Review: Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class Sydney to Hong Kong

As I mentioned in my review of the Qantas business class lounge that we visited prior to our flight, boarding began at 2:50 PM even though it was scheduled for 3:10 PM. While I don’t like that, I really can’t point fingers at anyone here. Normally airlines start boarding at the published time, though they ask everyone to be at the gate by then.

In this case they started to board long before that, so people wouldn’t have to wait around once the boarding process started. That’s a common practice at Sydney Airport (it was my first time departing from the airport, though I’ve heard about many similar cases), and is pretty efficient, provided they’re not closing the door too early (which would pose a different problem).

While rushing down the gate in hopes of still getting some decent photos, I snapped a shot of our Cathay Pacific 777, before boarding through door L1.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Exterior Sydney Airport

Parked across us was a Qatar Airways 777, which I also got a good view of.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Sydney Airport

Cathay Pacific 100
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Origin: Sydney (SYD) Gate: 24 Dep: 15:50 (15:40)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 23 Arr: 21:55 (21:20)
Duration: 9 hr 5 min (8 hr 40 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 23A (Business Class)

Cathay Pacific’s non-first class 777s feature 40 business class seats, spread out across a bigger front cabin and a smaller aft cabin. The forward cabin features 26 business class seats, and the rear cabin features 14 business class seats. This time round I’d selected seats in the rear cabin, so we could try it out on the daytime flight.

As was the case on the outbound, these were reverse herringbone seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. I won’t be talking about the actual hard product as much since it was identical to the outbound, so feel free to check that review out if you’d like to know more about the hard product.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin

Behind business class was the premium economy cabin, which I haven’t flown in a long time. The seats looked plush, and from experience I know that the recline was generous. While I was happy to be in business class, I wouldn’t have minded trying out premium economy on a longhaul flight.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Premium Economy Class

The entire cabin featured 32 recliner seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. Some of our friends were actually seated here, since they couldn’t grab the decent prices that we got for our business class seats.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Premium Economy Class

Lastly, I had a chance to check out economy class. It was actually split into three cabins – a mini cabin in front of door L3 featuring 30 economy seats, and another 238 economy seats split evenly between two cabins. Cathay Pacific’s 777s feature some of my personal favourite economy seats, as they’re plush and laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration. However, that’s about to change as of this year, in order to save the airline out of their financial losses.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

Legroom was ample, and while they don’t feature frills such as footrests, I can’t think of a different economy seat where I’d rather spend time in (the A350’s included – stay tuned for Jason’s first impressions after he flew to Bangkok in those seats this week). I last reviewed these seats from Hong Kong to Jakarta back in March last year, so check out my review to learn more.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Economy Class

When taking a picture of the economy cabin (without any flight attendants in sight), a flight attendant quickly rushed up to me and said “no photos of cabin crew please, photos of the aircraft is fine”. I reassured her that there weren’t any photos of them in the pictures, and she nodded and said “okay”, but it wasn’t over until two different cabin crew approached me with the exact same words.

While I was making my way back to my seat after my photo spree, a few people made their way into the aisle so they could get to their seats in economy. I said “sorry”, and stood by one of the premium economy seats so I could let them pass. A male flight attendant manning premium economy then came up to me and said “sir, please get out of the way, we are trying to board the plane”. I’m sorry that I’m moving aside and letting everyone pass, and not being an obstruction in the aisle? That said, his words were enough to keep me in my seat until the end of the boarding process.

