing offered set-ups.

    • While feasible, these two seat counts are unrealistic, though, and somewhat skewed to a) make the gap between the 773/77X and the 748 appear bigger than it is and b) make the gap between the 748 and the A380 appear smaller than it is.

  5. Lufthansa has 31inch in Eco in the A380, too.
    The seats are 18.25inch though.
    But that’s the trend.
    On the plus side: it is eco-friendly. Sort of.
    Air Transat flies 9-abreast in A310 and A330. Seems the Canadian carriers can be more brutal to their customers. Air France also has 10-abreast B77W, while not all of them.

    • Actually, AF retrofited its complete fleet of 777 to 10-abreast (772 & 77W). It’s a shame.

      It’s also a shame that AC is following this trend as it is getting really hard to find a proper airline for transat now that don’t cram seats into their planes in eco. Especially for Europe-Canada.

    • “Seems the Canadian carriers can be more brutal to their customers.”
      Yes, I find that to be the way of things too. The 17″ width isn’t the killer (for me) but being 6 feet/180 cm, that 31″ pitch is a killer.

      I once flew Emirates to Beijing, 777 on the first leg, A380 to Beijing. I found the 777 to be quite comfortable, while the A380 was luxurious (wider seat but similar pitch). Oddly enough, the 1″ less width on the way back, while noticeable, did not bother me.

      Like I said, the pitch is what makes the difference for me. Give me legroom every time.

  6. AF puts 10 more seats than AC on some of its 77W. They are used between Paris and overseas french territories in Carribean and Indian ocean (Reunion Island). Sometimes on Paris to Montreal route.

    • I went once AF to BKK. It was the 777-er. It was the most miserable flight in my life. Extremely cramped. Never again!!

  7. I would not be surprised to see Boeing launch a 747-9X after the 777-X …
    I do not think that the 747 will go in a coffin of soon. And then the A380 will be threatened by them, especially that Boeing proposed a freighter …

    • I would not be surprised to see Boeing launch a 747-9X after the 777-X …

      Well, some have seen pigs fly (at Battersea Power Station in particular), but I wouldn’t put any money on a 747-9X. The 747-8 is going to be the last version of the venerable 747 line in my view.

  8. I think low rate freighter production is the 747-8s future.

    Anyway, does anyone know how much cargo a 747-8i can carry on top of 400 passengers on a flight HKG-LAX, compared to a 777-300ER? And a A380?

  9. The 747-8, was (I believe) Boeing’s farewell present to Joe Sutter, who told everybody within earshot, that “all I need is a couple Billion Dollars and I’ll
    build the best G.D. airplane ever built,” AFTER the 777 had already been

  10. Ten-abreast in a very long range 777-300ER is truly evil. The cabin is nine inches narrower than a 747, 231 vs 240 inches], Ten abr on 777’s was first used for non-ER regional 777-200 and -300 flights years before the advent of the 777-300ER. Air France and KLM deserve some of the blame for -300ER usage; they started using it in 2006.

    But that’s how it’s been since 1969: 747’s started at 9 abr [2-4-3] but all were ten abr by the end of the 70’s. DC-10’s* and Tristars* started at 2-4-2 eight abr in 1973 but all were changed to 2-5-2 nine abr by the 80’s. Thankfully 767’s [2-3-2] and Airbus twins [2-4-2] have stayed the same, except for inclusive-tour versions.

    Now let’s see what happens with the A350 [cabin width 221 in] and the 787 [215in]

    [*some inclusive tour DC-10’s were ten-abr; also JAL’s domestic DC-10-40’s. Then Pan Am in a burst of corporate insanity configured their long-range L-1011-500’s at ten-abreast.]

    There are still long-range 777’s at nine-abr out there. Enjoy them while you can.

  11. If you’re putting passengers in a 747-8, the world’s best large freighter, you’re doing it wrong.

    Also, I’m glad I’m not a Canadian.

  12. Boeing’s smartness (or evilness) is without a rival: they started with a modest B777-200 with 9-abreast seating (at that time the best in class). Today they sell pretty much the same aircraft as 10-abreast in the -300 fuselage. Again: best in class with minimal change. Other fuselages don’t have this flexibility:
    A300/330/340 9-abreast is below standards. But used.
    B767 8-abreast, too. Rarely used.
    A350 10-abreast doesn’t even appear on A350 marketing brochures.
    Neither does A380 11-abreast, though theoretically feasible (while not over the whole length of the cabin due to payload and exit capacity restrictions).
    B787 was effectively marketed as 9-abreast from the start.

    So hope your favorite airline orders A350, and thank those guys in Hamburg who created the fuselage cross section.

    Structural limit for the B777-300ER is 70t, minus 400 PAX & bags and some allowances for installations I would see 20-25t. B747-8I is 76t (by 2008 .. maybe changed), so a little bit more. The A380 can lift up to 90t payload, with 525 PAX and allowances the cargo margin is pretty much the same as that for the B747-8I. A380 wins (as always 😉 )… when you carry brick stones or liquid cast iron … because on all other occasions it gonna bulk out way before payload limit is reached.
    Effectively, the B777-300ER wins, when cargo margins are not eaten away by performance considerations (if so, the A340-600 wins … it actually does, while only in Johannesburg).

