Going Down Under – Cathay Pacific Business Class to Perth

For Easter, I went to Western Australia for a short holiday. Short being the essence, I had two long-haul flights in a short amount of time. I had a one-day layover in Hong Kong between my flights but by the time I made it to Perth, I was so exhausted. I flew out London Heathrow on the evening CX256 and connected onto the following day’s CX171 afternoon departure to Perth. Apologies in advance for the lack of many pictures – a lot of these are a repeat from prior reports so I would encourage you to have a browse there and I was really tired from all the travelling.

I first visited the Qantas Lounge, which was both very spacious and eerily quiet at this time of the day. I usually stay in this lounge until after both CX238 and CX250 depart or else the Cathay First Class lounge would be too packed for me to enjoy – although in today’s case, the Cathay F lounge was very crowded even after two evening departures!

I am a big fan of the gin bar

Onto Cathay lounge I go to get a bite

The menu

Dim sum to start – nothing too spectacular

Crispy squid – better

Salmon to conclude

Some bog standard Moet

Loving the view!

One thing I do detest about Heathrow departures is that Cathay uses the furthest gate all the time. It may be me just being unlucky, but I have used gate 42 for departures and arrivals more often than any other Heathrow gates in my lifetime! A good walk to digest the food, but oftentimes it is just quite stressful to have to leave the lounge a bit early to make sure I make the flight!

I told the ISM that I would like to sleep as soon as possible and whether she could bring me my starter plate and then dessert. She was very complying and I was done with dinner within an hour of departure.

I woke up just in time for the breakfast service, which I thought was a bit disappointing (the food, the sleep was excellent!)

The flight flew by (pun intended) and we arrived well ahead of schedule – I cleared immigration and picked up my bags within 20 minutes of arrival

Only to return to the airport the following day…

I arrived back to Hong Kong International Airport two hours ahead of departure. With the gate being 50, I decided to use the Pier Dining Room. I sampled a three-course menu – nothing to write home about. Service was so-so and a bit slow.

Soon enough, I had to head back to the gate for more flying (it sounds like a chore!)

My second time on the A350 – I am very excited!

Definitely my favourite feature of the A350!

To start, sparkling water and a G&T as per!

Curiously, the first service is a ‘Dinner’ service. To start, I had some dried meat, which was quite nice

Champagne to accompany the starter – not the usual Billecart Salmon, but the Piper Heidsieck – not as nice, but oh well!

I had the braised beef for main – it was overcooked as per, but it was rather nice

The Senior Purser offered me wine tasting on both whites.

Both were quite drinkable but not impressive

Fruits and cheese

Heading south!

The SP was quite insistent I tried both desserts – the Panna cotta and the Tiramisu. Both were very good

Sunset came just after dinner

I started working just after dinner

The refreshment service started 2 hours before landing (or 2.5 hours after dessert was served) Before I was working, I requested my meal to be served first and the Senior Purser was only too happy to comply. The duck was one of the best main courses I have ever had on Cathay – I was really impressed!

Dessert was to follow – by this time I am too stuffed

Bailey’s to wrap up the meal

1 hour left to go

The flight arrived more or less on time

The two flights I took to go to Australia were both above par – not Cathay’s most impressive work and I can definitely see how slow the service can get on an A350. More impressive was the can do spirit of the crew: both the ISM from the London flight and the SP from the Perth flight were very accommodating to maximise my work/sleep time. Beyond that, the food left a lot to be desired and the wine list was getting more dire.

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My transpacific odyssey Part 4: CX543 Business Class Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) (Here)

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) (Here)

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited (You are Here)

Last we left off, I arrived into Tokyo Haneda Airport from Chicago on ANA’s First Class. It was 9 pm when I cleared immigration and picked up my luggage, and I met up with a friend of mine for a quite supper before heading to the airport hotel. I fell asleep right away but woke up at about 6:30 am – way too early the 10:45 am departure (FYI: my alarm was set for 8:45 am). I guess it was the jetlag that was keeping me awake. I did not mind much as I could just hang around in the airport.

CX543 is the first of the two flights Cathay runs to Hong Kong from Haneda – usually in regional configuration. I booked it so I could get home earlier (I arrived back to Hong Kong on Wednesday and would need to be off to Europe in Sunday!) or else I would have definitely booked on the later service – CX549 – for the 77W service. A few months prior the flight, it was changed to a three-class 777-300ER in long-haul configuration! I was elated and it was the only flight that week that has a long-haul configuration.

I ended up taking the 7:30 am shuttle back to the airport and I spotted my bird on the way!

Cathay Pacific shares Aisle J with China Southern – but as an OneWorld Emerald, I am allowed to use First Class check-in, which had no queue as per usual.

I tried to use fast track security check but only First Class passengers are allowed. I explained that I was an OneWorld Emerald and a BA Gold card holder, and they let me in regardless.

I first used the JAL First Class lounge, which was very crowded.

