a seat with a pillow on the side

Review: Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class (HKG-SYD)

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Review Overview

I really like Cathay Pacific's 777 business class hard product, and slept very soundly. There's no WiFi or snack menu between services, though that was fine on this relatively short overnight flight.


As my workload continues to pile up, I’ll write this upcoming trip report as the trip goes. Not only am I reducing my work pileup, but I’m also bringing ultra-fresh reviews, which I think gives value as a review of Cathay Pacific’s 777 business class from me is long overdue.

I’ve long been wanting to take this flight, simply so I can see how Cathay Pacific’s business class has changed. The last time I flew them longhaul was in 2015, and in the meantime I’ve only flown them shorthaul in business class a few times in 2016. Jason’s also flown Cathay Pacific in business class between Hong Kong and Newark in the meantime, though having flown a few other great business class products, I was curious to see how they’d stack up against some of their newer competition.

With that in mind, I paid quick visits to The Bridge and The Pier, two great oneworld lounges at Hong Kong Airport. At around 11:05 PM I headed to gate 36, right across from The Bridge, where our flight was departing, given that boarding was scheduled for 11:15 PM. I was excited to find out that our aircraft was less than three years old, as I’d learned in the meantime that some of their older 777s are experiencing substantial wear and tear.

an airplane at an airport
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Hong Kong Airport

While we were allowed into the gate area on time, we had to undergo an extra security check, as is the norm for flights to Australia and the U.S.. After that, we were held up at the jetbridge for an extra 15 minutes, as the aircraft wasn’t ready for passengers yet.

a hallway with blue carpet and a sign
Jetbridge Hong Kong Airport

At 11:35 PM, we were allowed onboard. I was excited to see what was in store.

Cathay Pacific 101
Friday, February 16, 2018
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 36 Dep: 23:55 (23:50)
Destination: Sydney (SYD) Gate: 59 Arr: 12:05 (12:05)
Duration: 9 hr 10 min (9 hr 15 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Reg: B-KQZ
Seat: 18A (Business Class)

I boarded through door L1, and made my way into the forward business class cabin on the Cathay Pacific 777.

Our flight was operated by a 777 without first class. On these planes, there are 40 reverse herringbone business class seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. The forward cabin is bigger, consisting of 26 seats laid out across seven rows, and the rear mini-cabin consists of 14 seats laid out across four rows.

an airplane with seats and a few seats
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class 

I’d assigned seats along the left side of the plane, so we’d each get a window seat. I’ve found this to be most convenient when traveling together in reverse herringbone seats, especially with family. While it’s nice to be able to talk to your seatmate when seated in middle seats, you’re out of luck when you have to retrieve things from the overhead locker for them, etc.. Additionally, I find window seats so much more spacious that I feel bad when I assign my family middle seats, so assigning window seats across a column works better for everyone.

a seat in a plane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class 

The catch was that I assigned myself seat 19A, thinking that I prefer being at the very back of the cabin anyway, so that I can observe the cabin flow better.

a seat with a pillow and a seat belt
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 19A

Turns out seat 19A didn’t have a window, which was a pretty rookie mistake for someone who wastes as much unnecessary time researching cabin products as I do.

a computer screen and a cabinet
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 19A Window Missing

My dad was nice enough to offer me seat 18A instead, so I’m thankful for that. Not only did seat 18A have a window, but it had three, so I was a happy camper. In fairness, over the past few years I’ve never seen my dad actually enjoy the view outside the window on an airplane, so I don’t think he was complaining either.

a seat with a pillow and a pillow on it
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 18A

My most recent experience in this particular version of Cathay’s reverse herringbone seat, prior to this flight, was in March 2016 from Hong Kong to Osaka. That meant that I had plenty of reacquainting to do. Located in front was a large ottoman, which provided pretty much unrestricted space for my legs in bed mode.

a plastic bag on a seat
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Ottoman

Situated on the left was a side table, which was very handy for storage, as business class seats generally don’t have a ton of storage for large items. Those that know me can probably envision how messy the side table was by the middle of the flight, though suffice to say I found it pretty handy.

