2. Korean Air First Class SFO-ICN, British Airways lounge at SFO
3. Eating our way through Seoul + Park Hyatt Seoul
4. Korean Air First Class ICN-CMB-MLE, Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN
5. Back to the Islands: Cocoa Island by COMO
6. Cathay Pacific Business Class MLE-HKG-SFO, CX lounges at HKG
All good things must come to an end, and it was time to head home after our fantastic stay at Cocoa Island. As I had mentioned before, the return trip home was actually one of the first pieces in place on our itinerary as I was able to snag a great Business Class deal on Cathay Pacific from MLE to SFO via HKG. The fare even permitted a stopover at HKG, but unfortunately we just didn’t have time to capitalize on this.
We jumped on the speedboat for a short 40 minute ride to MLE and it was just a short walk from the jetty to the check-in area. In general, MLE really is a basic airport and there isn’t much to do, so we were thankful that the boat transfer allowed us to arrive at the airport just 1 hour prior to scheduled departure.
Cathay has a lobby on the ride side of the check-in area with concierge-style check-in service. We were surprised that this was offered and looked like it was the only airline that was offering this. We were able to grab a seat while the agent went into the back room and took care of everything – a few minutes later she came back with our boarding passes, luggage receipts, and lounge invitations. We also received an immigration fast pass which saved a few minutes. A very unexpected but impressive start to our journey home.
We headed through immigration and security and headed over to the Leeli lounge which was actually pretty impressive in terms of the selection of food and drinks available. The lounge was crowded, and there were quite a few people that looked like they had spent the better part of the afternoon and evening there, with many even having dozed off. Must have been the seaplane crowd that arrived before sunset! Our flight was scheduled for a 10:30pm departure, and we headed over to gate #4 around 10pm and started boarding shortly after.
Cathay Business Class check-in area
Leeli lounge at MLE
After flying Cathay to/from Hong Kong recently, it’s quickly become one of our favorites. In addition to the great deal we were able to get, award availability (especially close-in) is really good and its bookable both through American and Alaska miles which are now my two primary programs. I had read up on the Cathay Business Class seats which many regard as one of the best out there, and after our flights I would have to agree.
Our A330 was equipped with the reverse herringbone seats which were extremely spacious with plenty of legroom and storage. To be honest, these seats would pass for first class seats on many other airlines. The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration and we had booked 14 D/G which are in the middle. These were great for those traveling together and they are slanted toward each other. There is a main business class cabin in the front of the plane as well as a smaller section with just 3 rows further back.
The thing I really liked about the seat was a small additional wedge of space that protrudes out along with the armrest to just provide an extra few inches of space that really make the world of difference in terms of comfort both when seated or when trying to sleep.
Our A330 from MLE-HKG
Since our flight was so late I figured it would be a redeye with sleeper service and most people choosing to sleep right away and eat in the morning. As it turn out I’d say that more than half the business class cabin decided to eat right away. With just a 6 hour flight time it was too short for me to take my Benadryl as I’ve learned the hard way (e.g. walking around like a Walking Dead zombie stumbling the airport) that I need at least 7-8 hours for it to wear off. So I also stayed up for the meal service which was quite good, and was able to catch a couple hours of sleep afterwards.
My only gripe about both this and the next flights on Cathay were the poor IFE selection. We had traveled back in January, yet the selection of movies looked awfully familiar with only a handful of new ones to choose from. Unfortunately I had already seen them, so for both flights good thing I was prepared with my backup IFE and got started with Orphan Black.
Chicken with black bean sauce
We landed in HKG bright and early around 8am and had about a 6 hour layover. Technically, it would have been long enough to do something in the city if we were feeling ambitious, but after a redeye lounge hopping seemed much more appealing. We started at the G16 lounge but wasn’t very impressed so just did a lap and then moved on to the Cabin which had been closed last time we were there.
While crowded, overall it’s a solid lounge with a pretty good spread of food and really fast wifi. We spent a couple hours here before moving on since it was starting to feel claustrophobic and I wanted to take a shower.