I needed to call someone on Skype so I migrated to the Cathay Pacific lounge

I ordered a wonton noodles which was as good as ever. Really hit the spot

And a flat white to wake me up

I arrived at the gate just a few minutes prior to boarding time

My chariot today

The First Class is as empty as ever – so I was first on the plane

Seat today is 23K

Champagne to start

Just over 5 hours flight time

Even with an on time departure from the gate, we were going to run late against a 5:15 block time.

The reason to pick a seat on the right for departure from Haneda is Mount Fuji

The meal service started soon after

My usual – Perrier and G&T

More nuts

To start:

Serrano ham, tomato mozzarella timbale, glazed fig and basil sauce

Seasonal salad and yuzu dressing

Buckwheat soba and nameko mushroom

Champagne Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut

Followed by: Hokkaido style seafood, miso sauce, seasonal vegetables and aona Japanese rice

It is getting cloudy outside

Cheese and fruit

Green tea ice cream, of course

The flight is progressing

The meal service concluded just after we left Kyushu – it was excellent. Japanese catering is really good and the service was quick and efficient.

I then put my seat down and snoozed until we were 30 minutes out

The flight route today

Parked next to a Qatar A350-900

I got my suitcase within 15 minutes of arriving – HK efficiency

I was tired after the flight so I headed home and snoozed until the following morning. Yet Cathay more or less delivered an excellent flight. No complaints and thus concluding my transpacific odyssey of my Christmas/New Year break.

My transpacific odyssey Part 3: NH111 First Class ORD-HND

On my way back from the USA, I was able to snatch a First Class flight on ANA from Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo Haneda using Aegean Airlines Miles. 100,000 miles lighter and I have the e-ticket to the dream flight of the lifetime. I was finishing up work at Denver and spent the weekend there before heading on Monday. I started my day with American Airlines, a short two-hour hop, and then I had to wait around slightly for the check-in for ANA to open.

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) (Here)

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) [You are here]

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited [to come]

7 am in Denver

I was at Group 2, courtesy of my BA Gold status, and seemed to be the only Group 2 passenger of the day. I think most AA homegrown elites were upgraded, leaving me the only one with elite status in coach (as I was the only one offered snacks/drinks).

View from my exit row

Free snacks – too early for drinks obviously

Approaching Chicago

I then spent two hours catching up with some work in the Flagship Lounge – so apologies for the lack of report. It had a good selection of food and drinks – and it was a rather nice space to work in.

I went to Terminal 3 at about 13:00, which was 15 minutes before check-in opened. I waited in line for First Class check-in, and I was the only one in the line. Long lines were already forming for Business Class and Economy Class.

Check-in took a while. The United agent was a bit concerned that I did not have a return flight out of Japan. I showed her my mobile boarding pass on Cathay Pacific out of Haneda the following morning but she was not too convinced. I had to show her the e-ticket and let her copy it before she would issue my boarding passes and tagged my bags. She advised me that I could use the Polaris Lounge (of which I knew already) and that I could use the Fast Track security check (of which I also knew, but I wonder whether it was worth the walk all the way to the other end of the terminal!) She was courtesy but lacked the Japanese professionalism I would say.

I was told to turn left upon seeing the fossil

I like the tunnel!

There was a staff checking credentials outside the lounge making sure you are eligible. It’s been a while since I qualified for a lounge by virtue of class travel. (I am an OneWorld Emerald that flies in Economy and Business Class… and before that I was Star Alliance Gold that only flies in Economy Class)

I went straight to lunch – I know that a feast awaits me on board, but I heard that food in Polaris is pretty nice and I was not disappointed!

A gin and tonic to start – you should know by now

Starter

Champagne to follow

Steak and fries

Bread and butter pudding

It was very good – the service was top notch but by the time the lunch was over, it was about time to leave. I managed to sneak in a shower but that was about it!

I arrived at the gate, which was a short walk from the lounge, about 10 minutes prior to the flight.

And a dedicated bridge for First Class

Boarding began promptly at 15:45

My seat 2K

Pre-departure beverage: not the Krug, just normal Champagne, I was told

Long flight ahead

Sunset at Chicago

Hot towel to start

Menu was presented to me

Sparkling water and Krug to start

These canapes were out of this world

Table was laid

Bread

Smoked salmon and lobster starter – it was very good

Caviar

More champagne? Yes, please!

Salad

Japanese soup

The flight is still young!

Fish for main. It was not the best presented course but it is one of the best fish courses I have ever had. The seabass was cooked to perfection – flaky and piping hot

White wine to accompany the fish

Fruits for dessert

Switching to tea now

Do I have room for more?

Bed was set up in 2G for me

I woke up over Alaska – it is morning in Tokyo, so I had to start forcing myself to stay awake, which was proving quite difficult

So coffee to start

More caffeine? Yes, please!

Fairbanks

Why not stuff more food? White wine to start

Corn soup – it was out of this world!

Ramen – it was too flavourful for my liking, but oh well!

More white wine!

Dessert was excellent

Latte to finish. I tried to teach them flat white, but the language barrier failed me.

