Cathay Pacific, First Class – Boeing 777-300: Frankfurt to Hong Kong

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Date: 20 December 2016
Departure: 13:00
Arrival: 06:24
Flight time: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Seat: 1K, window on the starboard side

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Introduction

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.

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Check-in

Terminal: 2, sector E
Airport check-in: Check-in counters are open from 09:30 to 12:10. There is:

  1. one counter for First Class passengers,
  2. one counter for Business Class passengers,
  3. one counter for Premium Economy passengers, and
  4. 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.

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The Cathay Pacific Lounge

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.

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.

Boarding

There is a priority lane for security. Boarding is first for families with children and then for First and Business Class passengers. There are two airbridges, First and Business Class passengers use the L1.

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 1 + 1.
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.

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.

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The 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.

Amenities

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.

The vanity kit is by Australian brand Aesop, and there are different kits for men and women. It contains:

  1. mouthwash,
  2. toothbrush,
  3. Colgate toothpaste,
  4. a comb,
  5. earplugs,
  6. a cloth to clean spectacles with.

The Meal

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
Beverages:

  1. Krug with the caviar,
  2. Evian,
  3. Earl Grey tea with dessert.

Breadbasket: A selection of rolls and garlic bread.
Hot towel after the meal:
Yes, not scented.

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.

Amuse Bouche

Seared tuna on sweet potato mash, served chilled and with a cracker.

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The Caviar Service

Caviar and Champagne with trimmings.

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The Soup

Minted pea and Edamame soup.

The Entrée

Poached Maine lobster with baby corn, asparagus, capers, dried tomatoes and romaine salad, with a French dressing.

The Main Course

Braised Cod, ginger, scallion, mushroom and oyster sauce, steamed jasmine rice, stir-fried pak choy and carrot.

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The Cheese

Gorgonzola, Taleggio, Manchego, and Caciotta with crackers, bread, grapes and dried fruit.

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Dessert

Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche ice cream.

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Inflight Snack

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.

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.

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Arrival

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.

Conclusion

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!

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – A 330-300: Hong Kong to Perth

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Introduction

I spend my last day in Hong Kong walking through the narrow streets of Wan Chai and its many food markets. The sights, sounds and above all the smells are not for the faint of heart but they give you a very different feel for the city. In fact, ambling through Wan Chai, glitzy Central with its banks suddenly seems somehow very far away.

But it has been a hot and humid day here in Hong Kong, so eventually I decide to call it a day and head out for the airport at around 18:00.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: train
Departs from: Hong Kong Island Terminus
Arrives: Hong Kong Airport Terminals 1 and 2
Frequency: every 12 minutes
Journey time: 24 minutes
Fare: HKD100, that is HKD18 more expensive than the inbound journey from the airport

It is possible to check-in for Cathay Pacific flights at the terminus station of the Airport Express on Hong Kong island. Opposite the check-in counters is the lift that takes you two floors down to the platform. But today I have decided to check-in at the airport, quite simply because I have not done that before.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, rows B and C

The airport seems rather quiet this evening, maybe because it is Sunday. The good thing is that there are no queues for check-in.

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I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I could really murder a bowl of noodles right now. I ask the friendly check-in agent if there is a noodle bar in every one of the Cathay Pacific lounges, to which she replies that she is not quite sure. It is not really that important, but next thing I know she is already calling somebody somewhere to find out. So just in case you were wondering, there is a noodle bar in the Wing and Pier lounges but not in the Bridge lounge. She also informs me that, for operational reasons, my flight has a delay of twenty minutes.

The Cathay Pacific Wing Lounge

Location: The Wing, opposite gate 2
Type of Lounge:
Cathay Pacific Business Class lounge
Facilities:
noodle bar, coffee bar, drinks bar, Mac workstations, showers, toilets
Internet:
available, the password is displayed in various locations around the lounge

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Apparently you’ll need a lounge invitation to access the lounge, although I’m not sure what happens if you check-in online and don’t actually use a check-in counter before you head airside.

The noodle bar is fantastic and there are different soups available. I’m famished, so first I have a spicy Shanghai style noodle soup with crushed peanuts, followed by a Japanese ramen soup with vegetables. You order your soup directly at the counter. You are then given a buzzer which starts blinking when your food is ready for collection. While I wait I have some steamed pak choi and some dim sum.

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With the imminent risk of starvation successfully mitigated, I find myself a more comfortable place to sit on one of the loungers by the coffee bar.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: there are three queues for boarding: one is for Business Class passengers and the top tier members of Cathay Pacific’s FFP, one for Marco Polo members and another for Economy Class passengers. Because Australia does not allow for more than 100ml of liquids to be taken on board as hand luggage, a secondary security screening takes place just before entering the airbirdges.

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There are two airbridges connected to the aircraft, although in my case there’s not really much point in taking the Business Class one to the L1 door, seeing as my seat is located in the mini cabin behind the L2 door anyway.

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The Cabin
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 39 seats. The window seats face away from the aisle, which makes the seat very private. The aisle seats however, face towards each other. However, they are still sufficiently private. This is one of the best Business Class seats out there and can easily match what British Airways has in First Class these days. In fact it is more or less the same seat. The finish of the seat is very nice and there is a lot of storage space. The overall impression is that a lot of thought was put into designing this seat. Incidentally, Cathay Pacific also provide you with a proper duvet and not just a blanket, even in Business Class.
Pitch: 82 inches
Width: 20.2 inches
Recline: 180 degrees
Facilities: power outlet, reading lamp, overhead lamp, a lot of stowage space
Audio and Video: AVOD, touch screen or remote controlled

Cathay Pacific does its own take on the SWISS Stübli, but in reverse order. The main Business Class cabin is located between the L/R1 and L/R2 doors. And then there is a further, mini cabin with only three rows behind the L/R2 galley (rows 19 – 21). Originally I was on 14A in the main cabin. But I am reseated because the check-in agent tells me it will be more private in the back. Okay, if you say so…

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Business Class is not full this evening. From what I can tell, most but not all of the window seats are taken, nearly none of the middle seats are occupied.

The Crew

I settle into my seat and immediately a young lady appears with a tray full of drinks. I go with the passion fruit and apple juice, which is refreshing but very sweet. Before we push back, hot towels are handed out. And they really are piping hot.

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The crew are very professional in the way they go about their duties. Throughout the flight I notice that they all address passengers using their family names. Perhaps they are not as chatty and approachable as some of the other crews I’ve experienced with Cathay Pacific, but that is okay.

