Cathay Pacific Review: 1st Class London – Hong Kong
The Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific was established in 1946, making 2006 its 60th birthday. From two military surplus DC planes that they converted into passenger carriers, the airline now has 100 planes covering 90 destinations in 33 countries.
The airline has a formidable reputation, winning the accolade of “airline of the year” for 2006 from a major industry magazine.
Cathay Pacific is part of the extensive “One World” alliance alongside carriers like British Airways, Qantas and American Airlines. This not only ensures that it has the “One World” alliance feeding passengers onto it extensive Asian route network out of Hong Kong, but also for members of the alliance it means they earn both frequent flyer miles for their preferred airline in the alliance but also “tier points” that are so important in terms of determining the status level and associated benefits. So for example I earned the same miles and tier points as I would have with British Airways into my British Airways account by flying with Cathy Pacific – even though I was effectively flying on a route that competes directly with what BA were offering and also a lower price than BA offered me on the same route and day!
Last year, I travelled on Cathay Pacific from London via Hong Kong to Sydney (Australia). This year I flew with them again from London Heathrow via Hong Kong but this time on to Taipei in Taiwan. On both these trips I was lucky enough to be flying in their First Class cabin. However, this year I was much more impressed – not that I was not last year!
I think one of the reasons that I was more impressed this year was the aircraft this time was a Boeing 747 versus an Airbus last year. The First Class cabin in the 747 is in the distinctively shaped nose of the aircraft and has a more quirky and spacious layout by nature of the cone shape. The effect is that there is more space around each seat and a greater sense of privacy as the other passengers are literally quiet a distance away. The joys and pleasure of being in First Class!
An added bonus is the Asian attitude and approach towards customer service. This is flawless and quite a pleasure. Within seconds of stepping on-board the cabin crew knew my name and used it extensively (maybe even too much!). They even gave each of the passengers in First Class a small handwritten note welcoming you on-board. A small gesture that would not have taken a long time as there were only 7 people in a cabin that holds 14 but did make you feel even more welcome.
The First Class seat is similar to those found on British Airways and Qantas but due to the layout of the cabin on the 747 it felt somehow to be wider and longer! I am 6’2″ tall and neither my head nor my feet touched the top or bottom of the seat even when lying on my back. It lies horizontally flat although is slightly uncomfortable as the seat is contoured for sitting upright and so (unlike Virgin where their lie flat seat flips right over to provide a flat surface) it is a bit bumpy. But you are lying flat and can stretch out and so to quibble about this seemed a bit silly I reminded myself as it crossed my mind. And as the flight was 11 hours to Hong Kong I did manage to sleep pretty much for 7 hours.
The food on offer is generous, varied and good. It started with a trolley that came to your seat and they served caviar (how extravagant and decadent as even carriers like BA, Qantas etc do not offer that!). Then cam asparagus soup, salad and a choice from spare ribs, roast beef, ravioli or fish. I had the latter. You could then also have a selection of cheeses and a choice of desert that included chocolate cheesecake, mango ice cream or “Fig Fool” (whatever that is!).
For breakfast you can have either continental or full fried breakfast. I never feel like eating much when waking up so just had coffee.
The entertainment system was pretty good with a good range of movies and TV shows from the UK, USA and Asia that were all “on demand”.
Two other nifty additions is that they give you a “sleeper suit” that is the “Chinese Style” with little slippers instead of socks and an Elemis amenity kit in a nice small suede style wash bag.
In most of their major destinations they have separate First and Business lounges. I went to the one in Heathrow and one of them in Hong Kong (they have 2 First and 2 Business lounges as the airport is so huge!). They were quite something with even a small restaurant, working area with free internet access and very comfy sofa areas.
Cathay Pacific was, to sum up, fantastic.