The Long Way to London Part 1 – Hong Kong to Singapore on Cathay Pacific Business Class

On my way back to London, I chose the longer route, via Singapore, but this time with Cathay Pacific then onto British Airways. I arrived just around the time BA 32 or CX 251 arrived, so I did not lose much time in terms of arriving into London. I just had to leave Hong Kong in the afternoon instead of the evening, which was fine for me, as the earlier departure of BA 16 (22:35) afforded me more time to sleep on the latter red-eye flight.

Also, as an aviation geek, I also wanted to the longest way possible (under the ticket rules, of course, unnecessary to pay excessive fares) to go home, and luckily British Airways allows multiple routings to London from Hong Kong.

I arrived into Hong Kong Airport just 3.5 hours ahead of departure so I could have lunch with my family in Terminal 2. Check-in at the Business Class counters were very quick, without queues and the agent and I had minimal exchange. She checked my bags and issued me my boarding pass within 2 minutes. All is well.

Some mascots-type things I spotted near check-in

Aisle B – next time, I will check-in in the first-class area with my newly-minted Emerald status

An iconic shot

My favourite OneWorld lounge in Hong Kong remains the Qantas Lounge (though I fully anticipate I would be thrown by the Pier First Class lounge in a few weeks’ time): it is often unoccupied and with great food/drinks offering (no champagne, but lovely Australian/New Zealand wine selections)

Also JAL’s lounge during daytime

Hong Kong style milk tea

I really think Qantas did something really brilliant with the lounge; but more importantly is the location. On the level above the concourse, the lounge is very bright and feels very spacious unlike the Singapore Airlines lounge just below it. Makes lovely spots for plane-watching too

The food offering is always good

I opted for the desserts

Gate 1 today – happy days

I left the lounge when the flight started boarding, boarding was well under way

The priority queue was empty

My chariot today: B-HLS, a rather old A333, though with the reverse herringbone business seats

Pre-departure beverage: Cathay delight, water or champagne

Legroom is decent

The noise-cancelling headphones

Seat controls

Gates 1-4 are Cathay’s world

Hot towel was offered

The menu for today

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule

The new mid-field concourse

Big sister

3:23 flight time

Take-off towards the South China Sea

Drinks service started right after the seatbelt sign was turned off. I started with a Gin and Tonic, and a sparkling water.

Table was laid

To start: Seared tuna, asparagus, oven dried tomato, mixed vegetables and wasabi mayonnaise

Garlic bread and rolls

The standard Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

The view is excellent

Moving onto my all-time favourite white wine on the plane: Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015/6

Stir fried halibut, shallot black bean sauce, kalian, carrot and steamed jasmine rice

More wine and cheese

Ice cream for dessert

Chamomile tea to end

Sunset

Hot towel to end the meal service

Still over an hour to go at this point

I was asked to complete a survey on the flight. I wrote extremely positive comments for the crew: ably led by the manager, and the Singapore-based senior purser was particularly excellent and warm. CX711 is usually operated by some Singapore-based crew and I find them warmer and more approachable my three recent flights.

Writing kit and playing cards

Water bottles given out prior to landing

Today’s flight was rather empty in the front

Soon enough, we began our initial descent into Singapore

And to mark the end of the flight

Overall, this is an excellent flight. I don’t have to sing more songs of praises for the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge – it is simply beautiful and amazing, like its Singapore’s counterpart. Granted, Business Class was not full and the service was thus more efficient and quick. Yet, the crew was warm and approachable – always on hand to help. It is not unlikely you get one or two exceptional crew on each flight, but it is rare to get an entire team that is committed to making the journey better.

Tier Points running to Jakarta – Part 1

The following two reports cover my day trip to Jakarta on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class on a Sunday. The reason I chose Jakarta was because HKG-CGK is over 2,000 miles, which means that it is classed as a long-haul flight with BA’s Executive Club. Bagging 280 Tier Points in a day, at no additional cost to an ex-EU fare, is about the best deal you can get. It also helps that CX777/CX776 constantly runs on long-haul planes as doing the back-to-back would have been painful on a regionally configured plane.

I woke up at 5.45 am and left home at 6 am for my flight at 9.20 am. I took the Airport Express shuttle bus to Kowloon Station where I did my in-town check-in.

I arrived into the airport just 2 hours before my flight. Security was packed but with the HK efficiency, I was through and through in 15 minutes.

The gate today was Gate 2. While the Wing is definitely just next to my gate, I was assured that it would be packed. The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, which doubles up as JAL’s lounge in the morning/early afternoon before Qantas and BA’s evening departures, provides a rare sanctuary for plane spotting, breakfast-eating and (more importantly) catching up with caffeine undisturbed.

COFFEE!

Japanese rice provision for Japanese passengers

My breakfast, with a lovely cup of flat white

Second course: made to order wonton noodles

My view

SQ001 onwards to Singapore

Leaving the Qantas lounge for my flight. The lounge was not populated at all despite the morning rush hour flights. Staff was courteous and happy to oblige with any requests. Food offering was superb.

As ever, the Priority Pass lounge had a long queue

My flight was about to board when I arrived

My chariot today – newly painted A333

Flying business today!

My seat was 21A, which is an excellent seat. Being at the back of the Business Class cabin means that there is minimal foot traffic as all toilets are in front of you. You are also in the mini cabin which means it is a bit roomier. The only downside is that you will be served last.

This is 20A

My view

Welcome drink: no bubbly in the morning

Hot towel

Business class was full but boarding was quickly done. Safety demonstration soon followed

The seat controls – really showing its age

Push back

The journey is just over 2,000 miles – exactly why I was on that plane!

