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Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class (HKG-EWR)

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After arriving at the airport, I headed straight for Cathay Pacific’s dedicated U.S check-in area, where I was given a short and quick interview by friendly security officers. I then cleared security and made a beeline for The Cabin, and grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading to my gate.

img_2126Cathay Pacific The Cabin Hong Kong Bar 

I went to my gate shortly after the published boarding time, which was a really bad decision. The gate area was a clusterf**k, with no clearly marked lines and tons of people everywhere. I found the priority line buried near the podium, which was thankfully empty. There was one last security interview before passengers were herded down the jetbridge for a final bag check where liquids over 100mL were confiscated.

After the bag check, we were once again told to wait as the aircraft wasn’t ready for boarding (similarly to Alvin’s recent flight to Sydney on a Cathay Pacific 777). At this point, the jetbridge was crowded with people. After around 5 minutes, the aircraft was finally released and we were permitted to board.

Cathay Pacific 890
Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 27 Dep: 18:20 (18:40)
Destination: Newark (EWR) Gate: 55 Arr: 21:00 (20:40)
Duration: 15 hr 40 min (15 hr)
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 16A (Business Class)

I was welcomed by the Inflight Services Manager (more on her later) and headed to my seat, which was near the center of the cabin.

IMG_4071Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin 

These seats are customized versions of the Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus reverse herringbone seats, with additional design work done by Studio Porsche F.A.. When the seats were initially introduced, there were some certification and finishing issues with the seat, but I’m glad to see that these have been resolved.

IMG_4072Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin 

Overall, Cathay opted for more of an industrialized feel in terms of the cabin design. Although the design looks sleek and modern, it can feel especially bland and sterile at times. The “feel” of the finishing is interesting, especially since Cathay Pacific has gone in a warmer, homier feel with their lounges.

IMG_4073Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin 

Looking into the seat, I was impressed with the amount of storage that the seat offered. The storage compartment under the side table has been redesigned and enlarged. I was able to fit my laptop, amenity kit and chargers with plenty of room to spare. I also liked that the cover of the storage area was padded, creating extra bed space.

IMG_4075Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Side Storage

There is also a large storage area to fit a personal item or a pair of shoes underneath the ottoman. I appreciate that there isn’t a big bump limiting the under-seat storage space, as you’ll normally find in some similar seats.

IMG_4086Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Ottoman Storage

There was another storage console which featured space for headphones, a small net for any personal items as well as a mirror that could be used to freshen up.

IMG_4076Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Side Storage

The one thing that I really dislike about the seat is that the power ports are tucked away into this area. I noticed several passengers struggling to find the power port. It was also quite difficult to use. Trying to shove my laptop charger in there, especially with a pair of headphones already in the compartment, was not an easy task.

IMG_4077Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Power Ports 

There was a small literature pocket which featured a safety card, a WiFi informational pamphlet, a waste bag (which I used to store trash) and Cathay Pacific’s in-flight magazines.

IMG_4083Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Literature Pocket 

IMG_4173Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Safety Card 

The WiFi informational card provided WiFi connection instructions along with pricing information.

IMG_4175Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class WiFi Pricing Card 

There was a small “control center” to the side of the seat, including a touchscreen entertainment controller, a dimmable reading light as well as seat controls which were intuitive. I appreciated that you simply had to press the button once to enter one of the two pre-set positions once instead of having to hold it until the seat was fully adjusted.

IMG_4079Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Control Center 

As you can see, the bed has been widened around the leg area, allowing for passengers to sleep more comfortably. Unlike some other reverse herringbone seats, there wasn’t a tiny footwell to squeeze your feet in, instead featuring a large surrounding platform of sorts, which I enjoyed.

IMG_4080Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Legroom 

There was an adjustable armrest, along with a water bottle holder tucked underneath the armrest. This didn’t really make sense to me, especially since you had to raise the armrest to access the bottle holder which was a real nuisance when the seat was in bed mode.

IMG_4084Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Armrest and Water Bottle Holder 

The bed extension has also been updated and is now separate from the seat itself. While this means that the extension isn’t as wide, it’s a lot sturdier when compared to the previous version. However, I do wish Cathay Pacific had retained the shoe locker that was underneath the bed extension, which I thought was a really useful feature.

IMG_4085Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Bed Extension 

The entertainment system had also been updated (more on that later), and featured a new welcome screen with images of Hong Kong.

IMG_4081Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class StudioCX Welcome Screen 

The flight attendants came through the cabin during boarding offering welcome drinks and a hot towel. I selected the Oriental Breeze (the picture of which I have unfortunately lost), which was refreshing as usual. I also used the hot towel to wipe down the seat.

IMG_4088Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Hot Towel 

Boarding was completed quickly, and the safety video was screened.

IMG_4089Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Safety Video 

I turned on the Airshow, which has been updated. I love the new moving map. It’s interactive, easy to use and has a variety of different “modes” that it can be set to.

IMG_4091Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Airshow

The cabin crew came through the cabin for their pre-takeoff checks.