I fell asleep in the lounge position watching TV in my seat. When I woke up, the TV was turned off and a blanket was pulled over me. Speaking of personal service! I was so so impressed.

I woke up again over Russia

Some more tea

The lounge position

The final meal service started about 2 hours out

Some bar snacks

Smoked duck to start

The Japanese set

Sake was a must!

More fruits

Apple crumble was a hit and miss

A final tea break with just under an hour to go

Arrived into Tokyo just a bit behind schedule due to strong head winds.

I enjoyed my flight a lot, at least up to the point I left the aircraft. The food and beverage on offer were excellent and the service was extremely polished. The flight attendants were warm, witty and quick to serve. As I left the plane in Tokyo, I was met with these intolerable queues for immigration. It ended up taking 2 hours to clear immigration, and that was not the expected ending for such a lovely flight.

My transpacific odyssey Part 2: JL62 Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) (You are here)

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) [to come]

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited [to come]

Part 5: HKG-LHR CX257 (Business Class)

I started my New Year’s Eve in Kyoto and ended it in a suburb in Denver. Because of flying over the International Date Line, I had 40 hours of New Year’s Eve which was quite a novelty. In terms of the flights, I redeemed 75,000 BA Avios for the Japan Airlines Business Class from Tokyo to Los Angeles, which represented good value for the peak season. I paid for the Economy Class ticket from Los Angeles to Denver which as OneWorld Emerald I have free food/drinks and free exit-row seating, so was excellent all round. I also visited the First Class lounges in Narita and Los Angeles, which was excellent.

Japanese trains are wonderful – they run extremely on time

As an OneWorld Emerald member, I was allowed to check in at First Class check-in. There was no wait, I was escorted by the staff checking me in and she tagged my bag all the way to Denver (although I still needed to pick it up at Los Angeles to clear customs)

Even though it was not clearly signposted, OneWorld Emerald members are allowed to use the First Class private security offered by JAL. There was no one in security, which was handy. I managed to get through quickly and immigration was efficient too.

I quickly arrived at the First Class lounge

There was no a la carte dining at this lounge which was a significant downgrade from what I experienced in most OneWorld Emerald lounges, but the food quality was quite good

Food offering

My plane has pulled in about 2 hours prior to departure – and yet departure was still delayed

I went over to the satellite building lounge to stretch my legs slightly

And more champagne!

The sushi bar opened at 3 pm

Out of everything they offered, I only wanted some eggs

Soon enough, it was time for boarding. The gate area was absolutely swamped with people – looked as if it would be an extremely full flight. The First Class line was extremely long too

First Class through Door 1 – everyone else through Door 2

The Business Class cabin

8C for me today

The TV was in Japanese by default – took a bit of time to get it out of Japanese mode

Route today

Sparkling wine in a plastic flute to start

For some reason, safety briefing was done manually rather than through the personal TV screens

The noise-cancelling headphones

It was a long taxi and then we took off

Hot towel was first offered

My table was soon laid

Sake to start

First course

Everything was extremely good

Bread was given on request

Main course was beef tongue and grilled eel. It was very oil but freshly steamed rice is always appreciated

By this point, we have just over 7.5 hours to go

Dessert and green tea

More desserts

Water bottles were given out just before bed time

More green tea

My bed – it was not long enough for me (1.85m) – the mattress was very comfortable but the cabin temperature was consistently too warm for me to use the blankets

Just lost a day!

My pre-arrival meal: octopus balls, rice porridge with smoked fish and some fruits

View of sunrise

We are nearly there!

Some dessert

Well into California

We landed a few minutes behind schedule and it took a while for us to get to our stand

But immigration was extremely fast in LAX so I was out within 20 minutes

My verdict: It was a rather solid flight. I enjoyed the lounge a lot – it was a quiet place that serves above par food and good wifi for walking. The flight itself was fine – food was above par, the wine selection was good and the service was generally decent. The flight was exceptionally full and it could feel a bit like clockwork. I am really not a fan of the seat – I find it a bit difficult to sleep in and the cabin temperature was definitely set too high.

I quickly re-cleared security at TBIT and headed to the QF First Class lounge for my long layover at LAX. It was an elegantly appointed lounge and with only a handful of people in there during my stay – everything was done perfectly. I enjoyed the food there and the wifi was quick, which allowed me to finish up on some work.

Literally no one here

Breakfast menu

Lunch

To start: some Rose Champagne

Salt and Pepper Squid was excellent

Trout with fresh greens and French fries – all were excellent

Peppermint tea to finish with some desserts

All the food was of extremely high quality and was extremely elegantly presented. It helped that I was the only one in the dining area for most of the time. This reminds me of the privilege it is to be an OneWorld Emerald member which affords me First Class lounges – which is something that Star Alliance and SkyTeam will never afford their elite members.

I boarded my flight to Denver and was on my merry way – everything went on time and I got to my NYE party on time. It was a good day, albeit the long travelling day.