Taxing to runway

Entering runway 07R for departure

And here we go

Shing Mun Reservoir and Sha Tin

Victoria Harbour

Then I started my inflight entertainment

I was offered a post-take off drink. I took a coconut water (I was rather surprised to see that on the menu) I also asked for a champagne. The Purser serving my aisle was very snappy – not overly approachable, but she was straight to the point, also yelling ‘certainly, sir’ – very typical HK efficiency!

First course: Seasonal Fresh Fruits

With breakfast pastries

Second course: Special K

Third course: Braised beef brisket and noodles – yum!!! It was very flavourful and the beef was flavourful. It was hands-down the best breakfast I have had on the plane. The noodles were well cooked but not overly dry.

A cappuccino to end

Breakfast service concluded about 1.5 hours into the flight, which was rather efficient. The food was decent in portion and quality. I was generally pleased

I decided to start working

I got some sparkling water

And HK style milk tea – one of my favourite drinks on board Cathay

Crossing the equator

Hot towel offered again just under an hour out

Seat returned to take off position

21A has two windows

I asked for a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated until I get on the plane again!

Descending into Jakarta

Our flight route today

The curtain was shut immediately after we arrived to make sure that business class passengers disembarked first

I was picked up by the ground staff who helped me pass through transit. I was led to the lounge while the Cathay staff took care of the rest and came back with a boarding pass. I was impressed by the meet and assist service I was provided with as a back-to-back customer.

The flight was very good. The catering was a stand-up from what I had to London a few months ago – Cathay certainly had the potential to do very well in terms of food. The service I received was good, nothing memorable. The Purser was very to-the-point, but was not as friendly as the ones on SQ. Given a full flight, it was understandable that I felt like I was on an assembly line. Hard product was excellent as ever. Not a bad half a day mileage running. And spoiler alert: my return trip was better!

Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to London Heathrow

The final leg of my Christmas break saw me flying back to the UK. I was booked on the A350 service to Dusseldorf, then to Stockholm on Air Berlin before returning to London. It was going to be a rather long day but I was mostly excited for the A350!

I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport in good time for my flight. The flight was scheduled to leave at 01:05 but I arrived shortly after 21:00. I did not want to bother my parents too much so I elected to get to the airport earlier so they would not have to stay up; and I had work to do, which could be done in the lounge anyways.

At check-in, I was informed that the flight to Dusseldorf was overbooked and there was also a concern that I was going to misconnect at some point during my ‘pierced-together’ trip – even though these tickets were in the same PNR. The duty manager was called, and she asked the check-in agent to call flight control to see whether there would be any seats in the direct LHR flights. Soon enough, I was issued with a boarding pass for CX251 – the direct London service.

I did not mind that much – knowing that Cathay had a lot of A350s on order, I knew that chances would come. And lord and behold, my flight from SIN to HKG in June is now scheduled to be flown by an A350.

Gate number was 2, and with less time now to explore the airport, I went to the Wing for a drink and catch up on some emails.

This would be the second last long-haul trip I take that I would be using the Business Class lounges. As the series suggest that I am chasing OneWorld Emerald, and by the end of Easter, I would make OneWorld Emerald.

The Wing Business lounge has a very welcoming feature, which is that it has an open bar (open in terms of both the amount of alcohol you can drink; and open in terms of the view) and you cannot resist this shot!

The drink list

The lounge is as busy as ever. I really would not miss this part. The Qantas Lounge would make a much better place to stay if you have a longer waiting time. But with just over an hour, my priority was to find somewhere closer to my gate and just work.

I arrived at the gate at boarding time (23:15) but there was no movement whatsoever. The gate agents just arrived. The flight must be delayed.

I joined the queue for Business Class.

Soon enough, a notice came up regarding the delayed boarding time. The reason given for the delay was anticipated shorter flying time (which was not true in the end)

The flight would be very full

Queue started to form for Economy Class

At about 23:30, the FIDS started to show ‘boarding soon’ – which was a good sign. By this time, the Business Class lengthened and boarding passes were being checked.

Boarding started soon after for First and Business Classes. When I approached the podium, the agent took my boarding pass to scan. A red beep came on. Was it an upgrade? I wish! But my request for a window seat came through (I was originally assigned 23D, and now 20K) I was most happy.

I was offered Champagne as a pre-departure beverage

Boarding was completed in an orderly fashion and safety demonstration came on at about midnight.

Inflight entertainment was available thereafter

I was then offered a hot towel

The seat controls

The noise-cancelling headphones

The inflight map

Pushback!

After half an hour of taxi, we took off at 00:30on Runway 07R

Goodbye Hong Kong!

To clear Chinese airspace, the plane would need to reach 15,000 feet. Hence the departure pattern took the flight south of Hong Kong before heading North to give the plane a bit more distance to make the climb

The first thing to do was to put on a movie in anticipation of the service

My choice tonight: a light-hearted comedy

I was then given the menu and a bottle of water

The amenity kit

The table was laid 50 minutes after take-off. The Senior Purser would take meal orders (whether you want a full service or a reduced ‘express’ service). I requested the soup from the express service and wanted a full service for the main course. As for drinks I asked for a champagne

Supper: A tasty blend of freshly prepared savoury dips and grissini

Garlic bread and rolls

I asked for the Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015, which continues to be my favourite wine on board Cathay since I first had it in December

Cauliflower cream soup and grissini

Gross-looking but passable main: Seared beef short rib steak, ratatouille, grape tomato, parsnip mash and garlic thyme sauce

The saving grace was that it was not well done

Pralines were offered after the crew was done with the main service

I requested an ice cream from the snack menu, which the crew was more than happy to oblige

And to finish, a chamomile tea with honey

The service took nearly two hours, which was okay given the length of the flight. My movie finished just as the lights were dimmed. I quick made out my bed.

