Category Archives: Cathay Pacific

Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok (HKG to BKK)

CX 709
Hong Kong (HKG) to Bangkok (BKK)
Monday, February 3rd
Depart: 10:00pm
Arrive: 11:55pm
Duration: 2h 55m
Aircraft: A330-300
Seat: 14A

This flight featured a regional business class configuration on an A330-300. While it’s obviously not as nice as Cathay’s long-haul business class configurations, these seats are plenty comfortable for a 2.5 hour flight.

My seat, 14A

My seat, 14A

Look across the 2-3-3 configuration

Look across the 2-3-2 configuration

The in-flight entertainment is on demand, although it appeared as if there weren’t any movies on demand. I guess this makes sense since the flight is barely long enough to finish a movie, and there were plenty of TV options.

In-flight entertainment and foot space

In-flight entertainment and foot space

Seat controls

Seat controls

I was offered a pre-departure beverage and selected Cathay Delight. This crew definitely had a lot more personality than the crew we had on the SFO-HKG leg, and some of the crew members even memorized the names of all of the business class passengers to address us by name, which I thought was impressive for such a short flight.

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

I had pre-ordered a vegetarian oriental (VOML) meal through the website prior to this flight, which I didn’t really enjoy. This was mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t hungry after stuffing myself on the previous flight and in the lounge in Hong Kong, but also because the entree was just lots of mushrooms, which are not my favorite food. I did enjoy the dessert, which was sweetened silken tofu, like you can get in dim sum. They also had Hong Kong style milk tea on this flight, and I consumed many cups.

Vegetarian oriental (VOML) special meal)

Vegetarian oriental (VOML) special meal

They handed out immigration forms and fast-track immigration passes for BKK. The fast-track immigration passes weren’t really necessary since lines were non-existent when we arrived, but you can generally save the passes for future use if you so desire (they’re dated, but I don’t think they really check the dates).

Overall, this flight was great, and the crew was fantastic. If only flying around the US were as comfortable as regional flights within Asia…

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Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong (HKG)

Cathay Pacific has a lot of lounges in Hong Kong, but we decided to just go to the closest lounge with a first class section to our connecting flight, which happened to be the Pier. The Pier is undergoing renovations, though, so the first class lounge is closed, and they instead have a section of the business class lounged roped off for first class passengers.

That being said, the service in the first class area was very attentive. There was a man patrolling the “entrance” to the first class area, and there was a person dedicated to serving the very few of us who were seated in the first class area to get whatever we needed.

Seating in the lounge

Seating in the lounge

Computers

Computers

First class section of the Pier

First class section of the Pier

Sad food spread in the first class section (I'm not sure why they even bothered)

Sad food spread in the first class section (I’m not sure why they even bothered)

The Pier is quite large, and the lounge was pretty empty while we were there at night. I walked around to explore the food options, and they had some decent already-prepared food as well as a noodle bar, where I sampled the dan dan mien again.

Main dining area of the Pier

Main dining area of the Pier

Food options

Food options

Drinks

Drinks

Hot food

Hot food

The dan dan mien from this noodle bar was better than the one I got from the Cathay lounge at SFO, but still not exactly what I was craving…

What can I say, I'm a sucker for anything deep-fried. And dan dan mien.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for anything deep-fried. And dan dan mien.

After a 15-hour flight, a shower was at the top of my mind, and the shower rooms at the Pier are spacious and required no wait when I wanted one.

Shower room

Shower room

This lounge had fast wifi, lots of seating, decent hot food options, and good showers. What more could you want? The service in the first class section was also really top notch. They were constantly clearing plates when you were done, they were willing to fetch anything (like when my noodle buzzer buzzed, I didn’t even have a chance to get up as someone volunteered to get it for me), and they were always using pleasantries. I was definitely impressed with the service in this lounge for first class passengers.

Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong (SFO to HKG)

CX 879
San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Sunday, February 2nd
Depart: 11:50am
Arrive: 6:50pm
Duration: 15h
Boeing 747-400
Seat: 1A

When planning this trip, I specifically chose to take the day flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong to make sure that I flew Cathay’s 747 before they retire them all. In addition, since it was my first time in Cathay Pacific first class, it’s a bit easier to enjoy the experience more fully on the daytime flight than the nighttime flight since you’re more awake for the daytime flight.

Always so impressive

Always so impressive

When I walked into the cabin, my first impression was that these are really spacious seats. It’s not a suite, but the seats are ridiculously wide and each passenger has a ton of personal space.  This product is relatively old for a first class product, but it’s easily one of the best hard products out there.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

View of the first class cabin

View of the first class cabin

Front of the cabin

Front of the cabin

Seat 2A

Seat 2A

Sitting in seats 1A and 1K is definitely a treat for any aviation geek, and these seats are great for people traveling together. It’s quite novel to get an almost forward-looking view out of the plane because of the curve of the nose, and seats 1A and 1K are paired without feeling like you’re giving anything up (like a window seat).

Seat controls

Seat controls

Foot area and forward-facing window

Foot area and forward-facing window

The IFE has to be latched in seats 1A and 1K, but the screen tilts a little bit when it comes out

The IFE has to be latched in seats 1A and 1K, but the screen tilts a little bit when it comes out

Menu

Menu

Wine list

Wine list

Bathroom

Bathroom

We were welcomed on board and offered a pre-departure beverage of orange juice, water, or champagne. When I asked for sparkling water, I was told that they can’t open the bar before takeoff for duty reasons. Do you really need to pay duty on sparkling water?

We were then given an amuse bouche of tropical fruit and shrimp, which was fine. They handed out pajamas and amenity kits, and honestly, the new Cathay Pacific PYE pajamas are probably my favorite airline pajamas to date. They’re super soft, not too warm, and made of 100% organic cotton. The pajama pants have pockets, which are totally underrated, and I’ve even laundered them and they didn’t shrink too much. (TMI: I’m wearing these pajamas right now as I write this trip report). The slippers are also really soft and seem well-made.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

I really enjoyed drinking Cathay Delight throughout the flight, which is a kiwi-based non-alcoholic drink that they have.

Warm nuts and Cathay Delight

Warm nuts and Cathay Delight

For the meal service, we decided to dine together, and they have a table extender that they add on to create more room. As a warning, it’s not particularly comfortable to sit on the foot rest, and you’re a little trapped once they add on the table extender. I’m a pretty small guy, and it wasn’t very easy for me to get in or out.

First up was caviar, which I love. I prefer blinis with my caviar (as well as a separate caviar spoon), but Cathay serves the caviar with potatoes and smoked salmon, which I won’t complain about.

Caviar service

Caviar service

The soup was a butternut squash soup, which was pretty tasty but quite sweet. They offered to add some freshly ground pepper, and when I told the flight attendant that I loved pepper and she could go to town on the grinding, the below picture shows what I got.

Butternut squash soup

Butternut squash soup

Now, when I was ordering, I asked if I could also get the Chinese cold plate of marinated gluten and cucumber, but it never appeared, and the flight attendant never mentioned it. I’m not sure what happened. But next up was the Chinese cod and bok choy for me. The cod was well cooked and tender, the rice was cooked properly, and the bok choy was fine.

Chinese entree of cod and bok choy

Chinese entree of cod and bok choy

My friend had the beef tenderloin, which was a little overdone, but the sides were very crispy, including the potatoes. I don’t think they cooked the sides correctly.

Beef tenderloin

Beef tenderloin

For dessert, I asked for one of everything, which I think confused the flight attendant, but I’m a fatty and like my dessert. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a catering issue as there was no black sesame soup or Hong Kong style milk tea loaded on to the flight. The horrors!

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

Berries and cream

Berries and cream

To make up for the lack black sesame soup, the flight attendant brought out a cheesecake from business class which was pretty good. In general, all of the desserts were pretty tasty.

