Nick Walton finds consistency and experience trump all else on a recent business class flight with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to London.
I checked in online 24 hours before my flight, which allowed me to allocate my window seat on the assigned Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. I dropped my bags off at the check-in counters at Hong Kong Station approximately seven hours before my flight. En-route to the airport later that night Cathay Pacific advised me by text message that the flight had been delayed by 40 minutes.
With my flight originally assigned to Gate 2, I made for The Wing, home to both First Class and Business Class lounges. The lounge was in rather poor form; at almost capacity, it was lifeless and languishing, its few wait staff walking like zombie with dragging feet, its single bartender beyond disinterested. However, the signature Noodle Bar was doing a roaring trade.
With the late hour of the delayed flight, passengers at the gate were listless and irritable but Cathay staff handled the four-class boarding onto the 275-seat 777-300ER with finesse. The 777 features the airline’s newest generation business class across two cabins and 53 seats. Crew greeted passengers with hot towels, bottles of Evian, and glasses of Billecart-Salmon Brut champagne, and, noticeably, maintained the service when the pilot acknowledged further delays. They also handed out the airline’s new amenity kits, which include Jurlique products in a Seventy Eight Percent wash bag.
The newest generation of the Cathay Pacific long-haul business class product remains one of my favorites, combining great privacy with practicality in a user-friendly herringbone configuration. A comfortable seat with a large, easily accessible tray makes this a great desk in the skies, but on these long-haul night flights it’s more important to get a good night’s sleep and that’s when the lie-flat bed, at over two meters long, is brilliant. The seat also boasts plenty of storage as well as easy to reach iPod, USB, and AC power sockets, two personal lamps, and easy three-button recline configurations. The StudioCX entertainment system is accessed via a 15.4-inch personal monitor.
Approximately 40 minutes after takeoff the crew started a light supper service that consisted of grissini and savory dips, followed by a choice of fried freshwater garoupa with soya sauce and steamed jasmine rice; or grilled lamb chops with parsley risotto. There was also an express option that included lentil harissa soup with grissini; mixed salad with hot smoked salmon; and seasonal berries with ginger syrup. I matched my garoupa with a glass of Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, followed by a nip of Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 before finally pressing a button, unraveling my blanket, and falling sound asleep.
Two hours out from London we were offered breakfast: a fresh fruit smoothie, and Greek yogurt and cherry compote with granola was followed by a choice of cheddar cheese and caramelized onion omelet; Hong Kong-style dim sum; or congee with shredded chicken. The dim sum was a great lighter option even if it lacked the texture of the fresh dim sum of Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific’s crew may have been getting a bad rap of late, especially in Hong Kong, but continue to be among the best in the aviation world. Young, infinitely patient, and gracious under fire, the crew on my flight performed their many tasks with a professional efficiency that is more ingrained through training and practice than through inherent hospitality – meal service certainly exhibited less flare than days past but whenever you pressed the call button someone attended to you within seconds.
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