Must-read Earlier Installments:
- Singapore, Cathay, and Qantas First Class.. Some of the Best Meals of My Life, and a Tour of Hyatts in Bangkok, Singapore, and Sydney
- Inside the New Oneworld Lounge at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal
I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class many times. I’ve even called their Hong Kong – New York JFK service my favorite flight in the world.
They don’t offer suites with doors. There’s not really great ground service to speak of. The food is fine but hardly amazing. But they have several things going for them:
- The seats. They don’t have doors that close, but they are quite private and very spacious. Instead of four seats across in the cabin, they offer just three seats across, and a cabin with just 6 seats.
- Attentive service. You do need to know that they are unobtrusive, they tend not to check on you during the flight, you should call on them if you need anything but they’re eager to assist when you do. They don’t disturb you, but it’s still very good service, and easy to perform with only 6 passengers at most in the cabin.
- Good amenities. I like the old Shanghai Tang pajamas better, for sure, but all of the amenities are consistently high quality.
- Midflight snacks. I do think ANA does a better job here overall, but the midflight snack options are varied, substantial, and high quality. That’s an area, for instance, that Singapore Airlines could use work.
While fewer seats overall (with the retirement of 9 first class seat cabin 747s, and introduction of long haul flights without a first class cabin) and improving economy mean that Cathay Pacific first class awards aren’t as easy to get as they’ve been over the past five years, they still do exist — often just one seat early in the booking window, though they continue to release unsold seats in the days before departure approaches.
I sleep better flying Cathay first, for the most part, than on any other carrier. Since I like it quite a bit, and it’s been very easy to get, I’ve flown it over and over.
- Hong Kong – New York JFK (2014)
- Hong Kong – New York JFK (2014)
- New York JFK – Hong Kong (2014)
- New York JFK – Hong Kong (2012)
- Hong Kong – Chicago (2012)
- Hong Kong – Singapore (2012)
- San Francisco – Hong Kong (2012)
- Hong Kong – Chicago (2011)
- New York JFK – Hong Kong (2011)
- Hong Kong – London (2010)
- Manila – Hong Kong (2010)
- Hong Kong – Manila (2010)
- Toronto – Hong Kong
I always look forward to these flights, and I’ve never really had a bad one. They’re just darned consistent.
I headed over from the oneworld lounge to the boarding gate.
And I was in for a pleasant surprise. Each time I flew Cathay earlier in the year I hoped for their new first class product, which isn’t much different than the old one – just a refresh – but I still hand’t seen it. And each time I didn’t get to. But this flight I’d finally see first-hand the (very minor) differences.
The new first class has new seat upholstery, new carpeting in the cabin, new artwork, and new power ports and seat controls.
The seat itself is otherwise the same.
One of the new service elements in first class this year is the pre-departure amuse bouche. The crab was delicious.
Amenity kits, pajamas, and menus were distributed. Here’s the ladies kit:
And the men’s kit:
And the pajamas:
Click on the menu graphics to enlarge:
Shortly after takeoff, nuts were served.
I had already had some Krug champagne on the ground, and more was poured to accompany my caviar starter.
Caviar, of course, is now served in a tin instead of Cathay’s previous signature service alongside balik salmon tsar nikolaj. I admit, I miss the salmon – the old presentation was very unique and specific to Cathay rather than ‘merely’ a caviar service often found on international airlines in first.
Another signature of Cathay’s service is that the first meal is presented with a welcome note from the crew.
I’ll almost always select the Chinese option for my main meal, though in this case since it was after midnight and I wanted to head to bed quickly I skipped the soup.
I changed into my pajamas, and hung my street clothes in my seat’s closet. (There are no overhead bins in the cabin, but you have a small closet and also the space underneath the ottoman in your seat for storage.)
After getting set up for a rest I decided to have dessert ‘in bed’.
I was also given pralines to finish off the meal.
Cathay does a wonderful job with its bed setup.
With this as my bed, and with the late departure which I really love for getting to sleep and aligning myself as quickly as possible to the local time on arrival, I went right to sleep. After five hours I got up and decided to watch a bit of television, and I ordered a midflight snack.
First of all, I made an unlikely selection — the shrimp quesadilla. And it was delicious – big chunks of shrimp, delicious cheese, cooked perfectly. It put quesadilla on my brain for a bit, which wouldn’t serve me well on other airlines.
I find the hot pot is also generally a must to try.
After watching a couple episodes of season 2 of The Newsroom on my laptop, I decided to nap for another bit, and woke up about an hour and 20 minutes prior to arrival. A flight attendant immediately came over and asked if I’d like some coffee and then some breakfast.
My priority is coffee first, one thing about Cathay is that they are not permitted to serve hot beverages while the seat belt sign is on — so I didn’t want to risk turbulence. (You can have the hot beverage, it just cannot be served and at times I’ve had turbulence on approach to Hong Kong. So I need coffee, stat!).
I had a few bites from each course, I didn’t eat it all, but I did want to try several things.
After breakfast I changed out of my pajamas, and I returned to my seat refreshed and upright. We were about 30 minutes from landing, I put my carry on bag together and took out a book to read for the remainder of the flight.
Arriving early morning off a long haul flight to Hong Kong, having slept, puts me in just the right place to adjust to the time. And flying first class, rather than business even, means that I’ve probably slept and never felt uncomfortable or boxed into a confined space. That’s why to me it’s worth the incremental 12,500 miles over business class that AAdvantage currently charges for this route, every time.
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