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Amenities

Once we are airborne, the service is very efficient. The crew obviously want to make sure passengers have enough time to sleep and rest before the second service and our arrival into Perth. In short sequence the vanity kit, menus and a bottle of Evian for the night are distributed.

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Vanity Kit


Brand:
Agnes B. (designer from Hong Kong)
Content: there are different vanity kits for men and for women and I’m not sure if the content is the same – the men’s kit contains various moisturizers and lips balm, eye shades, ear plugs, socks, a toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste (it is actually quite a large tube that should last you a couple of days); shaving kits are available in the lavatories

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: passion fruit and apple juice
Hot towel before the meal: no
Pre-meal drink:
no
Choice:
one starter and three main courses
Delivery:
tray service
Type of meal:
dinner

Cathay Pacific offers an abridged service on this flight to speed things up and give passengers enough rest time. First of all, there is no pre meal drink. The drink arrives with the tray. Warm cashew nuts are available, but only on demand, they are not actively offered by the crew.

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The tray arrives with the dessert and the starter both already on it.

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The First Course

Savoury dips of red pepper and roasted eggplant with grissini.

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Cathay Pacific does not take orders for the main courses. Instead, the crew will bring you a tray with the available choices for you to pick the one you like the look off.

The Main Course

Tandoori chicken breast with biryani rice and green chilli.

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The Cheese

Chees platter: fourme d’ambert, cheddar, reblochon with crackers, apple and rosemary paste.

The meal is quite good. The roasted eggplant dip has a nice flavour that goes well with the red pepper and the grissini. The main course is okay, the Indian dishes on Cathay Pacific are always quite spicy.

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Dessert

Fresh berries with rose syrup.

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By the time the meal ends and the tray have been removed, there are still about six hours and a half to go to Perth, which means the full service was completed in more or less one hour from take off. Not bad at all! And now, time to get some sleep…

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The Second Service

The second service begins about two hours out of Perth, which seems a tad early to me. And indeed, 55 minutes before arrival everything has already been cleared away again. I think it would have made more sense to start the second service a bit later. But there are worse things that can happen.

  1. Mango and passion fruit smoothie
  2. Fresh seasonal fruit – dragon fruit, water melon and blueberries
  3. Birchermüsli
  4. Omelette with pan-fried pork sausage, bacon, roasted potatoes, marinated red peppers and braised bean ragout
  5. Selection from the bread basket
  6. Tea and coffee
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The second meal is a bit of a let down. First of all, because the ragout contains fava or broad beans, which I am allergic too. Secondly, everything seems slightly undercooked.

Arrival

We arrive into Perth under the watchful gaze of a full moon. In the distance you can see water; the realisation that I am actually staring at the Indian Ocean takes me completely by surprise. Quite as though my brain has not had enough time to adjust to the idea!

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More or less a year ago I departed from Australia from Perth on Cathay Pacific. It was in fact the outbound leg of the flight I arrived with today. I remember thinking at the time that it would be good to return to Australia and to Perth in particular some day. Little did I know at the time that I would be returning so soon. It is nice to be back for sure.

Getting into Town

Transport: taxi
Departs from: international arrivals
Journey time: ca. 40 minutes
Fare: AUD48.-

Getting into town from the international terminal is not quite as straightforward as one might think in Perth. There is an airport shuttle that runs from the airport to the city and there is also public transport. The only problem though, is that both services run to the domestic terminal only, which is quite a distance away from the international terminal. Perhaps on the way back I’ll give it a try. But right now I’m too tired, so I think I will just grab a taxi.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – B 777-300ER: Hong Kong to Frankfurt

Folie1
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Introduction

I just disembarked from a Cathay Pacific Airways B 777-300ER, arriving from Singapore. I now have another two hours to kill before my next flight to Frankfurt.

Transfer in Hong Kong

Location: Security check-point adjacent to the exit of gate 27
Wait: Five minutes
Fast track: none

Yes, let me see. I think I left off with my last post just as I disembarked the aircraft via gate 27 in Hong Kong. As luck will have it, the exit of gate 27 is right next door to the security check-point and having disembarked as one of the first passengers off the flight from Singapore, the queue is manageable.

There is no passport check for me, as I am only in Hong Kong in transit. Behind security is an escalator and a lift leading one floor up to the departures level. As my flight will be leaving from gate 31, I figure I might as well give the Bridge lounge a try. I’ve never visited this one and I’ve got time to kill anyway.

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The Cathay Pacific Bridge Lounge

Location: The Bridge, access is via the escalators leading one floor down; the lounge is at the end of the pier where it divides into the shape of a Y
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple), The Bakery dining area, long bar
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; there are signs with the password throughout the lounge

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Now this is a seriously cool lounge. As far as I’m concerned, this must be the best lounge Cathay Pacific operates in Hong Kong. It’s very elegantly appointed and also very quiet at this time of the day – it’s just gone 22h20.

The whole place feels very warm and homely. There is a long bar made of marble along the windows and staffed with two bar tenders. There is also a dining area titled ‘The Bakery’, serving a rather huge selection of hot and cold dishes.

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Boarding

Separate queue for First and Business Class passengers, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

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It looks like it’s going to be a full flight tonight. I take my seat on 20A and wait for the Cathay Pacific crew to start their magic.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Fully flat horizontal seat, the window seats point outwards, towards the windows and are very private, the seats on the middle row of two point towards each other
Pitch: 34 inches
Width: 19 inches
Facilities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, ample stowage area
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

The Crew

I settle into my seat and that’s when I realise I’m dead tired, so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. The cabin crew could be Martians and I probably would not turn a hair. One of them approaches me with a tray of welcome drinks. I decide to have one last Cathay delight. After all, my next flight with them is not scheduled until August.

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Before we push back the crew give each passenger a half-litre bottle of Evian.

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Once we’re airborne and the seatbelt sign is finally turned off, I visit the toilet and change into my tracksuit pants. With the light still fully on, and without waiting for the vanity kit with the earplugs to arrive, I extend my seat into a bed and quickly fall asleep – for the next seven hours. And I’m completely dead to the world. I don’t notice the flight attendant placing the menu at my seat, or the other one who closed the blinds, or the one who folded my trousers. I may not have noticed their service at the time, but I am grateful to them just the same.

Inflight Snack

I wake up with still another five hours to go to Frankfurt, so I decide to order a snack to tie me over. With that I have glass of Diet Coke with ice. The soup is excellent and very spicy. It hits the spot nicely.

