Date: 20 December 2016.
Flight time: 10 hours, 30 minutes.
Seat: 1K, window on the starboard side.
I awake just before seven in the morning. I open the curtains to take a look outside. It was late when I arrived yesterday evening, so I could not really see anything much. It is a lovely day today, but immediately I am taken aback by just how incredibly ugly Frankfurt airport is. Apart from the fact that the whole facility was designed with everything but the passenger’s convenience in mind, the buildings are quite simply ugly, badly maintained and dilapidated. Paris Charles de Gaulle may not be up there in the top ten of the world’s most convenient airports either, but at least that place has style.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Mode: Shuttle bus.
Journey time: Five to seven minutes, depending on traffic.
Price: Complimentary shuttle, provided by Fraport.
Frequency: Every five minutes.
I am staying at the Hilton Frankfurt airport, which is perched above the long distance railway station. To access Terminal 2, take the escalator down from the hotel lobby. At the bottom turn left into the covered footbridge that connects the station to Terminal 1. There are a few cafes on the footbridge. When I arrived yesterday evening, they had already closed and there were mice running around all over the bar and tables. So you may want to get your coffee somewhere else unless you fancy a mouse poo macchiato…
At the end of the footbridge, turn left and take the stairs down to the ground floor. The stop for the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 is on your right.
Airport check-in: Check-in counters are open from 09:30 to 12:10. There is:
- one counter for First Class passengers,
- one counter for Business Class passengers,
- one counter for Premium Economy passengers, and
- three for standard Economy Class passengers.
Web check-in: Online check-in open 48 hours before departure.
Self-service check-in: There are red self-service check-in machines available and Cathay Pacific staff are on hand in case something should go wrong.
I have already checked in using the Cathay Pacific app, but I decide to pass by the First Class check-in desk anyway. The lady there is very friendly and chatty. She reissues my boarding pass in paper, together with an invitation to the lounge in Frankfurt, a small map of Terminal 2 for me to find my way around, as well as an invitation to the arrivals lounge in Hong Kong.
Location: Before the security checkpoint for gates E2 to E9.
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge.
Access: By invitation. The entrance is right opposite the security checkpoint.
Toilets: Available in the lounge.
Showers: There are three showers in the lounge that appear to be permanently attended.
Food & Beverages: There is a selection of hot and cold snacks. When I arrive at the lounge just after ten, they are just clearing away the breakfast dishes and replacing them with the lunchtime snacks. There is no noodle bar in this lounge, but noodle soups can be ordered from the staff.
To add a bit of seasonal atmosphere, there is also a plate with Christstollen and next to that a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.
Connectivity: Complimentary wifi is available, no password required.
Newspapers & Magazines: There is a good selection of international magazines and newspapers.
Comment: The lounge is fairly large. There is no dedicated First Class section. Other than that, there are dedicated workspaces if you need a bit of privacy as well as computer workstations.
Priority Boarding: There is a priority lane for security. Boarding is first for families with children and then for First and Business Class passengers.
Number of Airbridges: There are two airbridges, First and Business Class passengers use the L1.
CABIN & SEAT
Configuration: 1 + 1 + 1.
- First Class, 6 seats.
- Business Class, 53 seats.
- Premium Economy, 34 seats.
- Economy Class, 182 seats.
Seat Layout: The seat feels very private, despite the fact that it is not a suite type seat. First of all, the window seats are all angled to face towards the window, so you do not have to look at the other passengers. In addition, the shell of the seat is quite high and deep.
Pitch: 81 inches.
Width: 36 inches.
AC Power: 110 V AC power port available at every seat.
Audio and Video:
- On demand.
- Touch screen enabled.
- Bose earphones.
I cannot really say anything much about the inflight entertainment, because I did not use it.
Connectivity: Cathay Pacific does not provide wifi on the B777-300ER.
Toilets: There are two toilets for the First Class cabin, although one is in fact the crew toilet, which is used when the actual First Class toilet is occupied. The cosmetics in the toilet are by Aesop, the same as in the vanity kit. The actual First Class toilet is large enough for a grown man to be able to change comfortably enough. It also has a proper sink and the faucet is turned on and off manually, instead of automatically.
Comment: The cabin is very elegant and spacious. This is partly due to the fact that there are no overhead bins and there are only three seats abreast. Even so, there is more than enough storage space and every passenger has their own small closet, with enough space for a jacket, trousers and shirt.
SERVICE & CREW
As I step aboard the plane, I am greeted by a chirpy young lady. She shows me to my seat on 1K and hangs my jacket for me. She introduces herself and in short sequence three other members of the crew stop to say hello, welcome me aboard and introduce themselves. The purser tells me we will have a fairly quick flight today at only ten hours and thirty minutes. Once I am settled, I am brought, in short sequence, my pyjamas, a vanity kit, earphones, the menu and a welcome drink and an amuse bouche.
