I loved my Cathay Pacific first class flights from Hong Kong to JFK via Vancouver and they may even be my favorite first class trips of all time (still deciding). This is the final review from my Bali / Kuala Lumpur trip and includes the flights from HKG-YVR and YVR-JFK.
These flights were booked using my American AAdvantage miles – 67,500 and $41.40 in taxes to be exact. Note that as I was tracking potential return flights from Bali, the Hong Kong flight to JFK via Vancouver was open almost every day with much more availability than the flights directly to JFK or other US locations.
Pre-Boarding & Lounge
I checked in for my flights in Kuala Lumpur and visited the Cathay Lounge there as well as the Pier and Wing first class lounges upon arrival in Hong Kong. You can read about my experience at those lounges and at the unique private day-break rooms in yesterday’s post.
Upon boarding, I was welcomed by name and taken to my seat by the purser. Two flight attendants followed, one to show me my private closet and another to ask whether I wanted some Krug Grande Cuvee champagne or if I’d prefer another cocktail or drink. I went with the chapagne and was then presented with the menu (for both flights), an Ermenegildo Zegna amenity bag, and Shanghai Tang PJs.
My first reaction to Cathay first class was – WOW this seat is huge! I’m pretty tall and my feet could barely make it to the adjoining seat.
Instead of an overhead bin, there’s a nice size closet at your seat…
The Shanghai Tang PJs were even nicer than the Singapore Airlines Givenchy PJs received on the way to Bali. They included a really soft button-up shirt and just as soft drawstring pants. Matching slippers and eye-mask were also provided. You could choose small/medium/large for both the PJs (separate sizing for women) and the slippers. The Ermenegildo Zegna bag included Acca Kappa products including facial mist, anti-age face moisturizer, moisturizing lip balm, a toothbrush set, a comb, ear-plugs, and a shoehorn. There was also a women’s version of the amenity kit with Aesop products and an Ipa-Nima travel pouch. I love the pants and slippers so much that I’m still using them at home! Here’s a closer look at both the PJs and the amenity kit.
Once we reached 10,000 feet, cold towels, nuts, and drinks were offered. My flight attendant actually stood talking to be for well over 10 minutes about my trip, where I had gone, where else I’ve been in my travels, where I want to go next, etc. He, the purser, and the two other first class flight attendants assisting him were some of the friendliest I’ve encountered on any flight. Of course, I was greeted by name with no cheat sheet required from any of the crew.
Next, it was time to select what I would have for dinner…mixing and matching was acceptable.
In addition to the wine menu, Cathay also offers a special first class wine promotion menu. “From May 2012 onwards, we will compliment our First Class wine selection with six carefully-chosen Classified Growths from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. We hope you will be able to taste the changes and quality improvement that some of these Grands Crus Classes have undergone in the past few decades, and of course, since the classification system was first introduced in 1855. The latter wines are, arguably, difficult to find for comparative tasting.” The wines are rotated and only one is available on each flight. There is even a page at the back of your special menu for tasting notes, listing the date, wine, and vintage. I gave the specially selected wine on my flight a try and was not disappointed. More on that below…
Everything sounded great and I decided to go with the caviar and salmon, mushroom cream soup, seared tuna nicoise, and lobster with ginger and oyster sauce (Chinese menu). I’m not a big caviar fan but why not sample some in-flight. Dinner was excellent, everything from the warm and soft bread to the delicious lobster. The bread basket was continuously refilled, even if only one item needed to be replaced. Most impressive, was the Bon Appetit card placed on the dining tray from the flight attendant. It had a personal message inside talking about my vacation and other details discussed during our previous conversation.
I really loved StudioCX, Cathay’s in-flight entertainment system. One of the cooler features was being able to make a playlist, not only for music but for movies, TV shows, and games as well. I also liked the wheel-mounted camera and moving map which were both available during departure and landing. There’s a huge selection of movies and TV shows, which was good since I had watched almost seven new releases on the way to Bali. The system even warns you if there is insufficient time to start a selected movie or show…
…note the sponsorship “Time brought to you by…”
The headphones are decent (and the same as the ones provided by Singapore Airlines & Delta), but are not really noise-canceling like the Bose ones AA provides.
The seats in the first class open suites are the widest in the industry at 36 inches and each seat is upholstered in soft fabric with wood trimming. It was the widest and most comfortable seat I had ever encountered (an inch more than the 777s on Singapore). For comparison sake:
ANA 777-300ER – 33.0″
BA 777-300 - 32.0″
LH A380/747-8i - 31.5″
Emirates A380 – 23.0″
Qantas A380 – 29.0″
Qatar A330/777300ER – 22.0″
Singapore 777-300ER/A380 – 35.0″
Swiss A330/A340 – 22.0″
Thai 777-300 – 35.0″
There was both in-seat power and a USB port at each seat.
The flight attendants were in the aisles at least every 10 minutes to check if there was anything we needed and to refill water and drinks. The service was outstanding. After finishing two movies, I headed to the bathroom to change into the PJs while a flight attendant converted my seat into a bed. Like the Singapore first class bathroom, there were automated sinks and toilets, fresh flowers, and a foot pedal for the garbage disposal.
The bed was fantastic and I slept for a few hours, a miracle for me on a flight. I found the duvet and pillows on this flight nicer than my outbound flights and the pillows were much larger. Like on Singapore, each time I went to the bathroom or got up to walk around, someone was there to re-make the bed before I could even return!
The TV screen is moveable and you can adjust it based upon what position you are sleeping in.
For breakfast I had a forest berry smoothie,fruit yogurt, and organic free range eggs – cooked your way (I got mine scrambled with tomatoes and mushrooms). I was however most impressed by the toast! I’ve never had toast freshly made for me in-flight before. It was also refilled constantly until I was finished with breakfast. The scrambled eggs and smoothie were great!
Transferring in Vancouver was simple and nothing like the horrible Moscow experience on the outbound SQ flight. Upon exiting the plane, all connecting passengers were directed to a closed off gate-area. While you can’t leave the area, there were snack machines, phones, bathrooms, and free wifi. Additionally, water bottles were distributed to all waiting passengers. We were only on the ground for 45 minutes before we boarded again (no additional security screening required).
I was in the exact same seat but it was a whole new crew. Similar to Singapore, the previous crew left notes on connecting passenger preferences and my new flight attendants already knew about my trip from Bali and that I like sparkling water. Again, really impressive. Somehow it was time for dinner once more and this time I went with the lobster bisque, mesclun salad with salmon, and the angus beef tenderloin with red wine sauce. Everything was very tasty, including the beef that wasn’t dry at all.
Overall, the flights were amazing and the staff were truly incredible. My glass of wine and sparkling water were refilled every few minutes and I’m still impressed by the personalized note (even though the other first class passengers received ones as well). Speaking of first class passengers, there were only four others in the cabin on the way to Vancouver and two others on the way to New York. It was literally like I had two flight attendants assigned just to me! The crew clearly cared about the passengers and were always looking to make the trip more enjoyable. If they saw me tossing and turning, they’d come over and ask if I wanted a snack or needed extra pillows. Everything was provided and I never needed to ask for anything. I seriously can’t think of anything they could have improved on during these flights, they were perfect! Cathay first may not have the same reputation or seem as luxurious as Singapore, but when considering their outstanding hard and soft product, they surely are one of the best in the world.