***This is part 4 of my “Plane-cation” trip report detailing a recent trip from San Francisco to New York, via Hong Kong***
2. Singapore Airlines First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
3. Cathay Pacific First Class Lounges: The Pier and The Wing
4. Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to New York
5. Eating NYC – Bouley, Donuts, and Pizza
6. JetBlue Mint Class New York to San Francisco
7. First Class Showdown: Singapore Airlines vs. Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific’s First Class is one of the most desirable products out there today, in part because it’s also one of the hardest to book with miles, since award availability for these seats typically opens up just a week or two prior to departure. So up to this point, my only experience with Cathay Pacific First Class had been over two years ago. Luckily, this trip had come together last-minute anyways, and because of that flexibility, I ultimately had my choice between three out of the four daily flights that Cathay Pacific operates between Hong Kong and New York.
Boarding began about 30 minutes prior to the 4PM scheduled departure time, and after a small army of children boarded along with their parents, I made my way onto the plane.
With only six seats in its Boeing 777’s cabin, Cathay’s First Class seats truly feel like a suite even though they don’t have closing doors like other products out there from airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines.
The seats have also been recently refurbished, although similar to Singapore Airline’s update, was really just a cosmetic touch-up rather than a full redesign.
I had specifically chosen seat 2A since the the cabin’s configuration included a wall between seats 1A and 2A and the rest of the cabin, which essentially created a mini-cabin and maximum privacy.
There will never be universal agreement on the “which is better: leather vs. cloth?” debate (for the record, I’m a cloth guy), but it’s worth noting that these cloth seats were made of an extremely soft and comfortable material.
My only gripe about the seat was that the television screen was a bit clunky and had poor resolution. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the design which required you to swivel the screen out in front of you.
Did I mention that this seat felt huge? The seats were angled toward the window as opposed to forward-facing, which provided even more leg room and privacy by keeping you out of view from foot traffic.
The seat controls were fairly low-tech but ultimately got the job done, and Bose noise-canceling headphones were distributed for use during the flight.
Cathay’s signature orchid was placed in its holder at the seat.
Amenity kits were distributed which were filled with Aesop-branded toiletries.
Cathay’s PYE-branded pajamas were fantastic, and identical to the ones I had received two years ago, but now in a dark blue color. These are hands down the most comfortable and high-quality pajamas I’ve received on a flight. As an added bonus, the pajamas came with a coupon attached for a free gift or $500 HKD off of a purchase at the PYE store.
After sorting through all of the swag that had been handed out, I changed into my pajamas and came back to find this waiting for me at my seat. I’m used to receiving a pre-departure drink, but was pleasantly surprised to get a pre-departure scallop as well.
We pushed back right on time, and pretty soon were wheels up for the 15+ hour flight to New York. I took a minute to peruse the dinner menu, and it was an easy decision to go with the Chinese menu.
Within 30 minutes I had my tray table set for dinner, and snacked on some warm nuts while I waited for the main event.
First up, the caviar service. The flight attendants informed me that the sour cream had apparently spoiled and therefore would not be served, and they seemed genuinely apologetic about it. I assured them that I could still enjoy my caviar without it. If anything, I was just thankful that they caught the issue in advance, or it could have been a rough remainder of the flight for the entire First Class cabin.
The personalized hand-written card was a nice touch.
The Chinese meal started off with a cold cut platter of braised beef shin and marinated jelly fish, along with the pork, lotus root, and octopus soup. I’m imagining the look on some people’s faces who aren’t used to seeing the likes of jelly fish, beef shin, and octopus on the menu. But these happen to be some of my favorites and I devoured everything in a few bites.
My entree was the braised pork spare ribs, which was served with vegetables and rice. The pork was ridiculously delicious in a melt-in-your-mouth kind of way.
For dessert, I had the Banoffee pie which was served with mango and raspberry ice cream, and topped with a passion fruit sauce. I LOVED this dessert, and kept wondering why I hadn’t heard of Banoffee pie until today. In fact, I have been obsessed with it ever since I returned home and have been searching the entire San Francisco Bay Area for it.
Overall the food was simply in another league compared to what was served on my previous flight. Not to make excuses for Singapore Airlines, but it’s worth noting that the Singapore flight just offered supper service compared to a full dinner service, and it was catered by the San Francisco outpost station vs. Cathay’s home base of Hong Kong.
I thumbed through the in-flight entertainment choices several times but didn’t really find anything worth watching. I settled on the latest The Transporter movie that Jason Statham couldn’t even be bothered to show up for, and then watched Anne Hathaway boss around Robert De Niro for two hours in The Intern.
Even after dinner and a movie, I still had 13 hours of flight time to kill, so I decided to lay down and catch some zzz’s. The flight attendant helped make the bed, and perhaps I was just really tired, but it genuinely felt as comfortable as the one I had at home.
Some pretty violent turbulence jarred me awake a couple times, but other than that, I basically slept on and off for the next 10 hours.
I peeked out the window after waking up and had to do a double-take after checking the time. I couldn’t believe that I had slept for such a long time, and it suddenly dawned on me that there were just three hours of flight time remaining. I sprung to action and grabbed my menu.
I tossed back the prairies that I hadn’t had a chance to eat previously and ordered breakfast.
I had my go-to drink when flying Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong milk tea, and it was served along with a cold, refreshing fruit plate.
And then my third dim sum platter in the past 24 hours, which was probably a personal record. This one may have been the best of the bunch.
With just half an hour of flight time remaining, I begrudgingly went to the bathroom to change out of my pajamas and back into my civilian clothes. It was time to re-join the real world after 40 hours of living in airplane paradise.
Overall, this Cathay Pacific First Class flight was truly exceptional, highlighted by the great seat, amazing food, and exceptional service which was equal parts warm, attentive, and efficient. Even though Cathay’s First Class product may lack some of the gold trim and other flashy bells and whistles that other airlines offer, in my opinion it’s still one of the best out there.