The 77W has wider beds given the wider fuselage. The Cathay seat was very comfortable but the pillow was a bit thin… I slept soundly for 7 hours, which was great.

When I woke up the breakfast service just started. I had an orange juice and the berry smoothie

Fresh seasonal fruit. Oatmeal, chia seeds, coconut milk and mango puree (which was superb!)

Pork and dried vegetables congee, baked barbecue pork pie. My expectations might have been too high for this main course. The congee was grossly oily and baked barbecue pork pie was too.

A cappuccino was requested

The legroom was excellent, of course

A hot towel to conclude the service

I was given the invitation to fast track immigration

Seat back to the take-off position

The seatbelt sign came on 30 minutes prior to landing

Just when we were crossing the English Channel

Gear down

Final approach

We arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule (the captain promised us 30 minutes though!)

The route today

Thank you for flying CX

We docked at Terminal 3

I used the American Arrival lounge for a shower and some proper breakfast food

The breakfast spread was impressive – the champagne!

I ordered something from the menu, though

A Buck’s Fizz to start the day – why not?

My Egg Benedict – which was excellent!

I then made my way to the National Express station for my coach, thus concluding my flight report.

Overall Verdict? The check-in staff went above and beyond in arranging me to take the direct flight, which exemplified the company’s motto – service from the heart. On board, the service seemed a bit rush and with such a large J cabin, it may feel like part of an assembly line. The catering was hit and miss – some bits of it were good (the oatmeal, the soup etc.), some were downright gross (the breakfast). But as ever, the hard product is amazing and can afford you a good night’s sleep and decent entertainment. With this solid offering, Cathay is indeed the better one of the OneWorld airlines to and from Hong Kong, despite the novelty of A380.

Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Osaka Kansai to Hong Kong

On my return to Hong Kong (and to London), I chose to fly out of Osaka instead of Tokyo, in part eyeing the later evening departure and the fact that our last stop on this trip was Kyoto, which has a direct train to Kansai Airport. When I booked, only CX507 was available in Business Class. So despite the regional configuration (CX595 had the long haul configuration), I chose to fly CX507.

We departed Kyoto a bit later than we wanted and only got into Kansai about 1 hour 45 minutes prior to departure, which was not always going to be a problem. But, with it being very peak season and Cathay with its 3 evening departures out of Kansai, check-in took over an hour to process, even in Business Class.

(Un)surprisingly, Business Class was overbooked. I did not hold the more valuable ticket that the ground staff was looking for (I suspect the later two flights were overbooked as my flight’s seat map remained open until online check-in) so I did not obtain the sizeable cash for downgrading. Oh well. My ticket was cheap enough so I should not moan.

After checking-in, it was already 45 minutes to departure. The ground staff gave me a Fast Lane pass (as a custom for Business passengers, I presume) and urged me to hurry up as boarding will begin very soon.

Gate 4 today

As ever, the Business Class line had more people than there were seats for Business Class.

My ride today

My seat today is 14A. Legroom is 45 inches and width 20, which is not bad for a 4-hour ride to Hong Kong. I mostly enjoyed myself, although I would definitely appreciate direct aisle access.

Welcome drinks offered

Hot towel

Inflight entertainment was available gate to gate

Except… during the mandatory safety demo

Soon enough we were on our way. A short taxi followed by a short take off roll

Welcome announcement post-take off

Gin and Tonic and mixed nuts

A brief note here: the Senior Purser was offering seconds for nuts after the drink cart came around. He noted that I did not like the wasabi beans, and when I asked for more nuts, he proactively offered me the mix without the wasabi beans. That exemplified the Cathay service

Soon enough table cloth was laid in preparation for dinner service

To start: Smoked duck and roasted vegetables, Mixed salad and balsamic vinaigrette, Plum soba noodles

With assorted bread rolls

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut

Main Course: Steamed pork rib, onion sauce, jade melon mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice; White wine: Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Selection of Cheese and Fruits

Ice Cream

Bailey’s on rocks

The meal service took the good 2 hours to complete. By the end of which, we were approaching Taiwan

A chamomile tea to finish off the meal

Eventually we made our descent into Hong Kong

Closer to New Year than Christmas… there were still Christmas decorations lying around

As ever, noise-cancelling headsets for Business Class

Final approach

The flight landed just before 9 pm, which was well ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 9:35 pm

I stopped by the Arrival Lounge and had a bite to eat

Menu

Not very spacious

My pasta: a real passable attempt

Shower

Overall verdict: I was mostly pleased with the flight. The regional business seat was not the best, which seems to be the consensus, but for a flight where sleep is unnecessary, I am not fused. Service was good, not excellent, but granted the full flight on the regional configured 773 which holds nearly 400 souls on board. The food was above par and so was the wine. The inflight entertainment is, as ever, hard to fault; and the noise-cancelling headphones are, well, functioning. A good flight, could be better, but again could have been worse.

Cathay Pacific Economy Class: Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda

Last Christmas, I reviewed the Premium Economy product between Hong Kong and Tokyo gfHaneda, which I found to be overrated. As part of my Christmas ritual, I flew the route again, this time in Economy class: the food was downright inedible but the seat was decent and the entertainment options were good. Although for a flight this length, the premium that normal people would have paid to fly this flight during Christmas peak season could not be justified. My ticket was tagged along with my travels from the UK, and it did not cost any extra to go to Japan – so here I am.

