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Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class (HKG-ICN) – How Is Cathay’s Redeye Service?

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Last summer, I flew with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Seoul on their daily red-eye service and checked out their watered down “midnight service”. Cathay Pacific operates a handful of redeye flights to cities in North Asia, including Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, etc., as well as from a few southeast Asian cities to Hong Kong, such as Singapore and Jakarta. If you’re booked on one of those flights, this is along the lines of what you’ll get.

I had checked in online, although an error message meant that I had to head to the check-in counter to collect a paper boarding pass which was quick and efficient. As it turns out, the flight was slightly overbooked and there was a chance that I would be upgraded. Afterwards, I made a beeline for The Pier, where I enjoyed a short nap in the relaxation rooms and took a quick shower.

Cathay Pacific The Pier Business Class Lounge Food Hall

I left the lounge at around the published boarding time and arrived at our departure gate, only to find that boarding hadn’t even started. After a lack of boarding announcements for another 30 minutes, an announcement was made that the flight would be delayed for a further 40 minutes due to mechanical issues. While I understand the reason behind the delay, the lack of communication was irritating and really annoying. The fact that the aircraft was on the ground for five hours before our flight only added insult to injury.

With the lounges now closed, I waited near the boarding gate until boarding started with half the plane Business Class, Marco Polo Silver, Gold, and Diamond along with oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members being invited to board. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive an upgrade. I headed down the jetbridge and was welcomed by the Senior Purser.

Cathay Pacific 412
Friday, August 11, 2017
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 26 Dep: 00:55 (02:00)
Destination: Seoul Incheon (ICN) Arr: 05:20 (07:25)
Duration: 3 h 35 min (4 h 25 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300 
Seat: 39K (Economy Class)

The aircraft that I was flying on was configured in a three-class configuration with Business, Premium Economy and Economy, which is normally found on flights to Australia, and was fitted with the previous generation of Economy seats, which will be replaced by 2020.

IMG_1971Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin 

We’ve extensively reviewed Cathay’s previous generation of Economy Class seats in the past, so feel free to check that out if you’re looking for an in-depth review of the seat features. In a nutshell, these seats are fantastic, exceptionally well-padded, and feature comfortable headrests and well-designed in-seat storage options. They’re so good that I’d rank these as a notch above the seats on Cathay Pacific’s A350-900 (those seats have inferior padding, despite having a top-notch entertainment system).

IMG_1972.jpgCathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin  

I was fortunate to be able to snag a pair of bulkhead seats. This meant that no one would be reclining into my space during the flight, which is always a plus. Unfortunately, the legroom was slightly lacking, making the seat feel quite restrictive and cramped at times. The bulkhead seats also didn’t come with the small storage “nook” found in some of the other seats. Instead, there was a small leather seat pocket mounted on the wall with a safety card and the in-flight literature pack.

IMG_1973Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin 

The bulkhead seats also featured wall-mounted personal television screens. Underneath the screen was a USB port and an HDMI port. The screens were touch-operated but not especially responsive.

IMG_1974Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Television Screen 

Shortly afterwards, the Captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard. He also announced a further 30-minute delay as a result of congestion on the taxiway to the runway. This was followed by another announcement from the Inflight Services Manager, who welcomed us aboard and apologized for the delay. At this point, the safety video was screened.

IMG_1975Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Safety Video 

During the ground delay, the Flight Purser came around to welcome me and my mother onboard on accord of our Marco Polo status which I thought was a nice touch.

IMG_1979Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin During Taxi

After around 20 minutes of waiting around, we started our taxi to the runway. By this point, we had already been delayed just over an hour and I was exhausted, having been up since 5 in the morning, so I decided to take a short nap.

I woke up right after takeoff and found the lights had been slightly dimmed for the meal service. On late night regional departures, Cathay Pacific serves a cold snack box and a carton of Vita Lemon Tea in lieu of a full hot meal for passengers in Economy Class. This has been subject to intense scrutiny in the past, so I was eager to see if the box would be as bad as I was expecting.

IMG_1983Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Snackbox 

The box featured a cup of sliced fruit, a muffin and a cold ham and cheese sandwich, as well as a pack of cookies.

IMG_1984Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Snackbox Contents

The fruit was fresh as usual and cookies aren’t exactly hard to get right. However, the muffin was a tad too dry for my liking. Easily the worst thing on the tray was the sandwich, which was truly awful. The bread was stale, and the cheese and the meat were almost frozen. I appreciate the idea of a cold snack box, as I’m certainly not in the mood to wait around for a hot meal after a 3-hour flight departing at 1AM – however, I wish Cathay would try harder with these meals. Maybe they could try offering something more appetising, like a cold sandwich or a salad.

I tried to sleep for the rest of the flight, though was largely unsuccessful, and only drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night. I woke up as the cabin lights were switched on in preparation for our descent into Seoul, during which I managed to catch the tail end of a sunrise.

IMG_1987Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Wing View During Descent

At this time, the captain came on the PA to provide some more updated arrival information and a Korean customs video was shown throughout the cabin.

IMG_1990 2Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin During Descent 

We were treated to more gorgeous views of the clouds as we descended into Seoul.

IMG_1991View During Landing into Incheon Airport

We touched down at Incheon Airport approximately one hour after our scheduled arrival time.

IMG_1993View During Landing into Incheon Airport

Shortly after we landed, the captain came on the PA to announce that we did not have a gate as a result of our late arrival time, and announced an expected further delay of around 30 minutes until we would be given a gate. This was followed by the in-flight services manager welcoming us to Seoul.

IMG_1994Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Screens During Landing

After around 20 minutes of waiting, we restarted our taxi and passed by lots of Korean Air traffic (this was 2017 back when Korean Air served passengers at Terminal 1, but they’ve moved to a new terminal in the meantime).

IMG_1996Korean Air Traffic at Seoul Incheon Airport 

After arriving at the gate, one of my travel companions had to use the bathroom while the rest of the aircraft deplaned. Unfortunately, we lost her through all the commotion. As we approached the ground staff for help, the Inflight Services Manager, the Senior Purser and a Flight Purser joined us in helping to look for our lost companion and calming us down, which I thought was incredibly nice of them. We eventually found our travel companion and waited an eternity to catch the train heading towards immigration. After a short wait, we collected our bags and were on our way to Myengdong.

Bottom Line: Cathay Pacific’s A330 Economy Class Redeye Service

A regional red-eye flight is never pleasant. However, this flight certainly wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Cathay Pacific’s regional Economy seat was fantastic as usual, and the service from the crew was decent enough and the help given by the crew during our fiasco after deplaning was the cherry on top.

However, otherwise this flight didn’t really offer a lot. My main complaint about the experience was the food, which I honestly wish Cathay would try harder on. I agree that a hot meal is unnecessary on such a short red-eye flight, though I wish the snack box could have higher quality food items, as well as slightly bigger portions.

It continues to blow my mind that Cathay charges significantly more than their competitors despite offering such an uncompetitive product. Overall, this is a decent enough option, but if you’d rather enjoy a hot meal and don’t have Marco Polo or oneworld status, Korean Air and Asiana also offer redeye flights from Hong Kong to Seoul, so you might want to take your money somewhere else.

Have you flown Cathay Pacific’s redeye service before? How was it?

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