Food selection and fruit/juice bar
Plane watching on a rainy HKG morning
We were ready for a break and started walking over to Gate 2 to The Wing since I wanted to take a shower and we were ready for a change of scenery. The route was much more circuitous as I would have liked, since the compromise for not going into the city was that I let me wife do some shopping in the airport. HKG airport really has too many stores
We eventually made it over to The Wing and headed upstairs. There’s also a downstairs area which seemed slightly less crowded, but was much less happening in terms of food and ambiance. Again, the lounge is a bit crowded but were able to find a couple seats. Plenty of power outlets which is nice, so no having to fight or drag power cords over people.
In addition to a similar food section that The Cabin had, The Wing also has a nice coffee/barista area along with a noodle and dim sum bar. I headed downstairs to the shower area which is really quite nice. There are several private shower rooms which feel new and freshly remodeled. The shower itself is even quite good, and features a rain shower.
Walking over to The Wing – HKG airport is one of the best looking out there!
The Wing near gate #2
Noodle/dim sum bar
Shower area – feels more like a club
Between the lounge hopping, the shopping, and the shower, and having fast wifi, the 6 hour layover really went by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to board our flight to SFO and headed over to gate #19. Boarding started with just a couple First Class passengers today, and then it was our turn.
The day-time flight from HKG-SFO is serviced by a 747 and I had reserved seats 81 A/K at the front of the upper deck. Getting to fly on the upper deck of the plane is always something that I look forward to as it just feels so quiet and private being sectioned off from the rest of the plane. There is a seat 80K in front of 81K but it was reserved for crew rest, and a curtain was drawn in front of the cockpit door.
We were one of the first to board which let me snap a bunch of pics of the empty cabin. The last time we were on the upper deck was on United which has a 2-2 configuration up here, so the 1-1 config felt very spacious.
The seat is very similar, but definitely feels a bit older and certainly more narrow. In a lot of ways you feel like you’re in your own pod which is great for privacy, but not conducive at all if you want to interact with traveling companions. Perhaps that why the entire flight felt so quiet since even if people were traveling together they weren’t really able to talk.
In addition to being more narrow, there really is a lack of storage space with these seats. I had to struggle just to find places to put my iPad and camera. Luckily, seat 81A has a huge shelf next to it and I was able to throw all my stuff on there.
We were slightly delayed due to weather and then headed out for our 12 hour flight time to SFO. About 30 minutes after take off drink service started, followed by meal service. We were really, really, really impressed with the meals which featured the new “Tosca” style menu which is a partnership with a celebrity chef from the Ritz Carlton.
Typically, these special menus or partnerships don’t amount to much in my opinion, but Cathay has really hit a home run here and the meal was fantastic. It started with a delicious beef carpaccio, followed by an absolutely amazing lamb. Lastly, my favorite dessert in the world, tiramisu in a chocolate cup. Service throughout the meal, and frankly throughout the entire flight was great. the upper deck was service by two primary flight attendants with a 3rd that flexed in/out as needed during busier times.
Cathay 747 upper deck
View from the seat
View from my seat into the cockpit
Lamb – tasted amazing despite the bad picture
Toward the end of lunch with a 12 hour flight time it was more than enough to take my Benadryl and just as I was taking the final bites of my tiramisu and throwing down a praline the drowsiness kicked in. I set the seat in bed mode, got comfortable, put in my ear plugs and eye shades and dozed off. I got about 7 hours of great sleep and next thing I knew woke up with less than 3 hours left.
IFE content was the same as last flight and I mostly resorted to my backup IFE and spent the next few hours starting on my trip report, and catching episodes of Louie.
Brunch was served with about 2 hours left bruch started which consisted of bread, fruit, yogurt, and a delicious congee dish with XO sauce chinese-style rice rolls.
In recent history we have a much bigger sample size with Cathay than with any other airline and have yet to have a bad or even mediocre flight with them. They are definitely becoming one of our favorites along with Korean Air, but of course we’ll need to give SQ another chance soon, hopefully in R class
We finally got to put our Global Entry to use as well and it felt great to ignore the customs forms that were being passed around. We had both gotten the $100 reimbursed through credit cards so while there was no cost, we did have to spend about an hour taking care of the in-person appointment. To anyone that is on the fence about this, in my mind we already more than made up for that time spent as we zipped through immigration in literally 2 minutes just as everyone else was groaning about the monstrous line in front of them. Very happy that we made the investment and highly recommend Global Entry to anyone that travels international even once a year.
Breakfast – fruit