As a OneWorld frequent flyer, I could check in using the Business Class desks

I chose to go to the newest Cathay lounge in HK, which is the Pier. The entrance is just next to Gate 66

I quickly got myself some breakfast as I have not eaten yet

The food was half-decent: the freshly-made noodles and buns were alright, but the food from the servery was just a bit… grim. Oh well, the flat white from the coffee corner was the saving grace though

After my breakfast, I went to the tea corner for some tea. Here Cathay serves the gourmet JING Tea, which the attendant will brew the tea from loose leaves for you after you have chosen. All a very indulgent exercise if you like tea.

I chose the Jasmine Silver Needle tea, which was very clear and easy to drink.

I picked one of the window seats at the lounge and enjoyed the plane-spotting exercise that it afforded me to do.

Soon it was 8 am and it was the advertised boarding time of the flight. So I walked to my gate.

My chariot awaits

I took the Business Class lane and headed down the air bridge

My seat today is 41A. Legroom is good.

Boarding was done relatively efficiently and we pushed back roughly on time. Flaps were deployed once we left the gate.

It took another 20 minutes until we eventually took off. Hong Kong was rather gloomy then.

Cathay’s 77W features a nose camera. Gear up!

Once we broke the clouds, it looked beautiful up there

Spotted an Hong Kong Airline A330!

Breakfast was soon served. I chose the Chinese option but they ran out!

The breakfast was… at best a passable attempt. But having fed myself in the lounge, I am happy to just feed on the cold items

Approaching Japan

And Tokyo

Speed brakes deployed

Tokyo was equally gloomy

Full flaps deployed

Landed

The route today

We arrived more or less on time and the luggage came out quickly with priority tags. Although with a high premium traffic port like Haneda, the first class bags came out first and there were quite a few of them.

Overall verdict: The lounge in HK is, as always, excellent, despite the lack of quality food when I was there. It was not crowded and I enjoyed the tea and coffee, which were superb. The legroom was good for a short flight, the IFE was excellent as usual. The service was robotic but that was to be expected for a full flight. The food was passable. The lack of choice in the third row of Economy was disappointing but again I had eaten. The timing of the flight is excellent, though not worth the premium this flight commands during high season. It is another good flight by Cathay – nothing spectacular as one would expect from a 5-star airline, though.

Cathay’s long-haul Business Class and new London lounge

When I left you last, I just landed into Terminal 5 of Heathrow. My next flight was a CX flight to Hong Kong which departed from Terminal 3. So I needed to follow the purple signs which would lead me to the bus to Terminal 3.

I just missed my bus! But there were chairs so I patiently waited for my next bus

We were dropped off at Terminal 3 and had to be screened before the transfer desks. I showed the fast track people my Business Class boarding card and was granted access to fast track. Security took less than 2 minutes and in we go

I approached the Cathay desk for my boarding pass – but there was no one there. I was told by a BA ground staff that I should go to the lounge if I wanted a new boarding card on Cathay stock.

The Cathay lounge opened the day I flew (7th December) – though it had been running for a week then (soft opening). Everything looked very, very new and very, very posh. Like the lounges in Hong Kong (The Pier), Bangkok, Manila and Tokyo Haneda, the London lounge is designed by the London-based design firm Studioilse. The lounge boosted a view of the tarmac (though it was not exploited by me given the early sunset hours of London) and a bigger size (given that it took, also, the space where the KrisFlyer lounge used to be at). Having not been to the old lounge, I couldn’t say how it compared – but this is definitely one of the most impressive lounges I have been to this year – food and drink offerings are unparalleled by the Galleries lounge in Terminal 5 and it never felt too crowded (despite with 4 evening departures and all of them very full in Business and with, I am sure, many elite members in Premium and Economy classes)

I first grabbed a shower suite to shower before seeing my friend who will be arriving in the lounge – she will be flying the later evening flight to Hong Kong onwards to Sydney

Next I needed something to eat to fill my tummy (I haven’t had much lunch and the afternoon tea on BA was barely fulfilling!)

Offerings

Condiments

Drinks at the noodles bar

The bar area

The bartender very eager to be in the picture

The drink list

I had a Mojito and waited for my noodles order

My first helping of food

The noodles was not very good – it was just a bit bland, but the fried rice was flavourful, well-presented and warm

I was offered some champagne as everyone was extra jolly for the grand opening of the lounge (though champagne can always be sought in the bar!)

Second helping of food

Everything was excellent – and I was starting to miss food from Hong Kong

And ice cream to finish

It was time for a stroll around the lounge

The lounge is great, especially when you are travelling with someone. A few more helpings of champagne with my friend, I headed to my departure gate

My flight was already closing

Only door L2 was engaged today so there was a long queue just to get on the plane!

