Nobody likes to fly international economy at the best of times, but many companies mandate economy travel for 'regional' travel -- which can include trips between Sydney and most of Asia. And of course, many small businesses and the self-employed find it challenging to justify business class fares on even this journey.
So if you're travelling in economy class on Cathay Pacific's Airbus A330s -- which run from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Cairns to Hong Kong and back -- here's some help in choosing the best seats and avoiding the worst ones.
But down at the back of the bus in Economy, the story's a little more mixed. Cathay's 'fixed shell’ economy seats have come in for a fair degree of criticism, to the point where the Hong Kong flag carrier tells us it is “working quite aggressively” on an overhaul for the seats.
The Economy Class cabin
Economy starts at row 30 and continues all the way to the back of the plane. Row numbering varies across the several cabin layouts Cathay uses -- so, no, there aren't 29 rows of business class, they've just decided that economy always starts at row 30.
There are two sections of the Economy Class cabin, one that starts at row 30 and one that starts at row 54. Both are laid out in 2-4-2 configuration.
(For infrequent travellers, that means that A & C seats are to the left of the cabin, then an aisle, the D, E, F and G seats in the middle, another aisle, and the H & K seats on the right.)
Towards the back of the rear cabin, the plane tapers to a point, and the centre block of four narrows to a block of three in the back four rows.
The seats themselves are much maligned because they 'tilt' forward rather than reclining: the back of the seat edges down and the bottom of the seat forward, rather than physically tilting the back of the seat.
While that sounds like a good idea in theory -- there's nobody reclining into your space -- it's much less comfortable, especially on the lower back.
Each seat has a decently sized screen in the headrest in front, plus a fold-down table. There's also the option to fold down a cup-holder instead of the table.
A power point is provided for every seat, behind the fold-down tray table.
The best seats on the plane
54A 54C 54H 54K: probably the best economy seats on the plane, these window + aisle exit row pairs are excellent, with nearly unlimited legroom. The table and entertainment screen are in the armrests, though, which makes the seat slightly narrower. Bear in mind also that the centre four seats are bassinet crib positions for infants, so bring your earplugs. Also, exit row seats like these can be draughty, so dress warmly if you're prone to feeling cold in the air.
30A 30C 30H 30K: these aisle + window bulkhead pairs give you extra room in front, although bear in mind that they're designated seats for the bassinet cribs too, so you're more likely to be moved to make way for an infant -- and much more likely to be kept awake by one too.
30D 30G: aisle seats at the very front of the first cabin, these let you stick your feet through the curtain in front of you (which separates business class from economy). You get nearly unlimited legroom as a result, but bear in mind that these, too, are bassinet crib seats.
30E 30F 54D 54E 54F 54G: these bulkhead seats give you extra room in front. The same caveats about slightly reduced seat width and bassinet crib seats apply here too.
66D 66G: these aisle seats are the first to be in a trio rather than a foursome at the back of the plane. That means you get extra underseat storage, can angle your legs sideways, and are less likely to be bumped into. On the downside, it'll take longer to get off the plane and through customs, while big fans of watching in-flight entertainment won't appreciate that the screens aren't directly in front of the seats.
The worst seats on the plane
33A 33K: on some versions of the A330, these "window" seats are missing the window, so avoid them unless it's a night flight and all you want to do is lean against the wall and sleep.
The last row in each cabin: although the seat numbers differ, the last row in each cabin have reduced legroom and are close to the loos. So if you're allocated a seat or handed a boarding pass with rows 40, 41, 46, 69 or 70, watch out -- and ask to see the seat map to make sure that you're not stuck at the back of the plane.
Photography: Dan Warne