Grilled duck breast in a noodle soup, served with spicy Guilin style chilli paste.

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The Second Service

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, scented
Choice: Dim Sum, American style breakfast or continental breakfast
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list

  1. Apple juice, Orange juice or a Mango and Passion Fruit smoothy (my choice)
  2. Tea or coffee (my choice)
  3. A plate of fresh fruit
  4. A selection of cereals, Müsli or Yoghurt (Blackberry)
  5. Omelette with bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, frittata
  6. Bread selection with butter and jam.
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The meal ends with one last hot towel, and shortly after that we’re already starting the descent into Frankfurt. The speed and rhythm of the breakfast service are really quite remarkable. There are no long waits in between courses, but at the same time the entire service does not seem in anyway rushed.

Arrival

Cathay Pacific Airways serves Terminal 2 in Frankfurt. We arrive in Frankfurt after a flying time of twelve hours and forty-seven minutes. It’s just coming up to 06h30 and the rain outside is a welcome change from the hot weather of the last week. My onward connection for the flight home to Basel will be leaving from the A gates of Terminal 1.

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Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – B 777-300ER: Singapore to Hong Kong

Folie1
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Introduction

In Singapore I spend the entire week at the Singapore Air Show, as an exhibitor in the Swiss Pavilion. It’s certainly been an interesting week. Not only do I get up close and personal with Qatar’s gorgeous B 787, I also have the chance to meet the A 350 in real life for the first time. The A 350 in particular is a bit of a surprise, I must say. She is certainly much larger than I had expected and after some initial reservations about her nose, she is slowly starting to grow on me.

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But it’s also been rather tiring. I’ve been travelling for two weeks now, and I think I’m ready to go home.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Hourly shuttle from the hotel to Changi’s terminals 1 and 2.
Departs from: First floor, in front of the lobby
Frequency: Once an hour on the hour
Journey time: 15 minutes
Fare: Nil; a taxi will cost you ca. SGD15

In Singapore I’m staying at the Village Hotel in Katong. It’s a pleasant enough hotel in a lively residential area of Singapore, with many good restaurants right behind the hotel. We chose to stay here for a number of reasons: first of all, the place was recommended to us by the organisers of the event for the Swiss delegation. Secondly, because the journey from the hotel to the air show is only about 25 minutes by taxi. On the down side, it’s a bit far out of the city, by Singaporean standards, and not really close to any train station.

Check-in

Location: Departures level on the second floor
Facilities: Staffed check-in counter only
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters on row 12, separate counters for Business Class passengers, Marco Polo Members and Economy Class passengers.

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48 hours before my departure from Singapore, I receive an e-mail from Cathay Pacific, informing me that my flight to Hong Kong is now open for check-in. I also receive a reminder on my BA app that check-in is open. Even so, I’ll check-in at the counter, as my suitcases will need to be checked in anyway, and I seriously doubt if I could check-in on the Cathay Pacific website all the way to my final destination.

The young man at check-in issues my three boarding passes, together with an invitation to the Skyview lounge in Singapore and another to one of the many lounges in Hong Kong.

My suitcase is tagged with a Business Class label and checked all the way through to the final destination – home.

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The Skyview Lounge

Location: Behind immigration turn right; the escalator to the lounge is on your left side.
Type of Lounge: Skyview Contract Lounge operated by DNATA, used mainly by Cathay Pacific Airways but also Air Mauritius and a few others.
Facilities: Public computers (Apple), open air smoker’s terrace with excellent views of the ramp, no showers and no toilets.
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi, no password required.

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The lounge is on the mezzanine level. It’s not a particularly nice lounge. And the furniture looks grubby around the edges. Apart from that, the coffee mugs are all stained and the allegedly clean glasses are full of grease stains.

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There is quite a varied food selection. For cold dishes, there are prepacked salads, plus a selection of sandwiches with somewhat odd contents. As far as the hot dishes are concerned, there is steamed rice, boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables, beef Rendang, some vegetable stew and tuna or chicken pies.

Boarding

Single queue for security at the gate, separate First and Business Class passengers to access the holding area, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

The security screening is done at the entrance to the gate. There are two queues and there is no dedicated fast track for First and Business Class passengers. After the security check, one of the gate agents scans my boarding pass and then I’m cleared to board the plane.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Fully flat horizontal seat, the window seats point outwards, towards the windows and are very private, the seats on the middle row of two point towards each other
Pitch: 34 inches
Width: 19 inches
Facilities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, ample stowage area
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

This is a somewhat strange bird. First of all, I am surprised to find a B 777-300ER standing at the gate instead of a normal B 777-300. The aircraft has the new long-haul Business Class seat installed. However, there is no First Class, so the first row of Business class, row 11, is in fact the first row of the aircraft. Nonetheless, this bird must have had a First Class cabin installed at some point, which was later removed, as the forward toilets are larger than the standard Business Class loo and have a different kind of sink.

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The Crew

The cabin crew are from a variety of different Asian countries and very friendly. The maître de is just brilliant. She’s a middle aged Asian woman, very attractive and with an excellent sense of humour. Every time she stops at my seat we have a little natter and a laugh about this and that. But even the other crew take their time and I have an interesting discussion with one of the ladies about the quality of the cakes they serve out of Singapore, which, according to her, are the best on the entire Cathay Pacific network. I feel inclined to believe her.

I’m getting quite good with this routine by now: a pillow has been placed at every seat, while blankets are distributed individually. This is followed by the welcome drink service and then the scented hot towels.

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Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew distribute the menus.

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The Meal

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, scented
Pre-meal drinks: Perrier with ice and lemon, served with a ramekin of warm almonds
Choice: One chicken, one beef and one vegetarian option for the main course
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Dinner, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list

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The First Course

Smoked salmon with lemon and lime zest, avocado and crème frîche cucumber rolls and petit pois.

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The Salad

Mixed salad with Japanese cucumber, radish, tomato and oriental dressing.

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The Main Course

Grilled smoked Angus beef filet with thyme sauce, truffle mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

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The Fruit

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The Cheese

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Dessert

Chocolate hazelnut mouse cake with mixed berries.

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Cathay does it again and serves up another delectable meal on this three hour flight from Singapore to Hong Kong. The avocado cream and the smoked salmon are an excellent combination, it’s a very simple but extraordinarily flavourful dish. The mixed salad is refreshing and crisp, and the Japanese sesame oil dressing is just lovely.

