Perhaps I came in with overly low expectations, but I was surprised by how "premium" the experience felt in Cathay Pacific premium economy; however some parts of the seat show their age, and service wasn't impeccable
In August 2023, I had the chance to fly Cathay Pacific’s premium economy class from London to Hong Kong. While I’ve flown Cathay Pacific’s A350 premium economy class before (and quite liked it), this was the first time I’d flown Cathay Pacific’s older premium economy class product on a longhaul flight. I’d flown this seat once on an A330 shorthaul once when I was very young, though this was my first time properly trying and testing the product, both because I was actually adult size, and also because I was flying the product longhaul.
I was very pleasantly surprised by my flight in Cathay Pacific’s 777 premium economy class. I came in with fairly low expectations, and was particularly impressed by the strong amenities offerings and their inflight offerings between meal services. Cathay Pacific generally also has a lot going for them, including good WiFi, a good (albeit aging) entertainment system, and a good premium economy seat with good padding and storage.
Here’s my full review of the product, with a rundown of the seat, meals and amenities offered, and more.
Booking Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy
I booked this flight as a one-way ticket using 40,000 Asia Miles (the same flight would now cost 50,000 Asia Miles after the recent devaluation). Asia Miles has numerous transferable points partners – in Hong Kong, some of these reward partners include HSBC RewardCash+ and Citi ThankYou points, whereas AmEx UK lists Cathay’s Asia Miles as a transferrable points currency.
Unfortunately I also had to pay around a £342 (HK$3,338) surcharge, a large part of which was the UK Air Passenger Duty tax. My itinerary consisted just of this one flight, which was as follows:
07/08 Cathay Pacific 252 London Heathrow – Hong Kong dep. 12:20 arr. 07:35 (+1)
My Experience Flying Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy
My flight was leaving at 12:20 PM, so I got to Heathrow’s Terminal 3 at around 10 AM. I didn’t have to queue for long to check in – Cathay Pacific has dedicated Premium Economy check-in desks at Heathrow Airport. I used a self-service kiosk to check a large bag in, which was (substantially) under the allowed weight limit of 35 kg. I also received a flimsy paper boarding pass (which is fairly standard at Heathrow Airport).
I headed airside, which didn’t take overly long, despite Heathrow T3’s relatively inefficient customs process. Cathay Pacific isn’t one of the few airlines that offers lounge access for premium economy passengers, and I also don’t have status with Oneworld. While I could’ve sat in a Priority Pass lounge (where I have four annual passes included with my AmEx Gold card), I just decided to hang out in the gate area.
Heathrow doesn’t release departure gate information until around an hour before scheduled departure time. However, as I’d flown Cathay Pacific multiple times out of Heathrow Airport in the past, I took a wild guess and headed all the way to gates 38-42, at the end of Heathrow T3’s departures hall. This was a largely deserted area of the airport, and Heathrow’s WiFi is free and generally usable, so I was content working on my laptop here.
At around 11:15 AM some gate agents came round to put up boarding signs for Cathay Pacific by gate 42 – score!
Cathay Pacific Boarding Gate Area Heathrow Airport
My prediction for my departures gate was confirmed when our 777, B-KPX, rolled past one of the windows and pulled up by the gate. Gate information for our flight was released soon after, and more people headed over to join me by the gate area.
Cathay Pacific 777 at London Heathrow
Boarding started fairly punctually at 11:40 AM (40 minutes before departure), starting with first class and Oneworld Emerald customers, followed by business class and Oneworld Sapphire customers, and continuing with premium economy class passengers.
Cathay Pacific Flight CX252
Monday, August 7, 2023
Origin: London Heathrow (LHR) T: 3 Gate: 42 Dep: 12:20 (12:40)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 35 Arr: 07:35+1 (07:50+1)
Duration: 12 hr 15 min (12 hr 10 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Reg: B-KPX
Seat: 34A (Premium Economy Class)
I boarded through the second set of doors, headed past Cathay Pacific’s massive rear business class cabin, and found a more intimate premium economy class cabin, just by the third set of doors.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Cabin and Seat
I was flying a Cathay Pacific 777 in their four-class configuration, and the airline’s sea-green premium economy class cabin featured 34 seats on this aircraft. Due to the lavatory and exit row placements, each section featured a different number of rows – the center section featured five rows, the left section featured four rows, and the right section featured three rows.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cabin
Due to the placement of the emergency exits, you get a ton of legroom in the left window seats by rows 31. These two seats are uniquely spacious as far as legroom goes – due to the placement of the lavatory, seats 32H and 32K do not have a similar luxury of space.
