Cathay Pacific (CX), a Skytrax 5-Star airline, operates 17 flights per week from Hong Kong to Vancouver. There are two daily flights using the Boeing 777-300 aircraft, supplemented by an Airbus 350-900 three times per week (Tue, Thu and Sat). The Boeing 777-300 has four cabins (First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy), while the Airbus 350-900 has only three – without the first class cabin.
My flight was on the Boeing 777-300ER with a scheduled departure at 0030 hours on 1st July with a flying time of 11 hours 50 minutes.
If you recall, I snatched a fantastic deal back on New Year’s day – paying only USD878 for a business and first class combo flights between Hanoi and Vancouver via Hong Kong. Read our post here.
There was no landside check-in for me as I was on a connecting flight from Hanoi. The Hanoi to Hong Kong sector was operated by Cathay Dragon, a subsidiary of CX which focuses on Asian regional routes. Our departure from Hanoi was delayed by one hour and a half, and consequently, arrived in Hong Kong late by the same magnitude. In my original itinerary, there was only one hour and forty minutes transit time in Hong Kong; this implied that I would most certainly miss my onward flight to Vancouver. I was resigned to making plans in my head for alternative flights.
But much to our surprise, CX voluntarily delayed the departure of the Hong Kong to Vancouver flight. This was probably due to a total of 16 passengers were connecting to this flight, of which, 14 were in business class and 2 in first class. The ground staff were at hand to meet the delayed passengers and rushed us to the waiting aircraft. All these were accomplished under 25 minutes – aircraft to aircraft, including security checks.
I was looking forward to spending time in one of the fabulous Hong Kong lounges. Unfortunately, due to the extended delay, this was not possible. I have used several times a couple of the lounges in the past, namely The Pier (First Class) and The Wing (First Class). They are excellent lounges although sadly the quality of the food in the restaurant had deteriorated somewhat after the much-revered Peninsula’s catering contract was axed a few years ago. Regardless, I would have no problem at all in spending many hours in one of these lounges.
As we were coming from a very delayed incoming flight, there was no formality in the boarding process. I was the last to board. As soon as I was shown to my seat in 1D, the aircraft’s door was closed, and the aircraft taxied to the runway shortly after.
Cabin & Seating
This flight had four classes – First, Business, Premium Economy and standard Economy. The First Class cabin was at the nose of the plane, immediately after the cockpit and galley. The layout was 1-1-1 with only two rows of seats, making a total capacity of six open suites. On this flight, it was 100% occupancy with all six seats occupied.
Stating the obvious, all the suites had full direct aisle access and can be transformed into full lie-flat bed. Despite not having a door, the suites still felt very private (great if you are claustrophobic).
The first class suite was enormous and very comfortable indeed. According to Seatguru, the seat pitch was 81” with a width of 36”. The seat itself was plush and spacious. The wide armrest when lowered down, seamlessly blended with the main seat. The soft head pillow attached to the top of the seat elevated the comfort level. There was even a stalk of fresh orchid in the flower vase attached to the side wall panel. All these little features added to the special touches.
The wood laminated side countertop was wide enough to comfortably place the drinks and to spread your personal items. Built into it was the foldable dining table, handheld screen control and a mini touchscreen. Underneath it was a USB charger and an universal power outlet.
The footrest was also quite wide. It actually doubled up as a secondary seat (with seatbelt). It was meant for facilitating “dining for two”. We did not use this feature as the flight was way past midnight and we were more interested in getting some sleep (asap).
There were only two preset modes for the seating positions – take-off/landing and sleeping. Depending on how long you press the button, you can gain many more seating variations.
Personal storage space was not an issue. Instead of an overhead compartment, there was a storage compartment at floor level, built into the shell at the front of each suite. You can store and access your cabin bag here without having to stand up. It also doubled up as your closet (you can hang your coat and others conveniently here).
The two cabin crew attending to the first class cabin were really lovely, warm and attentive.
Despite my late boarding, I was offered a hot towel and a pre-flight drink to help me settled in, and these were cleared off immediately due to the imminent take off. After reaching cruising altitude, I was offered another drink of my choice, and accompanied by some warm nuts served in small snack dish.
The pyjama set was distributed before the flight took off. It allowed the passengers to slip into something comfortable before a long flight. I only used the top which was very nice and soft. The set also had foam slippers and eye mask, but strangely no socks.