a shelf in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Side Table

To the right was a bed extension, which would provide more shoulder space when in bed mode. Next to that was a retractable armrest, which provided some head privacy. That said, in an ideal world the armrest would be a little bigger, as there was too much of a gap between armrests to get fully comfortable during takeoff and landing. I realise that’s as first world as problems go, especially on an airplane, but that’s just me trying to find potential improvements to an otherwise great seat.

a seat armrest with a button on it
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Bed Extension and Armrest

The TV swung out from the seat in front, and was high quality and reactive to its touchscreen capabilities, though nowhere as high quality as on the A350.

a screen on a plane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class TV

The seat featured a remarkable amount of storage for a business class seat. To the left was a storage compartment for loose items, which I found handy for my jacket, as well as some trash that I didn’t need, such as the plastic wrap around the blanket.

a small room with a vent
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Storage Space

In the compartment was a water bottle holder, which was a little out of reach, though was still handy for storing the bottle of Evian water that I was provided later throughout the flight.

a pocket on a wall
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Bottle Holder

To the left was also a bigger compartment that housed the provided headphones. It was bigger, though the headphones kind of took up half of the space provided, so I was really only able to put my phone there. I remember finding the flip-out mirror behind the compartment door unnecessary, though I was able to style my hair at my seat, so I found the mirror surprisingly handy this time around.

a person taking a picture of a person in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Side Cupboard and Mirror

While the seat controls felt clunky, they were intuitive and functional, and I had no issues using them throughout the flight.

a close up of a control panel
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat Controls

Also located on the seat panel to the left was a TV remote, which I didn’t need, as my minimal interaction with the TV during the flight was executed through touchscreen.

a device with a screen and buttons
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class TV Remote

Furthermore, there was a rather strong light, which I found handy for photographing meals.

a close up of a device
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Light

Lastly at the bottom there was a power port, which I thought was placed pretty nicely (some airlines with reverse herringbone configurations put their power ports in some weird compartment, which makes charging inconvenient while working).

a close up of a device
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Power Ports

The tray table folded out from underneath the side table, and it was sturdy as ever, and of a good size for working with my 13″ laptop.

a laptop on a bed
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Tray Table

The shoe storage cupboard below the seat was also perfect, and amply big to store shoes of most sizes (I have big feet, and I had no problems fitting my shoes in throughout the flight).

a close up of a door
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Shoe Storage

Those rushing to a meeting after a short redeye like this one would appreciate the coat hook beside the seat, though it’s probably a better option to simply hand your jacket to the crew to have it hung up.

a close-up of a white object
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Coat Hook

In terms of the amenities provided, there was a pillow and blanket waiting at the seat. Both were different to the last time I’d taken Cathay Pacific. These new pillows and blankets are textured on one side and smooth on the other, to provide variety for different passenger preferences. I like this, since the textured side is more “breathable”, so doesn’t get hot as easily, especially since there weren’t any individual air nozzles.

a pillow on a couch
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Pillow

Then there were headphones, which Cathay Pacific updated last year over all flights. The new headphones are noticeably noise-canceling, though my pair started buzzing when the cable was angled in certain ways, which was annoying. The sound quality also couldn’t match some of the better headphones I’ve used. While the noise-canceling function is one of the best I’ve had for airplane headphones, I still used my own Bose set, as it’s better. This is a big step up from Cathay Pacific’s regional headphones, though only marginally better than their old longhaul headphones, in my opinion.

a pair of headphones with a cord
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Headphones

Around 10-15 minutes in I was offered a pre-departure beverage. They were out of Cathay Delight, so I took an orange juice.

a glass of orange juice on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Orange Juice

I was also presented with a hot towel.

a white towel on a surface
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Hot Towel

Soon enough boarding was completed, and Captain Osbourne came up onto the PA to announce our flight time of 8 hours and 36 minutes. He also introduced us to the lead cabin attendant, Roselle, and wished us a good flight. He further explained that there would be some chop around the equator region, though we’d otherwise have a smooth flight.

a plane with seats and a television
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin upon Taxiing