While many make a beeline for these seats when flying in this configuration, I chose not to sit here (despite the seats being available for complimentary selection), for one of a few reasons. Firstly, I’m not particularly tall (I’m about 5’8″), so wouldn’t have had the need for this much legroom; I also don’t like how you can’t look out of the window from seat 31A.
However, the biggest pet peeve I’d have with these seats is that there’s zero under-seat storage, which I value, particularly on a longer flight. Not everyone might feel the same – particularly because you basically get direct aisle access, so can fairly easily access the overhead bins – but the combination of factors meant that I’d have preferred to sit elsewhere.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Seats 31A and 31C
Instead, I chose seat 34A, the left window seat in the last row of the cabin. I generally prefer sitting in the last row of any premium economy class cabin, as you can stay reclined throughout the flight without disturbing the person behind you (and there’s no limitations to recline despite the bulkhead behind), and I also can observe the service flow from my seat. I also had access to two windows, which I considered to be a plus.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Seats 34A and 34C
Speaking of recline, the seat had a very decent amount of it, and I certainly felt comfortable in the recline position. Don’t be fooled – this is an enhanced economy class seat, as opposed to a lazy-Z recliner – though that’s in line with industry standards, and the padding and fold-up legrest made the seat very comfortable.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Recline
Shorter passengers like me will also be able to take full advantage of the bicycle-style fold-down footrest located by the seat in front (Cathay Pacific only added legrests to non-bulkhead seats later on, so these footrests used to be the only way you could support your feet). Seat pitch is an industry-leading 40 inches (this was increased from 38 when they installed legrests); this is plenty spacious when seated (even if the person in front is reclined), but still feels tight when you need to clamber over the person next to you with the aisle seat in front reclined.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Footrest
A bi-fold tray table folded out of the armrest between seats. It wasn’t the sturdiest tray table in the world – the end of the tray table didn’t latch on to the other armrest like Cathay Pacific’s newer premium economy class seat does – though I didn’t have any issues using it to eat or work, even during turbulent moments of the flight.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Tray Table
There’s also a little side table, as well as a cocktail table that folds out. I would almost never use the cocktail table – less because Cathay Pacific doesn’t serve cocktails, and more because I’m dead sure I’d accidentally knock over whatever I placed there – though the design is quite nifty. There’s not quite enough space to comfortably prop up an open laptop while eating (unless you have a seatmate who’s either generous or in a deep sleep), though there’s more than enough space for a charging phone.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cocktail Table
Speaking of charging, a USB and mini-DIN port were located next to the personal TV screen. There’s no USB-C charging here in this older-generation seat, though there is one universal 110V power port for each passenger located between seats under the armrest (not pictured).
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy USB and mini-DIN port
The personal TV screen isn’t the highest-quality, and the touchscreen control is fairly unresponsive, though there is a remote next to the armrest shall your TV screen completely fail to respond. And yes, excitingly Cathay Pacific’s 777s do feature a belly camera, though unfortunately no tail camera.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Entertainment Screen
Here’s an element that does set Cathay Pacific’s premium economy class seat apart (no matter which generation seat you’re flying) – a little storage nook below the TV screen to store pens, a wallet, a watch, a phone, or any other small item. I found this so handy when emptying my pockets before getting some sleep.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Storage Nook
This isn’t the newest seat in the market – perhaps I would’ve appreciated a USB-C port or a small reading light that didn’t flood the cabin. However, this premium economy seat really does cover all the bases of a good premium economy seat – it gives as comfortable of a sleeping surface possible for someone sitting upright, and features some good storage options as well. Cathay Pacific set the standard for premium economy class when this seat was first introduced in 2011, and it still holds its own 12 years later.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Lavatory
Cathay Pacific’s four-class 777s feature a dedicated lavatory in premium economy class, located by the right side in front of seats 32H and 32K. The lavatory itself is standard for a 777, though it’s nice that there’s a dedicated premium economy class lavatory, given that most airlines (including Cathay Pacific on other aircraft) just direct passengers to economy class lavatories.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Lavatory
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Economy Class
Unfortunately there’s no easy way to access the dedicated premium economy class lavatory if you’re seated on the left side of the cabin, since there’s no galley directly between economy and premium economy class (or between premium economy and business class, for that matter). You have to head past the galley behind the 73-seat forward economy class cabin, where there’s a lavatory directly behind on the left side.