 

 

 

My transpacific odyssey Part 1: CX504 Business Class HKG-NRT

 

For the second part of my Christmas holiday, I went to Japan for a skiing holiday with my family and then moved onto the Rocky Mountains for New Year’s Eve and the first week of the year for some more wintery fun (and work), thus the transpacific odyssey. This is a pretty special trip for me as I was able to burn significant miles which marked the end of an era. Prior to my days as an avid OneWorld flyer (now Emerald with BA), I was a Star Alliance Gold member with Aegean Airlines and frequented Singapore Airlines’ outstanding economy class. I accumulated a significant amount of miles and on this trip, I was able to burn almost all of them on a 13-hour First Class flight from Chicago to Tokyo/Haneda. On my way to the USA, I flew on JAL Business Class, only redeemed days before the flight. Trying a new Business Class product was nevertheless very exciting and at the same time indulgent – I shall be reporting on that soon, too.

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) [to come]

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) [to come]

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited [to come]

Part 5: HKG-LHR CX257 (Business Class)

However, first, I need to get to Japan, and the obvious choice would be Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class to Tokyo Narita. I would have flown on the later flight CX520 for the long-haul product, but my family was on the earlier (yet delayed) Hong Kong Airlines HX609 service, which meant that had all things gone to plan, I would get into Tokyo at the same time as them (spoiler alert: their flight was delayed for 4 hours while mine was exceptionally – almost to a fault – punctual)

With a departure time of 09:05, I arrived into HKIA at 07:05. First Class check-in had no queues and security was surprisingly light for the peak season. I got through by 07:15.

My flight would leave from the 40s, so I used the Pier First Class lounge. I headed straight for food as I did not have that much time. Flat white to start, with the usual Rose Champagne and sparkling water.

The menu

Starter plate – the portion of fruit was a bit disappointing

Steamed turnip cake

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

More coffee

Bircher Muesli

Soon enough, it was time to go. I did not have time to explore the lounge further barring to get a bottle of still water. Gate was 42 – a long enough trek for me to digest the food!

My ride – Boeing 777-300 with regional configuration.

I boarded through First Class priority lane despite First Class not being offered on this segment. I do appreciate this new policy (First Class boarding lane available regardless of whether First Class is offered) as I was able to skip the long priority queue (full of Silver Marco Polo members – surprisingly, the Green Card lane was very short)

View from my seat

Welcome drink: choice of fruit juice or water

We pushed back on time and the safety demonstration was soon shown

Hot towel offered

I was rather hoping this was my family’s ride – but no

Take-off at 09:27 (against a 09:05 STD – this was extremely good going!)

The long-haul version of noise-cancelling headphones were offered – this is so much better, and I do appreciate this ‘enhancement’

Leaving Hong Kong airspace

Drink service started about 40 minutes after take-off. I had a tea and coconut water

Clear skies near Taiwan

More tea as my table is laid

First course: Fresh Fruits

Breakfast pastries

Second course: Yogurt with Muesli

By this point, we have left Taiwan

Third course: Chinese Dim Sum Selection

I then caught a few moments’ shuteye time. The seat in its cradle position was very comfortable, though not ideal. I woke up with about 48 minutes to spare

Peppermint tea to freshen up.

Soon enough, we were on approach into Narita

We landed at 13:53 local time, which made flight time 3 hours 26 minutes and an extremely punctual flight.

Parked at Terminal 2 looking over to the LCC terminal

Overall, the flight was decent. I would not say I was impressed: after all, I have had better Cathay flights even regionally. The Inflight Service Manager greeted me as an Emerald member and offered to come back to reserve my food option, which never materialised. By the time the cart came to my row, both my neighbour and I wanted the dim sum, and it was rather embarrassing to see the crew tried to break the tie by virtue of my Emerald status (my neighbour was probably a Sapphire, unclear as to whether he was homebred or not, though). The Hong Kong First Class lounge continues to impress, although I have visited a more impressive lounge on this trip (no spoilers this time). Cathay delivered a good flight, nevertheless.

A Transatlantic Odyssey Part 2: British Airways 747 Upper Deck Club World Boston to London

After a few lovely days in Boston, it was time to carry on my travels. As mentioned in Part 1, I bought World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and used 24,000 avios to upgrade the segment to Club World. Originally, I booked myself on the last service of the day – a short redeye service which was operated by a Boeing 747. I upgraded the flight for the chance to fly upper deck (not to mention it was one of the best deals out there!) but in September the aircraft was swapped out for a refurbished Boeing 777-200. Luckily, the flight also moved 5 minutes in the schedule so I could ask for a change in flights. I moved to the following morning departure, which was in retrospect, a lot better. I managed to catch some sleep the night prior and was able to enjoy the flight without the fear of not sleeping!

I woke up at 4:30 am in Cambridge (MA) and got on an Uber for 5 am. I arrived at Terminal E of Boston Logan Airport by 5:20 am, which was very good speed. There was no wait in the Gold/First Class line and I was checked in very quickly. I did not check in a bag but needed to obtain my onward boarding passes. The agent was quick and also gave me an introduction to the Boston lounge. Boarding would be from the lounge – what a novel concept!