Parked next to us was a Qatar Airways A350, which I was happy to spot, as Qatar Airways is only operating their A350 to Hong Kong for a limited time.

an airplane at an airport
Qatar Airways Airbus A350 Hong Kong Airport

Since the awkward lighting limited my photo opportunities, I turned on the belly camera, which is a feature offered by Cathay Pacific’s entertainment system on A350-900’s and their 777-300ERs. We were fifth in line for takeoff, though the line moved rather quickly and soon we were on our way.

a screen shot of a car
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Wheel Camera

During our climb out, an old man in one of the center seats got up and started getting something from the overhead bin. A flight attendant promptly got on the PA and asked him to sit down, which he ignored. Eventually he sat down, though didn’t close the overhead bin, so a flight attendant had to personally walk over and do that for him while we were still climbing towards cruise altitude. Some people just don’t get it…

While blue mood lighting was introduced during the takeoff roll, the cabin lights soon turned on once we reached cruise altitude, for the meal service.

an airplane with rows of seats and monitors
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin After Takeoff

At this point I decided to use the lavatory.One cool thing about Cathay Pacific’s non-first class 777s is that they were originally designed to be installed with first class seats, so one of the forward bathrooms is still outfitted for first class. This means that there’s a porcelain sink that looks crazy nice, and the bathroom is also of a much bigger size, which was good for longer bathroom breaks.

a sink in a bathroom
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Lavatory

The cabin crew passed out amenity kits once we reached cruise altitude, so I was impressed to return to my seat and see the amenity kit, a bottle of water and landing cards/immigration fast track cards nicely displayed.

a bottle of water and a small bag on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit Display

The amenity kit was of good quality, and was robust, despite being soft. I really liked how simplistic the design of the kit was – no awkward rope dangling like their old amenity kits back in 2015.

a small grey bag on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit

The amenity kit contents were also sufficient. I’d have preferred slippers in place of socks, though a dental kit, Jurlique skincare amenities, eyeshades and earplugs were welcome additions.

a table with a bag and other items on it
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit Contents

After the amenity kits were passed out, the crew moved on to passing out menus. This was a late night departure leaving Hong Kong at around 12 AM, so a simplified “supper” service was provided. Even then, we had a choice of going for the full course meal, or a lighter meal. All of my family decided to go for the full course meal. They’ve been taught well, I suppose. 😉

The menu read as follows:

a menu of a restauranta menu of a breakfast
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Menu

The drinks list read as follows:

a menu of drinks and teasa book with text on ita menu of a wine tastinga menu of drinks
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Drinks List

Once I opted to have the full course meal, the flight attendant set my table, and placed a tray with the appetiser and dessert on it. This was done 40 minutes after takeoff.

The appetiser consisted of freshly prepared savoury dips with Grissini. The hummus was salty, and the guacamole was fine. If anything, I thought it was a pretty lazy starter for a longhaul business class product. The effort needs to be made to differentiate “efficient” and “cheap”, in my opinion. On the plus side, it wasn’t terrible, and it was pretty easy to eat.

a bowl of guacamole and olives
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Appetiser – Freshly Prepared Savoury Dips

a small black and white packet
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Appetiser – Grissini

This was served with a choice of bread from a bread basket. I opted for a round bun, which was served hot. I love hot buns, since butter literally melts as you spread it on the bun. That’s something that many airlines tend to miss the mark on, and it’s frustrating, since it’s such an easy addition to the onboard experience.

a close up of a bread
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Bread

The appetiser came with a choice of drink. I was in the mood for some sparkling water.

a glass of water with ice and a piece of ice
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Sparkling Water

10 minutes after the crew rolled around with the main courses, consisting of a choice between a Chinese shrimp dish and a lamb shank. It was the first day of the Lunar New Year, so I’d had my fill of Chinese food. I opted for the lamb shank, which looked overcooked at first glance, though was juicier than I’d expected. It came with a rather nice barley risotto that was just a touch on the bland side, and some vegetables that I thought were pretty nicely done. (For what it’s worth, my mother enjoyed her shrimp dish as well.)

a plate of food on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Main Course – Braised Lamb Shank Rack, Carrot, French Beans and Barley Risotto