I’ve flown Cathay Pacific’s 10-abreast economy class before. It’s not the widest seat out there, though you do get good padding and storage space, which puts it above some of the competition for this 13-hour flight.
Cathay Pacific 777 Economy Class
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Amenities
Back in premium economy class, I found a good-sized pillow (this pillow was rough on one side and smooth on the other, similar to what the airline used to offer in business class a few years ago). I was also happy to find a full-sized, quilted duvet at my seat – this was definitely an upgrade over the scratchy blankets that some airlines offer in premium economy (and even in business class). These amenities were very similar to what I’d experienced flying Cathay Pacific’s A350 premium economy last in 2020, and I was as pleasantly surprised to see them on this flight as I was then.
Both of these were comfortable, and among the best I’ve had in premium economy.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Pillow and Duvet
There was also a noise-cancelling headset. I’ve definitely used better headsets before, though this was also a delight to see in premium economy class.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Headphones
There was also an amenity kit. Since my last flight in Cathay Pacific’s premium economy, I’ve kept the Hong Kong-branded pouch as my main cables bag, as I like the design so much. This one was Beijing branded – I wonder if that says anything about the future direction of the company’s management? It featured basic amenities I’d hope for on a flight, such as socks, eyeshades, a dental kit, and earplugs.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Amenity Kit
Also at my seat was a bottle of water, which I appreciated.
Cathay Pacific hits it out of the park with amenities in premium economy – there are airlines I’ve flown in longhaul business class with less extensive amenities.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Pre-Departure Service
At my seat I found a menu.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Menu
Cathay Pacific serves pre-departure beverages in glasses in premium economy, but they had run out of champagne by the time they got to my seat. The flight attendant serving my aisle proceeded to get me a paper cup, and gave me the heftiest pour of champagne I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t mind – by 12:30 PM on a Monday morning, I’d had more champagne than I typically would over the course of a longhaul flight in business class.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Champagne
Taking Off from Heathrow Airport
Boarding finished just short of the 12:20 PM mark, about when the flight was about to leave. Cathay Pacific doesn’t joke around when they limit award redemption opportunities on this lucrative London-Hong Kong route – this awkwardly-timed August departure was packed to the brim in all cabins.
The captain came onto the PA, and his pre-departure spiel was brilliant – he mentioned that there were three (!) other pilots flying the plane, that Heathrow was particularly busy, and that our departure slot was scheduled at 35-40 minutes after our scheduled departure time. After making it clear that ATC and Heathrow were liable for our late departure, he then said that he’d let ATC know we were ready to “sneak out of Heathrow a little earlier”, and would make up for lost time in the air, getting to Hong Kong “as Britishly as possible”.
Virgin Atlantic 787 at Heathrow Airport
We ended up rocketing off runway 09R at 12:50 PM, with views of Terminal 5 and rows of British Airways aircraft, before veering left on a huge 270° turn as we began our southbound journey to Hong Kong.
Takeoff from Heathrow Airport
I did turn on the outside camera briefly, though unless you really like clouds, you won’t get much out of the low-resolution camera on Cathay Pacific’s 777s.
Cruising out of Heathrow Airport
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy WiFi
Not long after we reached cruising altitude, I connected to Cathay Pacific’s WiFi, which was charged as follows:
- US$9.95 (HK$77.5/£7.90) for a one-hour pass
- US$19.95 (HK$155/£15.83) for a full-flight pass
I purchased a full-flight pass, which was fast when working well – though service was intermittent throughout some areas of Eastern Europe, and much slower over China. Still, it’s nice to have no data caps, and I was able to switch between devices.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Meal Service
The cabin lights were turned fully on after takeoff, in anticipation for the meal service.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cabin
The menu, which I found at my seat during boarding, read as follows:
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Food menu
The drinks menu read as follows:
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Drinks Menu
Let me point out that it’s super generous to have three separate food options in premium economy – three options of red and white wine were appreciated as well, though not a lot was going on as far as non-alcoholic beverages.
