Cathay Pacific 77W First Class HKG – ORD

When other kids dreamed of the newest Xbox game, and wasted away hours playing it, I dreamed of Cathay Pacific First Class.  What would it be like to have a space big enough to stretch out, and lay on your belly?  What does a freshly brewed cup of cappuccino taste like miles up in the air, or a bowl of steamed rice cooked just before serving?  As embarrassing as it may be to admit, these were exactly the things I thought about as other kids my age were digitally pillaging villages or taking out enemy strongholds with their thumbs.

As I have mentioned before, Cathay Pacific is typically regarded as one of the world’s best airlines.  It is easy to look at photos of the beautifully designed lounges, or luxurious hard product, to come to such a conclusion.  But that 5-star rating comes from so much more than just the flashy bronze in the lounge or massive First Class seat – it comes from the people of the airline, and the culture of both the company and society they proudly represent.

Cathay Pacific CX806
HKG – ORD
November 29, 2015
First Class, 2A
Boeing 777-300EWR, B-KQW

After a relaxing stay at The Pier and a quick stop at The Wing, I arrived at gate 19 a few minutes prior to scheduled boarding time.  Just a few days prior, I read an article about Cathay’s operational reliability challenges at HKG, and how flight delays and gate changes were occurring more than ever before.  The frequent PA announcements in the terminal for one or the other was a sure sign of the difficulties they were having with the congested airspace and increased traffic at the airport.

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My flight was no different, boarding started about 10 minutes after the time my boarding pass read.  Naturally as the agents were preparing to commence the boarding process, and the stated boarding time neared, people began to queue up.  As most who have flown through HKG know, the gates are set up nicely with two ramps down the pier, the left ramp for premium customers, the right for economy class.  In the past, Marco Polo members (Cathay Pacific’s loyalty program) queued with the business and first class passengers, creating a queue that was sometime lengthier than that of economy.  This time around, the agents did a nice job of redirecting Marco Polo members to a special queue on the economy side of the boarding area.

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While they did a nice job with that, I did not get any special treatment even though the process was the same – a simple boarding pass check.  As a First Class passenger, I would have expected an escort to the front of the lengthy queue (I was about 30th in line).  This was a minor detail, but could easily be a service enhancement without much change in process.  I did not mind waiting, but because this was a flight to the United States, a mandatory secondary screening in the boarding pier was required and being at the front of the pack would have been much more convenient.

I turned left at the first jetbridge and boarded through door 1L, stepping into the tranquil, and petite, first class cabin.  After presenting my boarding pass to the Inflight Service Manager at the door, I was escorted to my seat at 2A by the lead cabin crew member Lynn.  Lynn allowed me some space to get settled before returning to formally welcome me onboard.  Stepping into the suite was like stepping into a dream – I could not believe it was happening, all those fond daydreams becoming reality.  I took a (long) moment to soak it all in.

Lynn came back to help me stow my belongings and offer a pre-departure beverage.  There are no overhead bins in Cathay’s First Class cabin, which helps to open up the cabin.  Because of this, I have always wondered where a large carry-on would go.

There is a closet behind the IFE screen large enough to stow a standard carryon; its actually a lot larger than I expected it to be.  My backpack fit nicely under the ottoman for easy access.  As for the beverage, I asked Lynn for a glass of Krug.

I had the pleasure of trying Krug for the first time earlier this year flying Singapore Airlines; of course, Singapore offers both Krug and Dom Perignon.  During that trip, I found that I preferred Krug.

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Lynn came back with a flute, the bottle, and an amuse-bouche.  She placed both the glass and amuse-bouche on the side console, before presenting and pouring the champagne.

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The amuse-bouche was a salmon jelly tare-tare.  It was interesting, but tasted very fresh and went very nicely with the champagne.

As I continued to explore the seat, Mabel (the second FA taking care of First Class) stopped by with some gifts.  A sanitized pair of Bose QC15 headphones, a male Aesop amenity kit, and a pair of PYE pajamas.