And the main course is quite stupendous. In particular, the truffle mashed potatoes are divine, with the rich, creamy texture of the mash elegantly suffused with the subtle hint of truffles. And I just love the chocolate cake…!

By the time this monumental meal is over, there are only another 54 minutes to go to Hong Kong. The lights are dimmed and the cabin slowly settles into a calm cruise.

Arrival

We arrive at Terminal 1, gate 27, which is conveniently located right next to the security check-point in the middle of Hong Kong’s vast pier. My onward connection will be leaving from gate 31. I think today I’ll try the Bridge lounge at the far end, where the pier divides into a Y.

Cathay Pacific, Business Class – B777-300: Bangkok to Singapore

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Introduction

The unrest in Thailand, and in Bangkok in particular, is having a serious and damaging impact on the nation’s economy and reputation abroad. And the longer this situation lasts, the worse it will become. But alas, for the time being at least, it would appear that both parties are unwilling to back down from their respective positions, even it is to the detriment of the people they should be serving and representing in government.

As a tourist, it makes for a very pleasant stay in Bangkok. The hotel is nearly deserted, which means a very personalised service from all the staff. And the shopping malls are always empty, while outside at the rally sites there is no getting through with supporters of the opposition cheering and clapping while politicians with ugly faces and sly smiles belt off empty promises about all the things they will and will not do that make them so much more superior to the government currently in place…

I had a great time here in Bangkok and The Peninsula is simply a stunning hotel.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: BMW 7
Departs from: Right outside the lobby
Frequency: What ever you do, if you’re travelling by car allow enough time for the horrific traffic
Journey time: 60 minutes, I leave the hotel at just after 09h00.

Originally there should have been a strike by Thai Airways today. But either they decided to call it off, given the already dire financial state the carrier is in, or they haven’t started yet. In any case, when I arrive in Suvarnabhumi it’s business as usual all round.

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Check-in

Location: Departures level on the fourth floor
Facilities: Check-in counter only, no machines
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters

Again I was able to check-in online for this flight, once I received a notification e-mail form Cathay Pacific. Nonetheless, boarding pass collection will have to be done at the airport.

A representative from The Peninsula is already expecting me as the car pulls up outside the entrance for the Cathay Pacific check-in. He collects my bags and escorts me to the Business Class check-in counters and then from there to the premium lane for security and the passport control beyond.

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The Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge

Location: On the G concourse, third floor. After immigration turn right and keep on walking until you reach an intersection with some kind of Thai house standing in the middle. Turn right again and take the escalators going one floor down, which are located on your left side. At the bottom of the escalator, do a u turn and keep left until you see the cardboard flight attendant waving at you.
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Public computers (Apple), no toilets
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; the password is available at the reception desk

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The lounge is in the typical Cathay Pacific branding. The food selection is somewhat limited. I only had a light breakfast today, so I’m feeling rather peckish. Eventually I settle for the spicy Thai chicken green curry, which is indeed, very spicy and flavourful.

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Originally the lounge is quite crowded, so I take a seat in the more private area. But then a short while later the flight to Hong Kong is called and I am able to move forward to the windows. Although of course it’s impossible to take pictures out of the lounge with those pesky dots all over the windowpanes.

The only problem with the lounge is that you can actually hear all the announcements that are being made outside, so it’s not really very tranquil inside. The Japanese gentleman in the back, who evidently has a preoccupation – let’s not call it an obsession – with his sinuses obviously doesn’t help matters. Fortunately though, I have my trusty earphones with me. And suddenly the world around me becomes a much nicer place, courtesy of some guy called Dre.

Boarding

Separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

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Boarding starts at around 12:10 and by 12:35 we’re already pushing back, ten minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is not full, there are only seventeen passengers in Business Class, so less than half full. And when I take a peek into Economy Class, that certainly doesn’t look full either.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 3 + 2
Seat: Angled hard shell seat
Facilities: USB port and electricity outlet, overhead lamp, mobile phone holder
Audio and Video: Private touch screens, video on demand (no full length films, only TV programmes); earphones

Once more Cathay Pacific seems determined to surprise and amaze me – and succeeds! I enter the aircraft and turn right, to find that this bird is already equipped with the new regional Business Class cabin. And what a beautiful cabin it is! There are 36 seats in total. The colours and patterns used in the cabin are identical to those used in the long-haul cabin. In addition, there is a bronze coloured cushion at every seat which goes very well with the dark green upholstery.

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The seat is very functional in it’s design and tries to maximise the available space for the passenger. The tray unfolds from the front seat and is rather large when it is fully extended. And I just love the iPhone holder with the wallpaper design.

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There are two toilets for Business Class passengers. The forward one is on the left side, right by the L1 door and the rear one is on the right side, just behind the R2 door. And here too it shows how much thought has been put into the design of the cabin: the door to the forward toilet opens onto the entrance of the aircraft, so away from the passenger cabin, presumably to avoid any unsightly smells or views for the passengers sitting on the first row.

The Crew

The crew on this flight are predominantly Thai and do an excellent job – just like the rest of their colleagues I have experienced on this trip.

The service on this flight is identical to the one a few days previously from Hong Kong to Bangkok: blankets, earphones, hot towels and welcome drinks are distributed. Although this time around there is no Oriental Breeze to choose from. I decide to go with the Orange juice.

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Initially I’m on 14A. But then I am joined by a friendly, elderly, American gentleman who is trying to figure out why on earth I seem to be taking pictures of the entire cabin. So once boarding is completed I move back to the last row, 18A the only remaining window seat with an empty aisle seat next to it.

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The Meal

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes
Pre-meal drinks: Ginger Ale – no warm almonds this time
Choice: There are three non-vegetarian options – chicken, seafood or pork
Delivery: Tray service from trolley, the passengers can see all the meals that are available on the trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list

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The First Course

Salad of duck breast with lychee.

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The Main Course

Stir-fry chicken with cucumber in sweet bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice, kailan and carrot flowers.

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Dessert

Chocolate Hägen Dazs ice cream.

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To be honest, I don’t really think I’m in a position to make a qualified judgement about the quality and taste of the food. I’ve now been travelling for a week. This is my fourth flight and I quite frankly, I can’t stand the sight and smell of another airline meal. So I accept the tray but eventually barely touch the food.

Instead I just sit back and enjoy the view.