My seat: 21K

View was great

Welcome drinks

Just below 6,000 miles to go

The flight left on time and safety demonstration video was played soon after

Afterwards the inflight entertainment system was made available

Taxi was short and we took off quite early

Ex-London food did not fail to impress

The dinner menu reads:

Starters: Smoked salmon with capers, onion and parsley, chive crème fraiche; Mixed salad with white asparagus, cucumber and radish, served with soy vinaigrette

Mains:

  • Braised beef and turnips, stir-fried vegetables and steamed jasmine rice
  • Corn-fed chicken breast, seasonal vegetables, roasted new potatoes with jus
  • Prawn curry, mushroom palak and cumin basmati rice
  • Papparadelle with spicy tomato mascarpone sauce

Cheese and Fruit

Desserts:

  • Yogurt lime mousse, rhubarb and ginger
  • Bourbon and vanilla cheese cake

My table was laid right after take-off

Nuts and drinks

Starters – excellent

Garlic Bread

Mains – the portion is a bit small but the dish was well-executed, the beef was tender. I had the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to go with my meal, which was delightful

Cheese and fruit

Dessert was okay

I like the cake better

Mood lighting was engaged soon after dinner service. I was offered some chocolates and tea

We were nearly leaving Europe by the time dinner ended – it was well elaborated service that was not too rush. The crews were attentive and offered to refill drinks sometimes

I woke up with after 6 hours to go

The flat bed

The sun is about to come out

Soon enough, it was a new day

I was hungry (again!) so I ordered some snacks – fish ball (instant) noodles with pak choy

And ice cream

The view remained the best inflight entertainment

My coffee was topped up when prompted

The seat controls

Getting into China now

The mood lighting came back on about 2 hours prior to landing

Hot towel

My table laid

The smoothie and orange juice

The breakfast menu reads:

  • Orange or apple juice
  • Mango and passionate smoothie
  • Frest fruit and Bircher muesli

Mains:

  • Tomato omeltter, veal sausages, mushrooms and tomato
  • Stir-fried rice vermicelli, duck julienne, preserved snow vegetables and bamboo shoots
  • Shredded pork and mushroom congee with preserved cabbage

When I was served the main, there was a sudden turbulence. The Senior Purser dropped the main onto my table, which caused a few vegetables to fall on the table. She profusely apologised and offered to clean up the ‘mess’. I insisted it was alright. I said I would survive. But she insisted on fixing it – so I let her. Her strive for excellence had been impressive throughout the flight – she was also the only one who addressed me by name every time I saw her. She exemplified service straight from the heart the best but I think this is more an exception than a rule on Cathay

My coffee with my Santa hat!

Arrival information

Last legroom shot

Approaching HKG

Verdict?

By all counts, this was a great flight – my best yet on Cathay. The flight was very full in all three cabins but the Business Class cabin was quiet, private and comfortable. The seat was very good, although I did not get much sleep or as soundly asleep as I would hope. The cabin crew was good, and the Senior Purser was excellent – I wrote a follow-up complimentary letter. The food was decent as well.

I have flown BA to and from London in Club World – so how does Cathay fare on the same route? I think Cathay wins on every count: the cabin, the seat, the crew, the inflight entertainment system and the food and drinks. I do tend to sleep better on BA – god knows why – so I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t fly BA anymore. But I will gladly fly Cathay from London to Hong Kong everyday if things stay the same.

 

 

A birthday upgrade: Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class

It was a short weekend getaway to Singapore before I started my job to celebrate both my and my mother’s birthdays. We were booked on CX690 which departs Singapore at 12:45 pm. After a long buffet breakfast in Holiday Inn, we checked out and hopped onto a taxi that would take us to Changi Airport. The weather was decent that day and so was the traffic – took us around 20 minutes to reach Terminal 1 where Cathay Pacific is at.

Being a Silver MPC member, I was afforded priority check-in. Cathay has a whole row to itself, with two or three priority counters, and the rest are bag drops for Economy passengers. Cathay operates mostly on its regional fleets with its regional products, with less seats in premium classes, more in Economy. So it was no surprise that there was not any queue when we approached the counters.

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I handed over the passports and causally waited. In 10 seconds, the lady manning the counter said, Mr Lam, our flight is overbooked together, but we only have one Business seat, is it alright if I upgrade only you? Overjoyed, I asked my father whether he wanted the seat – but he said it was my birthday so I could have it. I said okay and thanked the check-in agent for the pleasant surprise. She then proceeded to issue me a boarding pass and checked in our suitcases to Hong Kong.

Cathay uses the Dnata lounge in Terminal 1, which was an alright lounge. It has some food offerings which I did not sample, a decent alcoholic spread (not impressive though) and a café featuring real barista making coffee (which I found to be an excellent infrastructure!)

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The café

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Alcohol selection

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Drinks

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Food

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I wasn’t particularly hungry or feeling I wanted alcohol, so I ordered a flat white from the café as I waited for the gate to open. It was an excellent cup of coffee. I really liked this part of the lounge. The barista helped make me feel that they knew what they were making (unlike in other lounges where fresh coffee would come from the bar)

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Seating area – the lounge was not particularly crowded for a Monday. There were lots of open spaces for people to use. Though there were kids running around, which was never too pleasant for those trying to work (and I might be tempted to play with the kids though!)

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I left the lounge to arrive at the gate for the boarding at 12:05, which did not happen as the plane arrived just a few minutes ago from Hong Kong. The stroll to the gate was not too long as the lounge was located quite near to the gate – which was probably a good thing (the QF/BA lounges, though not opened at this point, are located near the C gates.

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I must commend the ground operations for Cathay in Singapore. They have made a priority lane for security, which Singapore Airlines’ departures so clearly lacked. As a Silver Member (even with the upgrade), I would clear security in a breeze. (Note that Green Member would not be able to use the priority security lane)

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To show you how much difference it makes, here is the Economy lane:

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To make things even better, there are segregated sitting areas, where Business Class and elite passengers would sit in a segregated zone with guaranteed seats and priority boarding privileges assured. Again, this is not seen in Singapore Airlines’ flights – which I would definitely want to see.

Our chariot today would be B-HNI, a 17-year-old Boeing 777-300, equipped with the old long-haul economy class (as reviewed here) and the new regional Business products.

