Review: Cathay Pacific A340 Business Class Bangkok to Hong Kong

Finnair 90 A350-900 Business Class Bangkok to Helsinki
Finnair 833 A321 Business Class Helsinki to London Heathrow
British Airways 462 767-300 Euro Traveller London Heathrow to Madrid
Hotel Preciados Madrid
Hotel Catalonia Square Barcelona
Finnair 3270 A321 Business Class Barcelona to Helsinki
Finnair 89 A350-900 Business Class Helsinki to Bangkok
Cathay Pacific 754 A340-300 Business Class Bangkok to Hong Kong

After our phenomenal flight, the most polite and friendly immigration experience I’ve ever had and a run-in with the crew aboard our flight, we headed up to the departures level, where we checked in for our flight back to Hong Kong. Ahh, finally, the familiarity of Cathay! The red uniforms, the logos, the Chinese…it was a reassuring sight to say the least.

IMG_2991.jpgCathay Pacific Business, Marco Polo and oneworld Priority Check In

It’s worth noting that we booked the flight in anticipation of the A350, but it got switched to an A340 last minute. Not as devastating as, say, a switch to a 777-200, but it was still a downgrade, at least at first. 😉

We crashed in the lounge and fell asleep in one of the comfortable womb chairs. Before we knew it, our flight had been called for boarding by the gate staff.

As I was walking to the gate, my parents were wondering whether or not I would get an upgrade. We worked out that the only chance of an upgrade on the flight would be if every seat in Premium Economy was overbooked, and that there were no Marco Polo Diamond, Cargo Clan, Gold and Silver members in the cabin, or any Greens that were booked in a higher fare ticket.

Eventually, we headed down the stairs to the lower level, where we were “boarded” into a holding pen. My mobile boarding pass was sent to the scanner, where I held my breath for what seemed like an eternity, before a red light came up.

I damn near screamed out the loudest, longest “YES!” of my life as the gate agent grinned. My mom, who was already in the holding pen looked at me like I was crazy and started berating me for not getting a paper boarding pass, and about me causing a large nuisance and going “yadayada why you so troublesome lah”!

And I was greeted by this beauty!

IMG_2993.pngCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Boarding Pass

As we waited for the flight to board, we were able to stare at the majestic beauty that is the A340-300, more affectionately known as the “hairdryers” due to its engines, which generally resemble…you guessed it…a hairdryer. I mean, just look at those wings!

IMG_2995.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

Eventually, boarding was called for all First, Business, Marco Polo, oneworld Priority, Premium Economy, which was a bit of a mess. At least it was much better than what I witnessed at London Heathrow with British Airways…

I took the opportunity to curse Bangkok’s stupid window dot thingies, while taking a picture of the gorgeous A340. I mean, look at that thing.

IMG_2997.jpgNatural Beauty in its Purest Form Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

We headed down the jetbridge, where we were greeted by the Inflight Service Manager, who was rather distant and definitely had a “hands off” approach to the inflight service as she stood by the door, before pointing the way to our seats.

Cathay Pacific Flight 754
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Origin: Bangkok (BKK) Dep: 12:40 (12:50)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Arr: 16:20 (16:10)
Duration: 2 h 40 min (2 h 20 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300 Reg: B-HXE
Seat: 20K (Business Class)

IMG_3001.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin

We were greeted by the friendly Thai language speaker and another flight attendant who mostly worked Economy throughout the flight, who was your average Cathay Pacific flight attendant, generally friendly but seemingly cold during service delivery.

IMG_3002.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin

It was my second time boarding this particular aircraft, and once again, the cabin was really, really cramped. It was like going to my parents’ offices and looking at the tightly packed office cubicle. Sure, it was private, but it definitely came at the expense of comfort and spaciousness. Hey, though, it’s better than premium economy. 😉

My original seat was 18D. However, I switched with my mother from 18D to 20K in order to get a window view. The flight attendants were more than happy to let us switch to our new seats, and even made an effort to note that we had switched seats, which was much appreciated.

IMG_3003.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Seat 18D

Eventually, I crossed the galley, got daggers from the premium economy passengers and settled into seat 20K. At this point, the flight had only just started boarding, meaning a completely empty cabin, which meant more cabin pictures.

IMG_3008.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin

IMG_3009.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin

As passengers boarded the aircraft, the friendly flight attendant who worked Economy came around with the welcome drinks. I went with a classic orange juice, which was sour and unpleasant at best.

IMG_3012.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Welcome Drink

At this time, the rest of the cabin started filling up. So, I guess I’ll shove my critique of the seat right here.

I mean, it’s not a bad business class seat. While people have complained that it’s claustrophobic, it’s not actively uncomfortable per se. I’ve never had the urge to push aside those walls. There’s a nice amount of personal space, which I realise is going to be a controversial opinion, but hey, everyone has their own opinion. It offers direct aisle access to all passengers, the seats themselves are the most comfortable in Cathay’s entire portfolio of Business Class seats, the seat is a lie flat bed. However, I have several major gripes about the seat.