A very empty departure hall

I first visited my gate for an obligatory shoot

Then I visited the lounge

And you can indeed board from the lounge

I did not take pictures of the lounge offerings. It was very underwhelming to say the least – but I suppose this would be the norm for a morning departure. There were standard breakfast items, some fruits and some lacklustre pastries. I had a banana and got a glass of sparkling water – and just read until departure.

Priority was enforced. First passengers boarded first, then Gold members, then Club World etc. I was the first one to go on the stairs into the upper deck

My seat is 62K – exit row, so it is a window seat with direct aisle access and a longer bed (sweet!)

The route today

My view

Champagne offered in the morning!

Menu was offered. The Purser soon came back and took my order for Brunch. I overheard many people going for the risotto and many people were asked to pick a second choice. I chose the risotto and was told that would be fine. In fact, I have read so much about the abysmal loading of food for BA flights, and I think only 2 risottos were loaded for the upper deck today… Here, my Gold status paid off.

The load in Business Class was really low – about 20% in the main deck, and about 45% in the upper deck. Everyone has at least a pair of seats and most elected to sit in the window seat. We pushed back a few minutes before schedule

A long taxi followed

Beautiful sunrise to see me off

Take off

Area of UMass

Even with an on time departure, we were still projected for a late arrival – unusually weak winds across the Atlantic this week, I think. I did not mind too much – gave me more time to enjoy the flight anyways

A hot towel was offered

The Purser came over and took orders for drinks. I went for the Rose Champagne and she came back with some nuts

Soon after I finished my drinks, my breakfast tray was brought to me. It did not feel mechanical at all. I guess with the little load, the cabin crew could tailor the service to the pace of the customers. I chose the antipasti plate with the yogurt.

The amount of fish in the risotto was a dismay but the risotto was one of the better mains I have had on a plane!

Soon enough, I was very tired and I made my bed. I used an extra blanket as a mattress and got an extra pillow. I managed to sleep for 2 hours – not bad! The seat is really private, which is a massive plus!

I woke up with about 2 hours left

And the sun is setting – this is one of my shorter days!

I managed to get a picture on the stairs!

One thing I do like about BA is that a Club Kitchen is consistently present on any Club World flights, including the much shorter Moscow flights. There were lots of snacks available. I took a fruit plate and a crunchie

While watching the Big Bang Theory…

With 1 hour 15 minutes to go, I was offered an arrival snack. Tomato with mozzarella and a brownie. I had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with it. It was great – I would appreciate a choice on the cold plate though!

Bread was not proactively offered though. I asked and the cabin crew heated some bread rolls for me

And a Buck’s Fizz to celebrate a successful expedition!

We were descending by the time the meal wraps up

Approach

Last look at the upper deck

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable flight. The novelty of flying upper deck of a Boeing 747 notwithstanding, the flight showcased the very best of BA services. A very personalised meal service, with above par food and beverage. The cabin crews were very good at not disturbing our rest, and always ready to serve. The seat is, despite all criticisms, very comfortable. I am really glad I was on a day flight so I enjoyed the flight to its fullest extent.

A Transatlantic Odyssey Part 1: London to Boston in BA World Traveller

This winter will see yours truly going across both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, without actually going around the world. This is a holiday of lots of flying and as a fellow aviation geek, truly a season of joy. I started my holiday first to Boston to see my best friend, and then will journey to Asia via Europe, before heading back to Colorado in January followed by a lengthy week back to London via Chicago, Tokyo and Hong Kong. I will be flying some exciting products too – starting with BA’s World Traveller economy product followed by a 747 upper deck experience, to the eventual climax of trying out ANA first class next year.

The trip has been in the clockworks for quite a while. I booked my flights back in May and I managed to score a very sweet deal. I paid for World Traveller on the outbound and World Traveller Plus on the inbound, upgrading the inbound with miles, and part paid for the whole thing in miles. It was fantastic value for a transatlantic return journey, not least being able to experience upper deck on a 747 on the way back.

My trip starts at the First Wing in London Heathrow Terminal 5

There was not a huge wait for check-in, though having to wait was indeed a bit of a novelty! Security was quick and I got into the lounge soon enough. I had quite a while in the lounge but I had to catch up on lots of work so I did not have much to report on. Plus, the Galleries First lounge provides lacklustre food options, anyways. The champagne bar is always fitting for a little celebratory post, however:

I left for the gate at 4 pm and arrived just in time for priority boarding. Despite as a gold (Emerald) member, I chose not to push ahead in the queue when they called for gold as I did not want to seem like a DYKWIA. I gladly allowed bronze members and those in Club World (rightly prioritised!) board in front of me before joining. This was not a very elite-heavy flight at the back I think: as the section lead only greeted myself and another person once we were on the way. The gate agents did a reasonable job enforcing priority boarding turning back economy class passengers and I did not have to wait for too long to board.