Noise cancelling headphones by Bose are really the gold standard for the frequent traveler, I have a pair myself.  But unlike the consumer QC15s, the ones provided by Cathay did not have a battery pack and only worked when plugged into the aircraft’s audio socket, similar to what I found on Singapore Airlines.  The lack of a battery pack actually drops a lot of weight from the headset, resulting in a more comfortable wear.

The Aesop amenity kit was pretty standard with all the essential contents like dental kit, creams, and comb.  A nice tangible takeaway, but nothing to write home about.

As for the pajamas, these were actually very nice.  I had read a lot about the Shanghai Tang pajamas that Cathay used to provide, but they have since switched to PYE.  Having heard mixed reviews, some saying that the grey ones look like pieces Kim Jung Un’s wardrobe, I was a bit nervous.  But ripping open the cloth bag revealed a pair that was a nice navy blue.  Changing into them, I found that these are ever more comfortable and stylish than the ones provided by Singapore Airlines.

Before long, we pushed and headed towards the active runway.  The safety video started to play before our taxi roll.  As the video came to an end, the cabin crew came by one last time before takeoff to collect any trash and service ware, prompting me to chug the last of my Krug.

We took the scenic route around the airport to Runway 25L, and took off into the haze clouds.

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Several minutes after leaving earth, the galley came to life and the cabin crew came around to distribute menus on a nice wooden clipboard (except the clip was an elastic band).  Shortly followed by drink requests.

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Full CX F Menu

Service was attentive with only 6 passengers in the First cabin.  For Lunch, I had the caviar starter with a glass of the Château Smith from the promotional wines list.  Followed by the Chinese prix fixe of ginseng soup, jelly fish, and braised duck.  And to finish it all off, I had the warm hazelnut cake and cappuccino.  It was a lot of food…

After clearing the dining set, Lynn prepared my bed while I visited the restroom.  I came back to find the most comfy looking bed, and the cappuccino I was still working on nicely placed on a tray to the side of my bed – amazing attention to detail.

Additionally, as soon as I vacated the lavatory, Mabel went in to sterilize it! I wish more airlines in the west paid attention to things like this – then again the cabin crew may just make of point of skipping that step…

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I hopped into bed and went off to dreamland for a few hours.

Waking up thirsty and peckish, a bowl of wonton noodle soup was in order.  Nothing beats a nice hot, wet, bowl of noodle soup in the middle of a flight.  Even on long haul economy flights, I make it a point to bring a cup of noodles.  Its the snack that hits the spot, every time.

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It was hard to go back to sleep, so I turned to CXstudio to keep me occupied, putting on the film Paper Towns – a feel-good coming-of-age movie. Upon completion I dozed for a few more hours until increased activity in the cabin brought me back somewhere over Saskatchewan.

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Sticking with what CX does best, Chinese cuisine, I ordered the Dim Sum breakfast.  Lynn came back shortly with a large glass of the mango breakfast smoothie which I didn’t order – absolutely delicious.

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After a few minutes, my fruit plate arrived, as well as another glass of the smoothie.  Followed by the dim sum course – which, to be honest, was quite disappointing. Not in flavor, but in presentation…

Before landing, I asked if there were any extra F class Aesop amenity kits left for me to take home.  Very apologetic, Lynn said she had already locked up the remaining kits, but could check to see if there are any left in Business Class.

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I also asked for a survey and a comment form.  This crew was just lovely.

 

Concluding Remarks

With only 6 seats in the Cathay F cabin, you are guaranteed attentive service.  I tested the call button and to no surprise, one of the cabin crew members appeared at my suite within seconds.  The primary meal service was excellent, and more than enough food for me.  But, I can see where some may complain that there are not enough options for F class.  There was a decent selection for the mid-flight snack service, but the portion and presentation of my pre-arrival meal was definitely lacking.  Bed comfort was exceptional even though I didn’t get much sleep.

Looking at the entire experience, I can see how CX is able to market themselves as an airline that offers a serene escape promoting wellness.  Really glad I got this AAdvantage redemption in before the devaluation!

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