Edited by: Chris Dong
& Stella Shon
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There’s a first time for everything. A long-haul flight with Cathay Pacific in business class was a recent such first.
Having taken 2 short-haul Cathay flights in business earlier in the month, I had a good sense of how the long-haul experience might be. Still, I was excited to spend almost 14 hours in the air on one of the world’s most prestigious airlines.
As it happens, the only option available when booking was a day flight that landed in London in the afternoon — my preferred option. I don’t enjoy landing in the early hours of the morning after a long flight — and then having to stay awake all day. With the lengthy day flight, I had plenty of time on my hands, so I started writing this piece live from the air and updated it as things happened.
Here are 9 observations — both good and bad — from my first long-haul flight in Cathay Pacific business class onboard an Airbus A350-1000 from Hong Kong (HKG) to London (LHR).
There are many ways to find Cathay Pacific (and Oneworld alliance) award availability, but my go-to when redeeming British Airways Avios is to just use the BA website. British Airways is the airline I fly most frequently, so I’ve banked a lot of Avios.
I had no issue finding a flight for the date that I wanted, so I went ahead and booked Cathay business class for 92,750 Avios and £134 (~$165). That’s a bargain considering the cash price for the same one-way flight would be well over $3,000.
For the cash portion of the booking, I used my British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Card which earns 3 Avios per £1 spent on British Airways purchases.
Hot Tip: If you’re in the U.S., there are several best credit cards to use for airfare. I’d have probably gone with a card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns you 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with the airline or on Amex Travel on the first $500,000 spent per year (1x points thereafter).
Let’s start with the positives from this flight.
Once I boarded Cathay’s Airbus A350-1000 and arrived at my seat, the first thing I noticed how smartly designed it was. There was a noticeable built-in padded ledge around one side, adjacent to the fuselage, which meant you could put your feet up without having to make any adjustments to the seat.
Usually, the footwell is too far away from the seat to rest your feet when the seat is in the upright position. With this feature, this meant I could relax in my seat from the moment I stepped onto the plane.
I’ve been bitterly disappointed with the breakfast served on other carriers, especially when they’re served as second meals — even in business class.
This was not the case on Cathay Pacific. The airline rose to the challenge and provided a high-quality, great-tasting airplane breakfast. I was hoping there’d be a dim sum option on this flight, as I had enjoyed on a recent short-haul business class flight with Cathay from Hong Kong (HKG) to Taipei (TPE).
Instead, the Chinese option was congee with chicken, which I’m not a huge fan of. The wellness breakfast, which would have been my second choice, consisted mainly of yogurt that I can’t eat.
I reluctantly opted for the Western-style breakfast which looked like this:
The bacon and onion soufflé, pan-fried Dingley Dell Cumberland sausage, and potato cake were, without a doubt, the best “Western” breakfast I’ve eaten on a plane. Yes, it was even better than the breakfast I enjoyed on my recent Qatar Airways first class journey.
The cherry on the cake was the excellent Illy espresso (or 2) that I enjoyed with my meal.
For the second meal, I went for the wok-fried chicken with prawns, which was very tasty.
It did, however, very much resemble — in appearance and taste — the chicken dish I was served in Cathay’s economy class just the day before.
However, what followed was a nice surprise. I didn’t know what an opera cake was, but I chose it in the hope it was something chocolatey. Indeed it was, and it was a chocolate lover’s heaven.
Almost 14 hours with just 2 meals would be a stretch for those with even the smallest of appetites. Thankfully, Cathay’s business class passengers can order from an all-day menu which is available on request throughout your flight.
Options included a shrimp, fish cake, and fish ball laksa noodle soup; oven-roasted cauliflower with lemon aioli; and truffled croque monsieur.
I ordered the laksa noodle soup around 1 hour before landing and it was very good. The spice wasn’t too intense and the fish cakes and fish balls were tasty without being overpoweringly fishy.
However, not so great was the truffled croque monsieur, which I ordered around 5 hours into the flight. It consisted of 2 different-sized pieces of greasy bread which meant that the ham and cheese fell out onto my plate when it was served.
I’m sure I’ve had nicer ham and cheese toasties on Ryanair, to be blunt.
It feels like few compromises were made when this seat was designed.
Even in the lie-flat position, the seat felt very wide, with ample storage and, as mentioned above, a large padded area to rest your legs. It was a very comfortable seat to sit in for 14 hours.
When the seat goes fully flat, it connects up with the outer ledge I mentioned earlier, making for wider-than-usual bed space.
As a side sleeper, this meant that there was even enough room to lay on my side with my knees bent. That’s something I can’t recall having been able to do before in business class.
The award for the nicest bedding I’ve ever had when flying business class? That now goes to Cathay Pacific. The super soft Bamford bedding is not just a thick blanket but also comes as a duvet inside a proper button-up cover.
