For those new to Young Travelers of Hong Kong, we have no affiliations with any airlines, and just occasionally write airline product guides to collate our thoughts over a number of experiences; here is one such instance of a guide, considering Cathay Pacific’s business class product.
Earlier this week, YouTuber and flight reviewer Noel Philips released a review of Cathay Pacific’s A350, where he flew from Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita in business class. Noel recently moved from the UK to the U.S., and while I haven’t spoken to him personally, he’s a charismatic guy who’s well-informed within the airline reviewers’ industry, and I enjoy watching his videos (and would recommend them).
You can find Noel’s review of Cathay Pacific’s A350 here, featuring his thoughts on the seat, as well as Cathay Pacific’s shorthaul product:
In short, Noel’s review of Cathay Pacific includes this:
- The lounge is average, and nothing special (he visited The Wing, which is my least favourite Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong Airport by far)
- The seat is “average and okay” (he correctly identifies the seat as reverse herringbone, but misidentifies the seat as a B/E Super Diamond seat)
- Amenities were lacking, and no amenities or blankets were loaded onto his flight (albeit being covered by a blanket in his thumbnail)
- His breakfast dish was under-microwaved and covered in grease (what was shown on the video was mushroom water, not grease, but it did look disgusting)
I’ve generally had fairly positive experiences of Cathay Pacific’s business class, and have reviewed them on several occasions in the past five years:
- from Hanoi to Hong Kong in their A321neo business class
- from Zurich to Hong Kong in their A350 business class
- from Taipei to Hong Kong in their A350 business class
- from Hong Kong to Bangkok in their A330 business class (review coming)
Watching Noel’s review can’t help but make me feel like I’m reviewing a different airline than he is, and reminded me as an aviation blogger how important it is to be well-informed and well-researched before you review a new airline. Noel travelled to China and Japan for the first time on the same itinerary and was quite nervous about being let in (especially to China), so granted maximising his experience of flying Cathay Pacific probably wasn’t highest up in his list of priorities. Still, though, his review felt like going to an Outback Steakhouse, ordering a vegan sausage roll, and complaining that the restaurant wasn’t good enough.
Noel inspired me to write a post targeted at those currently holding Cathay Pacific business class tickets. I’ll be talking about both longhaul and shorthaul flights, though I’m aware that Cathay Pacific is also releasing quite a few shorthaul business class tickets at the moment. With that in mind, here are a few things that could help maximise your business class experience on Cathay Pacific.
1. If departing Hong Kong, use The Pier (or The Deck), not The Wing
Many of heard of Cathay Pacific’s The Wing and The Pier lounges at Hong Kong Airport, but are unaware that one is significantly better than the other. The Pier is Cathay Pacific’s business class lounge located by gate 65, which features lots of seating in a multitude of configurations, barista coffee, a fully stocked bar, a made-to-order noodle bar and manned buffet, a “tea experience” room, gorgeous showers, and nap rooms. I last reviewed it in 2016 here, and have revisited the lounge on several occasions since, where it’s been holding its own.
Meanwhile The Wing is “meh” at best, and I wouldn’t spend much time there, despite the fact that it’s near immigration. You’ll still find a noodle bar, though the space is overcrowded and the decor is uninspiring.
Cathay Pacific The Wing Lounge Hong Kong
If you don’t want to make the schlep to gate 65, I’d recommend The Deck, Cathay Pacific’s new lounge which opened in 2019. You don’t want to stop here if you’re looking for barista coffee or a bar, though you’ll find a nicely decorated area, a noodle bar, and good showers.
Alternatively, I’d actually use the Qantas Lounge, which features a great food spread and is typically way quieter – particularly after 4 PM when they provide made-to-order char siu fan. I’d take that as a compliment of how ridiculously good Qantas’ lounge at Hong Kong is, though, and not a jab at Cathay Pacific’s services.
2. On a shorthaul flight, try and get a flight onboard a longhaul-configured aircraft
You won’t be able to do this on every route, but Cathay Pacific operates a mixture of shorthaul and longhaul-configured aircraft on many of their shorthaul routes, including to Bangkok, Tokyo Narita, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Singapore, and more. You want to make sure your aircraft has a 1-2-1 layout, as opposed to a 2-2-2 or 2-3-2 layout, if you’re allowed to work around it in your schedule. Instead of a recliner seat (which is still perfectly fine), you’ll be able to get a fully flat bed with direct aisle access and lots more storage space, which is always a big plus.
Cathay Pacific’s shorthaul configurations on their A330/777-300/A321neo
Cathay Pacific’s longhaul configurations on their A330/777/A350
3. A350 tip – flip up the bed extension in bed mode
This is the bit most people tend to miss. Cathay Pacific’s A350s have by far the widest sleeping surface I’ve seen for a reverse herringbone seat onboard an A350.
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Sleeping Surface
Why, you ask? Firstly, the L-shaped ottoman and storage cupboard are designed specifically to increase sleeping surface space by the hip. By your elbows, there’s an extra padded bed extension that has to be flipped upwards in order to complete the large sleeping surface – this is what takes the sleeping surface to the next level, in my opinion, as it removes space restrictions around your shoulders. I’m a fairly small guy, though I can see this being a very useful tip for many (it’s a shame that this bed extension doesn’t fold upwards from the seat as the older-generation seat did, as I barely see people use it). You’re also free to use this bed extension as a leg rest or a ledge when you’re sitting upright, though it does become fairly random in that instance.