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Arrival

In Singapore, Cathay Pacific Airways uses Terminal 1. The distance from the aircraft is relatively short, and fortunately there aren’t that many people queue for passport control. So immigration is quickly done. From there it’s just a short distance to the luggage reclaim belt, where the suitcases start arriving just as I reach the belt.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – A 330-300: Hong Kong to Bangkok

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Introduction

After three days in Hong Kong it’s now time for me to move on to my next destination, which is Bangkok, where I shall be visiting a friend who now lives in the Thai capital. I’ve enjoyed this stay in Hong Kong.

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Moreover, I can certainly recommend the Indigo Hotel. The staff are really friendly, the rooms are nice and very clean and I have the fitness centre all to myself whenever I visit.

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Getting to the Airport

From Wanchai to the Airport Express Terminal

  1. MTR
  2. Tram

Departs from:

  1. MTR: Wanchai station
  2. Tram: Wanchai station, the tram stop is right opposite the exit of the MTR station

Arrives at:

  1. MTR: Hong Kong station
  2. Tram: The closest stop is the one in front of the HSBC in Central

Frequency: no idea, but there are frequent services
Journey time:

  1. MTR: about 5 minutes
  2. Tram about 15 minutes

Fare:

  1. MTR: HKD 4.50
  2. Tram: HKD 2.50

If, like me, you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, then perhaps the tram may not be the most convenient means of transport. There is no storage space for luggage and those stairs to the upper deck are pretty tight. MTR trains have more space in theory, but tend to be rather full no matter what time of day you’re travelling.

External view of the Airport Express station
External view of the Airport Express station

Check-in

Transport: Train
Departs from: Hong Kong station on the island and Kowloon station on the mainland
Arrives: Terminal 1 (left exit from the train) and Terminal 2 (right exit from the train)
Frequency: Varies on the time of day
Journey time: 24 minutes from Hong Kong
Fare: HKD 180 for a return

I leave the hotel just after 08:30 in the morning. My flight to Bangkok will not be leaving until 12:00 but I figure, if I’m going to kill time, then I think I’d rather be at the airport people and plane watching. I decide to take a taxi to the Airport Express Terminal in Hong Kong for the simple reason that I have too much stuff with me.

Location: Airport Express Terminal in Hong Kong
Facilities:

  1. Web check-in available up to 48 hours before departure
  2. Check-in counters
  3. Self-service machines

Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters

I receive an e-mail from Cathay Pacific informing me that check-in is open 48 hours before departure. The web check-in works nicely, but for some reason the website cannot send me my boarding pass by text message. But that doesn’t matter. Instead I type in my e-mail address and a few minutes later I receive a mail from Cathay Pacific with a link to the boarding pass for me to open on my iPhone. I launch the page. Everything is in order. There is a button at the bottom of the page to add the boarding pass to your passbook, which I do.

Passengers travelling on Cathay Pacific and quite a few other carriers out of Hong Kong have the possibility to already drop their bags at the station in Hong Kong, instead of carting it all the way to the airport and dropping it off there. The service is available up to 90 minutes before departure, which is not bad at all.

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The check-in agent informs me that the video screen on my assigned seat is not working and that therefore they have moved me one row back to 15A. I’m mightily impressed, I must say.

The lifts taking you down to the platform level are right opposite the check-in counters.

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Cathay Pacific calls Terminal 1 home.

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The Cathay Pacific Wing Lounge

Location: The Wing, access to the lounge is opposite of gate 2, the lounge is on the mezzanine level one floor up
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple), Noodle bar, Café
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi

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I like the design of the Cathay Pacific lounges. Black and white marble and what looks like black granite are used extensively and give the lounge a very elegant appearance. Having said that, it also make the place seem rather dark.

My first stop is the infamous noodle bar. I’m not really that hungry to be honest, but I just like the idea of having a Chinese noodle bar in a lounge.

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Once I’ve demolished the noodles, I head for the café, order a cappuccino and start writing this trip report.

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Boarding

Separate lane for First and Business Class passengers, separate airbridge to the L1 door

Boarding is delayed by about fifteen minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft on the inbound leg. From what I understand, ATC related delays are quite common in Hong Kong.

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The load is very light in both classes on this flight. Only twelve of the 42 seat in Business Class are occupied, which suits me fine as it means I have the seat next to me empty.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2
Seat: Regional Business Class, angled recline in a traditional configuration
Pitch: 45 inches
Width: 21 inches
Facilities: There are some plugs, but I’m not quite sure what they are for, overhead lamp
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

The Cathay Pacific regional Business Class cabin is quite nice. There’s certainly something old school about the seats and they are beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. Nonetheless, it’s a very comfortable seat, particularly given that this is a short flight of only two hours and thirty minutes. There is a cushion on every seat.

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The Crew

The cabin crew on this flight are simply excellent, there really is no other way to put it. And instead of taking it easy with such a light load, they appear to be taking this as an opportunity to offer a more personalised service.

As I board the aircraft, I am greeted with a big smile by one of the four young ladies working the Business Class cabin. She looks at my boarding pass and escorts me to my seat. She wishes me a good flight and returns to her station by the door.

In short sequence another flight attendant comes by, first offering a welcome drink and followed by the earphones, a blanket and menu for this flight.

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Just before we push back, Alice comes to introduce herself as the Inflight Service Manager and wishes me a good flight.

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The Meal

  1. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, there is also an antiseptic towel on the tray when the meal arrives
  2. Welcome drink: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint
  3. Pre-meal drinks: Ginger Ale, served with a ramekin of warm almonds
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Choice: There are three choices for the main course – shrimps, lamb or chicken
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list

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The Salad

A seasonal salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Spicy Thai green curry with steamed rice and kalian. This dish is quite spicy and very flavourful. But I leave the kailan, greens on a plane are rarely worth trying I find.

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Dessert

A selection of Hägen-Dazs ice cream – chocolate chip, vanilla or cookies and cream.

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One thing I already noticed on the previous flight is that they seem to have done away completely with those pebble shaped salt and pepper shakers and didn’t even replace them with sachets or anything like that.

The meal ends with the distribution of yet another hotel towel. The crew then quickly remove all the trays and switch off the lights to let the passengers have a rest.

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The atmosphere in the cabin becomes very relaxed, quiet and calm. Natural light is seeping in through the windows, casting strange shapes and shadows across the cabin. In the background the Rolls-Royce engines are gently humming their tune, softly lulling me to sleep. And as I slowly slip into a slumber, caressed by the warmth of the sun outside, I am reminded once more of what it is I just love so much about flying. And this, to me, is utter bliss.

