Good Advice Tried and Tested

Cathay Pacific B747-400 Business Class


FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at Hong Kong Airport at 2240 for the 2355 departure on CX 251 having already checked in the day before. I dropped off my one piece of baggage at the Cathay Pacific desk, at the city check-in at the Airport Express Station at Central, then took the Airport Express train to the airport. There was no queue at security and I walked through to the lounges.

Cathay has several lounges at the airport, its hub, the most recent of which is the Cabin, located opposite Gate 23. For more on the Cabin, click here.

Since my departure gate was 2, and since I have a gold card with BA and Cathay is in the same alliance (Oneworld), I was able to use the first class lounge – The Wing. Click here to read about the lounges at Hong Kong on Cathay’s website.

You enter the Wing on Level 7. It overlooks the gate area, as does the adjacent business class lounge, but business class passengers have to descend an escalator, walk past the gate and the take the lift up to the lounge, while first class can simply walk into the lounge. The lounge is on two levels – six and seven. Upstairs there are many different areas including a dining area (The Haven), The Library (a room less exposed to the rest of the airport and quieter), and the Cabanas for showers and freshening up. At this time of the evening the area is busy despite being “4,500sqm of tranquillity, relaxation and inimitable luxury”, and I could not find a workstation free to plug in my laptop, so made do with one of the leather arm chairs in the “First Class Garden Lounge”. There is free wifi, and I did some work.

BOARDING Around 2325, I went down to the gate where there was a priority queue for premium passengers. I was on board and upstairs, where my jacket was taken and I was offered a choice of drinks. We took off around 25 minutes late, but since all flights on this route have to wait to make sure of not arriving too early at London Heathrow, I was confident we would arrive on time.

This was the return leg of a flight I had taken six days earlier. To read that review, click here. To see previous reviews of Cathay’s business class product, click here, and to see a seat plan of the aircraft, click here.

Upstairs, seats are in a 1-1 configuration (A and K) starting with row 80K although this is used as crew rest and not sold. The seats in row 81 (A and K) are a fair bet because there is no forward toilet so you won’t be disturbed. I was in row 86 and the neighbouring seats were either a Chinese family or friends travelling together. The fact that the high walls stopped them from talking easily together meant they were quite noisy shouting across the aisle, then sitting on the ottoman seat to chat, drinking Johnnie Walker whisky and having animated conversations with the flight attendants. They also took some restraining shortly after take off when the seat belt signs came on and they wanted to stand up to get down heavy bags from the overhead lockers. But they soon settled down into the flight and thereafter, with ear plugs in and after the meal, I had no trouble sleeping.

To see more detailed musings on the seating, click here to see the outward review in business class on the upper deck.

FOOD AND DRINK As on the outward leg, the food was impressive. On this flight I thought it was slightly lighter, which was good since we were flying overnight. Starters were Cobb salad with grilled chicken and French salad cream. Main courses: pan fried prawn cake with sweet chilli sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetable or pan-fried lamb loin with Madeira sauce, chive new potatoes and ratatouille. Cheese and dessert was bleu de chevre, cheddar, reblochon, fresh seasonal fruit, yuzu and milk chocolate mousse cake with pear compote. Lighter meal option was roasted red pepper soup, mesclun salad with smoked chicken, prawns and sesame soy dressing, yuzu and milk chocolate mousse cake with pear compote or fresh berries. There was also a choice of snacks: assorted sandwiches (beef pastrami with horseradish butter, mango cheddar cheese chutney, smoked salmon with lemon cream cheese), ice cream, or shrimp wontons with noodle in soup.

WINE LIST The choice was the same as on the outward flight - Champagne was Billecart-Salmon Brut, the whites: a burgundy from P. Ferraud & Fils Vire-Clesse 2008, and a Waimea Estates Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc 2009. The reds were Robert Skalli Cote du Rhone Villages 2007 and a Rockbare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008. There were also a couple of signature cocktails: Cathay Delight: a kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and touch of fresh mint and a Pacific sunrise: a refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest of orange and lemon. 

I slept well and woke around 90 minutes before landing in time for breakfast, which was a choice of orange or apple juice, forest berry smoothie, fresh seasonal fruit, fruit yoghurt, bircher muesli with blueberries. The main courses: omelette with pan-fried pork sausage, back bacon, over roasted potatoes, marinated red pepper ad braised bean ragout; dim sum served with chilli sauce (pork siu mai with scallop, shrimp dumpling, pork and chive dumpling, mini chicken glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf). Fish congee with gingko nut, stir friend egg noodles with vegetables.

ARRIVAL We landed at 0515, ahead of schedule and were quickly on the stand. Disembarkation was efficiently done, and by the time I had queued five minutes for the one IRIS scanner at immigration (the other was out of order) my bag was already on the carousel.

VERDICT Cathay’s business seat is a great bed. Although one tip is to ask if there is an extra blanket, since if you lie on one it can act like a mattress topper and irons out the undulations in the seat. Several times during the flight the staff asked if they could be of any assistance and also thanked us for flying with Cathay as we left and the food and wine choice was good, without being gourmet.

PRICE A mid-week return in October from Cathay's website starts at £3,889.


Tom Otley