Today is my first Cathay Business Class experience in long haul (when I was younger, I did a return to Seoul in Business from Hong Kong, but that was it, and that was ages ago). I wasn’t too thrilled: after all, CX174 departs at an ungodly hour of 07:25 am, and I have not heard good things about Cathay catering (which I value highly in my premium class travels). And I was not surprised: food was not good, and the early departure renders me sleepless both the night before and during the flight.
Thanks to my father who let me go business for this sector (I have a job to tend to after landing), I was able to sample Cathay’s Business Class for the first time in many years. I woke up at 4 am for a 4.30 am departure from my hotel right in the middle of town. We were efficient as a family and by 5 am we were in the airport.
We arrived extra early because of the texts we received from Cathay the day before, that the customs and immigration officers were planning a strike. We were not affected too much by it though.
We arrived before daybreak:
Despite the early hours, the Adelaide airport is fairly busy already. Only one international departures in this ungodly hour of the morning (in winter schedule, flight leaves at 06:25), but tons of domestic ones. MH and SQ both timed their flights later in the morning, at around 9-10 am, whereas the Gulf carriers fly out in the afternoon / evening (newest addition is, of course, QR)
We quickly located the CX check in desks, about the same as where they were a few years ago.
Though the boarding gate has already used the new colours (see below), the screens for check-in were still using the older design:
We were met by an disinterested ethnically-Chinese staff. Quickly issuing our boarding passes, she seemed that she did not want to be here. We asked for fragile tags for our wine, but was met with contempt, though compliance. Courtesy of my Silver status, I was issued a lounge invitation, just like my father, and I scored an extra legroom seat for my sister who would later take my seat.
The airport concourse shares both domestic and international departures. So, you only go through security when you enter airside. Only 2-3 gates are for international departures and you would clear immigration there and of course you will find duty free in there. Cathay does not run its own lounge in Adelaide, and like in most other Australian ports, Cathay’s passengers use the Qantas lounges, located in the domestic concourse in Adelaide. Only SQ’s Silver Kris Lounge is in the international concourse, all One World passengers use their lounges prior to immigration.
Qantas Club @ ADL
As always, I do find being able to access lounges as a silver member is a great perk for Cathay’s Marco Polo Club. Yet, the changes have made it impossible for me to attain their silver membership anymore (even though I do three roundtrips to London, at the minimum).
The lounge was gigantic and by no means crowded, though people do have a tendency to congregate near the food seeing that this is breakfast time. If you sit next to the bar (I do think they will serve you alcohol if you ask for it), you are guaranteed some peace and quiet to your own.
Service was good. When I sat down, I was immediately offered a cup of tea or coffee. And I asked for tea, with milk.
Then I was given an introduction to the amenities of the lounge by the lounge attendant, knowing it was my first visit to the club. I then got up exploring the lounge slightly:
Funny enough: this is for making a toastie!
Here’s the rest of the food selection:
I think the hot food spread is very limited, but understandable for a domestic lounge. I think toastie is a very clever addition to the lounge, though the Chinese tourists (flying CX) do not know exactly how to operate the toastie machine. The breakfast spread could be made slightly better by having a larger variety of fruits (the fruits salad is quite grim and full of seeds!), and maybe a better spread of cold meats.
That said, the environment is lovely, I enjoy the big and spacious atmosphere. Service was excellent, too, for a domestic lounge, where my breakfast plates were taken away within seconds of me finishing. Of course, the most important thing about the breakfast selection is the quality of the tea and coffee, and on that front, I am not disappointed. Artisan coffee is available on request, and there are coffee machines around the lounge, too.
Very good indeed.
CX174 Adelaide to Hong Kong
The lounge attendant announced that we should head to immigration for the flight’s boarding. The flight ran slightly late from Hong Kong and the 1 hour 15 minute turnaround would seem like quite a push. We went through immigration quickly and hung around in the international departures for a bit. Boarding did not start until the scheduled departure time (never a good sign!)
Green Card members can no longer board with Business Class passengers, but with Premium Economy passengers.
My chariot awaits.
Boarding eventually started but was quite chaotic. I decided to not board just yet seeing that most passengers were queuing already in a small confined space and with a very full flight. Eventually, I boarder the plane and settled down in my seat of 16K. As a result of the delayed departure, I was able to snap a few shots of the sunrise on my side of the aircraft.
Boarding was through door L1, so all passengers walked past my seat. Seeing that there was only one airbridge, maybe boarding should be done through door L2, so at least most of the business class passengers can then “turn left” symbolically.
The IFE was locked in flight path mode when I was seated. But I don’t mind it at all.
I was, very soon, offered my pre-departure beverage. The selection today includes orange juice, apple juice and water. No champagne – the standard affair. I chose apple juice and water.
Hot towels were offered quickly after. Boiling hot towels…
Then comes the safety demonstration video. By this time, all the passengers have boarder, But we were waiting for the luggage to be loaded into the hold, so further delays.
We left the gate about 30 minutes late. The Adelaide airport is quite small so a short taxi to the runway would suffice. Hence, mood lighting went on quite soon in Business Class in preparation for takeoff. A note about these reverse herringbone seats of CX: no storage in the ottoman for take off, but you do not have to stow your TV monitor for takeoff.
We took off to the East of the Airport, that is the city of Adelaide. In a way, we backtracked where we came from (as we landed towards the West when I came). I was hoping for some view of the coastline, but that did not materialised.
But soon enough, we made a U-turn into the coast before heading north back to Hong Kong.
Goodbye Adelaide. Side note: the engine view of the A333 isn’t as nice as the majestic GE-90s of the 77Ws, I must say.