Business class cheeseckae

Business class cheesecake

Overall, I thought the meal was pretty good. Nothing extraordinary, but good, solid food.

I changed into the supremely comfortable pajamas and asked for turndown service. It’s hard to compete with Lufthansa’s separate bed on their 747, but Cathay Pacific comes close. The mattress pad is thick, the duvet is great, and they provide lots of thick, fluffy pillows to make any position you want to sleep in comfortable. The numerous pillows also make lounging in the seat comfortable, as I sometimes find it awkward to watch movies in bed mode.

Bed mode

Bed mode

After sleeping soundly for a couple of hours, I decided to get the wonton noodles as a snack. These noodles maybe weren’t quite as good as the Ippudo ramen that they serve on ANA, but they were superior to the noodles that I had in the Cathay Pacific lounge at SFO.

Wonton noodle soup

Wonton noodle soup

My friend had the hot pot rice as a snack, which he enjoyed.

Hot pot rice

Hot pot rice

The in-flight entertainment on Cathay is great. There are lots of choices, the system is responsive, the screen is high quality, and the headphones are good. The only thing I didn’t like were the ads they played before movies and during the moving map, but you can at least fast forward through them.

We were asked for pre-arrival meal choices about three hours prior to arrival, which is really quite early. I asked for the ravioli, which the flight attendant confirmed.

Unfortunately, after waiting quite a while, my ravioli was nowhere to be seen. Turns out, the flight attendant served it to the wrong passenger, and they didn’t have any more loaded. I mean, this wasn’t a huge deal, but it was another service miscue of the sort that I haven’t experienced in other premium cabins. I’m not sure if this was exacerbated by the apparent catering issue. As a solution, they ended up giving me the pasta from the main meal service, which was fine.

Stir-fried beef

Stir-fried beef

Artichoke and cheese cannelloni

Artichoke and cheese cannelloni

Mango mousse cake

Mango mousse cake

In general, this crew was possibly the worst crew that I’ve had in first class, which honestly isn’t saying much because this is a relative statement and first class crews are generally superlative. The flight was still wonderful, the hard product is fantastic, the food is good, the pajamas are my favorite airline pajamas, and the IFE is great. But I was a bit surprised that the service wasn’t superlative as well since Cathay is supposed to have one of the most consistent in-flight products, and one of the flight attendants looked like she wanted to constantly shank someone and made the errors of failing to fulfill a food request and then later delivering my entree to another passenger. Overall, I had a great time, and I’d love to fly Cathay more.

Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco (SFO)

We got to the airport about an hour and a half prior to departure. I’m kinda loving UberX nowadays, since an UberX from my apartment to the airport is now only $25 or so. Considering that BART is $8.50 and takes twice as long, I’m finding myself take Uber more and more frequently…

Anyway, after checking in and going through security (I’m so unused to non-precheck that I had almost forgotten what normal security is like), we made our way to the Cathay Pacific lounge. I had read mixed reviews about the lounge, particularly with regards to overcrowding, but that didn’t seem to be a problem at all the day that we were there.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge. Am I the only one who finds the cardboard people to be a little creepy?

The lounge is a series of rooms with a couple of different seating areas. The lounge features Cathay’s Solus chairs, which I think are pretty cool. In general, I enjoyed the decor of the lounge and found it tastefully designed. There’s no separate first class section of the lounge, but the lounge attendant did seem to be extra friendly to us when we got to the lounge and thanked us for flying first class.

Seating in the lounge

Seating in the lounge

Seating

Solus chairs

Seating in dining area

Seating in dining area

Unlike typical domestic lounges, the Cathay lounge offers a decent spread of food. Since we were taking the day flight, the food spread was mostly breakfast food of things like hash browns, scrambled eggs, and congee, and there’s a noodle bar where you can order made-to-order noodles. At the noodle bar, they’ll give you a buzzer that buzzes once your noodles are ready.

