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.

 

 

BA A320 Club Europe: Stockholm to London

left my hotel three and half hours before my flight as I was planning to have lunch in the airport anyways. I picked my flight time strategically to enjoy the afternoon tea service on BA’s Club Europe product, which is always good and consistent. I took the airport bus from Central Station and nearing the airport, I spotted this:

BA operates out of Terminal 2, which was the last stop of the airport bus. Like Munich, which I visited in June, BA has three manned desk in Arlanda Airport: one for Club Europe and OneWorld elites and the other two for ticketing and Euro Traveller. I was promptly checked in, and my onward boarding pass to Hong Kong was also printed.

BA uses Aurora Lounge in Arlanda, which locates inside the secured area but before immigration. It is a third-party lounge shared by many airlines. The offering is not too bad, but not too good either. It can be rather crowded and the internet connection can be a bit hit and miss.

Lunch – passable

The lounge

View of the check-in area

Food offering

Drinks

Wine on tap… interesting

Flight Information Display… Not quite user-friendly, the information is rather small

Towards immigration

A very full flight today, once again, the gate agents are happy to take bags for check-in. I arrived rather late and both the elite and non-elite lines were full of people. The agents insisted, however, on boarding passengers in Club first before Gold Card (OW Emerald) members, so I ended up being one of the first people on the plane

In Sweden, the sun goes down rather early in winter

Gate disengaged after boarding. We departed 5 minutes ahead of schedule

Towel offered: I saw the cabin crew freshening the towel with hot water on the tap!

Safety demonstration

We were cleared for take-off at 15:10 (5 minutes after STD)

The view!

The cabin crew started the service right away. Most of the passengers declined the meal service and I was served 20 minutes after take-off, which was rather efficient

My choices of drinks: sparkling water, tea and champagne

The reason why I fly!

By the time I finished with my food, we just passed Denmark

Sipping champagne while working on a speech I had to give that weekend

The best inflight entertainment

Approaching England

Over Southend

… And Greater London

In a holding pattern

Glorious sunset

On final approach

Landed!

We parked in satellite B

It is probably as good a flight as intra-Europe business class goes. The crews were witty and efficient, but they would not go the extra mile. When I went to use the facilities, the crews were reading the papers and snacking on nuts. There was a water service prior to the descent, which was probably better than the other flights I have been on. The seat was hands-down bad: I would fly in the back in emergency exit any day than in Club (but my ticket was in conjunction with the HKG segment), I guess we are spoiled in Asia!

Next installment: Cathay 77G Business LHR – HKG with a review of CX’s new lounge

A380 Club World Hong Kong to London

This is the continuation of my trip from London to Hong Kong on British Airways. On my return, I picked the A380 flight as I have tried the 777 flight on the inbound. I was very excited to fly on the upper deck. Once again, the BA policy of charging passengers for seat assignments (even in Club World) has meant that myself, as a lowly Ruby, can only grab an aisle seat – well, at least better than being in the middle. The flight lands at 4:30 in the morning so there would have been nothing to see from a window seat anyways – except for the added privacy.

I arrived in the airport two hours before the flight departed – just in time to fit in a visit to the Qantas Hong Kong lounge, which was conveniently located just outside of security, and just above the gate where the flight departed from. There was no queue for Club World check-in and my bag was checked through the London very quickly. The check-in agent confirmed that the flight was very full and all seats on the flight have been taken – so no window seat for me!

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There was a sizeable queue for World Traveller and World Traveller Plus – but I imagine that most of the passengers have checked in already for this flight.

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After a quick goodbye to my family, I headed towards security and immigration. Hong Kong is one of the few hub airports without fast track security but that was not a problem today as I got through security and immigration in 5 minutes. The Qantas Hong Kong lounge is located just on the right after immigration.

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My gate

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The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is a OneWorld lounge for passengers travelling in First or Business Class, or those with OneWorld Sapphire and Emerald status.

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No Champagne though!

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I arrived at around 9:15 pm and have just narrowly missed when they served freshly made food from the kitchen. Qantas passengers usually can enjoy a daily special being freshly made from the kitchens – for BA passengers, there is only the buffet – but food was generally of high quality and I was quite pleased with the wine selections – which I think was superb and brilliantly showcased the excellent Australian winemaking.

