Aircraft Type: B777-300ER
Class: Business Class
Flight time: 11:45
Date: April 2015
Best for: Regular travellers connecting from Europe to Asia, with five flights a day, the airline offers a great variety of flight departure times with connections onto a variety of China and pan-Asian destinations.
The crowd: Completely full, as always. Cathay manages to combine affordable fares, which attract regular business travellers and couples travelling on to premium holiday destinations.
Business or pleasure: Whilst a majority of the cabin are obvious business travellers, with a lack of Wi-Fi, this airline, is perfect for switching off and enjoying a bit of pleasure.
Routes: Cathay and their OneWorld partners mean that pretty much anywhere in the world is available, although Cathay offer frequent connections to all major business capitals of Asia, Europe and the US.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Marco Polo, which is part of the OneWorld family. It has many perks and good spending power. Cathay looks after its most prestigious flyers too.
Best bits: Seat comfort, inflight entertainment and route network
Worst bits: Whilst very much a leader in most aspects, the business class product has a few areas in need of a little refinement.
Cathay Pacific Business Class Report
Cathay Pacific was kind enough to fly us over to Tokyo Haneda to take a look at their brand new lounge (review to come shortly) and this gave us the opportunity to try out Cathay’s long established next-generation business class seat that now dominates its long haul routes. Flying from London Heathrow, which is one of the airline’s prime city pairs, means we had a little under 12 hours of flying time to experience everything the airline has to offer in the cabin.
On the Ground
Cathay operate from the ever popular Terminal 3 at London’s Heathrow airport, and the airline uses check in zone C in the departure hall, just across from Emirates and next to Virgin Atlantic’s dedicated check-in wing. Comprising of a whole wall of check-in counters, the airline offers excellent facilities, and very small waiting times.
On arrival to the area, ground staff quickly and effortlessly walked us to the correct check in queue. Bypassing both economy and premium economy, we walked up to a non-existent queue for business class passengers and within seconds of entering the terminal were at a desk with passport in hand.
Greeted by a smiling and welcoming desk agent, we were issued our boarding passes and lounge invitations, and bags labeled up with priority tags, guiding them all the way to their final destination, Tokyo Haneda. Using Fast Track we were through security within a matter of minutes.
Cathay have a well appointed, but somewhat basic lounge at London Heathrow, with a cool contemporary vibe running through the dedicated space. Situated airside, the lounge features a wealth of seating, showers, as well as a business section. There is a well stocked self-service bar and their famous noodle counter which serves signature noodle dishes on demand (try the DanDan noodles for a real taste sensation). For those wanting something lighter there is a self-service salad bar and lighter dishes available to plate up.
While the carrier serves sparkling wine in the lounge, much like British Airways, you only need to ask a waitress for a glass of Champagne.
There is a nice design element to the lounge, offering a sea of ash wooden veneer, bamboo effect frosted walls and warm neutral seating, all crowned by their signature white marble counter tops and reflective surfaces that are common in many of Cathay’s lounges bringing a light, elegant and refined finish to a fairly corporate space.
Approximately 45 minutes before departure, our flight was called, and we made the lengthy walk to the gate, which was situated at the far end of the terminal. This is a fairly regular gate area for Cathay, so expect a bit of a trek if you fly with Cathay from Heathrow.
On arrival, boarding was well underway and on arriving at the gate, were quickly processed and made our way down a separate jet bridge to the aircraft.
Entering through door L1 makes some commercial sense, as you are ushered through the first class cabin before making your way to the business class cabin, however, being sat behind the main aircraft door (L2), we still had to make our way through the other boarding passengers from the main door, making the use of the forward door a little obsolete.
Inside the business class cabin, Cathay have opted for muted and early green tones for the seat and flooring, whilst lighter cream and off white tones flood the walls and ceilings offering a very masculine and soothing cabin. Adorning the bulkheads are pieces of art that are lit throughout the flight and add a focal point to the cabin.
As for layout on this 777-300ER, the cabin of 53 business class seats is split into two cabins, the most appealing of which is the small micro cabin of 8 seats situated just behind the first class cabin and in front of the main doors. The rest of the cabin follows the 1 x 2 x 1 herringbone configuration behind the main door, in a large sea of seats, with alone standalone seat (15A) which has no neighbor (and no window).
The cabin is fairly large, being a premium cabin heavy layout, and there is a lack of exclusivity in the cabin being so large, however, once sat, the perspective is changed, and you instantly feel like one of only a few select passengers.
The toilets aren’t anything to really write home about, being fairly undecorated standard toilets, however the addition of the Jurlique amenity range makes for a luxurious (and fragrant) touch.
We still love this Zodiac Cirrus seat. Each one is exceptionally large, spacious and angled towards the window (or towards your fellow passenger in the centre of the cabin). Once sat you immediately get a sense of privacy and space. Since our last trip and even on this different configuration, the seats are still class leaders, offering ample comfort and storage.
When we took our original seat 15A we were disappointed by the lack of the window, and being hemmed in to the bulkhead slightly. Of all the seats in the cabin this is one of the most claustrophobic although also one of the most private. We quickly repositioned ourselves to 16D, one of the middle pairs that feel a lot more spacious, although usually reserved for passengers with children. Instead of a rising partition, separating the middle pair of seats is a small opening door on the cubbyhole containing the headset. Featuring a mirror, the door is perfect for ladies (and men) who want to check their make-up when they wake up. There are also an array of personal lights, including personal directional reading light, the aircraft’s overhead reading light and an ambient light that illuminates one of the storage compartments next to the seat, meaning you can create a wide array of lighting options depending on your requirements.
