Flight Test Reviews

Flight test: Cathay Pacific Business Class (Sydney – Hong Kong – Rome)

January 16, 2017

Is Cathay Pacific Business Class the best option  for the Australia to Europe long haul journey? 

I have flown between Australia and Europe more times than I could begin to count. It occurred to me that I have experienced most of the standard (and some of the less obvious) flight options available. Stopovers in Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok to name a few of the usual suspects. Then there were the more convoluted routes through Japan, China and Finland only then to finally reach London.

For my upcoming adventure I wanted to try something new without compromising on convenience, and with some further research I discovered that Cathay Pacific offers competitive flights from Australia. There’s also the appealing prospect of a stopover in Hong Kong on the return journey.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make – I was keen to experience Cathay Pacific for the first time and Hong Kong has been on my ‘to-do’ list for a long while. So I promptly booked return flights from Sydney to Rome, with a stopover in Hong Kong to break the trip on the way home.

FLIGHT: SYDNEY TO HONG KONG (CX 100) / HONG KONG TO ROME (CX293)

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DESIGN

The first thing I noticed upon boarding was the classic and tasteful design. The cabin was clean, modern and spacious. The demure Cathay Pacific colour scheme of beige and dark green conveys a calm and welcoming environment. There seems to be a balance between well-considered simplicity, yet all the comforts one expects in business class. Then there are the lovely little touches, like a decorative vase with fresh flowers for those sitting in the middle row.

Each seat feels like your own private sanctuary. The seat is spacious and fully adjustable to suit your needs whether you’re working, dining, watching TV with your legs up or want to get a proper night’s sleep. You can fine-tune your personal environment to make it feel more private by using a screen divider in the central rows and an adjustable armrest along the aisle. If you’re travelling with a friend you should choose the centre row as you can lower the divider to share a cocktail or chat during the meal. When travelling alone, the window seat offers ultimate privacy and the perk of a nice view.

Once you’ve binge-watched all the new release films and it’s time for bed, you can move your seat all the way back to lay completely flat. The pod design means that you wouldn’t even know if the person seated in-front has their seat positioned all the way back. Yes, you have avoided the passive aggressive behaviour seat-reclining wars of Economy Class.

Want to know another invaluable advantage of business class when travelling long haul distances? Abundant legroom! You have the luxury of stretching your legs all the way out and not even come close to touching the seat in front. The seats are wide too, so plenty of space all round to make your journey all the more comfortable.

Another core design feature that won me over is the storage space. The cabin luggage fits comfortably in the overhead locker and there was even a compartment that I could keep my personal belongings beside me within easy reach the entire flight.

The all-new Airbus A350

The Hong Kong to Rome flight was on the brand new Airbus A350. Although it’s not wildly different from the previous flight, there is a slight ‘refresh’ to the design. Expect a few additional comforts on the new plane, including improvements in storage space, the ‘one press’ seat button adjustment, touch screen remote control and a little more room for your knees. The A350 is also fitted with inflight internet access that can be purchased at an additional cost. That’s incredibly useful for those wanting to get some work done mid-flight or simply snapchat your friends with updates of your Business Class experience.

COMFORT

The business class pods offer the perfect amount of space, storage and privacy. The ergonomic shaped seats allow for a fully extendable flat bed (75 inches) which makes catching up on some shut-eye an easy task. The quality blankets are reminiscent of an actual duvet for that extra luxe feel. For someone who can never fall asleep on flights – this is a game changer. I arrived in Rome feeling refreshed and able to tackle the day of sightseeing.

Cathay Pacific

THE SERVICE

Flight attendants are polite, well presented and friendly. Food and drinks are provided regularly, with efficiency and care to detail. Extra touches like using one’s name when serving a meal add to that level of service. Hot towels are handed out at the beginning and near the end of each flight.

Aperitifs such as Brut champagne, sparkling water and orange juice are presented upon arrival. Shortly after take-off more refreshments are offered, including a snack of mixed roasted nuts to nibble on while lunch is being prepared. These little luxuries make a business class flight an enjoyable, breezy experience.

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FOOD

Menu cards are handed out at the beginning of the journey, reading through these is a quintessential air travel experience – but the difference is that in business one can actually look forward to the carefully curated dining experience. Who says you shouldn’t enjoy your meal at 30,000ft?

At Cathay Pacific there is a focus on locally sourced, sustainable produce and premium ingredients. What impressed me most was the abundance of seasonal salads, vegetables and fresh fruit which means that one can enjoy lighter dining options.  I prefer eating healthily when flying so I can arrive at my destination feeling nourished and energised.

The flight from Sydney to Hong Kong was an early afternoon departure, so the first meal served was lunch. A starter of smoked mackerel and daikon pepper salad was flavourful. A seasonal salad with balsamic vinaigrette accompanied this.