Cold food options

Cold food options

Hot breakfast spread

Hot breakfast spread

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

Drinks

Drinks

More drinks

More drinks

I decided to order some dan dan mien since I love dan dan mien, but I was honestly pretty disappointed with it. This might have just been due to a difference between Taiwanese and Hong Kong dan dan mien, but I didn’t really recognize what I was eating and only took a couple of bites before deciding that I’d rather wait to stuff myself with more caviar on the plane.

Dan dan mien

Dan dan mien

The service in the lounge was good. There were people constantly going around to clear empty plates and glasses. There was also a short delay for our flight, and the lounge attendants went around to each person in the lounge to personally inform passengers of the delay and ask if there was anything that they could do.

Computer area

Computer area

Honestly, the worst part of the lounge was this crazy loud woman who spent the entire 2 hours before the flight talking on the phone. She was so loud that I purposely sat as far away as I could from her in the lounge and I could still hear her yakking away.

Overall, it’s a nice lounge, and it’s definitely much better than most lounges you’ll find in the US. There’s no point in arriving extra early to go to this lounge, but it’s a nice place to wait for the flight and the food options are pretty good. They do have showers available if you want to shower before your long flight, but there aren’t really enough power ports.

Why I Applied for Another Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card

Alaska Airlines has an interesting award program, largely because they’re not a part of any alliance and instead have one-off partnerships with a number of carriers. Two of those partners include Delta and American, so Alaska is often cited as a good program to credit to if you’re not particularly loyal to one carrier as you can credit Delta, American, and Alaska flights to Alaska. As I’ve argued before, the marginal value of a mile can vary wildly depending on how many miles you currently have in your accounts, so it often makes sense to concentrate your mileage earning if you don’t fly a lot.

I currently have about 85,000 Alaska miles. I originally started collecting Alaska miles to redeem for Qantas first class, since Alaska used to be able to book Qantas awards at the same time as Qantas’s own members, which means it was slightly less of a crapshoot to find first class award seats, but that functionality has since been discontinued. This is still a possibility, but you can’t really plan around finding Qantas first class award seats, and now there’s not much of a reason to use Alaska miles for this over American miles (although Alaska charges 70k miles for a one-way first class seat while American charges 72.5k and the stopover rules are slightly different).

Then there’s the oft-talked-about-but-rarely-booked (at least as far as I can tell) Alaska award of Cathay Pacific first class from North America to Africa for 70k miles one way. This is two lengthy flights in Cathay Pacific first class–from North America to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Johannesburg (Cathay’s only destination in Africa)–for the price of one. South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, so this is definitely a possibility, and 70k miles is much cheaper and a more viable alternative than 100k miles on American for first class to Africa where you’re probably paying through the nose for first class flights on British Airways or 75k miles on United for first class where the best option is waiting 15 days in advance for Lufthansa to open up award availability.

But the real reason why I applied for another Alaska Airlines credit card was to get enough miles to cross the 100k mile mark on Alaska, which gives you the opportunity to book Emirates first class to anywhere in the world. Alaska is the only US-based frequent flyer program to allow you to redeem for Emirates, and even though 100k miles is pricey for a one-way trip, this is probably the best way to experience Emirates first class (your alternative being JAL’s mileage program, which has a distance-based award chart and could thus be cheaper, but the most practical way of accumulating JAL miles is to transfer from SPG, which isn’t that practical for those of us who don’t spend much money).

Which of these redemptions do you think is most worth it? I’ve had the fortune of already flying Emirates first class on the A380 (and experiencing the Emirates first class lounge/terminal in Dubai), and I’ve got a trip planned on Cathay Pacific first class for February, so Qantas is the only one of these I haven’t done. Should I hold out to see if I can snag Qantas space at some point?