I had selected myself seat 23A, the business class seat on the last row of the aft mini-cabin on the left side of the plane.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 23A

There’s no denying that reverse herringbone seats are some of the best seats in the industry. I like Cathay Pacific’s version of the reverse herringbone seat because it’s private, incredibly spacious, and well-designed. I know that there are now better business class seats out there that I’ve yet to try, though objectively, their business class seat is a very, very good product. Previously I’ve doubted that Cathay Pacific’s business class seats had outstayed their welcome, though over these two flights I can confirm that isn’t the case.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat Space

Due to the amount of space on the 777, the seats are also really wide, to the point where the armrest is slightly out of reach for lounging.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Width

One issue with the mini-cabin is that everyone passes through your seat during the boarding process, which was probably an extra hurdle for me since I was one of the first to board the plane. That said, the privacy wing and the insane seat width made me feel comfortable even when people were passing by the business class cabin.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seat Privacy

As you’d expect from a business class seat, legroom was unlimited.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Legroom

The seat featured a padded ottoman which doubled as storage space when the plane was at cruise altitude.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Ottoman

To the left of the seat was the seat panel, featuring a light, the seat controls, the entertainment console, and a 110V and USB power port.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Side Panel

To the left of that was a cupboard that served well to keep books during mealtime, as well as my phone and my headphones.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cupboard

The TV folded out from the seat in front. I don’t normally use the TV (I don’t watch movies, since it’s time I could otherwise spend working), so I actually prefer having the option of folding it into the seat in front (the other option is having the TV screen directly in front of you, which looks prettier, though in reality you’re staring at your own reflection when your screen is off).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class TV

One advantage of sitting in the last row of the cabin was that I had an extra platform to place loose items, such as my phone when I was sleeping. Any storage space is good storage space when it comes to flying.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Extra Space

Waiting at my seat was a pillow and plush blanket. The pillow was textured on one side and smooth on the other, which I prefer, as I outlined on the outbound flight. The blanket was one of the better ones I’ve had on a plane.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Pillow

Cathay Pacific also updated their headphones fleetwide, which were noise-cancelling. I didn’t test out this particular set, though the set I was provided on the outbound had a buzzing noise when angled in certain ways, which proved to be annoying. Still, these headphones are some of the better ones that airlines provide.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Headphones

A few minutes after I got back to my seat, I was provided with a choice of pre-departure beverage, and presented with orange juice, water, or champagne. In Cantonese, the flight attendant serving me said “we have some drinks for you, there’s orange juice, water, and champagne…for you, probably just orange juice and water”.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage

Along with the pre-departure beverage I was provided a hot towel.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Hot Towel

For the first 20-25 minutes of the boarding process the mini-cabin was empty. However, it was then filled up with a bunch of people that I was pretty sure weren’t used to flying in business class, if at all. My parents and Hailey boarded at around the same time (I like to board first for cabin pictures, while my sister’s claustrophobic, so they just join me near the end of the boarding process), and I’d arranged for us to have the rearmost two window seats of the cabin on both sides. This proved to be annoying, so my preference for my family when in 1-2-1 business class from now on is to sit in a row along the windows, so everyone gets a view and some privacy.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin

Immediately upon boarding my mother was basically demanded to switch with a lady who would rather sit in a window seat than across from her daughter in a middle seat. My mother declined – I’d preselected these seats for our family months in advance, and they should’ve done the same if they wanted a window seat so badly.

After I got my family settled into their seats, I took the time to capture the Qatar Airways 777 under the beautiful Sydney afternoon sky.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Sydney Airport

The boarding process ended early, and captain Tony Higgins got on the PA. He was incredibly professional, and explained our flying time of 8 hours and 24 minutes, informing us of the 17°C temperature back in Hong Kong and inviting us to enjoy the Cathay Pacific service.

We pushed back at around 3:40 PM, ten minutes before the scheduled departure time. During our taxi, I had a chance to spot some distinctly Aussie aircraft, including some Qantas heavies, as well as smaller aircraft from QantasLink and Tigerair.

Qantas Airbus A330 Sydney Airport

QantasLink Dash 8 Q300 Sydney Airport

Tigerair Airbus A320 Sydney Airport

Our takeoff resulted in some beautiful views over Sydney, especially since our flight followed a few days of rather bad weather, so we got to see the clouds thicken and thin out again as we climbed out over the area.

