How does one being writing about a Business Class “Business” in-flight experience? This is “dilemma” I faced when I sat down to write about my recent Cathay Pacific Business Class flight from Hong Kong to London in May this year. I was travelling to London, courtesy of Cathay Pacific and in a class of travel well removed from the Economy cabin I generally find myself in when flying out of my own pocket. The advantages of flying Business are obvious to most, even those who haven’t flown Business before – lounge access, priority boarding, a generous baggage allowance, a big comfy chair, room to move, nicer food, better alcohol. The purpose of a piece like this isn’t then, to convince you that you should fly Business – everyone knows that Business is better than Economy and the only thing that stops most of us doing it is the cost. It won’t come as any surprise to you that if it wasn’t for the fact that Cathay Pacific had comped my flights, I’d be sitting at the back of the plane (well maybe Premium Economy if I’d found a good deal).
Generally speaking there are those who fly Economy, who might be planning to fly Business on one special occasion, such as my wife Lauren and I did when we went on our honeymoon, or those who are lucky enough to fly Business with some regularity. Regardless of which category you find yourself in, the relevant questions is “what is it like to fly long haul Business Class with Cathay Pacific?”
Cathay Pacific has always been one of my favourite airlines, and is always towards the top of my list when considering who to fly with internationally (price is of course always the number one thing that I consider!). I’ve flown Cathay Pacific Economy and Premium Economy several times and have always been particularly impressed by the in-flight service. When it comes to good service I’ve found that airlines fall into two camps. There’s the casual, lighthearted approach you find on airlines like Virgin and Air New Zealand and the super professional rigid yet effective approach you find on airlines like Sinagpore Airlines. What I like about Cathay Pacific is that the service falls somewhere between the two. You get the efficiency and professionalism tempered with just the right amount of casualness. It’s something that’s consistent across all classes of Cathay Pacific cabins.
Before take-off you’re offered a hot towel and champagne or juice, before being greeted by the cabin manager. The staff are always there to help but are never “in the way”. A good example is that there’s a little button that you can press which indicates to staff that you don’t want to be disturbed. On some airlines you’ll always be woken up for meal service, which isn’t fantastic when you’re not hungry and in the middle of a good sleep.
The Cathay Pacific Business cabin on the Boeing 777-300ER (twin-jet) (B77W) that flies from Hong Kong to London (and back) is set up in a 1-2-1 formation which creates a generous amount of personal space. The relatively small number of seats split into two distinct sections helps to enhance the feeling of privacy. For additional privacy, the hinged door that holds the headphones can be swung open to a 90 degree angle, forming a further physical barrier with the person next to you if you’re sat in the centre row. Colour wise it’s light grey and green, keeping in line with Cathay Pacific’s branding. When it comes to cleanliness, everything is as expected – nice and clean.
The seat is really what flying long haul Business is all about. The ability to fully recline your seat and actually get some sleep means long flights breeze by and you arrive at your destination fully rested. When fully reclined, the seat has dimensions of about 1.9m x 0.7m and lies completely flat – no unconformable “dips” like you find on some other airlines. Even the provided pillow is surprisingly good, better than that found in many hotels in fact. I timed my flight and sleeping so that I woke up at around 5:00am. When I arrived in London at 6:20am I was awake, alert, and had managed to avoid jetlag completely. The ability to properly sleep is the number on reason you fly Business. The seat cabin also contains multiple areas where you can store personal items, a flip out table, a 15-inch flip-out screen for viewing the entertainment system and a footrest at the end.
Next to the seat is a small multi-function storage ‘cupboard’ that both holds the provided noise-cancelling headphones and, as mentioned earlier, acts as a privacy shield when the door is open. The provided connectivity is extensive with a dedicated power point in each seat, as well as a USB port, and iPod and AV connectors so you can watch your own videos through the entertainment system.
All in all it highlights one of the other major advantage of flying Business – you can be very productive. Plug in your laptop, spread it out with some papers and comfortably type without having your arms cramped at a weird angle, worrying that the person in front of you might suddenly recline their seat and break your laptop. Compared to Economy, the amount of work that you can get done on a long haul Business flight is astounding.
