Crossing the Pacific on Cathay Pacific First Class is one of those things you dream about when you first start dabbling with Miles & Points.
The intimate six-person First Class cabin. The unparalleled gourmet dining. The outstandingly polished service that’s delivered on each and every flight, and the attention given to the tiniest of details.
Everything about Cathay First had been hyped up beyond comparison, and on this day I was about to experience it for myself for the first time. Buzzing wouldn’t even begin to describe it, especially after getting a taste of things to come in The Wing and The Pier, two tremendous lounges that First Class passengers can enjoy.
If you’d like to join me onboard for the ride, I’ve made a video about the flight, which you can watch below. If you enjoy the video, make sure to leave a thumbs-up and subscribe to the channel. The full flight review awaits below the fold.
Cathay Pacific | CX812
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Cabin: First Class
Route: Hong Kong (HKG) to Boston (BOS)
Date: Sunday, February 25, 2018
Time: Departing 6:05pm and arriving 8:55pm
Duration: 15 hours 50 minutes
I boarded through the door at the very nose of the Boeing 777-300ER. Upon verifying my boarding pass, the flight attendant greeted me warmly by name and walked me down the aisle to Seat 2A, my assigned seat for the flight.
Cathay Pacific’s six individual First Class suites are laid out across the cabin as follows. Seats 1A and 2A have their own private aisle to themselves, while Seats 1D, 2D, 1K, and 2K share an aisle on the other side. For a couple travelling together, there’s no better option than selecting Seats 1A and 2A to get an entire side of the cabin all to yourselves. Meanwhile, solo travellers – like myself, on this occasion – would probably also prefer one of the “A” seats in order to enjoy the added privacy that this side of the cabin affords.
However, on this flight, it quickly became apparent that there were only two passengers in First Class, and the other guy was seated in 1A. Not wanting to disturb my fellow passenger with my in-flight photography and videography, I asked the crew if I could move over to Seat 2K in the opposite corner, a request that was greeted with enthusiastic approval.
Arriving at my new seat, I had a look around the rest of the First Class cabin. It occurred to me that this particular seating arrangement meant that I would have this entire right-side aisle – and the four First Class suites that adjoin it – all to myself. Amazing.
Eventually, my gaze settled upon Seat 2K, my humble abode for the next 15 hours or so. I hopped into my seat as a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée was poured right in front of my eyes. You also get a small dish of warm nuts as a pre-departure snack.
While other airlines would cram eight passengers into the front of the plane, Cathay Pacific, in restricting their First Class to an occupancy of only six, has created veritably gigantic individual suites that offer more room than any airplane seat I’ve ever seen.
The seat is so large that one side of it doesn’t even have an armrest. It’s just pure room. Throughout the flight, my left arm languished in that space lazily, almost unnaturally. Think about it for a second. When’s the last time you sat down on an airplane and didn’t have to rest your elbows somewhere, instead being able to lounge around in your seat as though it were your couch at home?
The sheer spaciousness also means that exploring your in-seat features isn’t quite as easy of a task as usual. Everything is spread out, and you really have to actively look for everything.
First off, there’s a large console by the entrance to your suite. A large storage cabinet is housed within, allowing you to store your luggage and garments. There are no overhead bins in this part of the aircraft, so most of your belongings will go here.
The console is also the stowage place for the in-flight entertainment monitor, which then stretches out into the middle of your suite thanks to a mechanical arm, as well as a medium-sized storage unit that’s useful for water bottles, books, etc.
Located at your fingertips are the LCD seat controls, the entertainment controls, and a smaller storage unit that’s more suitable for loose items like earphones or snacks.
Meanwhile, the “shell” of your seat is home to the literature pocket, a simplified set of seat controls, and two separate reading lights – one on either side.
I like having lots of surface space available at my seat so that I can have my belongings out and about, and the Cathay First suite was excellent in this regard. The entire length of the window seat is essentially one big countertop, so I had no trouble finding room for my knick-knacks throughout the flight.