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Boarding commenced in earnest soon enough. It was much better when priority boarding was enforced with such strength, meaning not much queues and easier to navigate.

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Boarding through door L1

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I was given seat 12A, a bulkhead window seat, which was excellent. Cathay’s regional Business Class on its 773 has a 2-3-2 configuration, with 42 seats, all located between door L1 and L2. 12A is a good seat overall, and legroom is probably slightly better at bulkhead.

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I was quickly offered a pre-departure beverage. The bog-standard champagne, orange juice or water. And I obligatorily took a champagne to celebrate my birthday! Cathay has a good champagne in my opinion.

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Hot towel was offered soon after the drink:

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Boarding was completed very quickly and we pushed back on time.

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And so the safety demonstration began

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There were some technical problems right after push back and we held our position for 30 minutes before we departed for good. With the 777, I was able to view the deliberation of the engineers:

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Taxi:

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Flight time of 3 hours 23 minutes

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We did not hold at runway 20C and took off 40 minutes behind schedule

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Construction at Changi Airport (for the new terminal?)

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Gears up!

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Changi airport as seen from air

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The older generation inflight map

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Leveling up slightly

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At this point, the senior purser (not a very pleasant man, who frowned for most of the flight) came around and gave us the menus (weirdly, the other aisle had their menus prior to takeoff…)

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The drinks cart came very soon. I took champagne and sparkling water with mixed nuts. Mixed nuts were warm but it came in very small portions.

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Though the purser came back with some refills for my nuts, not for the champagne though.

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At the core of Cathay’s service was efficiency. On a similar regional flight I flew in March on SQ, meals were not offered until well into the flight: but for Cathay, our tables were laid around 45 minutes into the flight. (But the promised refill of my champagne was probably forgot)

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The salmon starter: it was quite an innovative starter in my opinion, pairing salmon with citruses, but it was very refreshing. Very fresh to say the least.

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View from the restaurant!

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Main: duck with rice. It was mediocre: the duck was not as tender as hoped but the sauce was the saving grace. The rice was too dry to be considered as good rice. I would say SQ had better mains on this route for Business Class. Though I am very happy to see the rice in a bowl (a first!) and the chopsticks that accompanied it (BA does not cater chopsticks and on SQ they are on demand) As customary for Cathay, all the mains were presented on a cart for the passengers to choose from. This is not something I mind too much about.

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Efficiency! The flight has barely progressed much by the time the main was collected. But the efficiency was at the expense of my enjoyment somehow: the senior purser and the purser both ignored my request of a glass of wine… Maybe this was because no one else was drinking wine and they were not interested in entertaining me by opening a bottle of wine… I was very annoyed but I could live without the wine so I digressed.

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So far, the service pattern had been from the front to the rear of the cabin, which was quite good for me as I was able to eat ahead of others. Yet for the cheese and fruit course, the service pattern was reversed, which did not make sense. For those at the rear, it would mean dessert starts almost immediately as they finish the main course. And for those in the front, it would mean a long pause in between courses. I somehow do not get the logic behind this.

As the fruit cart approaches me, most of the fruits were gone. And as the passenger next to me was a VIP, I was left with whatever’s left on the cart (row 11 was served by the crew working the other aisle)…

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I was not too happy… So I asked the crew to get me some pineapples and honeydew money as I saw others enjoying. The crew said he would check with the other side, and came back with some more fruits.

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This turned out to be a bad move. The pineapple was so bad and sour that I threw it out right after it touched my mouth… As they came back with more fruits, they also came back with champagne and the Inflight Service Manager wished me a happy birthday – which was a good personal touch.

Ice cream was then offered, this time in random order. Those who finished their cheese and fruits would be served ice cream. There were three choices: summer berries and cream (which I had), cookies and chocolate, and vanilla.

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In contrast to the other crews who were slow at serving wine, the Inflight Service Manager was quick in her service. I asked for a Cathay Delight which was served up quickly. It is a kiwi and milk based drink.

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And before landing, I asked for a HK style milk tea (to which I considered to be one of the best things on board a Cathay Business flight)

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My seat: with cushion but blankets are only supplied on request

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On approach:

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Quite a beautiful day

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2 windows for bulkhead

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The nearly completed Zhuhai-Macau-HK link

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Gear down:

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Cathay’s first A350 spotted!

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My verdict? 

Of course it was lovely to get upgraded on a cheap fare and on my birthday. Cathay treats its elite quite well as we can see from the priority treatment and the operational upgrade. It was also solid showing. The seat, though in a cramped cabin, was comfortable. Catering was unremarkable but nothing too bad. Service was bog-standard, professional yet distant, bar the occasional ignoring of what I wanted. There were some good bits: the champagne, the ISM and the upgrade. But equally, there were some bad bits: the other cabin crews, the pineapple and the dry rice in the main.

Despite an on balance underwhelming performance, I look forward to flying with Cathay on its long-haul Business Class from Europe to Hong Kong in December.

A short hop to Singapore with Cathay Pacific Regional Economy Class

In June, I went to Singapore with Cathay Pacific for a short family escape before working full time for my summer job. It was a Friday, so we took the last flight of the day out of Hong Kong.

As a Silver Marco Polo Member, I went to the newly opened the Pier Business Class lounge to check it out. I did not have much time, though. The lounge is well-appointed, offers decent wine and dine experience, and is not crowded – despite rushing through the lounge, I look forward to my next visit, which, hopefully would be imminent.

