Cabin: Regional Business
Route: Hong Kong-Osaka Kansai
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Cathay Pacific’s current regional business class is basically a spruced up international premium economy but with enough room to slip past the passenger next to you if they aren’t reclining and if they’re relatively short.
Seat and Amenities
On this Boeing 777-300, the layout is 2-3-2 (one seat fewer in each row than premium economy), and the seats have surprisingly held their comfort level quite well, particularly in the Z-position when reclining.
Unusually for your 6’3” reporter, the legrest supported my legs properly rather than hitting me either behind the knees or in the Achilles tendon, and I enjoyed relaxing with a movie.
I was, however, struck by the necessity for airlines not to build hard product choices around any one period of personal entertainment devices: not only was the round iPod eXport socket still present (alongside a low-powered USB outlet), the centrally located mobile phone holders were far too small for modern devices, looking like they could just about hold an iPhone 5, but not much more.
It really surprised me how out of date a cabin without mood-lighting feels these days, though. The beige cabin lighting felt truly ancient, as if I was living through a sepia filter.
Customer service on board
The crew on board were very pleasant but were stretched by the size of the cabin, particularly around offering drinks refills during the dinner service.
As Cathay rethinks its dining concept, it needs to figure out how to solve that: is it by dedicating specific crew to a drinks run? Larger or supplementary pours?
And in general, there’s this weird thing with Cathay Pacific service where every time I board one of their flights the crew seem to be very numerous yet frantically active moving things around the galley or dashing between cabins without paying attention to passengers on the way who might like their coat hung up or a welcome drink.
I don’t seem to be the only one who notices this, and I’m not sure why it is, but it also represents an area for improvement by the airline.
Cathay’s inflight meal was disappointing.
The highlight was the chilled seafood starter and the soba noodles, but the main course was very poor. Not only did all but one option run out, the remaining doggy-dish western chicken was cold by the time it reached my seat in the last row, and even the fresh-from-the-oven one the crew brought after I mentioned it was deeply boring.
Having launched its new long-haul dining programme, Cathay needs to figure out how to bring its medium-haul service up to snuff.
Highlights, however, were the availability of non-alcoholic beverages on the flight, with the Cathay Delight kiwi mocktail making a welcome appearance alongside the option of coconut water, a trendy but particularly delicious choice in the air.
Cathay has done some upgrading work on the inflight entertainment product, notably with what was a very quickly reacting Panasonic eX2 IFE system, branded by the airline as StudioCX, although the screen quality wasn’t superb.
As usual, it was mostly the general Hollywood fare, and I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians with dinner.
But Cathay needs to figure out what kind of airline it is when it comes to the incessant shilling of duty-free. On the IFE, an advert adjacent to the “next” button impeded use, the pre-show ads were excessive.
An ad was also handed out with the landing card like junk mail, crew wandered through the cabin waving physical signs and calling out “ duty-free”, and my movie was so frequently interrupted with trilingual English-Cantonese-Japanese spruiks for inflight shopping that I missed entire scenes.
Unfortunately, no inflight Internet was available.
The airline is supposedly well advanced in its search for its next-generation regional business class seat, but this product will be sticking around for a while.
I think the question for most passengers is: if there’s a better-timed flight for a short leg, should I take this or take an inconvenient flight on one of the “strategically underutilized” long-haul aircraft.
In my view, for this flight blocked at 3h30, it was just about fine. Much longer than that, though, or at a time of day when I really fancied a few hours’ sleep in a flatbed, and I’d pick the better seats.
John Walton was a guest of Cathay Pacific, but as ever all editorial observations are his own.
Route: Manchester to Hong Kong
Seat and Amenities
The reverse 1-2-1 layout provides exclusive aisle access to all
guests. The seat is strategically angled away from the aisle and is surrounded
by a large modern shell to ensure maximum privacy. A number of smart
storage spaces are also provided to store your shoes and a special pocket
specifically designed for smart phones. The flat bed extends to 190cm and
provides exceptional comfort. There’s also an extension cushion that adds
extra width to the bed and is designed to support your knees when
sleeping on your side.
Customer service on board
I’ve always found the Cathay service very prompt. Once the crew are released from
their seats they commence the service without delay. Entrees are quickly cleared and
the main course followed in a timely manner.
The cabin crew are professional and very efficient workers.
The sophisticated A350 aircraft has been complimented well by a new look menu.
They’ve made some significant changes to their menu to transition from traditional
Chinese cuisine to modern, visually spectacular and tasty offerings. Very close
attention has been paid to the plating and presentation of the dish.
Entrée – Smoked eel with golden beetroot tartare, horseradish crème fraiche and eye catching, bright red beetroot pearls.
The dish was very carefully plated, was fresh and very tasty. Exceptional flavours
inspired by modern Chinese cooking and visually exciting.
Main Course: Grilled Pork fillet with savoy cabbage, baby carrots, herb roasted
carrots and Calvados sauce. A very generous portion that featured fantastic flavours and was accompanied by an artistic micro salad.
Notable inflight experience changes exclusive to the A350 includes a touchscreen
entertainment remote and multi view aircraft camera’s from your personal 18.5 inch
HD screen. The updated Studio CX entertainment system is comprehensive and
caters for customers of all ages and nationalities. I was impressed by the live
streaming of CNN and BBC news networks.
In a company first, the Cathay 350’s are fitted with WiFi. The Wifi operates at
impressive speed and the connection was flawless. I used the WiFi to stream my
experience without interruption. You can fill out a survey, which will give you an
hours free Internet or for around USD 20 you can stay connected for the duration for
Row 20 and 21 are by far the best rows in the Business cabin. These two rows are
nestled between a bulkhead that separates the rest of the business class in front and
premium economy behind. It felt like a very intimate and exclusive zone. Avoid row
11 D and G which are located adjacent the toilet.
Route: Hong Kong to Perth
I remember as a child thinking that Cathay economy was amazing. The seats were a nice colour, the kids packs cool and the cabin crew incredibly presented. Fast forward a lot of years and it was nice to see that too not much had changed.
Seat and AmenitiesThe seat pitch was a comfortable 32inch and even when the seat in front reclined ( approximately 5 inch) I still had plenty of leg room. On each seat was a blanket and pillow. Basic amenity kits are available but only on request. On long haul flights these would be provided to all passengers. This was definitely one of the comfier economy seats I have experienced.
Customer service on boardThe crew came around regularly with drinks and were efficient during the service. Again, as in business class, they weren't overly friendly like they might be on a western carrier but there was absolutely nothing to fault,
CateringStraight after takeoff a drink and nuts service was offered. I was looking forward to a hot towel service that I associate with superior carriers however there was none on this eight hour flight. Meals were served 2 hours after takeoff with drinks and warm rolls at the same time. The serving sizes have definitely decreased from 7 years ago but there was an additional snack service before landing and simple snacks were available between meals on request. Menu cards were also provided which I think is a nice touch in economy class.
Inflight entertainmentEasy to use touch screens are found on the back of each seat and offer plenty of variety. The screens were large in size and clear. In seat power was also available. WiFi is not yet equipped on these aircraft.
Extra informationCathay remain a solid full-service carrier for economy passengers. With efficient service, good food, comfortable seats and an in-flight entertainment system that could entertain for days I would have no hesitation to fly with them again.
Cabin: Business Class
Route: London to Hong Kong
When an airline dedicates half of an aircraft’s space to Business Class and that Business class is completely full it’s generally a good sign that you are about to have a great experience. Cathay Pacific is one of only a few airlines to have maintained an award winning full service in-flight product and virtually flawless safety rating over the last few decades making it one of AirlineRatings.com’s favourite.