The USB and power outlets are located a bit further forward, just within arm’s reach. It’s a sensible location in my mind, since I find that chargers tend to overheat when plugged into airplanes, so it’s nice to keep them far away from your legs.
The ottoman at the opposite end completes the First Class suite. This ottoman becomes a part of your bed when the seat is put into lie-flat mode, and serves as a buddy seat at all other times. If you’re travelling with a companion, they can come join you here to hang out, chat, or enjoy a meal face-to-face.
An incredibly large tray table folds out of a compartment embedded within the side console. I took some time prior to take-off to inspect the Aesop amenity kit that I had been given.
I do love the presentation of the amenity kit. Open it up and everything is sitting in there loosely; there are no tiny plastic bags to deal with. Simple and classy. The male amenity kit contained a dental kit, a comb, earplugs, a microfiber cleaning cloth for your glasses, and face wash and lip balm by Aesop.
The crew came around to distribute pajamas around this time. I really liked the redcurrant colour, as well as the fact that the eye mask came as part of the set. I’m building up a nice little collection of eye masks these days, since I find them so useful for falling asleep on planes and even just sneaking in a quick nap in day-to-day life.
The captain came on the PA to announce a flying time of just under 15 hours, which came as a bitter disappointment to me, since I was looking forward to savouring every single second of the scheduled flight time of 15 hours and 50 minutes. Nevertheless, Hong Kong to Boston is Cathay’s longest route, so I knew I was already getting the best bang for my buck.
We enjoyed a smooth takeoff roll, ascending into a hazy Hong Kong sky. Once we broke above the clouds, though, sunlight came pouring in through the three windows I had at my seat, illuminating the space around me. It was simply gorgeous.
The crew stopped by to top up my champagne, hand out US immigration cards, and distribute the in-flight menu, which was presented in the form of a slab of bamboo.
The delightfully ornate outward appearance was topped only by the menu’s contents on the inside, which read as follows:
- 1 of 10
- 2 of 10
- 3 of 10
- 4 of 10
- 5 of 10
- 6 of 10
- 7 of 10
- 8 of 10
- 9 of 10
- 10 of 10
Not long later, the flight attendant returned to take my order, reacting with surprise when I informed her I wanted to sample both the Western and Chinese dinners. After all, with only two passengers in First Class today, there should be no issues getting a few extra plates prepared.
I made my wishes known: I’d start off with the tomato, orange, and basil soup and the tuna Niçoise salad. I’d then try the abalone cold plate from the Chinese menu, before taking my main course of pan-fried king prawn. Cheese and dessert were to follow. The flight attendant stumbled a few times as she repeated my gargantuan order back to me, but she got there in the end.
But of course, the meal kicked off with – what else? – caviar and champagne. I enjoyed these decadent pearls with blinis topped with crème fraîche and chopped eggs. It’s one of those tastes that just doesn’t get old, and I had half a mind to ask for another tin, but decided to save room for the rest of the meal instead.
Next up was the soup. I’m a big fan of tomato and basil soup, so for me, adding a hint of orange into a mix was very much a new twist on a classic favourite. (I apologize that between filming a video and approaching the food with the enthusiasm worthy of an eight-course meal, I forgot to take pictures of certain dishes, so I’ll use still images from the video instead.)
The tuna Niçoise was good as well. Really, the only highlight of this dish was the few delicious slices of seared tuna amidst a rather basic collection of greens.
Then came the abalone, a cold dish off the Chinese menu. I can’t remember if I’ve ever eaten abalone before, but I feel like I haven’t, since it was such a unique and memorable taste that felt new to me. The taste of the ocean is as palpable as you’ll find in any premium seafood dish, and a quick simmer in the light soy sauce made it truly exquisite. This was probably my favourite dish in the entire meal.
The main course was next to arrive: pan-fried king prawn with asparagus and millet, together with a dollop of lemon herb garlic butter. While I’m a big fan of shrimp and like to eat it whenever I can, I can’t help but feel Cathay could’ve done a little more to spruce up this main course option. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted just fine – I just thought it was a little ordinary compared to the rest of the meal. Most people seem to order the steak for their Cathay First Class dinner, and I ended up kind of wishing I had done the same.
