Good Advice Tried and Tested

Cathay Pacific B777-300ER business class

14/10/2013

BACKGROUND Cathay’s new business seats were introduced last year and are being rolled out on its long-haul fleet, but will not be fitted to its B747s, which are scheduled to retire over the next four years.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport at 2200 for the 2355 departure on CX251 to London Heathrow (a 12-hour 30-minute flight) and headed to Cathay’s business and first class check-in at Zone B. There was no queue and having already checked in online, I dropped off my bag and collected my boarding card. Security was quick.

THE LOUNGE Cathay has several lounges at Hong Kong International, including the Cabin, the Wing and the Pier. The Wing has recently been refurbished for business class passengers and is opposite Gate 2, so with the flight departing from Gate 1, I went there. As we went to press, the first class part was undergoing renovation so some of the business section was reserved for them. The rest of it was busy. I ate at the noodle bar and used the free wifi. Flights are not called.

BOARDING There was priority boarding for business and first class passengers so I was quickly on board. After a while I was offered water, juice, champagne or a choice of soft or alcoholic signature drink. My jacket was not taken so I hung it on a hook and when we were taxiing almost half an hour later asked a passing flight attendant to hang it for me. We took off at 0020.

THE SEAT Business class is across two cabins on the B777-300ER and is configured 1-2-1 (A, D-F, K). The front cabin has only two rows between a galley and first class, while the second has 12 rows. I had chosen window seat 24A towards the rear of the second cabin.

All seats are angled slightly, with window seats actually facing a window. Middle seats D-F are angled inwards but have been cleverly designed so you are not forced into making eye contact with your neighbour. All seats have direct aisle access. The seat has a real sense of space in terms of its width (21 inches/53cm), privacy and airiness. Since it is angled, there is a triangular cushion to one side between the seat and armrest, which means you have more room when the seat is fully flat (it increases the width by 6.5 inches/16.5cm), and when it is upright you can sit cross-legged without your knees touching the armrest.

The product reclines to meet a footrest, and the 15.4-inch IFE screen pops out from the angled back of the seat in front. All the controls and the IFE are in a convenient position to one side at shoulder height, along with a reading light and the in-seat power and iPod USB jacks. The table is firm and slides in and out of the armrest. There is a large space beneath the seat, as well as a small cupboard and a side table – the amount of storage is impressive.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you can, select a window seat in the middle of the main cabin – the smaller front cabin looks more private but is actually noisier because it’s next to the galley.

THE FLIGHT Service was rather strange. Before take-off the cabin crew seemed slightly hurried, and an announcement was made that since a passenger was missing we would have to return to our seats. Once we were airborne, service was slow. I was near the rear of the cabin so was among the last to be served, but still, menus were not given out until 35 minutes after take-off, along with Agnes B amenity bags – so those wanting to sleep had to wait for their ear plugs, eye mask, and bottle of water.

Drinks and nuts were handed out at 0120, and the starter (smoked salmon) not until 0150. Our choice of main course (slow-cooked side of pork with greens, rice and pak choi, or grilled beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, new potatoes, French beans and capsicum) was served before we had finished the starters, and as I finished my main, I was given a soup from the light menu. It’s a long flight, but this needed to be quicker. It also didn’t help that some passengers were treated differently – I understand frequent flyers get some priority treatment, but food orders being taken before I have been offered a soft drink is a little obvious. Among the wines were Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne, Buissonnier Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise 2010, and Mount Riley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

I slept for six hours, finding the seat very comfortable, and the duvet a good size. I woke before landing and had breakfast, which was delicious, but, again, I was offered the main course before the cereals, before a senior flight attendant corrected this.

ARRIVAL We landed on time at 0540, security was quick, and our bags were waiting on the carousel once we cleared security.

VERDICT: This is one of the best business seats flying – it is well thought out, extremely comfortable for both sitting and sleeping, and has lots of personal space. The service, however, needs some work. It’s friendly enough, but generally slow with rushed bursts to catch up, and is not flexible enough to cope with passengers wanting things in their own time. 

Factfile

  • PLANE TYPE B777-300ER
  • SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 21in/53cm
  • SEAT LENGTH 82in/208cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Hong Kong in November ranged between £3,187 and £7,279 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT cathaypacific.com

Tom Otley