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I enjoyed the Clare Valley Riesling and a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

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The lounge is very spacious and I was able to find a place that was quiet to catch up on some emails and work. I did not take many pictures of the space because the lounge was getting a lot more crowded closer to the departure times of the BA flights.

I left the lounge 10 minutes ahead of boarding time as I wanted to board early!

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Surprisingly, no one has queued up yet for Economy Class – quite unusual!

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My poor attempt at photographing the bird

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Pre boarding started on time.

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Once First Class passengers and OneWorld Emerald passengers boarded, Club World passengers were invited to board – it was all very chill as not many people have arrived at the gate yet!

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Stairs to heaven!

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I was the first passenger to board the forward cabin in the Upper Deck.

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My seat: 52D

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Club World cabin on the Upper Deck of A380 is in a 2-3-2 layout – which is the same as the Premium Economy cabin. BA has one of the densest Business Class cabins in the world – with the ‘yin-yang’ arrangement – not everyone has direct aisle access – rather you will need to step over someone’s legs if you are looking to leave from a window or middle seat. Also, the aisle seats tend to lack privacy as you are exposed.

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I was immediately offered Champagne or orange juice. Some bubbles for me, please!

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The second Club cabin

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The World Traveller Plus cabin – probably one of the largest in the industry – this cabin boosts 55 seats in one cabin 9-row 2-3-2 layout

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And the rare gems – the upper deck economy class seats

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Back at my seat – for the obligatory legroom shot

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My neighbours have not yet arrived, still… As you can see the seats afford almost zero privacy

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The famous A380 stair

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50B is not a very good seat as it faces straight into the loo and can be disruptive during the flight

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The middle seat, too, is not ideal – very narrow and it will be like sleeping in a coffin

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The screen is big enough (10.4 inches) and I like the touch screen a lot – one of the problems I have with the SQ new Business Class is the lack of touch screen in their monitors

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Water was offered during the lengthy boarding process

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Once the Club cabin filled up, we were given menus and the wash bag amenity kits

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Menu for the flight – no one-tray supper affair with BA… you get a three-course meal as per usual dinner standards, and a good breakfast

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Drinks

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BA serves three champagnes in the Club cabin – probably more than any carrier in the world (QR serves a white and a rose champagne)

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The flight left the gate bang on time at 23:05 and the safety video played one minute after:

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And the cabin crew did their final walk around soon after the video in preparation for departure

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Onwards and upwards!

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My neighbour immediately raised the privacy screen

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Noise-cancelling headsets

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Exploring the IFE – not much to see but quite updated and good enough for a red-eye

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Drinks came soon enough – the crews were very efficient despite a very full flight

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Refills were plentiful – seems like I am the only one in the cabin drinking this the crew even gave me the bottle

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Half an hour after, we got the first course – which was bland but edible. No plate for bread though!

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In 20 minutes my first course was cleared away and I asked for the Australian white, which was not too bad!

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The main was chicken – nothing spectacular but it was well cooked, pipping hot and tender – no complaints that. It was very satisfying at this late hour indeed

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On BA – cheese course is one of the desserts – or it is either cheese or pie

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The pie is brilliant – simple yet delicious. And with a cup of tea – it is out of the world

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Dinner was done two hours after gate departure – which was efficient in my opinion and with the long flight time, there was chance for a good sleep (10:11hrs left)

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The sleeping amenities – both very decent. The blanket was warm enough but I would definitely appreciate an extra pillow!

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Flat bed

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Woke up half way through my sleep – still tired though

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Explored the Club Kitchen – nothing impressive

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I went back to sleep until breakfast – which started 1 hour 15 minutes before landing – so I slept for about 8.5 hours – the bed was decent and once the cabin was completely dark, privacy did not matter as much

Breakfast

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Pastries

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Fruits

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Main course – definitely looks very good, but because I was still very full, I only picked at it – the eggs were great but did not venture anywhere more than that

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We were among the first few to arrive into Heathrow – with no air traffic control holds, we were able to take a rather direct route for an on-time arrival

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Verdict

Let’s start with the positives:

  • The ground service and the lounge in HKG were brilliant. No queue and I enjoyed the lounge immensely – a very quiet place to work in.
  • The cabin crews were friendly and efficient.
  • The food was, if simple and predictable, well-executed.
  • The bed was very comfortable and BA provided enough amenities to guarantee a good night’s sleep.

