As the world returns to the skies Nick Walton enjoys the return to regular service of Cathay Pacific on an A350 flight between Hong Kong and Jakarta.
I attempted to check in for my flight using Cathay Pacific’s app, of which I am a fan but the system told me that I would need to complete the process at the airport. It was because of this that I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport well before my flight – CX777 from Hong Kong to Jakarta departing at 9.20am. However, I was not expecting the organized chaos at HKIA, where it seemed every person in the city was headed somewhere. The line for business class had at least 300 people in it when I arrived and the process of checking in was very, very slow despite the efforts of Cathay crew who marshalled the masses diligently.
Despite that first impression, when it came to my turn I was checked-in by a smiling staff member who efficiently tagged my luggage and sent me on my way in moments.
The departure process delays were further compounded by the new digital security gates that had been installed during Covid, many of which were not working. Combined with lengthy waits for security and immigration, I had to forgo a visit to the lounge (at the time of writing Cathay was only operating two business class lounges at HKIA, The Wing, at gate 2, and The Pier and gate 65) and instead made a beeline directly for my departure gate, 47. When I arrived, boarding onto the Airbus A350-1000 had already begun.
The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin features 46 herringbone lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. This is followed by 32 seats in premium economy and 256 season in economy. At 7m longer, the A350-1000 accommodates 54 more passengers then the A350-900, which Cathay also operates.
The airline has stayed with seat manufacturer Zodiac (now Safran) for its newest aircraft, although the A350-1000 boasts the brand’s newest incarnation of the Cirrus III seat so regular Cathay passengers will feel right at home. The seat is, in my opinion, one of the best in the skies. It has plenty of storage, under the seat, under and within the ottoman and also in a closed compartment at shoulder level; there are easy to reach seat and entertainment controls (including a touchscreen IFE remote); USB and AC charging ports; and the headphones (which admittedly are a little clunky and cheap) and headphone jack are secured within the closed compartment, making them. much easier to access.
With the herringbone configuration, middle seats face the centre of the aircraft while windows seats, like mine, 16A, face twin windows. Wings on the tops of the seats, part of a redesign of the seat shells in collaboration with Studio F. A. Porsche, add to the sense of privacy while a flip out extension of the seat makes it ridiculously comfortable when extended as a 190cm long bed. I also appreciate the absence of a chunky airbag-fitted seatbelt still found on some business class seats. All of this, combined with LED mood lighting on night flights, more oxygen in the cabin thanks to the aircraft’s carbon fibre construction, and super quiet engines, I was almost disappointed when the captain announced a quick flight time of four hours.
Smiling crew welcomed us onboard and once we were settled offered pre-departure drinks. Like many passengers I asked for a cheeky glass of champagne (having, in my opinion, earned one after running the airport gantlet) but the crew said they couldn’t open a bottle until we were airborne (Covid works in mysterious ways) so I contented myself with an apple juice.
True to their word, after an on-time departure from HKIA towards the east (and some very long winded announcements in four languages), a glass of chilled champagne was delivered, along with the menu for breakfast. While the meal was more than adequate, service levels were very slow throughout the flight, although I am sure crew are only now getting back into their stride after so long out of the air.
Breakfast began with a selection of seasonal fruit and fruit yogurt, and a selection of cereals. From there we were given the choice of scrambled eggs with veal sausage, shiitake mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and Lyonnaise potatoes; a dim sum selection including vegetarian glutinous rice, a scallop and shrimp dumpling, chicken sui mai, and a beef ball; and braised chicken with preserved olive leaf sauce and e fu noodles. I opt for the dim sum, which, while not entirely appealing from an aesthetic perspective, was quite satisfying. Breakfast was accompanied by warm pastries with honey and butter.
From the choice of drinks offered – which ranged from Ceylon Breakfast and Earl Grey tea to fresh orange, apple, and tomato juice – I opted for a chilled coconut water, always a popular choice first thing in the morning. I also chose a illy cappuccino, which was perfectly made.
The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 boasts the airline’s newest entertainment system, which features an 11.1-inch touchscreen high-definition monitor and offers a huge selection of recently released and classic films and television shows in a variety of languages. While the plane does offer wifi connectivity, for such a short flight I thought I’d simply enjoying being unconnected for once.
It was a pleasure to be flying with Cathay Pacific again after so long and I look forward to the carrier reclaiming its position as the region’s best in the coming months.
Note: The author travelled on a redemption ticket and reviewed the flight without the airline’s knowledge
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