The amenity kit was supplied by Aesop with two variations – the beige-coloured bag was for the female, and black for the male. The design of the bag was uninspiring. Inside, there were a comb, mouth wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplug, soft lint wipe and parsley seed serum moisturiser. The female kit had a few more items than the male version.
The personalisation of services was quite good. Apart from formally addressing the passengers by last name, they seemed to be pretty aware of the passengers’ movement and anticipated their moves. In one instance, when my wife stepped out of her seat for the washroom, the cabin crew came to her seat and folded the quilt in such a way that when she came back, she could simply slide in and be comfortable instantly.
As for the meal menu, there were caviar and champagne, international and oriental favourite entrees and desserts. A selection of champagne, white wines, red wines and port were also available. The champagne on offer was a 2007 vintage Taittinger.
Of course, the personalisation also extended to the meals and drinks where the cabin staff took the orders, and individually prepared and served the meals at time of your choosing.
But this was where I became most unimpressed. I wanted the Chinese Favourites – steamed Boston lobster with vermicelli and jasmine rice. She could not oblige because she was out of them, and said that I was the second person she had to turn down. She offered to check if Business class had other Oriental meals. It was a bit incomprehensible here; this flight was ex Hong Kong, the first class passengers were of 100% Asian origin – the probability of the passengers wanting some kind of Asian meal was more likely going to be very high. It was quite inexcusable that you cannot get a meal of your choice in a first class cabin that had only six passengers.
I had no other choice but to agree to the western selection. My main meal started with cauliflower cream soup, followed by crab meat salad with watermelon. They were average at best. There was a nice selection of warm breads, including garlic bread.
For my entrée, I resorted to the seared lamb loin. Unfortunately, it was underwhelming; it did not taste good and was overdone. The presentation was also sub-par, not inviting at all. I left over half on the plate. The main meal was a write off, as far as I was concerned.
As I did not get the choice of the main meal, I was approached first for my breakfast preference. The dim sum platter that I selected was quite delicious and I finished them all. I was offered a second helping but I politely declined.
All the meals were served on quality dinnerware.
The inflight entertainment was delivered through the airline’s Studio CX entertainment system which offered a large selection of audio, TV and movies along with games and flight tracking. The visual display was by way of a 17” screen mounted to the top right of the suite’s shell. It was not positioned directly to the line of sight; you will have to glance to the side (left or right, depending on your seat number). But after reaching the cruising altitude, the screen can be unhooked and extended to the centre for more comfortable viewing. However, this had to be placed back to its original position for landing.
I also find it hard to believe that this screen was not a HD (high definition), especially in a first class cabin. The pixelation and ghosting were quite obvious, suggesting that CX is still operating an old and non-refreshed cabin.
Wifi was not also available on this flight.
There were two washrooms for the front cabin passengers to use. They were not very spacious and one was noticeably narrower. Apart from cotton hand towels, standard hand wash liquid and lotion, there was no other bathroom amenities available. The toilet seat paper liner was available for self-help.
When I was ready to retire, the cabin crew came to do the turndown service. The seat was transformed into a fully flat bed. A thin mattress was spread over it and properly secured. The duvet was plush and soft. Overall, it was a comfortable. Regrettably, the cabin temperature was not controlled adequately. After three hours of sleep, I woke up sweating due to the warm cabin.
Our flight arrived YVR at 2155 hours on 30th June, about 35 minutes late. We flew out from Hong Kong on 1st July and arrived the day before – even as a frequent traveller, I still find this time phenomena quite fascinating.
Overall, I had a good flight. I cannot fault the comfort level or the friendliness and enthusiasm of the cabin staff. They were great. But I do think CX has lost a lot of grounds. The IFE was dated, the meals were disappointing and there was no wifi connectivity. Above all, they missed the many little touches that make first class special. If I am to be brutally honest, CX first class is probably not even at par with Qatar Airways’ business class, especially when flying the QSuite. Aside from the seat width and pitch, Qatar’s onboard experience was more refined and detailed, and it offered many special touches that made it streets ahead of CX.
Unless you are in need of a gigantic 3 feet seat width and unable to dispense the urge of having caviar and champagne, I think the business class is more than adequate and gives better value for money. Having flown CX’s business class several times before, I cannot see what’s so special about CX’s first class. You literally get almost everything in Business Class as you would get in First Class (except the big seat and some drinks).
Airline Review: CX888 Cathay Pacific B777-300ER FIRST CLASS Hong Kong to Vancouver
Date Flown: 01-JULY-2019