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Arrival

We make a straight in approach into Bangkok. And indeed, the airport is very quiet when we arrive.

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I’m the first to disembark and make my way to immigration. If, like me, you need to obtain a visa on arrival, you cannot use the normal channel. The visa on arrival channel is about seventy metres further on. In order to obtain a visa on arrival you need to have:

  1. one full empty page in your passport (the stamp they put in it is enormous)
  2. THB 1000
  3. a passport photo
  4. a copy of your ticket to depart Thailand
  5. a completed immigration form
  6. a completed application form for a visa on arrival

Should you happen not to have any of the above, don’t worry. With the exception of the empty page in your passport you can obtain everything at the visa on arrivals counter, which also has a photo booth, a teller machine and a bureau de change.

Getting into Town

Getting into Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi is a pain. Whatever you do, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is a train, the express, which obviously has the benefit of not getting stuck in traffic. The only problem with the train though, is that it doesn’t really go anywhere useful. And if you’re staying down by the river it’s particularly useless if you’re travelling with luggage as you will be required to change trains and cart your junk up and down a lot of stairs.

Fortunately, I’m being picked up by the hotel. And although my BMW comes with it’s own wifi network, cold water and a refreshingly cool towel, the traffic is still a mess. The things one must endure…

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In Bangkok I am staying at the Peninsula. Initially I was going to stay at the Mandarin Oriental, but from the pictures and reviews I found on Tripadvisor, the Peninsula just looked more appealing. I’ll leave it here for the time being, thank God it’s finally the weekend…

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Cathay Pacific, Business Class – B 777-300: London Heathrow to Hong Kong

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Introduction

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.

Transfer in London 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

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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.

Transfer Check-in

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.

The Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Cabin

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

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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 Crew

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.

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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.

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The Meal

  1. Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice
  2. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, not scented
  3. 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
  4. Delivery: Tray service from a trolley
  5. Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
  6. Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
  7. Menu: Separate menu and wine list
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The First Course

Peat smoked Scottish salmon with crayfish terrine wrapped in nori, served with an onion and fennel salad and lemon.

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The Salad

Mixed salad with grilled vegetables and a herb vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Szechuan style chicken with yu huang chilli sauce, steamed rice and Shanghai style Pak Choy with ginger and garlic.

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The Cheese

A selection of Irish, French and English Cheese, served with a glass of port.

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Dessert

Black currant and lemon tart.

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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.

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The Second Service

  1. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, lightly scented
  2. Pre-meal drinks: Orange juice
  3. Choice: Two savoury western dishes and chicken congee
  4. Delivery: Tray service from trolley
  5. Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
  6. Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
  7. Menu: Separate menu and wine list
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  1. Plate of fruit
  2. Cornflakes
  3. Pastries and rolls from the breadbasket, served with jam
  4. Potato, bell pepper and corn frittata with mushrooms, grilled tomato and streaked bacon
  5. Tea or coffee
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Just like the first service, this is another tasty meal.

Arrival

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.

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Getting into Town

Transport: Train
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.

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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.

Epilogue

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.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – A 330-300: Perth to Hong Kong

Catahay-Pacific-Logo

Airline: Cathay Pacific
Aircraft:
Airbus A 330-300
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
15A, window
From:
Perth
To:
Hong Kong
Date:
23 August 2013
Departure:
07:10
Arrival:
15:10

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Hey, who turned the lights out? It’s just gone 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s still dark outside and I’m all bleary eyed. My mouth feels dry and the vestiges of yesterday evening’s meal – which included a rather hefty dose of red onion – make my tongue feel as though something small and furry decided to surreptitiously crawl into my mouth and then unexpectedly lost its will to live. This really is rather early. But you see, today I am leaving Australia – unfortunately. I’m heading for Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific Airways.

Getting to the Airport

The taxi I ordered the evening before is already expecting me as I exit the hotel at around five in the morning. The journey to the international terminal in Perth takes about 15 minutes to complete. Traffic is good, but I’m still surprised to see quite a few cars on the road at this ungodly hour.

Check-in

Check-in is in full swing when I arrive. Fortunately the queue for Business Class passengers is a short one, so I don’t have that long to wait. Strangely enough, the place is littered with Asians with their suitcases open and busy rearranging their bags. One young man approaches me and asks me if he might be able to check-in with me as a member of the same party so he won’t have to pay excess baggage. I politely decline but I must confess I am rather curious as to how much extra he’ll need to pay.

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From check-in I head upstairs and change what’s left of the Australian Dollars into Hong Kong Dollars. And then I officially exit the country. But I’ll be back.

The QANTAS Lounge

Cathay Pacific don’t have their own lounge in Perth and instead use the Qantas Club lounge. The lounge is not nearly half the size of the domestic lounge I was in yesterday in Adelaide. But it is equally well stocked and has a good selection of well prepared and tasty food options.

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Boarding

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule due to the late arrival of our flight. The turn around is normally only 85 minutes for the morning service, which means that even the slightest delay is likely to have a knock on effect.

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There is a separate lane for Business Class passengers to pass the gate. From the departures level it’s two flights of stairs down to the entrance of the airbridge.

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The Cabin

As I enter the cabin I am delighted to find that this aircraft has been fitted with the new Business Class seat. So no herring bone. There’s nothing wrong with the herring bone in terms of comfort but it really is a bitch to look out the window in those seats. The new Cathay Pacific Business Class seat is very much like the British Airways First Class seat, just not quite so roomy. This must be one of my favourite Business Class seats and certainly beats the Singapore Airlines one they have on the A 380.

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The load on today’s flight is pretty light up front, I only count ten passengers in total. The smaller Business Class cabin behind the L2 door remains completely empty.

The Crew

The crew in Business Class are all female and very friendly. Shortly after I take my seat, one of the ladies appears with a choice of either orange juice or champagne.

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And then after that it’s the scented warm towels, which are a nice, rich texture quite unlike the ones British Airways uses in First Class.

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Amenities

And then as the last thing before we push back, the vanity kit and a bottle of Evian arrive.

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Departure is from runway 03. The taxiway from the international apron does not reach all the way to the end of the runway. So at some point we have to cross the runway to the taxiway at the other side and then from there we reach the threshold.

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The acceleration is good, but it still takes us a while until we are finally airborne. And with that, I have left Australian soil.

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After take-off the crew come through the cabin distributing the wine list and menu for today’s flight.