  13. @Schorsch

    Don’t know about your cargo numbers comparing the B748i and A380 but I do know of a few things:

    1)In a “real world situation” on LAX-SYD-LAX route. There are 4 carries using 4 different types of planes. Guess which one hauls the most cargo and which one hauls the least? DL B77L>VA B77W>UA B744>QF A380. (Source: DOT) Ancedotal comments also state that DL’s main profit from said route is due to cargo.
    2)The B748i hauls more pax+cargo than the B744.
    3)The problem with the A388 is that some of the cargo is taken by pax baggage.This should be less of a problem with the hypothetical A389.
    EK many years ago (IIRC 2005 in a Flightglobal article regarding the A380) stated that the A380 is a poor cargo+pax hauler.

  14. Found the article:

    “The A380F may be destined to
    be the biggest conventional
    freighter on the market, but its
    passenger version will be rather
    miserly in belly freight capacity.
    Airbus estimates that with a
    520-seat layout, and assuming
    the crew rest area is not put
    in the cargo hold, the aircraft
    will take eight pallets of cargo,
    making 10-15t at a typical 10lb
    per cubic foot density.
    That is about the same as
    a 747-400 or A330, but about
    half the belly capacity of some
    777s. And if one A380 is used
    to replace two 777 routes, the
    effect could be even more dramatic.
    On longer-range routes,
    the cargo capacity might even
    disappear altogether because
    of extra fuel requirements.”*

    Flightinternational.com -The Flight Group June 2005 pg. 40

    • The 777-300ER is indeed very capable and popular, basically the only real success story of Boeing during the last 7 years. It therefor has become so popular smart marketeers easily take a receptive public for a ride.

      The 747-8 and A380 totally outlift the great 777-300ER on flights e.g. HKG-LAX, as we deep down might expect looking at those big quads with big wings.

      The “more cargo” story line intentionally ignores that long flights are payload weight restricted rather then payload volume.

      The 777-300ER starts off loading payload above ~5500 NM still air. And we have to take into account twin unfriendly short / hot runways, ETOPS. Imagine a heavy 777-300ER with all seats, tanks and cargo deck full, speeding down the hot SIN runway & one GE90 saying poof..

      I looked at cargo load for the 747-8i and A380 HKG-LAX, HKG-LAX is about 6300NM

      Looking at payload range:

      It becomes clear that if both aircraft carry e.g. 450 passengers (100kg/pax+luggage), the 747-8 can carry about 30t of cargo and the A380 can carry about 46t.

      About 50% more then the 747-8, not something I would expect looking at Boeings ad, claiming “30% more cargo”. http://leehamnews.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/747-8_2.jpg

      On this flight the 747-8 would have lots more cargo volume, but lack the lift to fill it.

      For reference a 777-300ER will even more payload restricted on this flight and carry less then 20t. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/startup/pdf/777_payload.pdf

      Anyway, as I said before, its hard to compete with the large fleet of old, stuffed, cheap cargo 744s, carrying payload iso fuel and doing a tech stop at Anchorage, flying directly to the right cargo places, at the right times.

    • According to your data A380 is then the best optimized aircraft to transport passengers.

      Simple math:
      over two rows of LD3s a B777 got 10 rows of seats while an A380 got 18 rows.

      What about an A380 P/F with just one deck for passenger and two cargo decks?

  15. @keesje I take what both manufacturers claim with a grain of salt. However the Flightinternational reference IMHO a bit less unbiased. While a few A380 operators are carrying <450 pax, most (at least many) aren't. You will need to update your figures. Would CX carry <450 pax on an A388? Don't know as I've not really done an analysis.


    • jacobin777, you qoute 2005 article and in the same paragraph you tell me to update my figures…

      I wondered why you didn’t provide a link so I looked it up for you. Your quote from an unnamed source is followed by comments fro EK cargo, that seem less alarmist. In fact they skipped the 747-8i and bought a pile of A380 after the article. A 40 page positive article btw. You had to look hard and a long way back to pick out the biased qoute.


  16. @Keesje,

    Updating the figures were based on pax count per plane, nothing more, nothing else.

    I never posted anything “alarmist”, simple facts. I wasn’t “looking hard” either-aftera all, I did pull out the information rather quickly. I needed to provide some facts to show that the A380 pax is a poor pax+freight hauler-which I did.

    The fact EK hasn’t purchased any B748i’s in this part of the conversation is rather irrelevant.

    What is relevant is the B779X will probably put more pressure on the B748i as well as the A380. 🙂

  17. The A380 is a poor cargo+pax hauler. I think no-one ever doubted that.
    However, cargo provides additional yields on some routes.

  18. Pingback: Odds and Ends: Contrary views of Mulally; Cathay considers 420-seat 777-9X; Long haul flight log; a walk in the park | Leeham News and Comment

  19. I had the displeasure of traveling in this “cattle car” in July 2014, CDG – YUL —- two words describe my experience, “Hated it!”

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