My seat is 26C – the first row of Economy Class and an exit row seat

We were underway shortly. The section lead greeted me, welcomed me on board personally and said that BA appreciates my business. This was a really nice touch, and I was later offered the new Club World amenity kit produced by the White Company.

Drink services started first. I opted for sparkling water and a G&T as per usual.

A relative small economy class cabin meant that dinner service started extremely soon. I was served my meal 1 hour 15 minutes after departure. I chose chicken casserole with kale mashed potatoes. The other choice was pasta (that was as much clue I had – both my neighbours went for chicken)

It tasted a lot better than it looked.

I asked for seconds and the section lead came back with another meal and another bread!

Just under 5 hours to go!

Soon after the meal service, the cabin lights were dimmed and I managed some rest while finishing my magazine

Approaching North America

I was provided with cups of tea by the lovely cabin crew during the time I was awake and I felt extremely well taken care of. One of the joys of flying BA is that their tea is really proper and nice. An hour prior to landing, the lights went on and snacks were provided

The flight went by extremely quickly and soon enough it was time to land into Boston

The flight went by extremely quickly. We were barely in air for more than 6 hours and we arrived 50 minutes ahead of schedule. I had to wait for my bag, which was a testament to the efficiency of the CBP check point at Boston. This BA flight was extremely enjoyable: the food and beverage provisions were above par – the white wine was very drinkable and fruity – and the cabin crew was extremely professional: constantly passing through the cabin was water and juice. The hard product was solid: the TV was easy to operate and with good content (admittedly I was saving the content as I have more hours of flying to do later this month) and the seat was a lot better than the older ones.

Some Boston highlights:

The Massachusetts State House

Make way for Ducklings

The Democratic Donkey – ‘jackass’

‘Tis the season to be jolly

Graveyards commemorating the fight for freedom

USS Constitution

The Battle of Bunker Hill memorial

View from the top

The Halifax Christmas Tree

Ice skating at the Frog Pond in Boston Common

Cambridge 5k

Boston Tea Party

Seagull

The JFK Presidential Library

The flag inside

Dinner from the top of the Prudential Tower

Harvard Library

Sunset on Massachusetts Av

LOL

Fusion food: Korean beef fries

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Singapore Changi to Hong Kong

I have flown this sector about a year ago on Cathay Pacific. It was a birthday upgrade on a regional product (back in the days when I was still a loyal Marco Polo Club member) and I was left somewhat unimpressed. This year, as part of my big trip to Hong Kong, I am flying Cathay again, this time paid in Business Class, to check them out again. Two months prior to my flight, an A350 was swapped into the schedule and I was so happy to get the long-haul product.

Fast forward to June when I flew. Cathay flies up to 9 flights a day to Singapore, including the rotation that goes via Bangkok, which I flew in just days ago and was extremely impressed of. So, at any given point, you would see a few Cathay planes on the ground in Changi. Of course, this is back in the days when Cathay was still in Terminal 1:

In terms of lounges, Cathay Pacific used to use the Dnata Lounge in Terminal 1, which was lacklustre to say the least. I prefer the Qantas lounge here (the BA one is not good) and so I spent all my time in the Qantas lounge. I do wonder how the Cathay lounge in Terminal 4 now stacks up with the competition but the lack of showers in the Cathay lounge does militate against it though. I gained entry by virtue for flying Business Class on an OneWorld airline, but equally I could have got in via my OneWorld Emerald status if I am flying in the back.

Once you walk in, there’s a lovely bar, with a bartender and barista

Selection of mocktail

Selection of beverages: Australian sparkling wine and sparkling water

Selection of made-to-order hot dishes

https://flic.kr/p/XhXjxDS

Selection of food from the buffet

A flat white to finish off a lovely meal

The Qantas lounge is very spacious and even during peak hours (last I visited on way to London), it was never too crowded and always quite easy to find a place to sit down

I enjoyed my stay in the Qantas lounge very much and I do believe that Qantas has one of the best lounges in the world, as I look forward to visiting the London lounge and the Los Angeles first class lounge before the end of this year (woohoo!)

I made my way to the gate as soon as the gate opened to avoid having to queue at security and to catch a glimpse of my ride. The Qantas lounge is located near the C gates so it was a bit of a trek to the D gates where my Cathay flight departed. Cathay Pacific, unlike Singapore Airlines, segregates its security and boarding gate area into business class (and OneWorld Sapphire and Emerald members), premium economy (and Marco Polo Green) and economy class, which is often welcomed so that priority boarding will be respected.

My ride today

Boarding was called on time and I was among the first to board

View from my seat – 21A

A hot towel was offered

Watermelon juice as pre-departure drink!

My favourite inflight entertainment – the cameras!

Pushback was delayed due to earlier incident at Changi clogging up departure

Lining up with runway 20C

Take off!