The seat itself was noticeably wide, and the cushioning firm, but soft enough to relax back into. As the seat reclines its way into a fully flat bed, a side flap raises up and whilst a gimmick, it gives the middle section of the seat a noticeable 4-5″ of extra seat width where it matters. With the armrest down, the seat is super wide, but with the armrest raised up; you gain a little more privacy and security. The bed is mammoth in length. Even for someone 5’11”, there is another half foot of space at least and that makes for a comfortable sleep. According to Cathay Pacific, the seat extends to a 6’10” bed.
There is also a fairly large table that swings out, that means dining is a treat, and whilst the table won’t move from its position, the seat moves to the table, which takes some getting used to, but still allows for full comfort whilst dining. The TV screen is also a treat, when stowed it allows the passenger to enjoy all the space of the mini-suite. When popped out though, it sits comfortably a few feet away from the viewer, allowing 15.4″ of touch-screen viewing pleasure.
Cathay has vastly improved its IFE offering since we last flew with the carrier, offering a very good selection of blockbusters, classics and foreign films along with a wide selection of interesting documentaries including very inspirational TED talks. The system itself is very responsive and fairly easy to use, although a couple of glitches meant having to restart a film or TV show, the whole system feels robust.
To support the entertainment, the airline offers fairly good headsets, although on two of our four flights we had to ask for a second set due to the wires offering a poor connection, and muffled sound quality. Once rectified, the noise-cancelling and sound quality was of a very good standard. With talks of the next system offering Hi-Def. entertainment, the passenger experience can only get better.
Adding to the on-screen entertainment is a fairly decent magazine ‘Discovery’ which includes the IFE listings and a variety of destination based content. There’s also a fairly substantial duty-free shop magazine, and for those needing to charge their personal devices a range of USB and universal charging ports for all of your devices.
As before, our experience of the dining onboard is a little mixed. The overarching experience is that the food quality is excellent however the presentation and speed of delivery should be a little more refined. On taking our seat we were provided with a glass of champagne, and the same was offered after take off. Being an early evening flight, by the time we were airborne and service started, it was the perfect time for dinner.
We were able to select from a wide range of main courses, although all our trips had a singular choice of starter. For our London leg, we started with a pleasantly surprising ‘Hot smoked salmon tartare with horseradish potatoes and edamame salad’ which was beautifully presented and delicate to the palette. This was accompanied by a mixed garden salad, that was fresh and light.
Following this course we were given the option of four main courses, including stir fried pork with basil and ginger, steamed rice and pack choy; roasted lamb neck, broad bean mash, Kenya beans and pumpkin; a marinated chicken breast with chunky tomato sauce, new potatoes with thyme, roasted red onion and carrots, or the vegetarian tagliatelle with creamy pesto sauce.
Opting for the stir fried pork, we were pleasantly surprised by the flavor and portion size, however on the down side, we were disappointed with it being carted along on a trolley with the other options, along with being served in the same container it was obviously heated up in. This was our only real criticism of the entire trip, and all things considered, not a major flaw in any shape or form.
Whilst the standard selection of wines and champagnes was very well balanced, there was the additional French selection of wines, for a limited time, for us to choose from too. It is this attention to detail that we love at Cathay, who seemingly always go above and beyond to offer a real choice to their customer.
To finish dinner, we were supplied with a cheese and fruit plate, followed by a perfectly balanced citrus lemon torte with mixed berry compote.
Before the lights were dimmed, the head of the cabin showed herself around with a box of pralines, wishing everyone a pleasant night’s sleep.
After a lengthy and undisturbed sleep (thanks to the private and well padded seat) we were woken to a breakfast service, although those wanting a midnight snack could delve into a wide array of snacks including pork pie and fill ball noodle soup.
For breakfast, tables were garnished with the standard white tablecloth, and a tray of fresh fruit, Bircher muesli, and fresh juices we laid before us. After finishing on the fruit, we had further options of free range scrambled eggs with Lincolnshire sausage, streaky bacon, pont neuf potatoes and cherry tomato, which felt filling and tasty. Cathay once again delivering on some of the best eggs we’ve tasted in the skies.
For those wanting something different, there was a choice of cherry pancake with berry compote and mascarpone cheese or for the taste of Asia, congee with prawn and scallop, which we just couldn’t brave.
A nice touch is that all coffee served on board, is by Italian brand Illy.
Cathay offer a wide range of amenities and their kits have a decent selection of product, and whilst not as expansive as their middle eastern counterparts, the kits feel considered, and as if time and effort has gone into selecting the correct products. The addition of Jurlique brand cosmetics is a nice touch, and adds a signature scent to the Cathay experience.
The airline offers decent pillows and very warm duvets for sleep, although no mattress, and the lack of pyjamas (although not expected in business) somehow seems noticeable, and to really go the extra mile, and match the rest of the above-business class experience, we’d love to see these introduced.
The lounges however, both in outstations and at Hong Kong, are really at the top of the game, offering comfort, design and product that goes above and beyond the expectations of what seems to be a very loyal customer base.
Even though our expectations were laid out by our previous experience, Cathay didn’t fail to deliver. Once again they have delivered on the service level, comfort and amenities we have come to expect of this ‘airline of the year’ (as voted for by SkyTrax) and since we last flew, there have been noticeable refinements in the service. However, now that the Middle Eastern carriers have raised the game with their new products, no matter how they achieved this, other carriers need to rise to their competitors. It’s great to see that this carrier, even with a few small tweaks (such as presentation of food or the addition of pyjamas) Cathay could easily rival arguably one of the newest and best carriers in the sky (Etihad). We think not only have Cathay got the right mix of ingredients to be the best carrier in the world, but that it is a benchmark that many try to reach. One thing is for sure, you are unlikely to have a bad experience, and if you only notice the smallest of issues, they must be doing most of it perfectly.
The Big Picture