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The Bar area

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Made to order dining area, like the one featured in Haneda

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With little time, I opted for some champagne, as a celebratory toast to this birthday trip

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And some plane spotting by the window

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Some more champagne and a glass of mojito as I browsed through some magazines. The mojito is as good as the one in the Bridge, not bad, not bad. The plus side is that this lounge is infinitely less crowded than the Bridge on my previous two visits.

Soon enough, it was time for boarding. I trekked all the way back to gate 29 for my flight. It took around 15 minutes on foot and it was a good exercise to walk off the alcohol. As I approached the gate at around 8 pm, boarding was well under way and final call was announced.

I took my time to snap a few shots, still:

Green card members are no longer allowed to board with Business Class, resulting in a much shorter Business Class lane, and a long Premium Economy lane despite it not being offered on the flight today… The hierarchy… To be honest, had I not been seated in the bulkhead and thus in need of the overhead bins, I wouldn’t mind to be last to board the plane

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The old long-haul seats, now configured onto Cathay’s regional fleet. Uncomfortable with its minimal padding and fixed shells. Surprised to see pillows on board but blankets are only provided upon requests.

View from my seat – 39A

The captain came onto PA just ahead of the scheduled departure time, informing us of a flight time of 3 hours 11 minutes and a late pushback due to air traffic control. We eventually pushed back at 20:45 and took off just before 21:00. The inflight entertainment system was turned on after the safety demonstration video so people kept themselves entertained.

The service started with a drink tray with beer, orange juice, apple juice and water. I asked for a Gin and Tonic, which was delivered to me by the purser very quickly. The Cathay packaged peanuts as usual.

Dinner choices were spicy fish rice or vegetarian pasta. I chose the latter and suffice to say, it looked better than it tasted (or it tasted terrible)

Best part of the meal goes to the dessert:

Nearly there…

The legroom of 39A on a regional 773 is the saving grace of the flight

 

So the question I aim to answer here is how does it fare with Singapore Airlines’s Economy Class which I reviewed earlier?

  • In terms of catering, Singapore Airlines wins by a mile. The main was barely edible on this flight, and Singapore Airlines has a wider range of beverages on offer, including Singapore Sling, mocktails and my favourite pineapple juice.
  • In terms of seat comfort, while I had the luxury of the bulkhead seat on this flight, which has a legroom that can fare with Cathay’s regional Business Class, the lack of decent padding and the inability to recline do not attract me either, especially on a late flight like this (I have travelled on SQ865 and SQ871, both evening departures, for many times)
  • In terms of inflight service, I was generally pleased with Cathay for this sector. My special requests were noted and delivered by the purser. Even though Cathay Pacific marketed its service as straight from the heart, I did not feel that enough. However, Singapore Airlines’s crew was quite distant the last time I flew them, so I would put them to a tie.
  • In terms of inflight entertainment, both airlines feature a good AVOD product.
  • In terms of lounges, I think Cathay has a better infrastructure in HKG, the airport being its hub.
  • Why Cathay this time then? As I mentioned, I was annoyed at Singapore’s lack of recognition of Star Alliance elites (me being a Star Gold) and Cathay did better by giving me priority boarding and luggage; and Cathay has a cheaper price.

I think Singapore Airlines provides more comfort on this route, but I would not hesitate to take Cathay if the schedule and the price are right.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy: Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong

Background

It was time to fly home after a Christmas well spent in Japan. As with the outbound journey, I flew with Cathay on their Premium Economy product, this time on a 4-class 777-300ER, the airline’s major long-haul fleet type. Flight was overbooked in premium classes, figures were, as I have learnt in check in:

  • First Class: 6 (booked) / 6 (capacity) (100%)
  • Business Class: 57/53 (108%)
  • Premium Economy: 37/34 (109%)
  • Economy: 162/182 (89%)

As you can see, Business Class and Premium Economy were overbooked but Economy Class had 20 seats left. So the check in agents were very keen in securing voluntary downgrade to Economy Class. Compensation was not great – we were offered 15,790 Yen each for downgrading (~US$130) – so we did not take it. The agent was understandably disappointed but since we arrived 2 hours 20 minutes ahead of departure, no reason to print us an economy class boarding pass, eh?

Check-in counter: went for Business Class check in because of Marco Polo Silver membership. Bags all tagged priority and lounge invite was handed over.

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I spent a good time in the lounge, review can be read here: http://wp.me/p72Rbc-hs

Flight Info

CX549 HND-HKG

29 DEC 2015

1625-2030 (Scheduled);  1650-2022 (Actual; Flight time = 4 hours 32 minutes)

B777-300 ER (B-KPH; 4 class)

Seat: 31A (Worst seat in the house, despite the exit row)

Gate today is 143

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The new concourse looks modern and spacious

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Our bird today

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The boarding queue

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Joined the queue

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I quickly settled into my seat and this is the first glance of my view

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Legroom was great given the bulkhead BUT the door meant two things: 1) the width is significantly reduced due to the curving of the wall leading up to the door; 2) no window – what a disappointment!!

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The footrest of the bulkhead – I am too tall for it, though. And it shows the narrowing the seat a bit…

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View from the window of the door

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And… runway 05 of HND

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One of the great things about 77W is that the PTV has a nose camera; though not the most useful thing for a flight going into sunset

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Sunset over the wing

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As soon as we depart, Mount Fuji would be on our right, so I jumped at the chances to photograph this icon of Japan!