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This was followed by a choice of main dish. The staff display the selections in front of you on the trolley – this simple gesture eliminates the element of chance in opening your tin foil and realising that your neighbour’s meal looks superior. Another win for Business Class as food envy is abated.

I opted for the fresh kung po prawns with bright stir-fry vegetables and steamed jasmine rice (pictured above). It was an excellent choice, as it is almost always better to order dishes that are based on the local flavours of the carrier.

As the home-carrier of famous foodie-destination Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific aims to bring a taste of the city to their inflight meals. So it’s worth selecting the signature Chinese dishes that aim to capture the authentic flavours of the culinary capital.

One of the highlights of business is not only the superior quality of the food, but also the lengthy procession of courses in which it is served. The lunch marathon was a welcome distraction from the prospect of a long haul journey. With the crisp white napkins laid across my tray, real cutlery and the multi-course service – it felt like sitting in a restaurant in the sky.

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The cheese trolley was then wheeled through with a wonderful selection of cheese and crackers – Maffra sage Derbi, Jindi Blue, Tasmanian Heritage Brie and a walnut prune paste. A refreshing selection of fruit is also served – each piece is perfectly juicy. This is washed down with a glass of sweet vintage port. By this stage in the flight I was really starting to feel like a fancy CEO of The Portmanteau Press on a business trip to Europe.

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The indulgence wasn’t over yet.  A choice of a creamy chocolate mousse or a pistachio, raspberry and white chocolate slice was offered for dessert. The later was beautifully presented with colourful layers of pastry and as it’s difficult to resist pretty desserts, I obliged. A selection of freshly brewed Illy coffee or tea was available. To complete the dining experience an individual praline is selected straight from the box.

We were served a refreshment just before landing – fresh seasonal fruit, followed by a choice of main – I tried the prawns wonton in noodle soup (following my rule about the airline’s local fare) and a Maggie Beer burnt fig, honey comb and salted caramel ice-cream.

Hong Kong to Rome

On the Hong-Kong to Rome leg a supper menu specialising in ingredient-focused dishes was presented. The meal was designed by Executive Chef Lee Man Sing, from one of Hong Kong’s best restaurants Mott 31. The crispy triple cooked US black Angus beef short ribs, broccoli, red capsicum and steamed jasmine rice was on point.

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A healthy breakfast was also served prior to arrival – fruit, mango and passion fruit smoothie, a choice of a hot main and a croissant with preserves was served with illy coffee or tea.

Still hungry? If you get peckish in the middle of the night during one of your flights there are plenty of options like warm noodles, tasty sandwiches or even a cheeky ice-cream while you watch a film.

Suitcase packing

BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE

For business class the checked luggage total per passenger is 40KG (maximum 2x items). For carry on; its 1x piece (10KG limit / 36cm x 23cm sized bag) and 1x additional small item (i.e. handbag/laptop bag/camera bag). This generous luggage allowance meant that I could comfortably travel with my main checked suitcase, a handbag and my bulky camera bag.

IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

The in-flight entertainment doesn’t appear as expansive as some other major airlines, but there are enough new releases to keep one entertained for the long haul. It’s also worth browsing the Asian movie section for some foreign cinema finds. There were recent episodes of popular TV shows, a wide collection of music and a few games.

The personal TV screen was a decent size (15-inch), which means you don’t have to squint to see the special effects in the new blockbusters. The touch screen technology on the newer planes made for even better viewing with a responsive and easy to use system. The sturdy noise cancelling headsets block-out a lot of the flight’s background white noise.

EXTRAS

The amenity kit was presented in a sophisticated grey wash bag and contained an eyeshade, pair of socks, mouthwash, toothpaste and toothbrush. As well as Jurlique skincare products such as the signature lip balm, balancing day care cream and citrus hand cream.

THE VERDICT

Cathay Pacific is one of the world’s top airlines and I wouldn’t hesitate to use their services again. I thoroughly recommend Cathay Pacific Business Class as an option for a return Australia to Europe trip.

Excellent service, well designed space, private and spacious seating, comfortable flat-lay beds, delicious dining experience, availability of WIFI and great in-flight entertainment.

The Pier Airport Lounge

The new Business Class lounge The Pier at Hong Kong International airport was the perfect place to relax between flights, and is arguably one of the best Business Class lounges in the world. Even without lounge access Hong Kong International is an organised, clean airport with plenty of dining options.

GETTING THERE:

Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, offering a choice of flying in economy, premium economy or business class. From their Hong Kong hub, Cathay Pacific has four times weekly flights to Rome during winter and daily flights during the summer.

www.cathaypacific.com.au

Flights to Hong Kong:

http://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_AU/destinations/flights-to-hong-kong.html

Flights to Rome:

http://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_AU/destinations/flights-to-rome.html

 

The writer was a guest of Cathay Pacific. My opinion is, and will always be, my own. The Portmanteau Press only includes content that aligns with the aesthetic, standard and values of the brand.

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