But…

  • The hard product remains outdated – in today’s world, we all love a bit more space, hence we are seeing Business Class seats classed as “suites” and have direct aisle access that boosts a 1-2-1 layout. If anything, the denseness of the cabin can be uncomfortable.

 

Slave Class to Toronto

  • Introduction
  • Slave Class to Toronto [here]
  • Sightseeing in Toronto
  • One of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Niagara Falls
  • WestJet Take One: Toronto to Yellowknife via Edmonton
  • Spirits Dancing on the Lonely Planet: Aurora Hunting
  • Subarctic hiking and fishing
  • WestJet Take Two: Yellowknife to Calgary
  • A First in Delta: First Class to Seattle
  • Alaska with Delta’s Comfort Plus
  • Spencer Glacier Sea Kayak and Hike via the Alaska Rail Road
  • Anchorage in the rain
  • Redeye in Domestic First: Anchorage to Vancouver via Seattle
  • Home with Air Canada: not dead yet!

This is the first of many posts on my summer trip to see the Northern Lights and Glaciers in the subarctic North. But first, we went to Toronto to see the city and the Niagara Falls.

We wanted to fly our city’s home carrier Cathay Pacific at first, because it was far more superior in its economy offering from Hong Kong to Toronto, with its 9-abreast configuration rather than AC’s 10-abreast 777s. But AC ran a promotion so we grabbed 4 tickets to Toronto (flying from Vancouver on the way back, the domestic segments not included). Not exactly a deal (~US$900 per person), but it was much cheaper than flying Cathay, and with my Star Alliance Gold status, we figured that it was the better option (lounge access, priority luggage etc.)

Fast track to the day of departure: the flight was scheduled to depart at 15:10, so we arrived around 3 hours before the flight was schedule to leave to leave ample time for lunch and others. Little did we know, AC does not open its check-in counters until 2.5 hours before departure. There were lines forming already in the economy line, but we were first in line in the Business Class / Star Gold queue. Interestingly, the highest priority in check-in is only afforded to Altitude 100K members, not even Business Class passengers.

Air Canada’s check-in counters are located in Aisle D in HKG

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Priority Check-in signage

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Ticketing counters for SATS HK, who handles AC in HKG

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AC’s Economy signage – note that almost all passengers would need to go through here despite online check-in due to document checks after Canada’s new visa policy

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Opening times

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Still no one…

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By the time I finished check-in, the Economy lanes were filled with people and the queue was extended to beyond the aisle – it was going to be a very full flight.

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The premium counters were quite empty though…

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We then went to Terminal 2 for lunch. Terminal 2 is a rare gem, in my opinion, offering affordable dining experiences in contrast to the overpriced food in Terminal 1 or in the secured area. There is a food court on the top level of Terminal 2 that is often quite crowded but not full (not as crowded or busy as the Terminal 1 food courts in the secured area). If you have extra time in HKG, Terminal 2 is your go-to for food!

Artwork in the walkway to Terminal 2

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After lunch, I guested my mother into the SilverKris Lounge – my favourite Star Alliance lounge in the airport, and easily my favourite lounge in HKG (I have not visited the Priority Pass lounges, though I have heard enough bad things about them; I have not done the First Class lounges, Qantas, Virgin, SkyTeam and Emirates yet; I suspect I would fall in love with Qantas later this month!)

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The SilverKris lounge in HKG features hot/cold food selections, made-to-order noodles (Wonton or Laksa), an open bar and lots of different seating arrangements. I have reviewed the lounge a number of times. Suffice to say, it is an outstanding outstation lounge for SQ, yet it has an inbuilt flaw. Its location means that there is no view or no windows in the lounge, which could be a problem for some (United or Thai, the other two Star Alliance partners have lounges above the concourse, which feature a more open space).

Food-wise, there is a good mixture of Western and Oriental food. Also, if you feel a bit peckish, snacks like prawn cakes or cup noodles are always available. Of course, one could always stomach an HD ice cream!

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There is an open bar, with champagne, wines, spirits, liquors, cocktails (Singapore Sling) and beer (on tap and in can!)

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I opted for a Gin and Tonic, and my mother went for a Singapore Sling.