The biggest problem with the seat is the storage. There’s nowhere to shove your crap. There are a couple of exceedingly disgusting storage areas to the left of the seat, which are mouldy and sticky. There’s a small hole underneath the ottoman that couldn’t even fit my tiny bag. That’s it. There’s nowhere else you can shove your makeup bags, your amenity kits, your phones, laptops, so on and so forth.

Next, there’s no USB port in the seat. You’d think that’s an absolute given, especially in the day and age that we live now. I know the seats were initially designed in 2007, but they were last refreshed in around 2014, which was a time where Cathay had introduced USB ports to both business class, premium economy and economy. Would it have killed the product team to add a port? I mean, even the premium economy seats have a port (not that it’s a deal breaker at all and I’d still rather sit here).

Aside from that, the emPower port was efficient, and the seat controls were intuitive, despite the seat being a tad bit loud when reclining.

IMG_3011.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Seat Television + Controls

The person seated next to/in front of me was shell-shocked when he realised that he’d have to get out an actual charger, instead of a USB cable. Hun, I feel ya.

Lastly, you have to strain your neck in order to look out the window, which is especially annoying when you’re treated to such a pretty view of the majestic hairdryers.

IMG_3033.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Engines Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

Lastly, let’s take a look at the legroom, which wasn’t that bad. However, I could certainly see that the bed would be too short for someone even a tad bit taller than myself.

IMG_3024.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Legroom

As for the condition of the aircraft itself, it was atrocious, to say the least. For the “world’s cleanest airline”, I was really disgusted to see gooey mouldy stuff in the side storage area, along with some dust. The table didn’t work properly, the television wouldn’t latch, so on and so forth. I can forgive an unclean aircraft. However, the unlatched television was a potential safety hazard, and I was truly appalled by the sight of it.

There were pillows on the seat during boarding, which were Cathay’s new style. I find the concept of a smooth/textured pillow combo to be quite innovating and interesting. Although I personally prefer the textured side, most people who use it find it to be a little uncomfortable.

IMG_3018.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Pillows

I also asked for a blanket to sleep later in the flight, which the friendly flight attendant delivered with a smile. It was of the old style, but was still perfectly comfortable, especially given that Cathay takes its cabin temperature inspirations from Southeast Asia. I guess that’s just another sign of their Asian-ness in design.

IMG_3022.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Blanket

The friendly flight purser distributed hot towels. They were steaming hot and unscented. Oh how much I miss Finnair’s phenomenal hot towel scent!

IMG_3021.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Hot Towel

The seat belt sign was then turned on. Maybe it’s just me, but the A340 has such a distinctive “ding”.

IMG_3039.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin

At around this time, the safety video was played. Having been away from Cathay for so long, the familiar StudioCX intro music, and the welcome video just made me nostalgic (I get teary-eyed pretty easily, I know).

IMG_3026.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Safety Video

Then, we began our taxi out to the runway.

IMG_3034.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class View During Taxi

IMG_3042.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class View While Holding Short

Eventually, the beloved hairdryers spooled up and screamed it’s way into the air. It was a nostalgic and exciting sight, as this would likely be the last time that I would get to watch the hairdryers spool up. 😢 We began our climb into the sky, away from Bangkok and back to Hong Kong after three full weeks.

IMG_3046.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class View of Bangkok

I fell asleep shortly after the takeoff roll, and woke up to the sound of the Inflight Service Manager’s “we will shortly be serving food and drinks” announcement. Guess my brain just wanted some food…

IMG_3049.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin View

At this time, the friendly Senior Purser, Mona came around the cabin giving out the menus. I’ve heard that a true test of a Cathay flight attendant’s amazing-ness is whether or not you can remember his/her name after the flight. She was incredibly friendly. While a notch below the level of the phenomenal flight attendants on the previous flight (duh), I really felt welcomed and happy, which is something that I can’t say about many of my other Cathay experiences.

The flight attendants immediately came around with the drinks cart. I ordered an Oriental Breeze, which was delivered with the main meal. There were no nuts served with the drinks, which was a shame. Warmed cashews are quite possibly the best thing ever served aboard Cathay.

The flight purser then came around with the tray, which had a starter/salad, a glass of water, cutlery and a bread plate.

IMG_3077.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Meal Tray

The salad was a Thai glass noodle salad with prawns and vegetables, served with a lime. It was sour, tangy and incredibly delicious. The only problem I have with the dish was that once I squeezed the lime, the juice squirted everywhere, which created a sticky mess. 😉

IMG_3078.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Starter

Eventually, garlic bread was delivered, something that I had missed dearly aboard my Finnair flights. Not that I didn’t like the inflight bread by Finnair, but, I mean, it’s garlic bread.

IMG_3081.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Garlic Bread!!!!

My Oriental Breeze was delivered by Mona shortly afterwards. The cup was had a little bit of syrup stuck down the sides, but it was delicious as ever.