Pyjamas: The pyjamas are very comfortable, but they are cut very wide. I am a fairly big guy. But I was given an L and it was still quite big on me.
Vanity kit: The kit is by Australian brand Aesop, and there are different kits for men and women. It contains:
- Colgate toothpaste,
- a comb,
- a cloth to clean spectacles with.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal: Hot towel served on the ground.
Pre-meal drink: Cathay Delight, it is one of the airline’s non-alcoholic signature drinks – made with kiwi, mint and coconut milk.
Choice: There is a selection of Western and Chinese dishes that can be mixed. There is also a vegetarian option
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Lunch
Amuse bouche: Seared tuna on sweet potato mash, served chilled and with a cracker.
First course: Caviar and Champagne with trimmings.
Second course: Minted pea and Edamame soup.
Third course: Poached Maine lobster with baby corn, asparagus, capers, dried tomatoes and romaine salad, with a French dressing.
Main course: Braised Cod, ginger, scallion, mushroom and oyster sauce, steamed jasmine rice, stir-fried pak choy and carrot.
Cheese: Gorgonzola, Taleggio, Manchego, and Caciotta with crackers, bread, grapes and dried fruit.
Dessert: Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche ice cream.
- Krug with the caviar,
- Earl Grey tea with dessert.
Breadbasket: A selection of rolls and garlic bread.
Hot towel after the meal: Yes, not scented.
Comment: Okay, so… Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa you can definitely go home. Qatar, if you don’t mind, I’ll just put you on the back burner for the time being. Because I think I have a new favourite First Class airline. And yes, the meal is definitely what tips the scale. It is quite simply outstanding. First of all, unlike many other airlines, Cathay Pacific will actually give you a whole tin of caviar and not just a sad, small spoon full like Lufthansa does. But apart from that, the size of the portions is very good and the tastes and flavours are simply amazing, especially considering that we are at 37’000 feet! The Chinese main course is fragrant and spicy.
But without a doubt, the undisputed highlight of the meal is the dessert. Oh. My. God. This is divine. It is soft, warm and gooey on the inside, but firm on the outside (yeah okay, so I write a bit of food porn too. Is that going to be a problem…?). This soufflé is so good, it really needs a weapons licence.
Surprisingly, four hours out of Hong Kong I am feeling hungry again. I order the wonton noodle soup, which is served with a glass of still water and a Coke Zero. Even for just a snack, the crew set the table properly, with a napkin and tablecloth. The soup is nice and warm and has this smoky taste. The wontons are delicious.
THE SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal: No.
Pre-meal drink: Mixed berries smoothie.
Choice: There are two Western (one sweet and one savoury) dishes and one Chinese hot dish to choose from for breakfast.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
First course: Fresh seasonal fruit.
Main course: Banana pancake with Mascarpone and maple syrup.
Breadbasket: A selection of bread, buns or fresh toast, served with butter, honey and jam.
Hot towel after the meal: Yes, lightly scented.
Comment: The breakfast service starts about ninety minutes out of Hong Kong. The plate of fruit is simple enough and serves its purpose perfectly. But then comes the main dish and my jaw literally drops – it is huge! There are three banana pancakes on the plate that are plump and fluffy. They are sweet and syrupy from the maple syrup drizzled over them and in the middle of the plate there is a huge, inviting dollop of mascarpone cream. Divine! Throughout the breakfast service the crew come to check that I have everything I need and top up my drinks. The meal concludes with a hot towel. By this time we only have another fifty minutes to go to Hong Kong.
We land at 06:25, nearly thirty minutes ahead of schedule. The airport is only just coming to life. I disembark the aircraft and head downstairs to catch the automated people mover to bring me to the head of the terminal. The queues at immigration are already starting to form but are still fairly modest by Hong Kong’s standards.
In Hong Kong I will be staying at the Novotel Citygate, which I chose because I will only be here the one night and my next flight will already be leaving at 9 o’clock in the morning.
Well, what can I say and where to begin? As far as I am concerned, Cathay Pacific really clinched the spot as the best First Class experience I have ever had, coming in ahead of Qatar Airways and Asiana Airlines. I am sure if you want to look at the details of the flight there are probably areas that might be improved, but the overall package is really quite overwhelming. The crew are incredibly friendly, chatty and attentive but without being obtrusive. The hardware is great too. The seat is comfortable and provides a lot of space and privacy, giving the entire cabin a very cosy and exclusive feel. But without a doubt the food is really the selling point here for me. Apart from the fact that you certainly do not go hungry on Cathay Pacific, the quality of the dishes and the composition of the meal are outstanding. I shall have to do this again!