A Guide to Flying Business Class with Cathay Pacific
When you’re sipping Champagne in slippers and eating smoked salmon and scallops to start, you know this isn’t an ordinary flight.
It turns out, in Cathay Pacific Business Class, the much talked about idea of “legroom” is actually pretty meaningless. As we await take-off with the seat in the regulation upright position, even fully outstretched, my feet can’t reach the ottoman in front (which will later form part of the fully flatbed). And while I can see where it begins, the would-be footrest extends so far forward it actually disappears into the shadows of the bulkhead in front of me.
In terms of width, a generous 1-2-1 configuration on this Airbus A350-900 means the seat is incredibly spacious in every direction, and compares very favourably to some First Class seats. The outside armrest also lowers completely, even in the upright position, all adding to a sense of space, while the upper outer wing of the seat extends forward about a foot on the outside, hiding my neighbour across the aisle from view and bringing a little privacy to each seat.
Cathay Pacific's palatial Business Class seat - (Image: Phil Murray)
Cathay Pacific's palatial Business Class seat(Image: Phil Murray)
While you might think I’ve said quite enough about the seat already, I haven’t even mentioned the storage! A large compartment on the inside of the seat, big enough for a pair of hiking boots – and then some – is padded and upholstered so it blends seamlessly with the seat when lowered to extend the width of the flat bed.
Additional storage at eye level conceals a pouch for smaller personal items, a mirror, USB charging port and some noise-cancelling headphones. Not to mention some welcome goodies – a bottle of Evian water and a Jurlique amenity kit, replete with socks, eye mask, ear plugs, dental kit, lip balm, citrus hand cream and moisture-replenishing day cream.
Handy storage, USB charging port, headphones and a full Jurlique amenity kit - (Image: Phil Murray)
Handy storage, USB charging port, headphones and a full Jurlique amenity kit(Image: Phil Murray)
Most noteworthy of all, possibly because this is first time these have been provided to me in the air, I spy a pair of complimentary slippers. Given the warnings I have been given by cabin crew over the years about aircraft floors mid-flight, these prove a welcome comfort later when I pop to the loo!
Over the Tannoy, the Captain shares a few flight status details before inviting us, with some confidence, to sit back “relax and enjoy the Cathay Pacific service”.
We’ve busied ourselves taking pictures of all aspects of the seat as we settle in and, as we do, we get our first taste of that personal service.
“Welcome, Mr Murray. Would you like me to take a picture of both of you?” Our friendly photographer tells us her name is Mary and that she’ll be taking care of us today. It’s clear we’re in good hands.
A welcome glass of Champagne - (Image: Mary, one of the friendly cabin crew)
A welcome glass of Champagne(Image: Mary, one of the friendly cabin crew)
Photoshoot over and fully ensconced in my seat, it occurs to me, given the oversized entertainment screen (which is almost as large as the desk screen I’m compiling this review on), my current accommodation has more in common with a mini living room, than an airline seat.
The seat – I’ll stop soon I promise – is so comfortable, ahead of take-off I opt to watch the feed from the cameras mounted on the top and bottom of the aircraft, in case one of the vast array of movies available puts me to sleep before we start down the runway. And it’s just as well. Mid taxi, when I look across at my travelling companion, they have already nodded off!
Browsing the extensive choice of entertainment - (Image: Phil Murray)
Browsing the extensive choice of entertainment(Image: Phil Murray)
Having flitted about the cabin with a selection of Champagne, orange juice and water before the doors closed, once we level off the crew are in action again and Mary returns with a hot towel and a menu. An extensive menu! In newspaper format, with a front page story that extols the virtues of the signature Hong Kong dish that is wontons and noodle soup, now served onboard.