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View from Door R4

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Then, thanks to the empty seats in Economy Class, I settled into row 66 and took a few more pictures

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Now, back to my seat and the map is showing…

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Drink service quickly started and sparkling water for me, as usual…

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Modern Family on my PTV

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Dinner: Chicken with rice. This is probably the worst meal I have had on Cathay this year and I have flown Cathay a few times this year – the chicken was too salty and the rice was overcooked. Again, it is the Economy offering in Premium Economy: the lack of metal cutlery and Business Class entree in a short-haul flight is disappointing but understandable. Glad I filled my tummy properly in the lounge…

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The only thing that salvaged the dinner was the cookie, but I would want an ice cream…

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Tea to go with my cookie… asked for an extra cookie, too, the flight attendant happily obliged

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And by that time the service concluded, we were already nearing Taiwan – quite a slow service I would say for this flight.

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The cabin tonight

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Approach into HKG

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And Business Class cabin as we deplaned. Yet to try this business class.

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Verdict and Conclusion

This is a disappointing flight on quite a few accounts, though some at the fault of myself – like selecting the seat.

Dinner: was bad. Frankly, plainly, bad. Salty chicken, overcooked rice, unappetising starter and a small cookie… Not premium at all with the lack of metal cutlery and the same as Economy offering… One of the milks that the attendant offered me was spoiled and it was sour! Cathay needs to step up its game in the product.

Seat: was good. Two of the eight bulkhead seats have their PTVs dysfunctional, as in they wouldn’t stay fixated at a position for viewing. They just kept falling down, meaning that some people were struggling to watch something. The way the bulkhead TVs are arranged meant that I basically was watching my neighbour’s movie too… That was just weird.

Service: was good. At best, attentive: I liked the water runs mid-flight and by the end of the flight. But other requests, like tea with milk, take too long… I was not convinced a tea needs 20 minutes of brewing.

Inflight entertainment: was very good. It gets a bit boring, though, probably because it was my third flight was Cathay this month, one long-haul where I watched two movies, another short-haul where I watched a couple TV episodes…

Overall: “Good” It was an okay flight and I got by alright. But uninspiring and a bit not worth the money had I paid for the ticket by cash (this was a redeemed ticket, 36,000 miles for a round trip), would have gone for Economy so easily. I expected more from one of Cathay Pacific’s flagship service.

Cathay Pacific’s Tokyo Haneda Lounge

The Cathay Pacific lounge in Tokyo Haneda is one of the airline’s biggest out port lounge and is very new, opening only about one year ago, on 9th December 2014. The lounge takes over part of Level 6 of the International Terminal, where the observation deck is located, making it both a heaven for plane spotters and a place to hide from the hustle and bustle of the terminal.

990 square metres in area, the lounge can house approximately 190 people, which is around triple the amount of premium passengers on one of Cathay’s 747 or 77W, the two aircrafts that frequent the route. That would mean the lounge will not be very crowded, and indeed that was my experience.

Cathay chose Studioilse as the designer studio for the lounge and focused on the well being of the passengers as a core principle when designing the lounge, conforming to the recent “Life Well Travelled” Campaign.

Location of the lounge: entrance near gate 114

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Escalator bound for the lounge

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Entrance of the lounge

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The dining area and the noodle bar – very Hong Kong teahouse type of layout, very definitely feel very high class

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Drink station by the noodle bar

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The Lounge and the Bar

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The Food Bar Offering

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Now, I feel really hungry after travelling all the way from Kyoto earlier without having lunch. So I was quick to go see what the Noodle Bar has to offer and I was not disappointed.

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I chose: Won Ton Noodles, Steamed BBQ Pork Bao, shrimp macaroni and French Toast; and Kir Royal to go with it. The Won Ton Noodles was excellent and so was the bun – they taste very Japanese, rather than Chinese though – the filling of the Won Ton is the typical pork filling you find in Japanese buns and more flavourful filling of the bun than the normal HK style Bun. I like the French Toast too, it being very thick!

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A view of my seat

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And a view outside of the window

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And after finishing all this wonderful food, I am still hungry, so I asked for a meat sauce noodle made Beijing style, and meanwhile enjoying an orange.

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Meat sauce noodle made Beijing style – was excellent. It was flavourful and the cucumber pieces were refreshing!

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To go with my noodle, I asked for the Special Cocktail – Sweet Haneda – one of the two cocktails only served in the lounge

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After finishing the food, I headed to the bar, and looked at the offering there.

Coffee / Tea

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Alcohol

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Note: only sparkling wine on offer, no champagne.

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Special Cocktails celebrating Cathay’s service to Tokyo Haneda. Haneda Jade is excellent and Sweet Haneda is just… as the name suggests… sweet, very sweet.

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I asked for a Haneda Jade

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And went to the Food Bar for some desserts and cheese – all were excellent, I had no complaints!

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This rice cake with beans as fillings is especially good!

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More pictures of the lounge:

The computer workstations

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Elegant design of the signs

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More seating

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Relaxing armchairs – my favourite seats

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Views from my armchair

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JAL 787

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SQ 772 arriving from Singapore

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And it’s all about the bubbles while relaxing before the flight (which the boarding time was delayed by 20 minutes due to preparation of aircraft)

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Last look at the lounge at 16:05 when I left for CX549

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Verdict

“Near Perfect”

The Haneda Lounge combines a very relaxing environment with luxurious offering of food and beverages, making it one of the best lounges in the Cathay system and in the lounges I have been so far. It is elegantly designed and the view of the tarmac is definitely a huge plus. The food on offer is excellent, with regards to both choice and quality. The bartender is very efficient and is more than willing to bring you the drinks – the slight problem is the lack of Champagne but the sparkling wine on offer is of good quality, too. The lounge is serene and not crowded at all even with a very full flight (overbooking in Business, full house in First). I was properly rested and that was all that mattered.