Review: Cathay Pacific New Business Class Experience 

CX 101 Hong Kong to Sydney

11 July 2011

Capacity 38J 223Y

POB 261 + 1 infant / 261

Seat : 18A

Aircraft : A330-343X (Delivered 14 May 2011)

Registration: B-LAL

I would like to dedicate this trip report to all the hard working staff of Cathay Pacific. Their service from the heart, enthuasism and professionalism have impressed me over and over. Cathay Pacific have been on the top spot of my airline flights this year. 

With Sydney being the first destination of the newly announced Cathay Business Class flights. I handpicked flight CX101 to fly home during my winter vacation to sample the difference. I was very much looking forward to this flight.   Flight CX101 departs at 2355 out of Hong Kong, and arrives in Sydney at 1110 the next day with a scheduled flying time total of 9 hrs and 15 minutes. I use the Kowloon Station Airport Express in town check in at 9:30pm and arrived at airport at 10pm for the flight. This is quite early for my usual last minute to board standard and I did plan this for a reason…..   IMG_0012  

HKIA was very busy on this summer evening. However it took me less than 3 minutes in total to clear security screening and passport control. It was the most efficient city and airport ever in my opinion!

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I head to the new Cabin Business Class lounge near Gate 23 as I have never visited this lounge.

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The Pier Business Class lounge is closed for renovation so the Cabin tonight is very crowded with passengers on midnight European and USA flights.

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I have some prosciutto and smoke salmon, it was delicious. They serve you at the counter instead of self-serve. There were 5-6 different types of hot dishes include soup, canapés and Chinese Dim Sim plus the usual full service bar available to passengers.

After staying less than 20 minutes in the crowded lounge, I decided it was time to head to departure gate 68. It was a rather long walk which I don’t mind because I am a plane spotter 🙂

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At 11:10pm, I have arrived at gate 68 and introduce myself to the gate crew. I enquired about the opportunity to get onboard to snap some pictures before general boarding. My request was met with a very surprising positive response after some checking. The gate agent worked in a super speed walking up and down the aerobridge to organise the photo shoot. I was later told it was almost impossible to have this organised since the flight was not cleared but Cathay own security team for passenger step onboard but the very helpful Cathay agent made my “mission possible!” I hate messy cabin with a passion so the only way to get a proper new Business class cabin photo is to have it taken BEFORE passengers board the flight.

Onboard Cathay New Business Class before everyone else!

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The Cabin

The overall feel of the new cabin is much lighter and more elegant. There’s less of Cathay’s deep sea green on the fabric of the seats while the sidewalls are finished in brushed metal with touches of grey and champagne. Cathay has also gone an extra mile in little touches such as bamboo patterns and abstract prints by Hong Kong artist Maria Lobo on the bulkheads, and a vase containing a fresh-cut flower in front of each set of middle seats.

Business class occupies the very front of the two-class A330-300 and is divided into two cabins. The frontmost cabin is the larger of the two, with seven rows numbered 11-12 and then 14 through 18 – row 13 is missing.

Snuck away behind the galley kitchen is a second business class cabin (below) with rows 19 to 21, separated from the economy section by a curtain.

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The seats

Cathay Pacific’s new business class seats are modified from a base design by French firm Zodiac Aerospace, which markets them as the Sicma Aero Cirrus to airlines around the world

The seats are set into a fixed shell so that reclining them doesn’t steal space away from the passenger behind you.

The aisle side of the shell includes an angled extension adjacent to the head and shoulders to enhance privacy.

A cluster of controls on the side panel includes a reading light (with adjustable brightness), seat adjustment, the IFE (in-flight entertainment) controller, a universal power outlet for laptops and a USB port for charging tablets and smartphones.

After having the whole cabin avail to myself for 5+ minutes, I thank the staff and within minutes, the first batch of Business passengers have arrived to board. I settle down at my seat 18A, the last window seat of main business cabin.

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I have noticed how wide and spacious on the shoulder room once sat down. A big improvement compare with the last version. Cathay seems did their homework and have listened to their customer.

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My welcome drink : Oriental Breeze. This is my all time favourite on Cathay!

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It’s got everything you need at one place include USB/ AC charger outlet, Composite cable outlet and PC cable port!

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Agnes B Bon Voyage amenity kits were handed out along menu and immigration/fast track forms. Note the large side table.