Wonton noodles available throughout the flight - (Image: Phil Murray)
Wonton noodles available throughout the flight(Image: Phil Murray)
On my first trip to Hong Kong years ago for my previous company – all taken care of by Flight Centre Business Travel as it happens – I asked where I could get some authentic local dishes. Luckily the Concierge knew his stuff and directed me to Mak’s Noodles, endorsed by Anthony Bourdain and famous for serving some of the best wontons in Hong Kong. Simple and delicious – check it out if you have a longer stopover than us!
We would be in Hong Kong only for a couple of hours, so just seeing the picture on the cover was enough to give me a welcome pang of nostalgia. Rather brilliantly, however, you can order wontons at any time during your flight – along with a selection of snacks – allowing me to sample the other fine fare available without having to forgo what eventually turned out to be a steaming bowl of wonton hearty goodness! Even better, of Cathay Pacific’s four lounges in Hong Kong, three of them have fresh noodle bars serving incredible wontons, freshly wrapped every day. Fly Business with this airline, and you certainly won’t be left “wanting wontons” for long!
The signature Cloud 9 cocktail with a generous sprig of fresh mint - (Image: Phil Murray)
The signature Cloud 9 cocktail with a generous sprig of fresh mint(Image: Phil Murray)
Contemplating the menu and enjoying a glass of Cathay Pacific’s Signature Cloud 9 cocktail – distinctly minty, thanks to a generous sprig of fresh leaves, and with a lemon tang in a glass lightly coated with sugar – I’m tempted by the braised Scottish prime beef cheeks, but I actually opt for the wok-fried cod with supreme soy sauce, asparagus and steamed jasmine rice. I don’t regret it.
Wok-fried cod with asparagus and steamed jasmine rice - (Image: Phil Murray)
Wok-fried cod with asparagus and steamed jasmine rice(Image: Phil Murray)
Other menu items include a beef burger, which can be served as part of an express menu to allow you to get as much shut-eye as possible. There’s certainly no chance of being hit by a passing trolley if you do. Between London and Hong Kong everything is delivered individually by hand to each guest. Trolley service is used on the shorter flights between Hong Kong and Bali, where the regional Business Class seats are more akin to a La-Z-Boy and configured 2-3-2 across the cabin.
Cathay Pacific's regional Business Class seats - (Image: Phil Murray)
Cathay Pacific's regional Business Class seats(Image: Phil Murray)
However, here the trollies are employed to deliver a whole other level of service. The dessert – apple crumble cake with a dollop of fresh cream – fresh fruit and cheese courses were all sliced and fully prepared freshly at our seats.
'Betsy' ale specially crafted to be enjoyed in the air and cheese sliced to order - (Image: Phil Murray)
'Betsy' ale specially crafted to be enjoyed in the air and cheese sliced to order(Image: Phil Murray)
Attentive yet discreet service
As dinner service comes to an end with a choice of petits fours, it's become clear Mary and her colleagues simply couldn’t do enough for you. All neat as a button – gold silk waistcoats for the gents, and a stylishly modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese tunic for the ladies, all in varying combinations of red, white and gold – Cathay Pacific cabin crew perfectly combine attentiveness with a discreet and efficient style of service that only impinges on your privacy when absolutely necessary. A winning combination for me.
A choice of petits fours to end the elegant dinner service
A choice of petits fours to end the elegant dinner service
As an example, on my return Hong Kong to London flight, I placed an order for the full breakfast service instead of the express menu which allows an extra hour’s sleep. But then I watched one too many movies and wasn’t sure whether I still wanted to be woken. I mentioned this to one of the cabin crew and he said not to worry, he’d change the order. But when he saw me up and about the next morning, he made a point of finding out whether I had changed my mind a second time without me having to ask.
Putting in the breakfast order - (Image: Phil Murray)
Putting in the breakfast order(Image: Phil Murray)
That breakfast was exceptional by the way, but for now, our time in the air is nearly up.
As Mary prepares the cabin for landing, 15 minutes head of schedule, she asks me how I slept.
“Very well,” I respond.
“It makes a big difference when you can lie flat,” Mary suggests.
Yes it does, Mary. Yes it does.
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