First in Business. In a unique turn on the usual Cathay Pacific Business Class, last month, I flew from Hong Kong to Paris on the Boeing 777-300ER. At the time, First was not on sale on the route, which made for an intriguing loophole. With Cathay’s First cabin back on-sale, this makes for a good time to visit the excellent experience offered.
How much was the trip?
I paid 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for this trip from Taipei to Paris via Hong Kong. I also hold a pot of Alaska Airlines miles, which represent better value at 45,000 miles from Hong Kong to Paris. However, connecting itineraries are not available on Cathay Pacific awards to Europe with Alaska Airlines, which would’ve complicated my transit due to the entry requirements of Hong Kong at the time. Using Avios is a lot more expensive…both for taxes and points.
Transiting at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)
Hong Kong’s airport operated a segregated system for passengers during my departure in November 2022. Passengers originating from Hong Kong or who are transiting to China are segregated in the ‘green’ zone of the airport. Passengers transiting through Hong Kong and who are travelling onwards to other destinations are in the ‘orange’ zone. This system ended in January 2023. [Map source: South China Morning Post].
The impact? It means that transit passengers with oneworld Emerald status, or those in First, cannot access the excellent ‘The Wing’ First Class Lounge featuring the cabanas. Instead, all eligible transit passengers will have to ‘slum it’ in ‘The Pier’ Business lounge – of course, that is in jest since it is still excellent.
A review of ‘The Pier’ can be read here.
While this is disappointing, with the rapid lifting of restrictions in both the Mainland and Hong Kong S.A.R., I suspect this zonal system will disappear soon due to the increased prevalence of Covid-19 in China.
During my lengthy layover, I visited both the new Chase Sapphire Lounge, reviewed here, and Cathay Pacific’s ‘The Pier’, which will be reviewed soon.
Surprisingly HKIA have made some investment in the facilities during the pandemic including these large screens at the boarding gates. While not entirely necessary, they are quite a bit clearer than the regular boarding screens you get at Heathrow, for example. They display information such as the much cooler temperatures in Paris.
This was not ‘Business’ as usual on this Cathay Pacific flight. Effectively, the First cabin was declassified and made an extension of the Business cabin. Passengers could not reserve a seat in the First cabin online but if they wished to be on a lengthy hold, they could reserve a seat over the phone or on Cathay’s WhatsApp chat service. Initially I selected 1D before opting for Seat 1A in the First cabin.
How did this hybrid cabin meld up? Here’s how the various service elements looked like at a high level:
- Hard product: First
- Turndown and bedding: First
- Food and beverages: Business
- Amenity kit: Business
- Cabin crew: First
- Pyjamas: none (usually offered to First passengers)
This makes for an interesting experience but this felt more like a First light rather than a Business plus experience – which I’ll go onto explain.
The Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class seat design is starting to look a little dated but it is holding up well in part because this aircraft is maintained well. On embarkation, the seat already featured three plush Bamford cushions – on of which is stuck with Velcro to the headrest. These are comfortable and of high quality. I couldn’t quite get over how wide this seat is and the sense of space it offers.
While Business cabins have improved remarkably over the past decade, the one thing that is rarely beaten in First is the unrestricted space for your legs. The ability to turn over or not hit your feet in a footwell is a privilege and part of what makes this seat great.
Besides the size of the seat, it has an array of features which make this an excellent space to relax in. A small display for the control of the seat can be found on the side console. This allows passengers to recline the seat into bed mode, turn on the personal lights as well as enabling the massage function (which, like most seats, was quite weak). To the right are three dedicated function buttons for the lights and seat.
As we departed Hong Kong late in the evening, an express Business Class supper service was served on this flight. While some may be a little frustrated by the less extensive service, I liked it. A few years back, I had a late departure from Singapore on Qatar Airways and found that the three course service made it uncomfortable to get some rest on the flight. Cathay Pacific’s approach made sense to me. Additionally, the supper service took around 30 minutes allowing me to maximise sleeping opportunity on this 14 hour flight to Paris.
I had the opportunity to pre-select my meal 24 hours prior to the flight. This is not like Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook service, where you can select from a range of off-menu items that should be loaded for your flight, but instead it just reserves what is already on the menu. I assume this ensures that Cathay Pacific can more accurately load the flight, but it is less impressive than the service Singapore Airlines offers.
Here’s the Supper menu from this flight:
Cathay Pacific’s First cabin features an 18.5 inch high definition display which featured the newest iteration of the CX Studio system. The display sits off-centre and is mounted on the cupboard area but can be viewed from gate to gate. It does slide out to be directly opposite after take-off and during landing.
While this was strictly not a Cathay Pacific First review, it was great to be able to encounter this unique First-Business hybrid service. While the design is aging, the product is still versatile and provides a leading experience for travellers who opt for this on journeys to Asia. The quality of service provided by the crew was second to none, despite the true hardship Cathay’s crew have gone through over the past three years with quarantine measures. Small touches like the thank you card before departure as well as their personal service was greatly appreciated – it was clear this crew were trained to First standards. Food was not the highlight of this journey, but I’ll take the compromise on that considering the extensive food range offered pre-flight in their lounges and the need to balance out digestion for sleep.
Like our Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class review? You can find more flight reviews here.