Takeoff Sydney Airport

Takeoff Sydney Airport

Takeoff Sydney Airport

Takeoff Sydney Airport

Takeoff Sydney Airport

Once we reached cruising altitude we were offered menus and amenity kits. The amenity kits were from Seventy Eight Percent, and I was interested to discover that these were slightly different from the ones we were provided from the outbound. They were soft, practical, and high-quality.

 

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit

Cathay Pacific’s amenities are bare bones, though all the basics that you’d expect are there, including a dental kit, socks, eyeshades, etc.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit Contents

Our flight featured a lunch meal service, as well as a lighter refreshments meal service as we neared Hong Kong. The lunch menu read as follows:

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Menu

To begin the meal the crew did a pre-meal service beverage run, where I asked for a Cathay Delight, as well as some water. I was provided water with some hot nuts, and they came back with a Cathay Delight.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Nuts

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Water

I disagree with people that say that Cathay Delight is the best beverage they’ve ever tasted in the air and on the ground. I find it refreshing, and the kiwi pairs well with the coconut milk. However, sometimes I find the coconut milk to be weirdly powdery, which I don’t like. That wasn’t the case here, so I enjoyed that it was a light, refreshing drink – though not my all-time favourite.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cathay Delight

20 minutes later the crew came around with the appetiser, which consisted of a scallop with mango salsa, smoked salmon and marinated papaya. The scallop was fine, no different from what I’ve been accustomed to with airplane scallops (they’re always cured, and never have any sort of sear on them), and the smoked salmon was fine as well. The marinated papaya was boring, while the mango salsa paired well with the scallop. That said, appetisers on Cathay Pacific are often an afterthought, so I didn’t have high expectations to start with.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Appetiser – Scallop with Mango Salsa, Smoked Salmon and Marinated Papaya

The side salad looked nice, had a good dressing, though wasn’t otherwise that interesting.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Seasonal Salad

Around 15 minutes later the crew came around with the main meal, which was displayed on a trolley. I was thrilled to see that they still had the braised beef option left, as beef on a plane can either be really good or really bad – especially if it’s braised.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Main Course

In this case the beef was fork tender (no knife required) and incredibly flavourful, and the gnocchi wasn’t too bad as well, so that’s another win for Cathay Pacific’s catering department (though another lose on the plating front, which they should really pay more effort in, since their food is otherwise good).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Main Course – Braised Beef Short Ribs, Grilled Zucchini, Pepper and Gnocchi

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Main Course – Braised Beef

I had eaten in the lounge and filled myself up by finishing the entire beef dish, so I was stuffed for dessert. Despite that, I still managed to ask for a picture of the dessert cart, which the flight attendant let me take.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Dessert Cart

I was obligated to select something after I took a photo, so I went with a chocolate mousse, which was light, and I liked the cherries, which provided a touch of needed acidity.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Dessert – Chocolate Mousse

I had to work, so decided to order a cappuccino. Unfortunately they said that their frothing machine was broken, so the cappuccino didn’t turn out the way they expected – it wasn’t bad nonetheless.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Meal Cappuccino

The entire meal service took a bit more than an hour, which isn’t short, though I don’t take much issue with that on a daytime flight. At this point the cabin was still light, though it was darkened shortly after for those who wanted to nap.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin

After the meal service I decided to check out the entertainment system, something I didn’t get to do on the previous flight. Cathay Pacific doesn’t have WiFi, so the inflight entertainment system is really all you have when you get bored and can’t sleep. Fortunately, it delivers – StudioCX is one of the most extensive entertainment systems in the market.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Entertainment Selection

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Entertainment Selection

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Entertainment Selection

While Cathay Pacific’s forward bathroom on the left is much nicer, I wasn’t going to go out of my way and walk all the way to the front of the plane just for a nicer bathroom. The bathroom located in front of the mini-cabin wasn’t nearly as nice, though was pretty much just as big, which I liked.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Lavatory

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Lavatory

At this point the crew turned on sunset mood lighting, so passengers could sleep.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin

This was before the real sunset started to happen. I napped for a couple of hours, before deciding to get some offline work done, as I had loaded up enough work knowing there wouldn’t be WiFi on this flight. I had specifically selected a seat on the left side of the plane so I could watch the sunset. It was more obstructed than I’d imagined – I wasn’t expecting there to be so many clouds – though it was very nice nonetheless.