In addition to an “international” selection of beer (which I didn’t ask for – apologies), they had their Betsy pale ale on offer, which I couldn’t pass up. They also have Gweilo craft beer, a Hong Kong branded-beer. I had the chance to try their (fairly nice) Betsy beer during a drinks run served 45 minutes after takeoff.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Betsy Beer
Very shortly after this, I was served my main course, a steamed cod dish with mui choy mixed vegetables. This was served with a ham and barley salad appetiser, as well as some fresh fruit for dessert. Okay, maybe there are far more creative desserts out there, though I thought the food quality was very good – the appetiser was outstanding for my tastes, and the fish in the main course was soft and flaky, and the sauce very flavourful.
I will say that the garlic bread from the breadbasket felt too mushy and buttery for my taste, which is a shame, because I know it’s fairly highly acclaimed.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Lunch – Steamed Cod with Mui Choy Mixed Vegetables and Steamed Rice
There was even metal cutlery to boot, and Shirgar butter, for those who (presumably) didn’t indulge in the butter-soaked garlic bread option.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cutlery
My tray didn’t take super long to clear either, which I appreciated.
It was my first time flying Cathay Pacific’s longhaul premium economy, let alone on the route. As far as I was concerned, the meal service was really good, and quite varied. I will say, however, that Jason flew the same route on an A350 a few months ago, and had the exact same menu, down to a T – you might notice the lack of seasonal change if you’re a frequent flyer on this route, which i’m sure many are.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Entertainment System
I’m not the biggest movie watcher on airplanes anymore (especially since there was WiFi on this flight without data caps), though I did note the extensive selection offered by the refreshed IFE interface. You’ll find a plethora of movies and TV shows to watch, including entire seasons of TV shows, so you won’t get bored.
I did find one massive downside – the touschreen function was very unresponsive, and I couldn’t scroll through the screen easily without accidentally clicking on something. I’d say the IFE screen was the main way that this 12-year old hard product wass showing its age.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Entertainment System
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy On-Demand Meal Service
Here’s what sets Cathay Pacific’s premium economy product apart from the competition, and especially their economy class product, since the below options are also available there. You can order a range of hot items on demand between meal services in Cathay Pacific’s premium economy, including cup noodles, egg tarts (on flights departing Hong Kong), and/or a hot wrap (apparently offered on all flights to Hong Kong, though these hadn’t been re-introduced yet on my flight).
These aren’t kept secret – the flight attendants came down the aisle at regular intervals with nicely presented baskets of cup noodles. I was impressed by the branding and packaging (Cathay Pacific branded these cup noodles with their own font and packaging), which felt very intentional – it’s definitely a feature of Cathay Pacific’s premium economy product that they’re proud of.
My cup noodles were delicious, in the most “guilty pleasure” sort of way. These were labelled as chicken flavoured – I’m not sure if there are vegetarian options.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cup Noodles
I was intrigued by the fresh fruit that was listed as available on the menu, wondering if they had some fresh fruit pots going. Upon asking, though, I was just offered “banana?” I said yes, and was amused that I was offered a drink with it.
I decided to have some filter coffee. Theoretically Cathay Pacific partners with Coffee Academics to serve their coffee in premium economy, a premium Hong Kong brand – though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the coffee, given that it was brewed so weakly that I could clearly see the bottom of the cup. Around the same time someone came round with apples, so I grabbed one – all fruit (including the banana) was refrigerated.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Fruit and Coffee Academics Filter Coffee
I decided to have an egg tart on a subsequent flight out of Hong Kong. It wasn’t the flakiest egg tart I’ve ever had, though I really enjoyed the fact that I could have it on a plane:
Egg tarts on some Cathay Pacific premium economy flights
Cathay Pacific’s on-demand service between meals is stellar for premium economy, and makes it fun to fly. I know of a couple of other premium economy products that offer a similar or more extensive mid-flight selection, though there are certainly few.
Cruising and Sunset
I wasn’t the best sleeper on this 12.5-hour daytime flight to Hong Kong, though enjoyed a nice sunset as we routed southbound and avoiding Russian airspace.
