Date: December 2015
Aircraft: 777/300ER #B-KQI
Configuration: 4 Class International
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Experience 7.4 of 10 ✈
✔︎A bit of luck
Cathay Pacific makes first class available on their international routes frequently, albeit within about 2 weeks before departure. Rumor is this may change to less frequency. Book a business class seat which usually has good availability, then monitor for a first opening and change at no charge with American. Currently the difference in reward points for the upgrade from business to first is 12,500 and totally worth it. After March 2016 maybe not.
Reward Availability: 4 of 10 ✈
Value for Reward per redemption point:
✔︎Sky High: >.08
My route was TPE-HKG-ORD. That fare in first class (TPE-HKG business class) is $9,500.00 one way or $15,000 round trip. The first class fare from HKG to ORD is $17,000 one way and $22,000 round trip! If nothing else, that is a quick lesson on understanding fare pricing and the need to do your homework. The lowest fare in first class on this route was $6,000.00.
To determine value for my 67,500 American points I will use the $9,500 TPE-HKG-ORD one way fare on Cathay Pacific, my exact flight, and the $6,000 lowest fare for the route. My value is 14 cents per point ($9,500 / 67,500) and the lowest is 8.9 cents ($6,000 / 67,500). Of course with the devaluation of AA points coming this will change. Instead of 67,500 points it will take 110,000 points for a 8.6 cent valuation, still very good. However business class can be had for 70,000 points under the new valuation and I would save the 40,000 extra for first and sit in business.
Reward Value: 10 of 10 ✈
Stay at Gate
Unfortunately I wasn't able to visit the Pier First or Wing First. Really this was the only disappointment of my whole trip. My departure gate was about as far away from these lounges as you can get and I didn’t have a wide connection window in the first place. I entered the Dragon Air lounge across from my gate for 5 minutes. It was nothing special.
What were they thinking?
Maybe it was all the hype about how great Cathay Pacific’s first class product is that made entry into the cabin a let down for me. There is nothing wrong with the cabin, I just wasn’t wowed. It’s plain, one tone and nondescript. But then when you consider CX’s livery I guess it’s to be expected. Take for instance the white flower. Nice touch but again very bland versus say the red rose of Lufthansa that pops.
First class has 2 rows of 3 seats. The seats are semi-enclosed suites which are well documented. They are nice, but not great in my opinion. To make the cabin more spacious the overhead bins have been removed and each suite has a cabinet to hold your carry-on, assuming it fits which mine did not. In that case you can place it under the ottoman which I did and was fine. The cabin on this plane had seen better days. Some of the trim was cracked, there were a lot of scuff marks. It just looked a little worn which happens with constant use. What was most noticeable were the lavatories that were standard 777 size. Smaller than EVA Air business class lavatories.
✔︎Just like home
Get me off this plane
Having knocked the cabin, the seat itself is one of the most comfortable seats anywhere anytime. Spacious, firm, yet with cushion, a seat you can easily sit in for many hours and not get that unbearable please land so I can get out of here like so many other airline seats. It certainly is the widest seat you will find in any class on any plane.
Like a Rock
Seatguru has 1K yellow for possible galley noise. I ignored it. They are right. While I had a fantastic crew, for some reason it was important to rearrange the silverware in the galley for the couple hours I tried to sleep. If you get to travel on Cathay Pacific in first, try and avoid 1K. The other issue is I was never offered a mattress pad. I was given a blanket but not the pad. Apparently on CX you have to request the mattress or to have the bed made.
The best seats in the first cabin are probably 1A, 2A and the rest of row 2. However if you call for 2A, which I did, the agent I spoke with told me that 2A has a bassinet and if someone in first class was carrying a baby they would get that seat and I would be moved. So I passed on the seat, foolishly.
For those interested in business, the mini-cabin rows 11 and 12 looked pretty private. But if you want open space this is not for you as with the privacy comes confinement. Cathay reserves the first class cabin seats as well as row 11 as priority seats, so a call to them direct is necessary to procure one. Row 11 also has the bassinets. And once my seat was assigned, neither the mobile app or the website would allow any change.