IMG_4094Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin During Taxi

Shortly afterward, the cabin lights were switched off, save for a small mood lighting strip. Cathay Pacific doesn’t use a lot of mood lighting, which is a shame, especially since it could potentially add a touch of color to an otherwise sterile cabin.

IMG_4102Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin During Takeoff

After a long taxi, we took off smoothly. The lights were switched back on again 15 minutes after takeoff, and the cabin crew was released to start the service shortly afterward.

IMG_4123Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin After Takeoff

The meal service started with the crew distributing water bottles. I appreciated that they had catered more than one bottle of water for each passenger, especially since I tend to get very thirsty on long flights.

IMG_4126Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Bottle of Water

The crew also came around with the amenity kit, which was a very practical pencil case-like design. The amenity kit featured an eyeshade, socks, a dental kit, as well as products from Jurlique. I especially love the Rosewater mist that they stock in the kits.

IMG_4127Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Amenity Kit 

Cathay Pacific doesn’t stock pajamas or even slippers in Business Class, which is such a shame. In contrast, Korean Air even offers slippers for passengers on shorthaul flights.

Afterwards, the friendly Senior Purser came around the cabin distributing the menus and welcoming each passenger on board by main. While I understand that this is supposed to be a personal touch, I very much felt like part of an assembly line, which was a common theme throughout the flight.

IMG_4128Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Menu 

After around 15 minutes, tablecloths were distributed. Although Cathay still serves their Business Class meals on a tray, the tablecloths provide a classy touch to the overall experience.

IMG_4131Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Tablecloth 

The meal service started with the drinks trolley. I ordered an Oriental Breeze, which the Senior Purser said would take a while to be delivered. In the meantime, I ordered a glass of water which was served with a ramekin of warm nuts.

IMG_4132Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class 

Shortly afterward, my Oriental Breeze was delivered and was refreshing as usual. However, I still far prefer Cathay Delight.

IMG_4134Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Oriental Breeze 

Another flight attendant came around with a cart containing the appetizer trays and a bread basket. The starter tray consisted of scallop, prawn, and octopus with chilled roasted potatoes served with a lemon, a boring side salad, a selection from the bread basket (I chose garlic bread), and a small cup of water, which I always find to be a thoughtful touch.

The started was great. The scallops and the prawns were perfect, but the roasted potatoes were a touch odd and the octopus was very chewy. The side salad was boring as could be but not actively unpleasant. As usual, the garlic bread didn’t disappoint.

IMG_4136Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Starter 

A trolley with the main course options displayed was then rolled around the cabin. I selected the Chinese option, which was braised chicken with flower mushroom served with rice, choy sum, and carrots. I tend to find that the Chinese option is the “safest” when flying Cathay in general.

The chicken was tender and flavourful, while the veggies were perfectly cooked but a touch bland. The rice was slightly undercooked as usual but still decent enough. Overall, another solid showing from Cathay Pacific’s catering.

IMG_4140Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Main Course 

Next, a trolley of fruits and cheeses was rolled through the cabin. I had a cheese plate, which contained crackers, a pear and quince paste. Everything was excellent.

IMG_4142Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cheese Course

Finally, a trolley with desserts and hot drinks was brought through the cabin. I selected the praline mousse with salted caramel and strawberry, which was tasty and decadent.

IMG_4144Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Dessert 

I also ordered a cup of Hong Kong Style Milk Tea, which was delicious and a highlight of the meal service.

IMG_4145Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Hong Kong Style Milk Tea 

Lastly, the flight attendants came by with a box of pralines. I chose a sesame praline, which was incredible.

IMG_4146Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Chocolate Praline

While the food itself was tasty, I continue to be frustrated at how bad the presentation of the food is. Given the lack of manpower serving the cabin, I understand why they would pre-plate all meals and serve it in a bowl-plate. However, this means that the food, especially Western-style main courses end up looking pretty terrible. C’mon Cathay. Just try to make your food look less gross.

After everything was cleared, a flight attendant came through the cabin with more hot towels.

IMG_4147Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Hot Towel 

The meal service took around two hours. While the flight attendants were excellent, the service felt like being part of an assembly line. The service flow essentially consisted of pushing carts from the front to the back of the cabin, with cabin crew replenishing meals from the galley. Despite the crew’s best efforts, they couldn’t do much more in the way of providing a personalized service except address passengers by name.

I understand why Cathay Pacific has stuck to the most no-frills form of Business Class service: they simply do not have enough flight attendants to staff the cabin. However, so long that this is the style of service, their soft product in business class will remain uncompetitive.

IMG_4148Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin After Dinner

Cathay Pacific has updated their bedding in business class. The new duvet features a textured and a smooth side. Unfortunately, it was way too heavy, especially since Cathay tends to keep their cabins quite warm throughout flights. I woke up multiple times sweating all over.

IMG_4149Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Duvet 

The pillow also featured a textured/smooth surface and was large and fluffy enough.

IMG_3856.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Pillow 

Cathay Pacific is considering offering a mattress pad in addition to the existing bedding options, which I would much appreciate, especially since the existing sleeping surface is too firm for my liking.

