Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class • HKG-TPE-KIX

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class • HKG-TPE-KIX
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Image courtesy: Cathay Pacific
 
This post is part of Project Pacific Circle, a journey of more than 25,000 miles from Orlando to Los Angeles, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

Along the way, I flew on some of the world’s best airlines and shared my thoughts on the ground and in the air. The cash cost for the airfare alone would have been well more than $17,000. Using miles and points, however, I knocked the cost down to around $500. Learn how to travel like I do with PointsAway: The Definitive Guide To Free Flights & Nights.

I’m glad I took the long way.

When looking for flights from Hong Kong to Osaka, I noticed that several flights came in at a shade under four hours but one took nearly six hours. What’s with the extra flight time?

I did some digging and soon discovered that the shorter flights went directly from Hong Kong to Kansai International Airport, while the longer flight stopped in Taipei along the way.

I chose the flight that was two hours longer. Here’s why: Cathay Pacific operates its regionally configured 777s on the direct flight, but actually runs one of its 747s on the flight that stops in Taipei. That means the 777s only feature Cathay’s regional Business Class product, which is most akin to a nice domestic First Class.

Image courtesy: Cathay Pacific
 

The 747, however, features Cathay’s long-haul Business Class, with lie-flat seats and a herringbone configuration that gives each passenger their own area and aisle access. I wouldn’t have an opportunity to try out Cathay Pacific’s long-haul product any other way on this trip but by taking the longer route to Osaka, so I traded an extra couple hours of flying time for the chance to enjoy a sportier ride.

Nuts & Bolts

As was the case with Thai Airways, I had the opportunity to fly on the Upper Deck of this 747. There were 21 Business Class seats in total upstairs. While on Thai Airways, seating upstairs was arranged into a 2×2 configuration, the pod-like herringbone configuration here meant every passenger had direct aisle access:

This is a nifty setup, except for a couple small issues. First, passengers are required to use a 3-point harness during takeoff and landing, as you can see in this better close-up of the seat:

Second, the seat angle means it’s nearly impossible to look out the window, and even closing and opening the shades around takeoff and landing time can be a bit difficult. Otherwise, this seating arrangement is fantastic, providing a tremendous amount of room and privacy to each passenger. I haven’t flown on a reverse-herringbone configuration yet, but it sounds like the only possible improvement to this setup outside of all-inclusive suites. In a reverse-herringbone configuration, each seat has its own private space like this, but seats face the windows rather than the aisle, while still providing the ability to access the aisle.

Each seat was equipped with a universal power outlet and, seat control and remote.

Seats could lie fully flat, with the seat kissing the small ottoman up front to form a bed. While a bit snug from a width perspective, it’s a stretch to find anything to complain about here. The seat is comfortable, the lie-flat configuration is long enough to comfortably fit someone a bit over six feet in height and the reclining positions are about as comfortable as they could be. It’s possible to raise the leg rest up even when the seat isn’t fully reclined, which means you can sit up and stretch out with your feet on the ottoman even more comfortably than with just the ottoman alone.

The screen is the one true oddity of this seating configuration. The screen is locked into the left side wall and can be pulled and pushed into a viewing position. The only problem is the position restricts access to the aisle, which also makes it difficult for flight attendants to provide food and drink service, with it sitting in the way of the tray table. My crew had little issue, but I could see how it could present a problem, and I often pushed the display out of the way a bit to make things easier on them.

During the flight, I watched a couple episodes of Parks And Recreation that were disappointingly in standard definition with a 4:3 presentation, despite the fact that the display was an HD widescreen. This was limited to Parks & Rec, though, as later episodes of Sherlock filled the whole screen in HD. There were over 500 TV episodes and well over 100 movies to choose from. In addition to films like Noah and Captain America already seen offered on other flights, a few new titles like Divergent were also available. There were also many more Asian cinema and TV choices available than on other flights thus far.

Food & Drinks

Champagne was offered prior to take-off for the first leg of our journey. After takeoff, menus were distributed:

I appreciated the fact that Cathay Pacific offered a couple signature drinks in addition to a basic list of wines and liquors. I don’t appreciate most wines much, but am typically more interested in a good cocktail. I decided to try the Cloud Nine, which included vodka, cointreau and Sprite. It took a few minutes to arrive when I ordered one, but that’s because one of the attendants made it from scratch, including a sugared rim and mint leaf to complete the package. It had a great taste and was very refreshing.

It wasn’t at all dehydrating as some alcoholic drinks on flights can be and worked well with each food I tried. I felt bad ordering extras, knowing that they take much more time for the crew to make than simply pouring another glass of wine, but had a second in lieu of champagne before taking off from Taipei after our stopover and one more with the second meal service. The final one came with a kind request to fill out a survey about the day’s flight, which I was more than happy to fill out to help balance out being more high maintenance on my drink requests than other passengers.

For our meal on the way to Taipei, garnishments and chilled silverware were served first, including the cheesecake dessert and some fruit meant as an appetizer. Shortly after, an attendant rolled a cart through the cabin with all of the main courses. This was more expeditious than taking orders and serving one by one, though I felt bad for passengers closer to the back of the cabin who probably were left with limited choices and more lukewarm food. I chose the chicken from the meal cart. It had a good level of spice to it – not spicy, per se, but not bland by any means. The rice it came with tasted kind of dried out, as if it had been steamed just a little too long. The cheesecake was a nice dessert, though, and the fruit were fresh.

I barely finished the meal before it was time to land in Taipei. Once on the ground, I discovered I was the only passenger on the Upper Deck remaining on board for the continuing flight to Osaka. We were running about a half-hour behind leaving Hong Kong. Had we been earlier, I might have had the opportunity to leave the plane and check out Taipei’s airport before reboarding. Due to the tight turnaround, the crew requested I stay on board and offered me some rice snacks an another drink (Cloud Nine, please!).

It was interesting to watch the cleaning crew go about their work swiftly before more passengers boarded. This time, a family of four from Japan were among the Upper Deck passengers. It was obviously the first time their young daughters had been in such a nice cabin, so it was fun to watch them show some of the excitement I felt on the inside.

Taipei to Osaka

After takeoff, another meal service was offered. This time, I had a shrimp appetizer followed by a main entree of fish. Paper menus weren’t handed out prior to this meal, so I’m not sure precisely what the fish was; I think perhaps a wahoo. Both were fine but nothing particularly memorable.

The best part of the meal was definitely dessert: Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Ice Cream:

I spent most of the flight kicked back, enjoying my outstanding seat and watching an episode of Sherlock.

Once on the ground, I spoke with an expat who was also on the flight and now living in Osaka. He did me the great favor of pointing me toward a Wi-Fi hotspot rental kiosk at the airport. I’d originally intended to get a SIM card while in Japan, but with unlimited data and LTE speeds at less than $10 per day, I was more than happy to carry an extra device around that I could conveniently return at Tokyo Narita on my way home. I never lost signal on the device the entire time and thanks to a USB battery pack I was carrying with me, it only lost power once, for a few minutes on my walk back to the hotel at the end of the day.

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad I took this flight to get a taste of Cathay Pacific’s long-haul service rather than jump on one of the more sensible direct flights in one of their regional seats. Service was excellent, the hard product is outstanding and the food was fine, supplemented by great drink service. This flight was one of the best deals of the trip, in my book, especially since I was able to enjoy The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s exclusive lounge in Hong Kong, for a few hours before the flight.

Paid for with cash, this flight would have set me back $1,974.40. I was able to use 20,000 Avios and $40.18 instead, bringing down to Earth the cost of a flight that stands among my favorites for the whole trip. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with Cathay Pacific on a longer journey in the future.

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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