REVIEW: Cathay Pacific Airways Business Class (Long-Haul)

27 January 2017

This review is based on the author’s flight from Heathrow to Hong Kong aboard the Cathay Pacific B777-300ER aircraft. CX also flies four times a week to London’s Gatwick with its latest-generation A350-900 aircraft. The journey typically takes approximately twelve hours.

THE LOUNGE

I used CX’s online check-in service, which opens 48 hours before departure, and had selected my seat and received my digital boarding pass in less than two minutes. Connecting from Berlin, my luggage was already checked through to Hong Kong. Business class passengers are allowed a total 40kg of check-in luggage.

I proceeded straight to Terminal 3, Cathay’s home at Heathrow. Cathay’s Heathrow lounge features separate first and business class areas. These distinct zones, along with their contemporary Asian aesthetic – which includes artwork from Chinese artist Han Feng – are features the new Heathrow lounge inherits from the airline’s Hong Kong facilities. The spacious lounge offers panoramic views of the airport’s apron and northerly runway.

A key difference between the two separate areas is the different culinary offerings. First class passengers (as well as CX Diamonds and oneworld Emerald status holders) are able to select items from the grab-and-go style The Pantry, which offers a changing selection of food items throughout the day. First passengers will also have access to The Dining Room, offering table service with made-to-order dishes prepared by the chef. I tried this and was most impressed by the menu, including British favourites like clam chowder and fish and chips in addition to signature Hong Kong cuisine such as grouper clay pot rice. Of course, you can also order a good old steak or burger.

Business class passengers, meanwhile, will be able to try the airline’s signature Noodle Bar, offering authentic Chinese cuisine, and The Food Hall, which serves a variety of Western and international fare. A full-service bar is also available to business class passengers. Do note that the Cathay lounge can be quite a long walk from your boarding gate, which was Gate 40 in my case, a good 15-minute speed walk. 

BOARDING

Priority was given to business class passengers, oneworld Emeralds and members of the Marco Polo Club. Jogging over from the lounge, I boarded late but was still quickly offered a welcome drink from a selection of champagne, orange juice or water. There was a snug duvet waiting on my seat (CX upgraded these last year) and an equally comfy pillow. We pushed back on time and on our taxi out to the runway, Ken, the very competent chief of the cabin, went from the seat to seat to introduce himself to every business class passenger, asking if there was “anything at all” he could do before take-off. Well done.

THE SEAT

This overnight return to HK was a three-class service without first class. Business class was spread across two individual cabins (row 11-19 and row 20-23) separated by a galley. I would always avoid the front and rear rows (11,19 and 20) as they are in close proximity to the galleys and washrooms, making them more exposed to noise and foot traffic. Row 23, albeit a ‘rear row’ as well, is fine because there are no adjacent restrooms or preparation areas, ‘just’ a sturdy curtain dividing it from premium economy.

All seats are configured in a spacious 1-2-1 fully-flat layout. When fully reclined, the seat has dimensions of about 1.9m x 0.7m and lies completely flat – no unconformable “dips”. It also contains multiple areas where you can store personal items, a flip-out table, a 15-inch flip-out screen for viewing the entertainment system and a footrest at the end.

Next to the seat is a small multi-function storage ‘cupboard’ that holds a mirror and noise-cancelling headphones. The provided connectivity is extensive with a dedicated power point in each seat, as well as a USB port, and iPod and AV connectors so you can watch your own videos. The IFE selection was equally impressive and I was able to catch up on the latest HBO shows and movies.

THE FLIGHT

The most memorable element of this flight was the professionalism and attentiveness of the staff working my aisle. Ken and Kevin truly went out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and special. They managed to get it just right, a good balance of professional, unobtrusive, fun and casual. 

The supper service started with an excellent smoked coffee-crusted salmon with red quinoa and cauliflower puree and a mixed salad with tomato, pumpkin and fig vinaigrette.

For mains, there was a choice of red-wine braised beef cheek, baby carrots, sautéed spinach and sweet potato puree; Devonshire fish pie; Mafalda pasta; or Chinese-style stir fried chicken with oyster sauce, dried shrimp, shiitake and celery with steamed jasmine rice. Kevin strongly recommended the English fish pie, which turned out a great choice and a good juxtaposition to the Hong Kong-style grouper clay pot I had in the lounge. Dinner was followed by a selection of cheeses, fruits and dessert and pralines.

For drinks, there were several high-quality wines on offer, in addition to the Billecart-Salmon, port wine and countless spirits, as well as Illy coffee specialities and Jing teas. Another fun addition to the CX drinks list is Betsy Beer, a unique craft beer adjusted to the cabin pressure and altitude at 35,000ft. CX developed this in partnership with Hong Kong Beer Co., and Betsy Beer is only available on flights between Hong Kong and London.

There was a snack menu available throughout the night, including a beef burger with cheddar and beetroot relish, shrimp wonton in noodle soup or Haagen-Dasz ice-cream.

An hour and a half before arrival into Hong Kong an extensive breakfast was served, starting off with fresh juices, smoothies, fresh fruit and Bircher muesli, and followed by a choice of scrambled eggs, stir-fried seafood noodles or congee. I had the latter which was very good, partly because it came with the right condiments.

ARRIVAL

We landed in Hong Kong 25 minutes behind schedule due to untypically strong headwinds throughout the flight. The captain and crew apologized for this repeatedly. It was a short five-minute walk to immigration. 

VERDICT

I have had my highs and lows with CX over the years and as such boarded this flight with mixed expectations. To my surprise, I was blown away and found myself repeatedly thinking this business class flight easily rivalled some of the first class flights I’ve taken over the past few months. Well done, Cathay Pacific.

Dominic Lalk

A familiar face in Orient Aviation and Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, Dominic is an aviation analyst and travel enthusiast.  When’s he’s not consulting, reading or writing about the airline industry, Dominic is most likely to be found flying around the world.