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Bed Extension
Speaking of storage cupboards, there’s also a large amount of storage space in Cathay Pacific’s A350. The cubby under the ottoman was big enough for my backpack – it’s a deeper cupboard than you’ll find in the B/E Super Diamond seat, used by airlines such as British Airways, Etihad, and (previously) Hong Kong Airlines.
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Storage Cupboard
If you’re on an A330 or 777, a bed extension will automatically deploy in fully-flat mode, though it’s not nearly as large or sturdy as that provided on the A350.
4. Indulge in Cathay Pacific’s stand-out drinks selection
Cathay Pacific serves champagne, red and white wines in business class, though what stands out to me is their cocktails and specialty drinks selection. You’ll be able to get a negroni or bloody mary even on a one-hour flight, their 777s and A350s have espresso-based beverages (though no iced coffee), and their signature mocktail is the Cathay Delight, a delicious kiwi and coconut milk concoction.
Cathay Delight in Cathay Pacific business class
In addition, you can also try their sweet and delicious Hong Kong-style milk tea, though they do use a powdered mix.
5. Know what to order…especially during shorthaul flights
Everyone has a different palate, and I respect that. However, particularly on shorthaul flights, Cathay Pacific catering is hit-or-miss, and I generally order what I feel like will be best executed (rather than what I feel like, sometimes).
Cathay Pacific consistently pulls off Asian dishes really well, particularly Chinese and Japanese dishes featuring fish. Cathay Pacific features fairly consistent menus on shorthaul flights, though food is generally quite good.
Cathay Pacific business class meal from Hanoi to Hong Kong
If Asian meals aren’t your thing, go for something braised, such as beef cheek or shortrib. Personally I’d avoid chicken breast, beef tenderloin, or anything featuring eggs – those haven’t gone down well in the past (feel free to report back if I’m wrong).
Cathay Pacific business class meal from Taipei to Hong Kong
I feel like Cathay Pacific catering is getting better on longhaul flights in business class, though I currently have a fairly small sample size, as I’ve only flown their longhaul business class once in the past five years (more to come, though – stay tuned).
6. Make good use of the bedding provided on longhaul flights
Cathay Pacific partnered with Bamford to introduce new bedding for longhaul flights in 2019, and it’s certainly some of the best bedding I’ve experienced in a business class cabin. The textured duvet is the standout element, though the mattress pad and pillow are awesome as well. In addition, slippers are provided, which is a nice touch.
Don’t forget to use the mattress pad – Cathay Pacific doesn’t provide turndown service (as far as I’m aware), so you’ll have to fasten it over the seat yourself. While not ridiculously soft, the mattress pad really can bridge the difference between “flat airplane surface” and “like sleeping in a real bed”, due to the way it’s textured.
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Bedding and Slippers
On shorthaul flights you won’t get a mattress pad or duvet (regardless of cabin configuration) – you’ll get a pillow and day blanket instead. The day blanket is perfectly fine, though not special.
Cathay Pacific A321neo Business Class Pillow and Blanket
7. Have a burger/risotto or soup noodles midflight from Cathay Pacific’s “all-day” menu
While Cathay Pacific doesn’t do a dine-on-demand service, there’s an “all-day” menu that you can order between meal services on longhaul flights. Typically a couple of lighter dishes from the main menu on that flight will be featured as all-day items, though a couple of longstanding items have included a burger/risotto/other carb bomb or soup noodles, depending on what you feel like and how hungry you are.
Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class Burger
8. Get connected to inflight WiFi
While Cathay Pacific’s WiFi isn’t the cheapest or best quality out there, it does offer very good value, where you’ll pay about US$13-20 for full-flight WiFi depending on the length of your flight with no data caps.
Sunrise Office on Cathay Pacific A350
Cathay Pacific’s business class is a product that offers a lot of value if you know how to squeeze it out. Cathay Pacific probably has the most “underdog” soft product out of any airline I know, in that you have to do your research (e.g. reading others’ reviews, looking at the menu, etc.) in order to enjoy the product fully. While airlines such as Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines train crewmembers and programme their “Manage Your Booking” page to proudly showcase their amenities on offer, Cathay Pacific is a lot more understated, which can be a bad/lazy thing to do if you’re trying to get passengers excited about your product.
If you’re just looking for a well-executed bog standard flight with a standard Western breakfast and orange juice, there are numerous flaws in the Cathay Pacific experience that I’ve outlined over my (and Jason’s) countless previous reviews. I’m also not the most massive fan of Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seat, service can be hit-or-miss, and I know the meal service on ultra-longhaul flights isn’t currently particularly well thought out (despite not having experienced it firsthand).
Intra-Asia competition is fierce, and Cathay Pacific holds its own without dominating the pack. I don’t think there’s an “X-factor” while flying Cathay Pacific shorthaul, the same way there is on Singapore Airlines (flat bed seat, Book The Cook), Qatar Airways (even more creative mocktails, better plated meals on even shorter flights) or Korean Air (bibimbap, Apex Suite). However, I’d say that if you take advantage of all the above amenities, Cathay Pacific can be an industry leader.
When’s your next Cathay Pacific flight?