I took the time to explore the newly updated StudioCX entertainment system. The new interface is super easy to use, and the touchscreen was also incredibly responsive. In addition to the regular entertainment package, Business Class passengers can set a wake-up call or activate the do not disturb function.

IMG_4177Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Entertainment System 

In addition to your standard audio and video entertainment packages, the new system features news and magazines, updated real time. Passengers can also stream CNN, BBC or Euronews, which I took advantage of.

IMG_4179Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Entertainment System News 

There is also a search function, which allows passengers to look for whatever they want. This is something that I wish more entertainment systems would provide.

IMG_4178Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Entertainment System Search Function

The system also featured a small pull-down tab with flight information, which could be opened when watching any programming.

IMG_4176Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Entertainment System Pull Down Tab

I ventured to the galley and found a snackbox displayed for passengers. including chips, shortbread cookies, popcorn and bruschetta chips.

IMG_4157Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Snack Box 

There was also another box containing whole fruit (which I believe was meant for Premium Economy…?)

IMG_4158Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Snack

I also ventured into the toilets. I loved how the front Business Class toilet had a window.

IMG_4161Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Toilet 

I also liked how the water faucet was easily controlled in terms of temperature. Cathay Pacific also stocks Jurlique skin cream in the toilets. Unfortunately, they seem to have stopped stocking hand cream which is a shame. My biggest gripe about the toilets is that the flush button is relatively difficult to locate.

IMG_4162Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Toilet 

I spent the rest of the flight sleeping on the firm bed. When I woke up, we were over the Saskatchewan area with around 4 hours to go on our flight.

IMG_4165Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Airshow

Despite the short remaining flight time, I decided to order a bowl of Taiwanese Pork Noodles, which was served by the friendly senior purser. Unfortunately, we encountered a rough patch of turbulence shortly after I ordered the noodles, meaning it was around 40 minutes until I was served.

IMG_4166Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Snack 

The dish was phenomenal. The pork was tender but slightly fatty, and the noodles were perfectly cooked. However, what surprised me the most was the broth, which was light but bursting with flavor.

I spent the rest of the flight watching CNN and trying to nap. Before I knew it, the lights were turned back on for the breakfast service.

IMG_4129Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Breakfast Menu 

Tablecloths and hot towels were once again distributed, followed by a drinks trolley. I started with a glass of apple juice, which was sweet and refreshing. I also ordered a cup of Hong Kong Style Milk Tea.

IMG_4167Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Apple Juice 

Next, a cart came around the cabin with trays containing fruit, as well as a bread basket. The fruit was sweet and refreshing. I selected a croissant from the bread basket, which was phenomenal.

IMG_4168Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Breakfast 

Next, the Senior Purser and the Inflight Services Manager rolled a cart through the cabin with a selection of cereals and yogurt. I had a tub of Strawberry yogurt which was still served in the cup.

IMG_4169 2Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Yogurt 

I also offered a selection of cereals from the tray. I asked for granola, which was met with a mumbled response from the Inflight Service Manager. It was after I asked again did I understand that there was no granola. I settled for the muesli. While I asked for the muesli and yogurt to be served together, something just got lost amidst all the talking and I ended up receiving my muesli with milk. I’m willing to chalk this minor mistake up to the fact that I was a little groggy after having just woken up.

IMG_4170Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Muesli 

I actually quite like the use of carts during the breakfast service, as it gave the service a buffet-like feeling. However, I still dislike the assembly-line feel of the service flow.

Service throughout the flight was decent. While I have had admittedly low expectations, the flight attendants were all friendly. Although the meal service style makes it difficult for the service to be attentive or personable, they gave it their best shot and actively tried to learn names. Special shoutout to the Senior Purser who was exceptionally friendly. On the other hand, I didn’t see the Inflight Service Manager helping out much throughout the flight (which, honestly, seems to be the case on 99% of Cathay Pacific flights, as their main job is to direct and lead the crew).

IMG_4171Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin After Breakfast

Shortly after the meal service was finished, the seatbelt sign was switched on and we began our descent into Newark Airport.

IMG_4172Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Seatbelt Sign 

The cabin crew came throughout the cabin with their pre-landing checks.

I turned on the tail camera for the last moments of our flight and watched as we descended into Newark.

IMG_4181Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Tail Camera

The cabin lights were once again dimmed in preparation for landing.

IMG_4184Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin During landing 

We touched down uneventfully and made it to our gate after a short taxi. Immigration was quick and efficient. Unfortunately, it started raining just as we landed, meaning that we spent around an hour waiting for our bags to make it onto the carousel.

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

There’s a saying that Business Class is all about the seat, and Cathay scores high marks in that regard. There’s an excellent balance of privacy and openness, as well as a plethora of storage options. Unfortunately, Cathay’s soft product pales in comparison to competitors like Qatar Airways, who offer dine on-demand, plated meals, pajamas, and superior amenities. Despite this, Cathay Pacific business class remains an amazing way to cross the Pacific.

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