3 hours 21 minutes to Hong Kong

View of Changi at sunset

My usual selection: a G&T with a sparkling water

John Wick being my movie choice

The seat controls for the A350. As opposed to the older business class, pressing the ‘bed’ button once will get you the fully flat bed

Now this is where things get a bit boring as the meal served here is exactly the same to the lunch I had a year ago, but here goes

Cured salmon with fennel citrus salad and crème fraiche cucumber roll

I had the champagne to go with the starter. This would be the last time I have the Billecart-Salmon Champagne as it is being phrase out from Cathay

As an OneWorld Emerald member, I have been asked what I wanted in advance of the cart being pulled out and been given my dinner choice well in advance. I chose what I chose last year:

Braised duck with mai chy preserved vegetables, broccoli, shimeji mushrooms, carrots, and steamed jasmine rice

In retrospect, the fish looked very nice too, and I passed on it twice!

The usual cheese and fruits selection

By this point, we are nearly there

But there is still time for ice cream

And a hot chocolate

Descent began soon after

At gate with a bit of delay

This was a decent flight. The long haul cabin helped a lot – the space, the privacy and the ease in getting in and out. The food and beverage were above par and I enjoyed the Singapore catering very much. This was an exceptionally full flight and next to me were two customers who would not stop chatting with each other and played videos on speakers… I have complained to the cabin crew but to no avail. Service was a bit of a hit and miss – too short a flight and too many passengers. I am starting to understand the difficulty to pull off service on the A350 – as a similar flight on an A330 would have been done much quicker.

A380 Club World from Hong Kong to London Heathrow

Exactly one year ago, I flew this exact same flight; and as my schedule would have it, I am flying BA32 again on the same day. I have since attained OneWorld Emerald status through BA Executive Club so have been afforded more privileges, including First Class check-in, First Class lounge access (in Hong Kong, it would be the two Cathay lounges: the Wing and the Pier, as BA’s dedicated Qantas lounge is a shared Business and First Class lounge).

There was absolutely no wait at the First Class check-in where my bags were tagged promptly and my boarding pass issued without much human interaction. No ‘welcome back’ but at least it was an efficient process and I was off in no time.

As BA32 regularly (and this time it was no different) departs from gate 15, which is really close to security, there was really no point to visit the Pier, which is far at gate 65. I settled for the Wing instead of my usual favourite of Qantas lounge this time.

The Champagne bar, serving three champagnes

The view is good

I was able to fit in a visit to the cabana, which was majestic

And a cold champagne to toast for this trip

I left for Gate 15 when my flight started to board

Boarding through the First Class line attracts no queue nor wait. BA at Hong Kong does a far better job at enforcing priority boarding, with clearly defined queues for different boarding priorities, although lumping Business Class (Club World) together with Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) together may attract some criticisms. Equally, by granting all OneWorld elites priority boarding at least at the level of Business Class has the effect of lengthening the priority queues to be somewhat as long as the Economy queues on this A380 service. Yet, First Class line remains a sanctuary for those who have ‘earned’ it. (Yours truly is reminded of the scene in the movie Up in the Air)

A glass of champagne is offered upon arrival

View from my seat

BA utilises something called ‘Theoretical Seating’ to allocate seats. As BA charges for seat assignments even for Business Class passengers without status, BA is able to optimise its seat assignments by way of starting to block seats next to its most loyal customers (Gold Card holders, equivalent to Emerald) 55 hours prior to departure. This is evident on this flight as out of the 1 only seat that is not taken, it was the seat next to me. Over the next few flights I have taken with BA, this has been of some successes, including a blocked seat next to me on the upper deck of 747.

Bulkhead seats have slightly more legroom

Menu for the day

One of the major issues I took with the menu this time last year was the lack of Chinese option despite flying out of Hong Kong (ex-Heathrow flights have one Asian option for both meals). I was glad to see the issue addressed in part. For the first meal service, BA now replaces its (in)famous fish course (served with ‘wild rice’) with an Asian selection (for this month, sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice), which I took and would be reporting below.

BA28 on the 777-300ER

The new safety video was featured.

Take off was more or less on time

Hot towel (if you can call it that!) was offered after take off

Rose champagne, sparkling water and cashew nuts – a familiar start to my BA Club flights. BA is one of the very few airlines that offer more than 1 champagne selections on their flight.

With just 11 hours to go

Starter with a New Zealand ‘Tiki’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (NZ SB is now my beverage of choice and this was one of the more enjoyable BA white selection!)

A somewhat lacklustre attempt at a Chinese main course. Tastes good but looks just like an economy meal (except on Chinaware). The other complaint is the same for Cathay: customers now expect some sort of plating when serving food in Business Class, rather than just a heated meal from the oven.

Dessert was definitely the highlight of the meal – it was simply divine

Pralines

Dinner was done about 1.5 hours after take-off. Against such a full Business Class cabin, this was commendable

I woke up about 2 hours out of London

Began my day with a cup of tea. Despite the lack of fancy tea/coffee selection, I generally find BA tea very comforting and well made, even in Economy Class. This time was no different: I was just glad this was offered

First course

Nearly there!