At this point, I asked the crew if they could possibly pause the meal service for 30 minutes, since I was getting very full indeed and needed some time to digest. They were more than happy to oblige.
Half an hour later, the meal resumed right on schedule with the cheese plate. It’s a real shame I didn’t get a proper picture here, because the plate was packed to its edges with premium cheese.
I could barely finish half the cheese plate before deciding to swap it out for an assortment fresh berries. Whipped cream and ginger syrup were available to sweeten the deal, and needless to say, I took full advantage.
For a brief moment, I thought the fruit plate counted as dessert, and I discovered that I was sorely mistaken because there were still two separate desserts still to come, one from each of the Western and Chinese menus. The former – a delicious black forest pudding with vanilla ice cream – arrived first, together with a Hong Kong-style milk tea that I had ordered.
At this point, I was ready to burst at the seams, having consumed a monster’s portion of Cathay Pacific’s top-shelf gourmet cuisine over barely an hour’s time. Of course, I could’ve asked the crew to bring the meal service to an end at any time, but I was forging ahead out of sheer determination to make the most of this long-awaited First Class experience.
It’s frankly a miracle that I managed to finish the Western dessert, and I asked for another 10-minute reprieve before the Chinese dessert – pumpkin and coconut sweet soup – was served. Having finished my milk tea as well, I asked for some tieguanyin Chinese tea as my new beverage.
An hour and a half after my table was initially set, the meal reached its end with the presentation of a box of pralines. I tried the Sicilian hazelnut one, and kept the raspberry one for later.
Let’s talk about the in-flight service for a brief moment. This was no typical meal service for the crew to handle – they were facing quite a fickle First Class passenger who had ordered extra items off the menu, and had also suddenly asked to pause the meal a few times. To their absolute credit, the crew were simply fantastic in catering to these most capricious of whims, their job no doubt having been made easier by the fact that there were only two First Class passengers onboard
Nevertheless, putting on a seamless meal service ought to be an expectation of a good First Class crew, not a point of differentiation. Indeed, what truly set Cathay Pacific apart were the little touches. For example, I noticed that every time one of the flight attendants put something down on the table (or picked something up), it was preceded by a hand gesture in which they quickly indicated what they were about to do on the table with their open palm facing upwards. Stuff like this reflects the high service standard that Cathay crew members are trained to deliver, and elevates the service aspect of Cathay First Class from great to world-class.
I decided to head to the restroom to change into my pajamas (make no mistake, it wasn’t my first trip to the restroom, having had to take multiple bathroom breaks during the meal). Cathay Pacific has some of the prettiest airplane restrooms I’ve seen, with a raised contemporary sink and wood panels encasing the various amenities.
On my way to the restroom, I had asked one of the crew members if they could make my bed in Seat 2D, the seat opposite me. Once I had changed into the stylish pajamas, I returned and discovered that sure enough, my bed was ready and looking extremely inviting.
This is an area where once again, the unparalleled spaciousness of the Cathay First Class suite really shines through. Remember that space on the edge of the seat where other airlines might have put a second armrest, but Cathay simply puts nothing? Well, in lie-flat mode, that area simply becomes one with the bed, making the upper portion of the bed a Twin size at the very least. In fact, I’m pretty sure that two people could fit into one bed around these parts.
I love the shape of the bed too, and the way it fits within the unique design of the First Class suite. The cocoon for your feet just seems like it could go on and on forever.
I asked the crew if they could wake me up in five hours’ time, before putting on a movie and starting to drift off to sleep. Getting some rest at 36,000 feet in the air, after having consumed two hours’ worth of spectacular food and drink, was simply an incredible feeling. I took a moment here, as I usually do on unforgettable flights like this, to pause and appreciate the fact that this was all bookable for 70,000 miles and $150 or so in taxes.