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Then I had a spontaneous wine tasting at the bar. I liked the German Riesling the best, it was quite sweet.

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The Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was not bad either. It was as good as some of the NZ ones I have had before!

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I enjoyed my stay at the lounge. As ever, the lounge was comfortable and a good place to relax in. The staff on duty were all very friendly and attentive: not to mention the bartender who offered a wine tasting! It was a fun change to the normal lounge visits!

Soon enough it was boarding time. The flight was boarding at gate 49, which was one of the furthest gates in the airport. It took a good 20 minutes to get to the gate! But decent enough for an after-lunch stroll!

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An El AL 772 for Tel Aviv.

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After passing a few more gates, we eventually got to gate 49 and met our chariot for the first time.

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The typical gate shoot

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Air Canada boards by zones. Zone 1 is for Business Class passengers and what they call the “Super Elites” (Altitude 100K) and Zone 2 is for Premium Economy passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. Then Zones 3-5 are for general boarding.

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Once pre-boarding was called, passengers formed queues in their corresponding zones, though some Mainland Chinese travellers try to get to the front of the line via Zones 1 and 2. Luckily, the agents rigorously enforced the boarding zones.

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This 77L features AC’s newest “pod” product (B/E Aerospace Diamond Seat) in its Business Class.

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The Premium Economy Class cabin

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And finally, the slave class

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I snagged the bulkhead window, but the legroom was painfully little. Despite being the bulkhead, it was almost impossible to get out without disturbing my neighbours.

Legroom Shoot

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Really bad quality earphones

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PTV with new IFE

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Boarding completed on time and we taxied to take off. I have an over wing view, which was not at all that exciting. Luckily we took off in 15 minutes and we were in air for our 15-hour journey to Toronto.

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Inflight map in front of me, on the wall

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Can’t remember what I watched, it was not something interesting though…

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Snacks and drinks were soon offered. I opted for a G&T and some club soda. The pretzels were good, too. I would prefer to have a can of tonic water to go with my gin, though – loved the small bottles, though!

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And got that from the flight attendant when he walked around collecting trash…

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Dinner was soon offered, menu was available in the IFE:

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The tray was painfully small but the bread was warm (this would be the only warm roll this trip)

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I chose the beef. It was passable. If I designed the meal, I would have gone for mash potato, which would have been easier and moister. The potatoes were too dry to eat…

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The sun soon set as dinner service concluded:

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Over Japan at the moment

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After dinner drinks were offered… I chose Bailey’s on rocks. Again, I loved the small bottles!

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Over Russia/Alaska, the Sun came back! (Note: It was quite funny as the final stop in my journey was Anchorage and I was above the city over a week before!)

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A second meal was offered. This time everyone got a cup noodles, a sandwich and a pack of biscuits. Cup noodles was not a good call. By the time I got the noodles, the noodles soaked up the soup already. But, again, it was passable. So far, I was quite satisfied with the amount of food we got – as CX would happily serve us two meals instead of three.

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Nearly there…

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The final meal was served about 2 hours out of Toronto. A bit weird to be serving breakfast prior to arrival, but rice porridge was something easier to eat after 13 hours on a plane. This was the worst meal of the flight, but was still okay. Bread roll was cold… Inedible!

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Wrong safety card loaded onto the plane? This is a 77L not a 77W!

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My TV went dead for the last few hours of the flight

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But that was fine – as we were nearly there

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Toronto

Goodbye (never again, hopefully!)

Verdict

AC is not too bad in terms of its soft products. We were well fed with edible food and if one should feel peckish, biscuits and pretzels are always available in the gallery, the same with drinks. A good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks was present. Crews were present and helpful, cheery at times.

The inflight entertainment was bad. It did not function half the time, and half the time it did function, there were not the entirety of options as promised in the magazine and online. Limited movies and TV selections for an ultra-long haul flight were not desirable.

The seat was equally undesirable. 3-4-3 configuration reduces the seat width to 17 inches as opposed to the usual 18 inches. I felt cramped even at bulkhead. I could not possibly leave my seat without physical contact with my neighbour. The curved wall in front of me was a huge obstacle and I nearly fell over trying to get out.

I tried it and I don’t see a need of going back to this “slave class” travel.

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.