Sunset enroute to Hong Kong
I ended up dozing in and out, and probably caught about 3-4 hours of sleep – less than what I’d hoped, though I did feel comfortable throughout the flight. My lack of sleep was more of a function of the awkward early departure time.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Service
I’d say that cabin crew on this flight were efficient, though not friendly across the board. Service in premium economy class can be a mixed bag, and I’d generally hope passengers can feel comfortable sampling the range of ways they can make the most out of their experience, especially when seated in a premium economy product that Cathay Pacific clearly really is investing in.
I pressed the call button a couple of times (either to order cup noodles, a coffee, or the aforementioned fruit selection), and wouldn’t say that I always felt welcome to order whatever I wanted – though my requests were always promptly granted.
Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy Pre-Arrival Meal Service
Around 2.5 hours before landing (~5 AM Hong Kong time), the cabin lights flickered on – there’s no gradual mood lighting on this older-generation aircraft.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Cabin before Landing Meal
Breakfast was a choice between scrambled eggs and egg noodles, and I chose the latter. The dish felt less polished than the post-departure meal, with slightly tough and anemic-looking pork, overly soft and slippery noodles, and just a little bit too much salt for my tastes (and I cook with a good amount of salt) – though I did like having a hot Asian breakfast option.
Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy Pre-Landing Meal – Stir Fried Egg Noodle with Pork and Vegetables
I’ll also note that Jason had the exact same meal on this route in premium economy a few months ago, signalling a general lack of variety between meals (as well as very similar flavour preferences between him and I).
Landing into Hong Kong Airport
Around half an hour before landing, the captain came back onto the PA. There was a similarly colourful announcement, where he welcomed us to a “fine beautiful summer’s morning in Hong Kong, with light wind from the southwest”. He mentioned a visibility of 10 km, and also announced that we’d be landing on Hong Kong Airport’s new third runway, 25R. He gave us a heads up that it’d be a 10-15 minute taxi to the bay, which he’d try to do “as fast and as safely as possible”, before ending with “cabin crew, 35 minutes until landing”.
It was indeed a beautiful day outside, and we caught the tail end of the sunrise.
Initial Descent into Hong Kong Airport
We circled into Hong Kong from the south, before doing an approach into the airport from the east. This meant that we had really cool views over Hong Kong on this slightly cloudy August morning, albeit being slightly obstructed by the fact that we were over the wing.
Landing into Hong Kong Airport
I snuck a view of Hong Kong’s brand new airbridge during our final descent into runway 25R, which I’ve walked through a couple of times.
Landing into Hong Kong Airport
We were wheels-down into Hong Kong Airport at 7:35 AM, and indeed had a 15-ish minute taxi to gate 35, where we parked at 7:50 AM.
Cathay Pacific 777 at Hong Kong Airport
I’d checked in a bag, which unfortunately took a while to arrive – zipping out of immigration at Hong Kong Airport took all of five minutes, though I did have to wait around 25 minutes for my bag to come out.
Conclusion: Cathay Pacific’s 777 Premium Economy
I can’t believe this was my first time flying Cathay Pacific’s 777 premium economy longhaul, since the product was introduced 12 years ago. Many aspects of the experience were as good as I was expecting – the seat was one of the most plush and comfortable premium economy seats I’ve sat in, I loved the in-seat storage, and the amenities were top notch, from the full duvet to the awesome amenity kit. I’ve only flown Cathay Pacific’s premium economy on their A350 once before (during the peak of COVID-19), so on this daytime flight I really got to see their strong inflight offerings, including their on-demand food items. They have reasonably priced WiFi with no data caps to boot.
The flight wasn’t perfect – I felt service wasn’t as friendly as it could be on this premium economy flight (probably less warm than what I’d experienced on similar flights with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways), and some elements of the hard product are showing the product’s age, including the IFE screen. I need to try a few more premium economy products, though I’d be surprised if this wasn’t one of the best premium economy products out there (though probably not the very best).
Virgin Atlantic no longer operates the route between London and Hong Kong, though I think elements of British Airways and Cathay Pacific’s product offerings are neck-and-neck, with Cathay Pacific edging out slightly because of their mid-flight snack offerings. That’s worth a topic for another post.
It’s also worth comparing Cathay Pacific’s 777 and A350 premium economy products. On first impressions I’d say that I found the 777 seat plusher and more comfortable, though the A350 did have much better tech. I’ll save my thoughts for a future comparison post.
What’s your favourite premium economy product?