While some knifework was required to cut it, the lamb shank was relatively tender, especially for a dish you’d expect on an airplane.

a plate of food with a fork
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Main Course

Dessert consisted of seasonal berries with rose syrup. The orange peel came through in the rose syrup, but albeit that I still thought it was a pretty lazy course.

a bowl of fruit on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Dessert – Seasonal Berries with Rose Syrup

While not the most elaborate meal, I thought that the supper service was pretty well-executed for what it was (while I thought there was room to go further as far as the appetiser and dessert were concerned, at least they tasted good). I enjoyed my main course, though I enjoyed more that I was able to clear my plate 20 minutes after my table was set.

Not only that, but the crew were in high spirits during the entire dinner service, and I was addressed by name. Their high spirits are really props to them, as it’s particularly hard to work an outbound flight on the first day of the Lunar New Year, a time normally spent with family, especially for a crew based in Hong Kong.

Given that this was a “supper” service, the flight attendants seemed to serve the first few rows from the front galley, and from rows 16 onward from the back galley. Despite being seated near the back of the forward cabin and the flight attendants serving passengers from front to back, it was never more than a five-minute wait between when the flight attendants pushed a trolley past me, and when I was served. That’s just an observation that I’ll try to examine more closely on my return flight, though I won’t be able to do so, since I’ll be seated in the aft cabin.

I had a chance to briefly talk to the lady serving me about dine on demand. Initially believing if I’d asked if dine on demand would be available on the flight, she said that it wasn’t available on the flight, though said that if I’d like to have the meal at a later time, they’d be happy to do that for me. While that was very much appreciated, I clarified that I was just curious about the progress of Cathay Pacific’s dine-on-demand rollout, since I knew they were experiencing setbacks. The best answer she could give was that “we used to offer dine-on-demand on certain routes, though we’d had to suspend that in the meantime until we know how we can do it better”. If “good answers” was on her new year’s resolutions, this lady was on a roll.

After dinner it was time for bed. Here’s the seat in bed position:

a seat in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Bed Position

Here it is with Cathay Pacific’s substantial bedding provisions:

a seat with pillows on the side
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Bed

I’ve complained about Cathay Pacific’s seat being inadequately padded before, though I didn’t take issue with it this time, and found the seat to be relatively comfortable in bed mode. The armrest acted as a head privacy shield, and due to the late departure time of the flight, I was able to get a very solid 6 hours of sleep, which is pretty good on a nine-hour flight, in my opinion.

I woke up to sunrise mood lighting, an hour and 45 minutes before landing, right when breakfast was being served.

a man standing in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast Mood Lighting

Once again, my table was laid, and a tray was placed on it. This time, the tray featured assorted fruits and a muesli bowl. It didn’t cross my mind that a berry smoothie was available on request, though if I’d kept that in mind, I definitely would’ve ordered that to go with my breakfast.

a bowl of fruit on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast – Fresh Seasonal Fruits

a bowl of food on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast – Bircher Muesli and Blueberry Compote

For breakfast I decided to go with the dim sum, which is usually the safest breakfast option that airlines provide. It was good as far as airplane dim sum goes, and I liked the Guilin chili paste that went with it. However, it wasn’t great by any means, and I wonder why airlines don’t come up with more substantial breakfast options like pancake dishes or waffle dishes, which can be pre-made, and heated up before service.

a tray of food on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast – Dim Sum Selection, Beef Siu Mai, Har Gaw, Vegetarian Fun Gor and Chicken Glutinous Rice

a plate of food on a table
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast

I also ordered a cappuccino, which the flight attendant serving me initially said wasn’t available. She was able to provide me with one when I pointed it out on the menu, though I’m happy to blame that on the fact that I’d just woken up, and probably wasn’t articulating my orders clearly.

a white mug with foam in it
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Breakfast Cappuccino

The breakfast service took a bit longer, as the flight attendants made a couple of runs to cater to people who were waking up in the meantime. The entire process took around 35 minutes from when my table was set to when my tray was cleared, which I’m alright with.

