***This is part 7 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
In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to have flown First Class on both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, which are generally included in the conversation of the best First Class products in the marketplace today. But when I think back and try to compare the two, it’s actually been kind of hard to do. The main reason is that there’s always been a long, sometimes over a year, gap between my flights. So it’s sort of like trying to compare this year’s birthday to last – even if you had pretty much done the same thing, it’s still hard to determine which was definitively “better”.
But during this trip I’d truly have an opportunity to get a head-to-head comparison of the two, since I would be flying equivalent ultra long-haul flights on both airlines in the same 24-hour period. And I made sure to use this chance to keep a running tally of the pros and cons of each. Here’s a summary:
On paper, two numbers alone could probably settle this category, 6 and 8. Those were the number of seats that Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, respectively, put into their Boeing 77W First Class cabins. Therefore, the math is pretty simple, fewer seats = more space per seat.
The Cathay seat actually felt more like a suite, with an angled design that provided a small entryway into the seat and some extra space to stretch out. I also liked how the storage space for small personal items was easily accessible while seated.
The Singapore seat was definitely nothing to sneeze at, and provided more than enough legroom. However, the forward-facing design meant that I had to lean forward to access all of the storage space. Another quirk was that the seat had to be flipped in order to covert into the bed, which required assistance from the flight attendant each time and somewhat limited the flexibility of switching between sleeping and lounging.
Overall, I just felt that the Cathay seat was more comfortable than the Singapore version. It’s worth noting that I do have a personal preference for cloth seats, which admittedly may have factored into the equation.
Winner: Cathay Pacific
The edge goes to the Ferragamo-branded amenity kit provided by Singapore Airlines over the Aesop-branded version provided by Cathay, both in terms of the bag itself, but also the contents inside.
However, Cathay redeemed itself with the PYE-branded pajamas which are simply the best that you’ll ever receive on a flight. In addition, they still provided a voucher which was good for either a free gift or a discount at PYE stores. In the past, that free gift has been a box of very high-quality pocket squares.
Winner: Cathay Pacific
Singapore’s technology made Cathay’s seem like its from the stone age. Singapore’s 23-inch television screen had incredibly sharp resolution, and the newly refurbished seats had seat buttons that were intuitive to use and electrical chargers that were well placed in easy to find locations.
I’m not even sure that you could categorize Cathay’s screen as “high-definition”, and I wasn’t a fan of the design which required the screen to swivel in and out.
Another point on the IFE went to Singapore, who’s Krisworld entertainment system had a much larger selection of movies to choose, including several of the latest blockbusters. On my Cathay flight I was resigned to watching 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.
Winner: Singapore Airlines
Food and Beverage
Overall the food on Cathay Pacific was simply in another league compared to what was served on my Singapore flight. Not to make excuses for Singapore Airlines, but it’s worth noting that my after-midnight Singapore flight just offered a 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.
The quality of the food on my previous Singapore flights has usually been very good, but something was just off about the food served on this particular flight. Each piece of “lobster” was the same exact shape and looked like they had come out of a tube or can. I was already suspicious based on the look of the dish, and after a couple of bites, judging by the rubbery texture I was almost 100% positive that this was not real seafood.
That was contrasted against the truly spectacular Chinese meal I had on my Cathay Pacific flight, capped off with my first time trying Banoffee pie, which I’m still completely obsessed with.
Winner: Cathay Pacific
Tie. The service was superb on both flights, and of the highest quality that you’d expect from an Asian airline.
Overall Winner: Cathay Pacific
While Singapore’s technology and in-flight entertainment were better, at the end of the day, you don’t pick an airline for the quality of the TV and the selection of movies. Cathay Pacific’s superior seat, amenities, and food make this decision a no-brainer in my mind.
For those of you that have flown First Class on both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, who’s your favorite?