I just disembarked from a British Airways A 319 flight from Basel. My next stop will be Hong Kong. I am going there by Cathay Pacific Airways Business Class.
TRANSIT IN HEATHROW
Transport: Direct shuttle bus from T5 to T3 via T5B
Departs from: Ground floor, the escalators lead down from the arrivals level roughly in the middle of the terminal, opposite immigration
Frequency: Varies on the time of day
Journey time: 10 minutes
Terminal 5 is surprisingly calm this morning. Or rather, it’s busy, as usual, but it doesn’t seem hectic. I follow the signs marked for transfer to Terminal 3, which eventually leads me downstairs to where the buses leave from to the other terminals. The place is completely deserted. I don’t have long to wait for the bus and just before we depart a few more passengers do arrive.
Location: Departures level on the first floor
Facilities: One check-in counter, open only a few hours ahead of departures
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counter, Business and First Class passengers may check-in for their flight in the lounge
I already received my boarding pass for the onward connection to Hong Kong when I checked in for the flight in Basel.
Location: Lounge C, access is on the first floor airside; the lounge itself is one floor up and there are lifts
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge, used also by Finnair
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple)
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; the password is available at the reception desk
The lounge is pretty empty when I arrive, I think there are two other passengers there. The lounge has a spacious, airy feel to it and no matter what time of day you come here, there’s always a nice place to sit. I also like the design and layout of the lounge, which is very unpretentious.
The view of the action on the ramp is usually quite good as well. Particularly if, like today, they’re using 09R for departures. But alas, they appear to be doing some work on the façade of the building, the scaffolding making it pretty impossible to take any decent shots.
There is also a good selection of hot and cold dishes to eat. Including a full English breakfast buffet, pastries and Asian dishes. But I only have a glass of sparkling water, seeing as I’ve only just had breakfast on the flight in from Basel. The infamous noodle bar opens at 09:30.
Priority Boarding: Separate queue for First and Business Class passengers to access the holding area, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers
I leave the lounge about 45 minutes before departure and slowly make my way to gate 18.
Boarding starts a little less than 40 minutes before departure. Which gives me just enough time to take a few pictures of my chariot for today.
I am given a very warm welcome as I enter the aircraft. The cabin crew checks my boarding pass before showing me the way to my seat on 15A.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Converts into a fully flat, horizontal bed
Pitch: 81 inches
Width: 21 inches
Facilities/Amenities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, duvet and pillow
Audio and Video: Video on demand; earphones are not branded
The Cathay Pacific Business Class cabin hardly needs an introduction – it’s very elegant and beautifully appointed. The seat is very comfortable, it offers a lot of stowage space and a high degree of comfort and privacy. I am seated on 15A, which is the bulkhead row. I like this seat a lot. However it should be pointed out that there is only one window on 15A and you have to lean forward to be able to look outside.
The cabin crew appear to be from a variety of different Asian countries. They are very professional in the way they go about their work. Even so, despite being highly efficient they still find the time to be friendly.
Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew start their service with the distribution of the Agnes B. vanity kits. There are different kits for men and women.
FIRST MEAL SERVICE
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice
Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, not scented
Pre-meal drinks: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint, served with a ramekin of warm almonds
Choice: One vegetarian and three non-vegetarian options for the main course
Delivery: Tray service from a trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
- Peat smoked Scottish salmon with crayfish terrine wrapped in nori, served with an onion and fennel salad and lemon
- A selection of breads – onion focaccia and garlic bread
- Mixed salad with grilled vegetables and a herb vinaigrette
- Szechuan style chicken with yu huang chilli sauce, steamed rice and Shanghai style Pak Choy with ginger and garlic
- A selection of Irish, French and English Cheese, served with a glass of port
- Black currant and lemon tart
- Various teas and coffees, served with a praline
Oh Cathay Pacific, what have you done? You’ve spoiled me for life. I think this must be one of the best, if not the best, meal I have ever had on a plane in Business Class. The entire experience is simply flawless and the delivery of the individual courses is very well timed. And the taste is simply amazing! Where to begin? First of all, the salmon in the first course is quite obviously of good quality, very often on planes you tend to get the cheap, fatty salmon that is just fishy and nothing else. But this here is quite the contrary, the lemon gently bringing out the best of the subtle salmon flavour. The terrine is out of this world and the combination with the nori works incredibly well.
But it’s also little things that distinguish this meal. The bottle containing the vinaigrette for example, is made of glass, and not plastic. And apart from that, the vinaigrette tastes really very good, unlike that vile Heinz stuff Lufthansa insists on serving up in First Class.
The main course is also very tasty and the spicy sauce that is served with the meal lends it that extra kick. Moreover, the ginger flavour in the Pak Choy is refreshing and sets a stark contrast to the spicy chicken sauce.
And finally, the dessert. This is lovely, a very subtle and tasty combination of flavours. The crushed biscuit base in particular is delicious!
After the meal the crew distribute half litre bottles of sparkling water, before eventually turning off the lights. I change into my tracksuit and do some work.
SECOND MEAL SERVICE
Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, lightly scented
Pre-meal drinks: Orange juice
Choice: Two savoury western dishes and chicken congee
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
- Plate of fruit
- Pastries and rolls from the breadbasket, served with jam
- Potato, bell pepper and corn frittata with mushrooms, grilled tomato and streaked bacon
- Tea or coffee
Just like the first service, this is another tasty meal.
If you’re ending your journey in Hong Kong you will have to complete a landing card for immigration. If the crew don’t automatically distribute the landing cards, make sure you obtain one on board, before the end of the flight. Depending on the time of day you arrive in Hong Kong, it can be a bit of a scrum at immigration.
Our arrival gate is at the far end of the terminal. To reach immigration we have to catch a train from the basement. But fortunately, immigration is not too busy today. And by the time I’m through, my suitcase is already expecting me on the carousel.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Departs from: There is one stop at the airport that serves both Terminals 1 and 2
Arrives: Tsing Yi, Kowloon, Central (Hong Kong island)
Duration: 24 minutes
Fare: 180 Hong Kong Dollars for a return, but you need to specify the validity of the return
The train station is conveniently located right in between Terminals 1 and 2, just a short distance from the arrivals hall. There is a ticket counter right behind customs, but this doesn’t open until 09:00 in the mornings. Alternatively, there is another counter and ticketing machines in the arrivals hall.
At the Kowloon and Hong Kong island stations passengers can connect to a complimentary shuttle bus to their hotel. There are different routes on the mainland and on Hong Kong island proper which don’t serve all hotels but certainly most of the big chains.
WHERE TO STAY
This time, I shall be staying at the Hotel Indigo in Wanchai. The Indigo chain belongs to the Intercontinental group. It’s a nice, stylish hotel. Furthermore, the staff are really very friendly and helpful. The hotel is located close to the Wanchai metro station and tram stop.
As far as I’m concerned, Cathay Pacific Airways is among the best airlines out there. The Business Class seat is excellent and surpasses even the Singapore Airlines seat, which somehow always ends up giving me a backache. The quality of the food and the courteousness of the crew are simply outstanding.