Regarding the entertainment system, I was able to check it out on my return flight, and it was good. Cathay Pacific’s 777s are getting WiFi eventually, though it wasn’t available on this flight.

At this point it was light outside, so I turned on my outside camera, since the cabin was still quite dark.

a view of the earth from a window
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Outside Camera

I also hopped onto the airshow after that to see that we were approaching Sydney much quicker than I’d expected.

a screen with a plane on it
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Airshow

At around 30 minutes before landing, the captain hopped onto the PA to explain Sydney’s local temperature, as well as the time difference. He then ended it with the customary “cabin crew, 30 minutes till landing”.

Around 20 minutes before landing, we were instructed to prepare for descent, and our seats were set upright, our window shades were pulled up, etc..

an airplane with seats and seats
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin Upon Landing

It was a beautiful day in Sydney, so landing views were amazing.

an aerial view of a city and water
Landing Sydney Airport

We were able to pull over Sydney Airport, and gear our approach towards the left, which made for some amazing views since we were seated on the left side of the aircraft.

an aerial view of an airport
Landing Sydney Airport

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

aerial view of a body of water and land
Landing Sydney Airport

an aerial view of a land with water and blue sky
Landing Sydney Airport

an aerial view of a body of water with land and buildings
Landing Sydney Airport

I was able to do some planespotting at Sydney Airport of planes that I normally see less of, including a United 787, Qantas, Emirates and Etihad A380s, and a Jetstar 787.

an airplane on a runway
United Boeing 787 Sydney Airport

a plane on a runway
Qantas Airbus A380 Sydney Airport

a large airplane on a runway
Emirates Airbus A380 Sydney Airport

a jet plane on the runway
Jetstar Boeing 787 Sydney Airport

an airplane parked on a runway
Etihad Airbus A380 Sydney Airport

As we pulled up to our gate, we saw a Cebu Pacific A330, which I have fond memories of (though I doubt the people that had just flown the flight over were feeling the same).

an airplane on the tarmac
Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Sydney Airport

We parked at gate 59, next to a Singapore Airlines 777.

a plane parked at an airport
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 Sydney Airport

It was nice to finally see the Cathay Pacific 777 we flew over on in daylight.

a plane at an airport
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport is strict with customs, and phones are strictly prohibited by the customs area, which can be a nuisance when the lines are long. Fortunately our process through Fast Track took all of 15 minutes, despite landing at the same time as a China Eastern A330 and a Cebu Pacific A330 (and it would’ve been even shorter, since the scanner machine was malfunctioning). Soon we were on our way to the car rental area to hitch a ride to Rothbury, New South Wales, where we’d be spending the weekend.

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class

I came into this experience expecting somewhat of a lackluster business class product. I’m not sure how to describe my expectations, though I was expecting somewhat of a high-end product let down by a lack of product enthusiasm and gradual deterioration and ageing of amenities. For a lack of better phrasing, I was expecting somewhat of a half-assed product that left sad hints of its previous five-star glory days.

Suffice to say that this wasn’t the experience. The experience on Cathay Pacific is pretty simple. You get all the basic amenities, you get a great seat, and you get an express dinner service. However, I was pleased to see that all of these were executed perfectly. You can’t argue with how spacious and private a reverse herringbone seat is, I liked the bedding provided, and mostly I was pleased to see the entire dinner service completed in 20 minutes (and service in general being one of the most efficient service procedures I’ve seen in quite a while).

Was Cathay Pacific the best business class experience I’ve had? No. They’d benefit from onboard WiFi, especially on daytime flights, they need a customer-flexible alternative to dine-on-demand, and they’d benefit from a mattress pad. I’ve had more all-rounded experiences in business class – Qatar Airways comes to mind.

This was a redeye flight that was nine hours long, so I slept through most of it. My return flight will be an afternoon flight that I won’t be sleeping through, so that way I’ll be able to provide an even more extensive review of the experience. However, based on this flight alone, Cathay Pacific still offers an upper-range business class product that hits all the required marks, especially on night flights like these.

Read more from this trip:

Have you flown Cathay Pacific’s business class? How did you find it?

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