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The Meal

Unlike my previous experience with Cathay Pacific, on this flight the meal is served on a tray directly from the galley, instead of from a trolley. Presumably that also has to do with the light load in Business today.

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In any case, the crew come to take my order for the meal and the drinks. We start with a plate of seasonal fresh fruit. The pineapple, melon and kiwi are fabulous and have remained fresh. The strawberries however, are somewhat bland in flavour.

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The tray arrives with the apple juice and milk coffee I’d ordered, as well as a glass of still water.

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This is followed shortly after by the breadbasket. There is a choice of different types of bread, croissants and muffins and a selection of preserves and honey.

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After that comes the vanilla yoghurt, which is very rich and creamy.

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For the main course I have the butter milk pancakes with caramelised walnuts, apples and strawberries with maple syrup – divine!

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The meal concludes with the mandatory scented towels Cathay Pacific seem to have an abundance of on their aircraft.

And now I think I’ll listen to some music. Here’s a nifty feature of the console to operate the IFE. At the top it constantly displays the time left to go to destination. I think this is a really neat feature!

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The Meal

About two hours out of Hong Kong the lights go on again and a fresh set of hot towels herald the beginning of the second service. Much to my surprise, the second meal service is another full meal and not just a snack.

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For an apéritif I have one of Cathay Pacific’s signature non-alcoholic cocktails – but alas I forget the name. It is a refreshing mix of kiwi, mint leaves and coconut milk. The drink is served with a small bowl of warm salty almonds.

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The First Course

We begin with a trio of gravlax, seared tuna in sesame seeds on pesto and a lime marinated shrimp.

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With that I have some garlic bread. Well okay, three slices. But they really were quite small.

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The Salad

On the tray there is also a salad with feta cheese, cranberries and a balsamico vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

For the main I have the vegetarian option, which turn out to be palak paneer, dhal masala, mushroom and peas with turmeric basmati rice. The dish is moderately spicy and simply excellent, with a variety of different spices and flavours miraculously crammed onto one dish.

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The Cheese

The hot meal is followed by a selection of fruit and cheese: Maffra Sage Derby, Jindi Blue and a Tasmanian Heritage Brie. With that I have a small glass of port.

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Dessert

And as though I hadn’t already had enough, the meal closes with a mint tea and a dessert of dark chocolate ganache tart on a raspberry coulis.

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And this is how far I got with the tart.

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And just in case there are still some passengers who haven’t had enough yet, the crew pass through the cabin with a box of pralinés, which I decline. What a meal!

Arrival

Our arrival is delayed slightly. Apparently arriving traffic is rather busy.

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Cathay Pacific provides an excellent arrivals lounge, which is located landside, right under the station of the Hong Kong Airport Express.

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong by public transport, I can highly recommend the Hong Kong Airport Express. Should your hotel be on the mainland, get off the train at the stop Kowloon. From there follow the signs to the Express shuttle bus. This is a complimentary shuttle for passengers with a valid train ticket and there are many different lines that will take you to the largest or best known hotels in the area.

During my brief stay in Hong Kong I shall be staying at The Peninsula, which is a truly lovely hotel. I did try taking pictures, but somehow they hardly do this grand building justice. So I will leave it here with a few pictures of the view from my room.

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Cathay Pacific, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Hong Kong to Bangkok

Transfer in Hong Kong

Changing planes in Hong Kong is a painless affair, even more so because passengers are only required to remove laptops from their bags. Their liquids and other toiletries can stay in the bag. I don’t have to take off my belt either.

Once I’m through security I head one floor up to departures and have the agonising decision to make as to which lounge I want to visit. I settle on The Cabin, mainly because it’s closer to my departure gate than the wing. Also, I visited The Wing lounge a few years back when I was flying back to Zürich from Hong Kong with Swiss.

Catahay-Pacific-Logo

Date: 27 November 2012
From: Hong Kong
To: Bangkok
Airline: Cathay Pacific Airways
Aircraft: A 330-300
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 17A

The Cathay Pacific Cabin Lounge

The lounge is not very full when I arrive. Even so, I decide to turn to the right, where there is a smaller lounge area that is much more intimate. This part of the lounge only has a small bar, the food is in the other part. As a result most people tend to congregate in that corner of the lounge where all the grub is. I have nearly three hours to make my connection. So I spend my time reading emails and catching up on work.

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The view from where I was sitting in the lounge.
The view from where I was sitting in the lounge.

Boarding for the flight starts on time, thirty minutes before departure. Eventually though, we end up leaving with a delay of 15 minutes because of three missing passengers whose connecting flight arrived late. But the flight time is shorter than scheduled, so we still manage to arrive in Bangkok on time.

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On my way to the gate I see this big girl getting ready for departure.
On my way to the gate I see this big girl getting ready for departure.
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My bird.
My bird.

The Cabin

The cabin on this bird is quite a contrast to the one on my previous flight. First of all, judging by the old overhead panels and bins, the aircraft has already been in service for quite a while. It also still has the old regional Business Class seat which – although very comfortable – is starting to look its age. At the time I made the booking, the seat map indicated that the flight would be operated by an aircraft with a 1-2-1 configuration. This bird however, has a 2-2-2 configuration. But at least the empty seat fairy does her magic again and as the doors close I am one of the few passengers again who has nobody in the seat next to me.

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Does it get any more retro than this?
Does it get any more retro than this?

The Crew

While we’re still on the ground, the crew first distribute blankets and earphones. Next come more hot towels, followed by a selection of welcome drinks. Again I choose the Oriental Breeze, which I think I could drink until it’s coming out of my ears.

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The crew also distribute landing cards for Thailand, together with a voucher for the premium fast track at Suvarnabhumi airport, which in my case is of no use as I have to obtain a visa on arrival anyway. But I jump ahead.

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The Meal

Once we’re airborne it takes the crew quite a while to get the show on the road. We start with another drink round and again I have an Oriental Breeze.

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There are no nibbles with the drinks. Shortly after, my meal tray arrives. On it there is a small salad with a few shrimps that have been marinated and cooked with curry. The salad is served with a balsamico vinaigrette. With the salad I have two slices of crunchy garlic bread.

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One thing that strikes me about Cathay Pacific is that they serve you a glass of still water with the meal, whether you ask for it or not. It’s a nice touch actually.

There are three choices for the main course. I choose the agnolotti pasta filled with eggplant and bell peppers and served with a basil and tomato sauce and parmesan shavings. The main dish really is superb and the pasta is just right. Very often they don’t get the pasta right on planes and end up cooking it to death until the edges are all hard. But not so here.