We waited for some connecting passengers from Manila and China and pushed back few minutes after schedule. A long taxi to runway 25L and with no traffic holding, we turned onto position and took off with heavy climb out at 0020 with a left turn toward South-easterly direction. Tonight’s journey will fly past the Phillipines(Davao), part of PNG, overfly inland of Queensland before reaching Sydney.

Estimate flying time is 8 hours 44 minutes at FL360.

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After the seat belt sign have been turned off, the cabin lighting were kept at minimum with most passenger have turned seat straight into flat bed to sleep. I am well rested before the flight and decide to opt for the dinner and watch a HK Cantonese movie, which Cathay have a good selection on Studio CX, their IFE system.

Dinner service started only a few minutes later. Note the two folded table design was a smart one, it allows you to slide around during meal service and leave your seat at leisure with table open. I can understand some may think the table is a little on the small side.

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My choice of dinner was Sea Bass fillet in Cantonese style with Duck strip salad on the side. There is also a light dinner option with soup, salad and fruit serve in one tray.

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After the main course, I chose to skip the dessert and cheese for some fruit and tea.

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For the next four hours, I was in deep sleep (aka cloud nine) on the new seat.

The seat turned into a full flat bed with over 2m long so I have no problem to sleep my whole body straight. You sleep in an angle (which may take time to get used to) instead of straight forward facing, but you do gain good width and plenty of leg room are offered. With the previous version of herringbone, your feet face the aisle. With the new Business seat, your sleeping position is exact opposite, with your feet face inward.

It’s hard to imagine anybody but the loftiest flyer finding this bed too short for a good snooze. I have no problem changing/flipping side from one to another during sleep.

Flight attentandy told me the new seat on B777-300/ER are wider than the one I experienced, on an A330-300

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When I woke up, the crew were busy serving a full breakfast with most of the passenger in Business class awake. We’re cruising over Queensland with 2 hours flying time to go.

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First sight of Australia!

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Yogurt, Cereals, Muffin, Croissant, Chinese congee, Egg Frittata and Dim Sum were among the items served in full breakfast. I have the Dim Sum and it taste just like the Yum Cha I have the day before in Hong Kong. Again, all service requests are met with a smile on Cathay!

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I sleep a little longer after breakfast. The cabin final check took place when I woke up and I opened my window blind, I was met with this glorious Central Coast, NSW view

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My photography instinct kicked in and I started snapping all the way till we land.

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Over Northern Beaches and Pittwater continue South bound.

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Over fly the downtown and Sydney harbour.

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Overfly of Sydney Kingsford Smih Int'l on a super clear winter day.

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Flying South, then turning to North with sparkling sea below.

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Royal National Park

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City of Cronulla, Sutherland Shire.

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Final approach over Kurnell.

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I have arrived in Sydney probably hundred of times and this was one of the best views I’ve seen. I think I must be missing home badly.

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Arrival view on Rwy34L with the usual suspects in Sydney.

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A quick taxi follow by turning to Gate 35 at 11:10am, which means we arrived on time.

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Last view of B-LAL. For some reason, it looks like a B787 to me!

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Summary

On first impressions it’s hard to fault Cathay Pacific’s new business class seats. They’re a smart design with ample space, comfort and amenities for the eight hour trip to Sydney. Cathay Pacific is a very disciplined and service oriented global network carrier. I think it has a rather humble image and publicity comparing to its rival such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates. However, from what I can gather, the business community simply loves Cathay making their Premium Classes very popular and. I have 2 excellent First Class flights with Cathay at the end of last year across the Pacific and this flight to Sydney is no exception in service excellence. The crew’s willingness to co-operate and making the “impossible” request looks simple. I just wish I am on Cathay Pacific again on my next flight!

My opinion of the new Business seat

- Excellent all aisle access

- Improved Privacy especially the single window seat.

- Fully flat bed with good width and length. Good for all kind of passengers shape

- Vast improvement on the shoulder room while seating straight up.

- All IFE/Remote/Gadget/Features in one place and easy to use.

- Good storage room.

- The angled sleeping direction may take some time to get used to.

- The A330 overhead bin in the middle may makes customer feel less head room. Some airlines like Etihad have done away with the middle bin to make it feel more spacious in the cabin.

- A little far reach to window due to seating diagonally but better than previous version seating opposite to the windows.

- As you’d expect from a brand new aircraft the seats were incredibly comfortable – they’ve not even been ‘worn in’, and the entire aircraft still had that ‘new plane’ scent.

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