Booking Cathay Pacific First Class

The other day, I booked my first award ticket through a phone reservations office. I wanted to spend 67,500 American Airlines miles to fly from the US to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific first class. Cathay Pacific awards can’t be booked via the AA.com website, so you have to call American at 1-800-433-7300 to book your award where they’ll charge you a $25 per person booking fee for this (in)convenience.

My award wasn’t completely straightforward, though, since I wanted to add on a free one-way to my ticket. The most important part of my ticket was SFO to HKG to BKK in Cathay Pacific first and business (the flight that I booked from HKG to BKK is served by a 2-cabin plane), but American allows for stopovers at international gateway cities. Since SFO is my international gateway city, that means I could add a free domestic one-way in first class (subject to some rules that are better explained on other blogs) prior to my trip to BKK. I decided that I might as well use this opportunity to get a free one-way ticket from NY and get the chance to experience American’s Flagship Service, so the actual routing that I wanted to book was JFK to SFO, stopover in SF for several months, then SFO to HKG to BKK.

After calling the reservations line and inputing my information, I was given the option to hang up and get a call back later. This took about 30 minutes. When I got called back, the agent on the line was initially quite friendly, but as soon as I asked if I could read her some flight numbers, her mood quickly turned. At this point, I probably should have hung up and called again. It’s not that she was unfriendly per se, but she definitely seemed a little resentful that I wasn’t letting her find my flights.

I read her the flights that I wanted, and at first, everything was fine since I had already confirmed that space existed using the British Airways website, but she wanted to price out the award at 100,000 miles–32.5k for JFK to SFO + 67.5k for SFO to HKG to BKK.

Here’s a brief version of the conversation:

Me: “Is there a reason why this award priced as two separate one ways and not a single award with a stopover?”

Agent: “You can’t stopover for so long. You’re flying to SF in July and not continuing on for several months.”

Me: “Is there a time limit to a stopover? I thought that they could be of any length, and you’re allowed to take a stopover at the international gateway city.”

Agent: “Yeah, I think you’re right about the stopover. Let me put you on hold… So you’re allowed to have a stopover if you’re transiting from Asia 1 to Asia 2, but you’re just going straight to Asia 2 from the US, so it’s not allowed”

Me: ????

Agent: “Yes, if you wanted a stopover in Tokyo, that’d be fine, since Tokyo is in Asia 1 while Bangkok is in Asia 2. But Hong Kong and Bangkok are both in Asia 2, so you can’t have a stopover.”

Me: “So you’re telling me that I can only have a stopover in San Francisco if I transit from Asia 1 to Asia 2?”

Agent: “Yep, that’s right.”

Me: (this agent doesn’t know what she’s talking about, so I know that I need to hang up and call again) “Can I just put this ticket on hold for now and book it later?”

Agent: “Why do you want to put it on hold? I’m just going to put a note on your account saying that I told you that you can’t have a stopover unless you transit from Asia 1 to Asia 2”

Me: (eff me, this is not good) “What if I just drop the JFK to SFO leg? Can I just put the SFO to BKK part on hold”

Agent: “Yeah, okay”

So at the end of my very lengthy phone call, I only got the SFO to HKG to BKK part put on hold, but I figured that I’d try calling back later to add on my free one way.

To my surprise, about 20 minutes later, I got another call from American. This time, it was a supervisor who said that she had heard about the award that I was trying to book and she thought that what I was doing was fine, so she had contacted the rate desk to force through my original award for only 67,500 miles. Score!

It still took quite a while for the whole thing to get booked as she had to contact the rate desk multiple times (partly because the taxes weren’t calculating correctly), but at the end of the day, I got my routing booked for 67,500 AA miles and only $5 in fees since she waived the phone reservation fee. The supervisor was also really apologetic for how long everything had taken me, and I really commend her for taking the extra step and making sure that things were right.

All in all, it took me about 2 hours from my initial call to the reservations line to the time I got everything booked. Granted, most of that time was being put on hold so I was able to get some other work done, but I definitely have a newfound appreciation for all of the award-booking services out there.