Hard Product (Cabin/Seats): 8 of 10 ✈
The pajamas are super comfortable. They are tailored by a company called PYE. The pajamas are delivered in a cloth sac. Be sure to keep the sac and read the tags. There is a coupon worth 500HKD or a special gift from any PVE store in Hong Kong or China. Another FC passenger showed me the gift he received, 6 beautiful handkerchiefs. And the coupon is good until 2025! The pajamas run large in size so if you are borderline L, get the M. With regard to the amenity kit, it was nothing special. Just the essentials.
Full bar in cabin
Multiple coffee selections
Multiple tea selections
The champagne on board was Krug Grande Cuvée. And if that sounds familiar it is because EVA Air business class served it as well. Cathay had a nice selection of wines too, mostly french, 4 reds and 3 whites.
Food Menu Selections and food extras:
✔︎Printed, multiple cuisines
Printed, single cuisine
Verbal by flight attendant
✔︎Mid flight snacks
Great selection of food, both International and Chinese cuisines. The bottom line is the amount of food served on this flight was unbelievable
✔︎Compliments to the Chef
Fine dining with a miss or two
No rave reviews
Get me a meal from economy
After suggesting you shouldn't order steak on a plane in the United review, I ordered the steak. Without going into all the details, I will say that the steak was worthy of being served in a fine Chicago Steakhouse. When I asked for it medium rare the Flight Attendant looked at me like, hey buddy you’re on an airplane, that’s not possible. However she pulled it off. The steak was excellent as was every dish. Rating the food quality on this flight is quite high, with the only negative being the accompaniments to the steak which were just ok.
Soft Product (Amenities/Food/Drinks): 8 of 10 ✈
✔︎Can I stay and watch some more?
Watched a fav and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
Glad I brought my tablet
Bose noise cancelling headphones, huge monitor, large selection of current and classic movies and TV shows in English and Chinese along with an air show made this a very enjoyable flight. The only issue was the size of the monitor, rather small for a first class cabin.
InFlight Entertainment: 6 of 10 ✈
✔︎Made the flight special
Did their job
Did they board?
While I could nit pick and say there were a couple missteps, this crew was actually fantastic. They didn’t hovering over you every few minutes, but would come instantly if you rang the call button and would regularly drop off a fresh bottle of Evian when needed.
The prior night an Air Canada flight from China to Toronto hit a patch of severe turbulence caused by mountain waves over the coast of Alaska and 20 some people were hurt, requiring the plane to divert to Calgary. This crew was aware of the incident. As we approached the same area with the slightest bump, the seat belt sign went on. Then it got bad, severely bad. In fact the my FA who has been flying for 23 years said it was the worst he’d ever experienced. But this flight crew reacted quickly and no one was hurt. Lesson, always keep your belt on.
Crew: 8 of 10 ✈
✔︎Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
This plane was fairly new having been delivered in September 2013, so slightly more than 2 years old. As mentioned the cabin was showing some signs of wear and tear and I’m sure this was the original cabin. It really didn’t matter, other than the 10 minutes of turbulence it was a smooth, pleasureful 14 hours in the sky.
Aircraft: 7 of 10 ✈
Search for Reward tickets
A very useful app. You can book flights, monitor your reservations, all the things you want in a mobile app. You can't book reward miles. When I upgraded to first I was unable to assign a seat from the website, which I was able to do when in business. Then I downloaded the app and went to select seats for my trip. It gave me a choice between window or aisle. I selected window and automatically was assigned the dreaded 1K. After that I was unable to change with either the mobile or website and didn't think it was important enough to call reservations.
A side note: I was looking at the app functionality and went to book a trip then entered two cities and dates. The departing flights each had a price, the first one listed is USD7,985.56 which I selected. The returning flights also had prices, with the first one USD9,097.56. I'm thinking wow 17K for business, that doesn't seem right. But after selecting the return the summary screen said a total of USD8,541.56.
A nice feature is they show how many Asia Miles you'd earn from the trip. But it doesn't show seats like other apps do.
My expectations might have been unrealistically high as any disappointment I had was unfounded. This was a great flight and great experience. And for 67,500 points unbeatable in value. If you have the means to take this flight, do it. The new valuation will require 110,000 points. Just remember, that is the lowest of the big 3 to Hong Kong.
Do you have any Cathay Pacific experiences you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.