While I was prepared for the lack of WiFi, I honestly think that Cathay Pacific needs to rethink some of the routes where they deploy their A350s, which have WiFi. I was fine without WiFi on an 8-hour flight, though probably would have struggled to be productive on a flight of twice the length (Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong to Chicago flight is a daytime flight, as is one of their New York flights). I’ve said enough about this in a separate post, so won’t rehash it here.

Sunset towards Hong Kong Airport

Sunset towards Hong Kong Airport

Sunset towards Hong Kong Airport

Once it was dark outside and I had got some work done, I asked for a Hong Kong style milk tea. Granted, they use a powdered mix, though I love that it isn’t overly sweet, and thus tastes authentic.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Hong Kong Style Milk Tea

I also asked if any snacks were provided, though the cabin crew said that snacks weren’t provided for flights to Australia, and were only available on longer flights. They assured me that refreshments would be served soon, so I returned to work.

Before the refreshments service, the cabin crew turned on orange mood lighting to simulate some kind of a sunrise.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin Before Refreshments

The refreshments menu read as follows:

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Refreshments Menu

The cabin crew came around with a beverage cart, where I selected an orange juice.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Refreshments Beverage

I was interested to try out the mung bean noodles. They were nowhere near as impressive as the first main course that I’d had on the flight, since the beef was on the dry side, and the entire dish was on the salty side. Regardless, this wasn’t a bad dish for an airplane meal.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Refreshments Main Course – Korean Style Beef Mung Bean Noodles

Also on the tray was some fresh seasonal fruit, which is a lame excuse for “we don’t have the funds to give you a second appetiser, so here’s some fruit so we’re not just serving you the main dish on its own”.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Refreshments Fresh Seasonal Fruits

The mood lighting ensued after the meal service – I really like how the cabin looks under the mood lighting.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class Mini-Cabin Before Landing

After that, the cabin lights were dimmed upon our descent into Hong Kong. We made a short taxi into gate 23, and were at baggage reclamation shortly after we deplaned (due to the proximity of gate 23 from the immigration area). Unfortunately retrieving our luggage took a little bit longer than expected, and one of the luggages had broken along the way home, so we had to file a report for that.

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class

Cathay Pacific’s 777s have really, really solid business class seats. The cabin is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing, and the seats are comfortable enough for sleeping. They’re incredibly spacious, and still industry leading seven years in, so I’d imagine they were basically the pinnacle of premium travel back when they were introduced.

That said, I came out of this flight feeling exactly how I thought I’d feel. Cathay Pacific’s business class seat is great if you’re spending a 9-hour redeye, where you get to enjoy a quick meal, go to sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed in one of the most comfortable business class seats. That said, that’s all there is to the product. The service feels like an assembly line, there’s no snack menu, there’s no WiFi, and there’s no wow-factor to the experience, so you don’t have many options to burn time if you don’t get on the flight fully prepared. So if you have a long daytime flight planned on Cathay Pacific, be prepared to load your documents so you can work on them offline, since you won’t have many other options to spend your time.

For that reason, Cathay Pacific’s business class definitely isn’t a product you should go out of your way to fly, and I don’t consider it at the top of the pack. Cathay Pacific consistently tries to promote themselves as the best of the best, which they’re not. That said, on a nighttime flight of moderate length, where I wouldn’t be spending much time awake anyway, they’d probably be my first choice.

Have you flown Cathay Pacific in business class before? How was it?

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