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FIRST IMPRESSIONS I took a taxi from home to the Airport Express in Central and waited only a few minutes for the train to Hong International Airport, which is about 23 minutes away after stops at Kowloon and Tsing Yi. Cathay Pacific also offers mobile check-in and self check-in kiosks, where you can print your own boarding pass. Passengers can also check in at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations for most major airlines. Cathay Pacific has a bag-drop queue for online check-in passengers and those using the new self check-in kiosks. These are in aisles A and B of the departure hall.
Although I checked in online for an economy class seat (55A), I was able to use my frequent flyer points to secure a last-minute upgrade at the gate. I was allocated seat 15G, which is a right-hand side aisle seat. I therefore had no seat choice but wasn’t complaining.
BOARDING Arriving comfortably early at HKIA and with over an hour to kill, I headed for Cathay’s Pier lounge opposite Gate 1. This was perfect since the flight was leaving from Gate 1. I headed for the gate 25 minutes before the scheduled 0100 departure, where boarding had already commenced.
Cathay has priority boarding for first-class, business class and Marco Polo and Oneworld alliance frequent travellers. On board, I was offered a choice of water, fruit juice or champagne. I settled down and a flight attendant took my jacket. A pilot announcement informed us that the flight would be delayed as tail winds meant we would arrive well before our scheduled landing slot of 0620 at Heathrow. Since this wastes both time and fuel circling above London, this kind of delay is a fairly common occurrence at this time of year.
THE SEAT 15G is an aisle seat in the middle of the first business class cabin on the lower deck. The First class cabin is ahead and the galley and toilets are to the rear. Although Cathay’s new Business class seats have been controversial for some, I certainly can’t complain about the comfort. I was already dozing by the time we took off (just shy of 0200). Once in the air I adjusted the seat to the fully-flat bed. The late take-off helped me get straight to sleep and I only woke three hours before our scheduled arrival, missing the supper service but in time for breakfast. The seat is a little narrow at the feet but otherwise perfectly comfortable. As I went almost straight to sleep I didn’t use the IFE but the spot lamp is useful for reading. I do find the storage space limited on long haul flights as I like to bring a couple of books and an iPod, which invariably end up under the footrest. In any case with nearly a straight eight-hour sleep, I really can’t fault it. You can see the seatplan here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE I’m very much a window-seat boy. Apart from the view, I find it helpful to see sunlight/night time following long-haul flights to adjust the body clock. But this simply doesn’t work on this herringbone configuration since the window is actually behind the window seat itself.
Cathay Pacific has also introduced a pay-for-space option in economy. This allows passengers in economy, who are not part of the relevant frequent flyer programmes, to pay for extra legroom on those all-important bulkhead or emergency exit seats.
THE FLIGHT The supper service option, which I skipped, started with a hot smoked salmon with mixed salad, cherry tomato and creamy Italian dressing. The main courses offered a choice of stir-fried pork with rice or pan-fried fish with tomato concise, garlic mashed potatoes and a selection of vegetables. This would have been followed by a cheese selection, seasonal fruit and a raspberry tart. There was also a light meal choice of leek and potato soup, mixed salad with tuna, fresh berries and the raspberry tart. Champagne was a Billecart-Salmon Brut and the whites were a Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand and a French white from Burgundy. Reds were a choice of a Medoc or a Peter Lehmann Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. There’s also the option of a vintage Port and various whiskies, cognacs, liqueurs and beers – not forgetting the CX signature cocktails and mocktails.
If I’d been peckish mid-flight there was a fishball and ho fun noodle soup. For breakfast there was a choice of omelette with bacon and mushrooms, or dim sum served with chilli sauce. The third option was sun-dried tomato and feta cheese frittata.
ARRIVAL Despite our late take-off we managed to make up quite a bit of lost time and were due to land slightly earlier than scheduled. With Sod’s Law in full operation, we were put in a holding position and landed more or less according to schedule. Disembarkation was done by cabin class and within about five minutes of arriving at the gate we were released into the early morning joys of Heathrow’s Terminal 3.
VERDICT A great service and a great product, but it should be at nearly US$1,600 for an economy class ticket in early December and a further 40,000 AsiaMiles for a one-way upgrade. Flight attendants were friendly and attentive as were the check-in and lounge staff. The flight crew kept us informed of scheduling changes at various points in the flight.
PRICING For flights in January, Cathay Pacific is selling Business Class return tickets for HK$31,613 (US$4,055).
CONTACT cathaypacific.comKenny Coyle