Cathay Pacific B777-300ER business class04/10/2012
Background Cathay Pacific launched daily direct flights to Chicago on September 1. It is the fourth US destination the carrier flies non-stop to – the others are Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
Check-in Not having travelled to the US in several years I was unaware that I had to have completed an ESTA form, which was pointed out to me by check-in staff. Thankfully I was at the airport early enough to complete the form online. Once completed, I checked in, which itself was a breeze taking only a few minutes. This delay did however reduce time that could have been spent in the lounge area, so after a quick coffee I headed to the gate as there was to be a secondary bag search (a cursory glance really) before departing on time at 1145.
The Seat On this route Cathay uses aircraft fitted with the new business class seats. On the return however, due to a last-minute change of planes in Hong Kong my return flight was onboard a craft with the old seat. I found it an interesting experience to try both within a matter of days.
On many levels, the new business class seats are far superior to the old. For example, the old seats have almost no storage facilities and limited work space. The new seats offer multiple storage units – a side cabinet (home to the noise-cancelling headphones and a mirror – a nice touch) is big enough to store smaller items and its door doubles as a privacy divider between seats, while a side “pocket” is large enough for reading materials, an electronic tablet or laptop computer and a water bottle. There is also a shoe locker, and finally, storage underneath the ottoman.
In terms of workspace, both the side “cocktail” bench and the tray table easily accommodated my laptop and the personal reading light ensures you are not disturbing other passengers. On the tech side a multi-port connector allows you to view content from your personal device on the TV, and a USB port allows you to charge mobile devices.
In addition to reclining to a fully flat position, the seat slides forward to allow conversation with a fellow traveller. The armrest can be folded down and a side panel increases the seat width when sleeping.
Despite the many advantages of the new seat, including those above, plus a sense of spacious openness, I found the old-style seat more comfortable, and sleeping easier to do for three reasons: despite there being a myriad of positions that can be created in-between upright and fully-flat on the new seat, I found it hard to find a comfortable in-between position; I didn’t like having limited room to move my feet (seat narrows at the foot end), and when fully flat the cushions on the old style came together better, translating to a flatter bed.
Which Seat to Choose? I was allocated seat 23D, an aisle seat. In business class, I would only avoid rows 12, 15 and 27 due to either their proximity to the bathroom or galley. If flying solo, I would suggest a window seat.
The Flight It was a smooth flight and the vast selection on the AVOD system means that there is bound to be something to cater to all entertainment tastes and moods. There was also a good selection of newspapers and magazines available. The vast amount of food on offer also helps to pass the time. From the four-course lunch (not counting the chocolates) to the three-course brunch, plus the selection of on-demand snacks, you could literally spend the majority of the flight eating. And kudos for serving a range of freshly brewed or made coffees. How nice to have a cappuccino or espresso while flying. All the staff onboard were wonderful.
Arrival The aircraft touched down around 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival time of 1345. Despite the long queues, clearing immigration went fairly smoothly and I still had to wait for around 10 minutes for my priority luggage to arrive.
Verdict: Great service, good food and plenty of entertainment options took my mind off a seat that, although a vast improvement on the old in terms of features and space, I did not find as comfortable.
Plane Type B777-300ER
Seat Configuration 1-2-1
Seat Length when flat 82in/208cm
Seat Width 21in/53cm
Seat Recline 180 degrees
Price Internet rates for a one-way flight in mid-February start from HK$50,890 (US$6,548)