With both our national Airlines servicing routes to New York via LAX, it’s not hard to see why Australians immediately associate a trip to New York with a stopover on America’s West Coast. I find LAX gruesome at the best of times, and personally couldn’t think of a better way to get to or from NYC, than skipping it all together. This is where Cathay Pacific comes to the party, boarding in Sydney, flying to Hong Kong and then direct to New York. It’s not a route Australians often consider when planning a trip to the East Coast, but one I was keen to experience. Fortunately for me, that experience happened to be in Cathay Pacific Business Class aboard their A330 and Boeing 777, with a taste of The Wing First Class Lounge in between.
Cathay Pacific is one of those airlines you hear a lot about, but need to fly, just to confirm what everyone says. From frequent flyers, to occasional travellers, everyone I’ve spoken to has nothing but good things to say about Cathay Pacific, and following my recent trip I’d have to agree with the consistently positive sentiments. It’s a different type of flying then I’m used to (then many are used I would assume), but once you’ve got used to requesting service, not something I find your typical Australian accepts immediately, it’s a brilliant offering.
On my latest trip to New York I had the pleasure of flying three legs in Cathay Pacific Business Class, followed by a final leg in Premium Economy. It was my first experience flying Premium Economy so I’ll share some thoughts on the product, and its place and value, further in the piece.
I flew as a guest of Cathay Pacific and the ticket I was issued came without lounge access in Sydney or New York. In Sydney, Business Class ticket holders have access to the Qantas Business Class lounge which I’ve been in multiple times and find very crowded and overwhelming. I took the opportunity to check out the American Express Lounge which is small but well appointed, and more relaxing than the Qantas Lounge. In New York I used my One World Sapphire Status to access the British Airways Galleries Lounge. It’s a perfectly acceptable lounge, but nothing to get excited about.
The lounges in Hong Kong are another story altogether, one of the reasons I love travelling via Hong Kong so much. For Business Class ticket holders on One World carriers, you’ve got a tasty selection of lounges from Qantas and Cathay Pacific to choose from. I spent some time in the fantastic Qantas lounge on the way over, and then did a 14 hour layover in Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge on the way back (you can read my review here). Cathay Pacific Business Class passengers have access to The Wing and The Pier’s Business Class Lounges, The Arrival and The Bridge Lounges. My flight was delayed out of Hong Kong, so I checked into The Bridge for some pre flight dinner. It’s a wonderful lounge with countless seating options, a bistro, a bakery, and a huge bar with an extensive drinks menu!
It’s clear from Cathay Pacific’s presence, and quality of lounges at Hong Kong, that their in-flight service and hard product are going to be impressive, and I wasn’t disappointed. In terms of their physical product: seat, bed, storage, drinks, headphones, multimedia and I’d say Cathay Pacific’s Business Class is pretty hard to beat.
Herringbone seating is without doubt my favourite seating arrangement for Business Class. Cathay Pacific utilises reverse herringbone seats in Business Class throughout their long haul fleet, all of which have direct isle access. The seat itself is superb, the perfect balance of comfort, personal space, storage and access to the screen and controls. Cathay’s Studio CX entertainment system is class leading, offering a library of options with a smooth and responsive touch screen or control unit.
Preprogrammed buttons convert the seat to a fully lie flat bed at the touch of a button, and after stowing the screen and armrest, there’s a surprising amount of space to explore the unwind with the Seventy Eight Percent amenities kit. The width of the bed is great, as is the space for your knees, allowing you to sleep with a knee in the air. There’s no mattress for the seat, but the Doonah (blanket) and pillow are excellent, so much so that I slept for 10 hours on the way into New York, and 12 out of the 15.5 hours on the way back.
As I outlined briefly above, it took me a while to get used to the service. When it arrived it was more than happy to help, but I don’t like to request service, I feel like I’m bothering people, and get self conscious about it. Unlike Qantas, Air New Zealand or JAL, outside of dining periods there’s not a lot of activity inside the cabin as staff leave guests to sleep. If like myself, you enjoy having a tipple into the night, constant service requires calling the attendant time and time again. Even in the serving periods I felt everything was quite rushed, and at times struggled to get a glass of wine.
I thought the Australian influenced dishes were prepared, and presented, far better than those I ate coming out of New York. I opted for Chinese dishes the whole way home and they were good, but felt far more reheated than the dishes I ate on the way over (which appeared and tasted more constructed). What I did eat was delicious, especially the Lamb out of Sydney. The wine and whisky selection was also great, making short work of a delightful French Cabernet on both flights, followed by Port with cheese and a few drams of Glenfiddich to send me to sleep.
Whilst there’s no competition between Business and Premium Economy, I’m pleased to be able to share some thoughts on my first Premium Economy experience, especially pegged against Economy. The Premium Economy cabin gets a premium food and drink menu, as well as wider seats with greater reclinability. If you’re flying overnight and require sleep, the additional 8 inches of recline, and space between your seat and the seat in front, makes for a monumental difference between Economy and Premium Economy – I slept for about 5 hours on the last leg.
After 3 legs in Cathay Pacific Business Class, and 1 in Premium Economy I’d like to offer the following tips.
- I couldn’t pick out any real issue with any of the Business Class seats, but would recommend choosing a seat in the forward Business Class Cabin, closer to the front of the plane where there are two toilets.
- In Premium Economy I would recommend picking a seat in the front row. The seats have a leg rest, not a foot rest – that weightlessness makes sleeping easier.
- Request service! After discussing this with my friend in LA he said Cathay Pacific, from his multiple experiences, just does service a bit differently. Don’t be afraid to give the attendants a buzz if you haven’t seen anyone in the cabin for a while!
- If you can snag an extra doonah, folding it and placing it on your bed will turn what is already a great bed into a heavenly mattress.
If I was asked to rank Cathay Pacific Business Class against the various other carriers I’ve flown, I’d have to give it the top spot. I think the main priority for a Business Class product is a great bed, and Cathay Pacific are definitely leading the way in that space. Combine that with a plethora of entertainment options and a great selection of food and drinks and lounges in Hong Kong, it’s virtually impossible not to enjoy minute of your experience.
Head to Cathay Pacific to for more info and bookings.