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For dessert we have Hägen Dasz ice cream – cookies and chocolate ice cream.

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The meal ends with a cup of coffee and a praline.

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By the time the meal is over I’m feeling rather drowsy, it’s been a long journey. So I just lean back, cover myself with the blanket and doze off until the cabin is prepared for landing.

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Arrival

As I mentioned before, as a Maltese national I am required to obtain a visa on arrival for Thailand. The procedure it pretty straight forward, but I have the misfortune to be queuing behind a larger group of tourists from some Asian country. As a result it takes me about 30 minutes to clear immigration. And then, once I’m through I go one floor down, grab a taxi and head for the hotel.

Conclusion

I greatly enjoyed these two flights with Cathay Pacific. I think they have a very solid product in Business Class. I particularly like the hardware on the B 777-300 because of the high level of comfort and privacy the new Business Class seat offers. The crew are a further strong point in Cathay Pacific’s favour, they were all very competent, friendly and polite. I think I prefer the Cathay Pacific crews to those of Thai Airways for example because they are much more approachable and not so robotic.

Epilogue

I spend four nights in Bangkok before returning home via the same routing. I arrive back in Basel on Sunday, 02 December 2012. Two days later I’m off again, this time on a business trip to Montreal for one night with KLM.

Cathay Pacific, Business Class – B 777-300: London Heathrow to Hong Kong

Transfer in London Heathrow

Transferring at Heathrow has become much easier of late. Once inside T5 I simply follow the signs for flight connections. I take the escalators down one floor to street level and a few minutes later the shuttle arrives that will be taking me to T3.

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The transfer takes about 10 minutes to complete. Once I’m through security in T3 I reach the Cathay Pacific counter only to find that it is closed. Fortunately though, there’s a sign explaining that Business Class passengers can go straight to the lounge and check-in there. Which is exactly what I do.

Catahay-Pacific-Logo

Date: 26 November 2012
From: London Heathrow
To: Hong Kong
Airline: Cathay Pacific Airways
Aircraft: B 777-300
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 17A

The Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge

The Cathay Pacific lounge is excellent. Apart from a good selection of cold and warm meal options, there is also a noodle bar that makes noodle soup to order. Other than that, the view is excellent. So I order a bowl of wonton noodles and park myself by the window to watch the amazing action of Heathrow.

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Boarding

About an hour or so before my flight is scheduled to leave, I exit the lounge. I need to stretch my legs and move around a bit. Besides, I’m not that familiar with T3, but I do remember that distances to the gates can be long.

When I finally arrive at the gate, there are already quite a few people sitting there. I manage to take a few pictures of my aircraft and then already boarding begins. First Passengers with special needs and children are boarded. After that it’s the premium passengers. But the ground crew seem to be in a bit of a rush and before all the Business Class passengers have settled in, the long stream of Economy Class passengers begins filing through the cabin.

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The Cabin

And what a beautiful cabin it is! Cathay Pacific has done a great job with the new Business Class product. It has a very private feel to it and the seat itself is simply amazing and offers a level of privacy that is really quite impressive. In particular, what I like is that there is loads of personal storage space. And the seat turns into a very comfortable bed as well!

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The Crew

This paragraph might also have been named ‘refreshing towels galore’. God, I don’t know how many of the things I’m given during the course of this flight. I stopped counting at some point.

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The cabin crew working the Business Class section are all Chinese and female. They are very charming and attentive. First the cabin manager comes to introduce herself and wishes me a good flight. She also asks me how to properly pronounce my name – I get that quite a bit, except on Air Malta. Quite evidently she spreads the word because the crew make a point of addressing every passenger by name, and hence forth they all pronounce my name properly.

Throughout the flight the crew pay a lot of attention to detail, during the meal service I am asked if I would like my drink refilled every time the crew clear away the dishes or bring the next course.

After the hot towels comes the welcome drink – orange juice…

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…followed by the distribution of the menu and wine list…

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…and the vanity kit and a bottle of still water for the night.

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The Meal

The meal experience begins with a small bowl of warm mixed nuts and a drink, served as an aperitif after departure. I try one of Cathay Pacific’s signature drinks – the non-alcoholic Oriental Breeze – and it is fabulous. It’s a mix of sour plum tea, cranberry juice, honey, a few other things I can’t remember now and a few drops of rosewater. To top it off, there are dried rosebuds floating on the surface of the drink.

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All on all, the meal is quite tasty except for the starter…

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The First Course

Confit of duck with a tomato relish and orange jelly. I don’t much like duck because I find the taste a bit overpowering.

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The Salad

The first course is served with a small but tasty salad on the side and a balsamico vinaigrette.

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With that I have two slices of delicious garlic bread.

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The Main Course

For the main course I choose the chicken biryani with a spicy mint raita. The presentation may not look like much but the taste is really excellent. It’s quite spicy too!

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On a side note: the salt and pepper.
On a side note: the salt and pepper.

The Cheese

The main course is followed by an assortment of English and French cheeses, served with crackers and port.

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There is also a black forest cake, but I skip that. And then I go off to bed and have a really good night’s rest.

I manage to sleep for about six hours on this flight. To be honest the temperature in the cabin is just a bit too low for me. But at least Cathay Pacific give you a nice thick duvet to cover up with, which of course is far more substantial than just the blanket you get on many of the European carriers these days.

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The Second Service

Six hours later I lie awake wrapped up in the cosiness of my thick duvet. I’m enjoying this! And then it’s already time for the second service, breakfast this time. But not before I get another hot towel!

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Coffee with a choice of orange juice, apple juice or a banana and strawberry smoothie.

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A plate of fresh fruit that have remained amazingly juicy, even after a flight of 11 hours.

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A selection of cereals and yoghurts.

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A bakery basket with preserves.

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A choice of three hot dishes: I have the cheese omelette with potatoes, grilled tomato, mushrooms and an pork and apple sausage.

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Arrival

Once the meal is cleared away, I busy myself with repacking all my stuff that I spread out during the course of the flight. And then we land, but not before receiving one last hot towel.

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The weather in Hong Kong is really bad. It’s raining quite strongly and visibility is very low. The sea only appears from under the clouds a few minutes before we touch down.

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And with that my first experience with Cathay Pacific in 18 years comes to an end. I shouldn’t have waited so long. Next flight: Hong Kong to Bangkok, also with Cathay Pacific.