My five hours of slumber passed by in an instant, although I did ask the flight attendant who woke me up if I could snooze for another half an hour, and she duly obliged. Other trip reports have noted that Cathay Pacific tends to keep the cabin temperature rather hot, and combined with their plush blankets, that can make for an uncomfortable sleeping experience. Maybe it’s because I’m quite a heavy sleeper, but I didn’t find this to be an issue on my flight.
Anyway, six hours of the flight left, no wifi (while Cathay is introducing wifi on their new A350 planes, their 777s don’t offer connectivity) – what was I to do?
That’s right. Eat more and drink more. I opted to keep things non-alcoholic, since I didn’t want to be totally knackered when I arrived in Boston on Sunday evening (I still had to go to work the next day). What my drinks lacked in % ABV, though, they more than made up for in quality, with a pot of exquisite Ceylon Breakfast black tea accompanying my fish ball noodles.
If you’ve read my other trip reports, you know that I love noodles, and I was thrilled at the fact that they had Hong Kong-style fish ball noodles available as a snack on this flight. The overall taste paled a little in comparison to what you’d find at a hawker’s stall in Kowloon – I had to go quite heavy on the chilli sauce to get some real flavour – but was nevertheless very enjoyable still.
In case you’re more of a burger and fries type of person, that’s available on the snack menu as well, and I’ve heard that Cathay makes a mean patty.
I chose a few lighter snacks as well, including egg tarts and Mövenpick ice cream. Unlike the original Portuguese pastéis which usually come with a scorched appearance, Hong Kong-style egg tarts are known for their silky smooth crumble and custard interior, and are often eaten at dim sum restaurants. I enjoyed these egg tarts alongside the panna cotta ice cream, pushing my stomach to its limits once again.
I spent the rest of the flight watching Kingsman: The Golden Circle while enjoying some more Ceylon Breakfast tea, before spending some time working offline on my laptop. About two hours before landing, I was informed that breakfast was about to be served, and the crew came back to set my table.
The breakfast began with a fresh fruit plate and a forest berry smoothie, followed by my choice between natural or fruit yogurt (I picked the fruit yogurt), and between muesli and cornflakes (I picked the muesli). Once again, it’s the little things that set Cathay Pacific apart: whereas other airlines would offer you a choice from their breadbasket, Cathay simply leaves a mini-basket of pastries at your table for you to pick from yourself. Given how full I was, I knew there was no hope of finishing off the entire basket, but I liked having it at my table nonetheless.
The forest berry smoothie was a particular treat. I wondered if they had the recipe on hand so I could make it myself at home, but I never got around to asking.
After I polished off the fruits, the next round of breakfast items arrived – yogurt, orange juice, and a pot of Earl Grey.
That was followed by the muesli. After placing the bowl of muesli on my table, the flight attendant offered to pour the milk for me, and basically said “tell me when to stop”. Another incredible touch of service.
For the main course, I picked the Western option, consisting of custom-made eggs with Lyonnaise potatoes, bacon, sausage, and fried tomato. I really struggled to wolf down this last plate of food, and eventually had to give up halfway.
I really liked the cute little tins of ketchup and jams, though, and decided to bring them home with me.
It was already past sunset in Boston as we made our approach, and I headed to the bathroom for what was probably the 15th and final time to change back into my street clothes. Before long, we made a rather rough landing in Logan Airport, bringing my Cathay Pacific First Class adventure – all 14 hours and 45 minutes of it – to an end.
All things considered, this was probably the best flight of my life. The Cathay Pacific First Class seat is the best “hard product” I’ve had the pleasure to fly on, by quite some distance. In seating only six First Class passengers, Cathay provides an outstandingly spacious suite for its most valuable guests in which there’s ample space to relax, sleep, and move around.
In terms of the “soft product” (i.e., the in-flight catering and service), Cathay Pacific also excels, delivering a comprehensive dining experience that’s on par with the other leading Asian airlines – such as Japan Airlines – in quality, and superior to their rivals in quantity and variety. And it’s all done with the most refined level of warmth and attention that represents an exemplar for personalized in-flight service.
It’s fair to say that I had come into this flight with very high expectations, and they were exceeded by a huge margin. I simply can’t wait to be back.