IMG_3083.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Oriental Breeze

After a short while, Mona came around again, this time with the main course choices. I picked the Chinese pork dish, which was served with shiitake mushrooms, and stir fried vegetables.

IMG_3088.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Main Meal

The dish was phenomenal. The sauce was absolutely delicious, while the pork was cooked perfectly, and the vegetables were crispy and tasty. The rice was a little undercooked and not moist enough at times, but overall a phenomenally tasty dish that reminded me so much of home. Kudos to the catering team for coming up with this recipe.

After I was finished, the tray was cleared quickly. It was a departure from Finnair’s more dragged out and relaxed meal service. With Finnair, there was a lot of small talk, conversation, and the pace of the meal was generally leisurely. Meanwhile, on Cathay, the focus of the meal was on efficiency, and the flight attendants clear things out as soon as possible. On one hand, the Cathay approach is really efficient and gets the food out of the passengers’ face. However, it honestly appears as if the flight attendants want to hide in the galley as soon as possible, which I know isn’t true and is rather unfortunate.

The desert and drinks cart was rolled out. While I passed on the cheese, I had an Ice Cream and a Hong Kong Style Milk Tea. I was delighted to have some milk tea to drink, especially after being deprived of the heavenly drink for three weeks. I dunked some of my ice cream into the tea, which was out of this world splendiferous.

IMG_3100.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Ice Cream and Dessert

Interestingly, these weren’t collected as quickly as the mains/starters were collected. Instead, an exceptionally friendly flight attendant from Economy working duty-free noticed that passengers’ stuff were still lying on the tables, and started the collection of crap. I really appreciated the gesture, which more than made up for the little areas of un-attentiveness during service.

Eventually, the purser emerged from the galley and helped out with the collection of dessert, which was one of the few times I interacted with her throughout the flight. She seemed like a typical Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-based flight attendant. Polished, cold but also  a teeny bit friendly.

I turned the seat into the bed and found a nice little space behind the seat to lie down. It was a nice little place to curl up against and binge watch The Big Bang Theory, which Cathay finally brought back to its entertainment systems. The bed itself was exceedingly comfortable. It was much better padded when compared to Cathay’s newer flat beds, and was fantastic to get a good night’s sleep in.

IMG_3118.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Bed/Area Behind Seat

I dozed off for around an hour, before being awoken by the Inflight Service Manager’s landing announcement. At this point, the flight attendants came around the cabin to do their safety checks, which were quite comprehensive, which is always a good thing.

IMG_3154.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin View During Descent

We began our descent into Hong Kong. Ahh, finally, after 3 long weeks away from home, I was returning back home. It’s always nice to see your home again after a long period of separation.

IMG_3156.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class View on Descent

IMG_3174.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class View on Descent

We touched down at around 4:10, marking an end to a three-week long whirlwind of a trip around the world. The thrust reversers went up and the hairdryers that had brought us from Bangkok to Hong Kong eventually slowed down to idle.

IMG_3187.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Landing

We had a short taxi to the gate, where the Inflight Services Manager welcomed us to Hong Kong. We parked next to a gorgeous Garuda Indonesia A330-300.

IMG_3204.jpgGaruda Indonesia Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

After a short wait, the seatbelt sign was switched off. I couldn’t help but feel really nostalgic at how I’d probably never fly an A340-300 again. The aircraft has brought me to a lot of far flung destinations, and the thought of never flying it again is quite mind boggling. Oh well, I paid my final farewells, wished the crew a good day, and went on my way to collect my baggage.

One last thing to note is that Cathay now asks passengers to keep window shades closed after landing to minimise air conditioning usage, which is pretty cool (not that anyone remembered…I think).

IMG_3207.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A340-300 Business Class Cabin During Deplaning + Window Shades Announcement

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific A340 Business Class

Cathay Pacific is my airline of choice to end a trip. Despite what Hong Kong Airlines thinks they are, Cathay will always be the only airline that is truly able to reflect Hong Kong in it’s product and branding, whether it’s the Cantonese in the inflight announcements, the “modern Asian” concept to cabin design, or the brushwing logo, or the authentic Chinese food, or the flight attendants (well, the friendly ones…). Once you step aboard a Cathay flight, it feels like you’re returning to Hong Kong without actually being in the city, something that really makes travellers feel at ease.

Having experienced Finnair, I’m not going to deny that there are aspects of the Finnair experience that are better than the product that Cathay Pacific offers. However, to me, and many other travellers from Hong Kong, Cathay feels like home. The inflight experience brings up images of home. As a result, this flight was a really welcome surprise after five flights on foreign airlines.

Although the hard product wasn’t the best, and the seats weren’t all that clean, everything else was exactly what I loved about Cathay Pacific. The service was mixed, which averaged out to being somewhere between fantastic and good, while the food onboard was authentic and tasty.

This has turned into a rambling mess, so I’ll just end it here, and say that this was truly the trip of a lifetime. I had a phenomenal experience both at the destination and inflight at every stage of the journey. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip report. I’ll be posting some more individual, scattered reports of hotels and flights, so stay posted!

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