I asked and was given the fruit plate

Second Course: Salmon and spinach wrap – not the best food I have eaten on the plane…

By the time the plates were cleared, we are approaching English coast

London in the very early morning. As one of the first flights arriving, there is no holding pattern (!) and we were cleared to approach straightaway, though the approach was lengthened as we landed on the west

To end, a hearty English breakfast in the Arrivals Lounge, accessible through travelling in Business Class

In sum, it was a solid flight – nothing that wows me though. This is one of those flights that my BA gold status went unnoticed, not that I wanted any special treatment, but as Ryan Bingham would say: “Loyalty is earned and rewarded with these small touches. It’s these kinds of systemized friendly touches that keep my world in orbit.” In terms of service, I think there is definitely room for improvements, not least was I told off for failing to pronounce a French wine-related word properly by a crew (fault is my own, but still, it can be dealt with in a much more friendly way). The food was better than last year, snack offerings remained subpar (Club Kitchen contained nibbles, only), but beverage offering is solid as usual. It did the trick, though: I was not jetlagged and got a very good night’s sleep.

My first A350 ride

I just got off BA’s flight from Bangkok and I would transfer onto CX’s fifth-freedom service from Bangkok to Singapore for a short holiday before returning to Hong Kong, also on Cathay. This is one of the best flights I have had and even with the very short flight time (less than 2 hours) and a full Business class cabin (the flight was fully booked a few weeks out!), the cabin crew managed to serve us with ease and great attention. I have flown with Cathay a few times more since and unfortunately, I have to report that this service I have received was an anomaly but made this flight no less enjoyable and pleasant.

I visited the Cathay lounge and was issued my boarding pass. I was also told that my bags will be re-tagged (and indeed they were – with Cathay tags) by the lounge attendant. Because of the delay, I only had just under an hour here. I quickly grabbed some food from the noodle bar due to the lacklustre breakfast I got on board BA, and to freshen up in the loo. I haven’t taken many pictures in the lounge as I had some emails and some messaging to attend to, but this new lounge was designed in the same vein of the Pier and the other new lounges like the one in London (reported here) and the one in Haneda (see here).

I had a sparkling water with some hot food items. The food items were decent and definitely much better than the ones I got on BA. I quickly gobbled up the food and headed down to the gate for boarding.

I arrived at the gate showing ‘Final Call’ although the flight has not called for boarding yet due to a late arrival of the incoming aircraft from Hong Kong.

As with Singapore, there was a dedicated seating area for elites but I did not find a seat (Macro Polo silver members or above would be let in and with a full Business cabin, arriving late meant standing) I did not mind too much. Boarding soon started and only Business class passengers could board on the left and all other passengers needed to board on the right – so not that long a wait considering an A350 only has 38 Business class seats.

My seat: 21A

I was very thrilled with the camera functions, especially I came on a very old plane, and also because this was my first flight on the Airbus A350

It started raining during boarding

I took a water for pre-departure drink

I was then welcomed on board personally by the Senior Purser, who made the point of coming all the way towards the end to give me the menu and thanked me for being an OneWorld Emerald member. She told me to have a read and to decide what I wanted for lunch, and she would come back in 5 minutes to take my meal order. She then went back to the front and distributed the menus. True to her words, she came back and took my meal orders.

Pushback was more or less on time

Blue sky once we took off

On this very short segment, there was no drinks/nuts service. We went straight to the meal service. This was a one-tray affair but it was good. To start we have: Thai seafood and glass noodle salad

In a minute, the Senior Purser came back to serve me my main course option. which was “braised chicken thigh, Chinese onion sauce, sugar peas, carrot, gingko nut and steamed jasmine rice” It was a bit awkward though – sitting on the last row but being served first and the fact that my neighbours had to wait another 15-20 minutes before they themselves were served.

It was a very good main. When the Senior Purser came back to serve my neighbour and those in front of me, she asked me whether I wanted another main course. Curiously on the cart, there was the Chinese option from the Economy Class and I opted for that (in part because I felt guilty to get a second main). Surprisingly, this chicken option was so much better than the Business Class main…

To end, I was offered a choice of ice cream.

And a Hong Kong style milk tea

At this point, we reached the top of descent. It was an excellent service – not rushed and the attention to me as an elite member was low-key but was very well-appreciated. The Senior Purser checked on me every now and then and made sure I was served at the earliest convenience. Together with the purser serving the aisle, I was very well taken care of. What I did not expect came next: they knew it was my birthday the following day and the Senior Purser got the whole crew to sign a birthday card

I was rather taken aback by the kindness and it was indeed extremely surprising to get such attentive segment on such short segment.

A last look on the bird

Thoughts? This was an extremely pleasant flight, and the best flight I have had to-date. The attention to detail, the service flow and the food on board were all excellent, and clearly demonstrated the potential for Cathay to be one of the world’s best airlines. Yet, as my later experiences made clear (long-haul during the summer), the inconsistencies within the Cathay ranks could mean some customers got disheartened and left. All told, I was very pleased with this flight.