Hot Tip: While on the topic of seats, I’ll add that you might want to avoid seats 11D and 11G on both of Cathay’s A350 variants due to their exposure to the lavatory and galley. The lavatory door on the starboard side opens almost directly into the seat space of 11G.
Modern aircraft such as the A350-1000 often come with the latest in entertainment tech and this Cathay jet was no exception.
The screen was crystal clear, the touchscreen reacted at lightning speed, and, perhaps my favorite part of all, you could navigate around the moving map by using the handheld IFE control.
Something I’d never noticed before on other airlines: If you’re switching between programs, or perhaps watching the moving map, rather than having to go back to the beginning of your movie, it takes you to the exact part of the film you were at.
I really appreciate simple customer-focused touches like this.
From no pre-departure champagne to the abysmal service, let’s move on to the not-so-enjoyable aspects of this flight.
This was the first time I’d flown business class on a long-haul international flight and not been offered a glass of Champagne before departure.
Instead, we were just offered either water or orange juice. To be fair, this was a morning flight and I wasn’t planning on having a drink until we were a lot closer to London, but I’m sure there were other passengers who would not be pleased.
The tray table swivels out from the side panel and is fixed on a 90-degree rotation. It only slides about 2 inches away from you when it’s extended which means it’s a bit tricky to leave your seat when it’s extended with your food tray on it.
On several occasions, I felt very let down by the cleanliness onboard. I took this picture a couple of minutes after boarding the aircraft.
I visited the lavatories numerous times throughout the flight. The further into the flight we got, the dirtier, smellier, and more ignored the bathrooms became.
From water everywhere to overflowing waste bins — not to mention a putrid stench — I was surprised at the level of neglect.
I can only assume that bathroom checks weren’t as frequent as they ought to have been.
As much as I loved my Bamford bedding, mine was stained before I’d even unfolded it.
We were served our “prior to landing” lunch with around 6 hours to go before arrival. I can’t imagine how those in economy would have handled almost 6 hours left of the flight with no more meal services.
Luckily in business class, we had the benefit of the all day menu, which I certainly made the most of given the strange timing of the second meal service.
After the first meal service, the crew pretty much disappeared from sight.
There were several examples of service misses. First, having not seen a member of the crew pass through the cabin for almost 30 minutes, I went to the aft galley to ask for a second can of Perrier. I usually go to the galley during a flight if I’d like something extra, rather than calling the call button. I enjoy chatting with the crew and building up some rapport (much to their dismay, at times).
The crew member dressed in a senior uniform, who was the only person in the galley, seemed disturbed and said, “If you don’t mind, go to the other galley.” I was a bit taken aback by her brusqueness, but I got my can of Perrier in the front galley. However, I wasn’t asked if I wanted ice, lemon, or a glass for it to be served in.
Next, around 5 hours into the flight, it was lunchtime in Hong Kong and I was feeling peckish. Rather than heading to the galley, this time I pressed the call bell to see if I’d have a better experience than the last. It took 5 minutes for a crew member to come to my seat. And once I’d finished the not-so-great croque monsieur, the same purser who asked me to go to the front galley saw the tray that I’d set to one side — and barked for me to hand it to her.
From what I can gather, I counted 4 crew members working in business class with 46 seats. However, I barely saw them walking through the cabin and when they did, they weren’t being proactive with their service. For instance, I set my dessert plate to the side where it sat for almost 90 minutes while the crew walked past. In the end, I took my dirty plates to the galley myself.
I will add that I had some great interactions with crew on previous Cathay Pacific flights before my long flight back to London so I wouldn’t say it’s a Cathay Pacific problem on the whole.
One final note: On this flight, crew members did not offer to help make up the bed with the mattress pad.
I loved the Cathay Pacific seat, including the amount of space, the storage, and the inflight entertainment; it’s a solid business class hard product.
The breakfast was amazing, but it set a bar that was too high for the rest of the meal service to follow. It wasn’t bad by any means, but the second meal I was served tasted and looked similar to the chicken dish that I was served in economy on a previous Cathay flight.
However, the crew was what really made this a memorable flight but for the wrong reasons. If you’ve read my reviews before, then you’ll know that a crew can make or break an entire experience for me, and in this case, it was the latter. There were zero personal touches, no effort to build any rapport whatsoever, and neither of the senior cabin crew members introduced themselves as they typically do with Oneworld Emerald elites. In normal circumstances, that wouldn’t bother me, and to be quite honest, I wouldn’t have noticed. However, this was just one thing in a list of failings of the crew that ultimately highlighted the “couldn’t care less” attitude. It really tarnished my first long-haul experience flying Cathay Pacific business class.
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Cathay Pacific flies to over 200 destinations all across the world — including several in the U.S. — from its hub in Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific flies both Airbus and Boeing aircraft types.
Yes. Cathay Pacific has lie-flat beds on all of its wide-body jets that operate long-haul flights.
If you enter your British Airways or Qatar Airways membership numbers into your booking, then you’ll earn Avios into your respective accounts when flying on paid Cathay Pacific tickets.
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