Noise cancelling headphones – a very good one.
Breakfast service began right after takeoff. The crew initially pulled up the drink carts and offered us drinks. My aisle was served by a purser and the Inflight Service Manager (ISM). I was served by the ISM. I asked for a milk tea and an apple juice. She mistook it for orange juice.
I was not paying attention, in a way, as I was exploring the IFE system. But later when she finished serving all the passengers of my aisle, I pointed out to here that she mistook my drink orders. She was very apologetic and quickly got me the apple juice that I wanted. She also recommended the mango smoothie, so I had a glass of that, too, and indeed it was very nice.
After the drink service was concluded, the cabin crew came around and set up the table. One major difference between the CX seat and the SQ new J seat is the size of the table. SQ’s table is gigantic, probably about double the size of that of CX’s. The table is quite small in size, and you cannot adjust its position (slide forward or backward etc.), hence I was limited in how I sit – something I think has been worked upon in the new design.
In a way, the breakfast is a 2-course affair. We were first offered the cold plates (no choice), fruits, bread and museli all the same tray.
The cold plates were perfectly fine, nothing to write home about, really. One gem I found, though, was strawberry jam for my croissant – something that I did not have for the two breakfasts I had with SQ – well done Cathay, on that.
The sky has lit up significantly by the time we finished the first course for the breakfast. The ISM was quite proactive in refilling drinks. I had another glass of the smoothie and milk tea while finishing up my cold plates.
As customary to the Cathay service, main courses are pulled out in a cart for us to choose. On the plus side, this allows customers to look at the main course before choosing as sometimes the actual main will be so different to what was described of in the menu. On the negative side, given the low temperature in the cabin, the main courses, by the time they reach the end of the aisle, would have been cooled down and not oven fresh anymore (not that airplane food would be fresh)
The three choices for main today was Fish congee, stirred fried noodles with (burnt) shrimps and western breakfast (omelette). I doubted that the Adelaide catering could do congee or noodles better than the hawkers in Hong Kong, and that they just did not look appetising to me. Thus, I chose the omelette, which suffice to say, was a disappointment.
I think this really represents a low in Cathay catering. The omelette was so overcooked that the cheese in it was so chewy like plastic. And the rest of the breakfast seems to be soaked in chilli oil somehow. Also, the portions were quite small for a Business Class meal. It was as big as the economy breakfast, which I enjoyed a bit more when I came to Australia. I wasn’t too hungry, though, so it was alright, and I continued on my movie.
The plane flew in on 31st March, and I left on 1st April. And while they have loaded in the April inflight magazines, the IFE selection remains that of March. Similarly, while the menu denotes that the special drinks would be Cathay Delight, but again, they only had the special drinks of March.
I then reclined my bed, after my movie, for some rest. The bed was very good (I still liked the bed provided by SQ, though, because of their mattress). The length is incredible and I do appreciate the width provided at the hip level, but the width on the head level was quite narrow (21 inches), as opposed to SQ’s 28/29 inches on their new J seat. The pillow is too small, frankly: should either offer two or a better one. The duvet, on the other hand, was very good: quite suited to the cabin temperature and the use of fibre is very comfortable.
Service was decent, not excellent, though. The purser on my aisle was polite, and always addressed me by my name. Cabin crews answered call lights really quickly and some would inform me if my request would take longer than a while. At some instances, they were proactive, e.g. offering to check whether the other lavatories were available while I was waiting for one. Yet, once the meal service was over, the crew sort of disappeared into the gallery and was mainly chatting away. I was not seated near the gallery, but I could imagine the noise.
Cathay’s green tea
Lunch service began around 3 hours 20 minutes before landing. It began with a drinks service.
Hot towel to start with:
I got a champagne and a sparkling water to start. The nuts were warmed, which was a plus.
Table was set after the drink service was completed, as with the breakfast service. The nuts took away. There was no choice for the starter, so once your table was set, someone would bring you your tray. Mark of efficiency!
The bread went a bit wrong today… That was surprising – one would say that the thing I look forward to most in a meal (if all other fails) would be the never-failing garlic bread. But today, the bread was too dry and not warm enough…
The starter, too, was ice cold.
A Cathay branded butter.
Lunch choices: Steak, chinese stir-fry was cashew nuts and sweet pepper, salmon and a vegetarian pasta option. Steak was something always to avoid, I think, because they tend to overdo it. I hate sweet peppers. So I went for the salmon. I was disappointed again, it was overcooked.
I had a few bites and I gave it a pass. But things could only get better (this statement bears both positive and negative connotations!) The desserts were better.
After they cleared away the main course, the fruit trolley came around offering us with fruit plates and cheese plates. Rather than letting us choose what we want from the fruit trolley, we were merely given one of everything. That said, the fruits were probably the best dish of the lunch service – and they were really good.
You can never go wrong with ice cream I think
To end, I was offered some pralines, which I gladly accepted. I went for a Hazelnut one and a salted caramel one. Can’t say they were excellent, but good enough.
Lunch service concluded about 1.5 hours before landing, which gave the crew good time to clear up. I asked for a milk tea and this time I specified I wanted Hong Kong style Milk Tea, and the cup that returned was like a gift sent straight from heaven. (Note to self: always specify HK style Milk Tea!)
Amenity Kit – definitely one of the strongholds of Cathay. I really like it.
About to land
And welcome to Hong Kong!
Cathay was better than Singapore in three areas and three areas only:
- They can make a mean HK style Milk Tea
- The IFE has touch screen
- They provide amenity kits
While with a hard product on par with SQ, Cathay’s hard product is disappointing, and in particular, the food/catering need a massive improvement.