In-flight entertainment is delivered via the StudioCX system which offers a wide variety of on-demand movies, television shows and audio programs all of which rotate on a monthly basis to ensure that the content remains fresh and current. The range of programs available is on par with other airlines and covers all of the major genres and styles.
The first thing that surprised me about the Business Class food, which is prepared on the ground and then heated on the plane, was that it incorporates locally sourced, sustainable ingredients that are in season. This was particularly evident when it came to the fresh fruit and summer berries that were served. For the cooked meals you don’t really notice so much. On the Hong Kong to London leg passengers have the option of and Asian or Western meal. For a flight this long, you’ll get 2 meals – in my case dinner and breakfast. What’s nice is that many of the dishes are brought out on a tray so you can choose which looks the most appealing to you rather than have to take a gamble based on the menu alone.
The star of the breakfast is the Asian breakfast, which consists of a selection of Dim Sum. While the dumplings aren’t exactly at the level you’d get on the ground in Hong Kong, and are a bit bland on their own, they pack a good level of flavour once topped with some of the provided chilli sauce. The main let down is that the dumpling skins are more chewy than you would expect. Being able to get freshly brewed Illy coffee on board is a plus too – a step above the usual airplane brew but not exactly cafe level.
For dinner, a selection breads are wheeled out for you to choose from. With the smell of freshly toasted garlic bread permeating the entire cabin, I don’t know how anyone could go for anything else! When choosing your main dish go for the Szechuan chicken with chilli sauce. The rice is perfectly cooked and the chicken actually tastes like real chicken with a nice kick and flavour. There’s a rotating selection of cheese on offer for afterwards and a choice of chocolate pralines.
Drinks wise, there’s a good selection of wines on offer including a featured winery which changes on a regular basis. It’s all selected to match the food and there’s a good variety. Unfortunately the beer selection doesn’t receive the same attention – more airlines need to take a leaf out of Alaskan Airline’s book and start offering proper craft beer on flights.
Oh and if you get hungry outside of meal times, there’s a range of snacks including noodle soup, chocolates, cookies, and fresh fruit available at all times.
The provided amenity kits are in the form of a small clutch and are designed by Hong Kong’s Seventy Eight Percent. They contain a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, socks, ear plugs, and Jurlique Balancing Day Cream, Citrus Hand Cream and Lip Care Balm. I’m one of those people who always forgets to pack ear plugs and toothpaste in my hand luggage, and ends up getting that gross feeling over my teeth a few hours after eating on the flight. Being able to brush my teeth before going to bed on the plane is fantastic. Of course you could pack what you need in your hand luggage, but it’s nice not having to think about it, and to have a backup in case you forget!
As stated at the beginning, the purpose of this piece wasn’t to get you to consider flying Business, but rather to highlight why you should consider flying Cathay Pacific if you are flying Business. Even when the City Lane team and I are paying for our flights (which is most of the time) Cathay Pacific is one of the airlines we put at the top of our list for consideration. They simply get the big things that you expect, and the little things you don’t expect, right. It’s no coincidence that they are considered one of the world’s best airlines. Additionally if you’re flying from Australia, or anywhere else that requires a connecting flight to get to London, you can’t go wrong flying through Hong Kong – the recently renovated Cathay Pacific Pier Business Class Lounge is one of the best lounges in the world, and Hong Kong International Airport is consistently voted as one of the best in the world.
Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, offering a choice of flying in economy, premium economy or business class. Cathay has at four flights daily from Sydney, three flights daily from Melbourne, 11 flights a week from Brisbane, four flights weekly from both Cairns and Adelaide, and ten flights weekly from Perth.) From its Hong Kong hub, the airline offers five daily flights to London. From 2 September 2016, Cathay Pacific will launch a four-times-weekly service to Gatwick (LGW) operated with A350 aircraft, bringing it to a total of 39 flights a week between Hong Kong and London – more than any other carrier. In addition to serving London, Cathay Pacific also offers a four-times-weekly service between Hong Kong and Manchester in the United Kingdom.