Welcome to another series of flight reports by Quirrow. For this journey, it will be about a return trip from North America to Asia. The journey was a one way itinerary on board Korean Air. This would be my first time on Korean Air and I will be heading to Shanghai for some work. Finally I will be on an Asia Miles redemption towards Jakarta on Cathay Pacific.
Like my previous TR, the journey can also be read in my blog for the original format.
Cathay Pacific has 2 main lounges - The Wing and The Pier, located near gate 3 and gate 63 at each ends of Hong Kong Airport respectively. Both of these lounges have a First Class section as well which I have covered before. There is a smaller lounge called 'The Cabin' near gate 25, though the airline has continued to invest in new lounges and have opened 'The Bridge' located near gate 35. Occupying a prominent space in the middle of the Y-fork of Hong Kong's terminal, this has become the largest and central of Cathay Pacific's Business Class lounges, and seems to sign towards a shift towards Business Class considering the new A350s and some of its 777-300ERs have no First Class altogether.
Entrance to The Bridge, one of Cathay Pacific's Business Class lounge in HKG
A bright reception area in the middle is accessed by escalators and plenty of staff are there to check your credentials. From there guests can proceed to either left or right where there are dining areas and reading lounges. An enclosed luggage storage room monitored by CCTV are situated on both sides before entering the lounge proper. These enclosed rooms are very cold too since they are mainly closed and none of the guests seems to be placing their luggage inside due to the flushed doorway.
Entrance foyer to the right side of the lounge
The Bridge lounge on the right section
On the right section, guests are greeted with a beautiful lounge space with shelved partitions. There are magazine racks by the wall and toilets for lounge guests. Private shower rooms are available at the other end (ie. left section) of the lounge and I will write about them later.
Magazine racks with departure information overhead
This section of the lounge has its own dining section that comes with its own Noodle bar. That meant guests could order a selection of noodles and they will be handed a disc that lights up when the noodles are ready. They have become a classic hit with guests since their introduction and are now even available in their overseas lounges in San Francisco too! Guests who prefer something else could also choose food from the buffet section.
The Bridge dining area with Noodle bar
This dining section is perhaps the noisiest section of the lounge and the busiest as well.
Dining area with plenty of tables
Past the dining area, there is a small TV lounge with some comfortable furniture and armchairs. The decor here certainly makes it feel like a modern contemporary living space, making it like a friend's living room.
Across the TV lounge, there are a couple of Solus chairs that was designed by Norman Foster's architecture firm specifically for Cathay Pacific, and a long bar lines the window that opens out to the tarmac. The long bar is of one of my favourite features in the old The Pier lounge and I am glad they have transplanted it here.
Solus chairs with the long bar
Opposite from the lounge bar, a louvred screen creates a separate lounging space that makes it more conducive for quiet conversations. The darker ambience of the room makes it more comfortable for resting with a couple of bar drinks as well.
Quiet lounge section
That makes up half of this lounge and because I have a couple of hours, I head over to the left section of this vast lounge. Over the other side, guests enter a brightly lounge space with the same beautiful shelf partition. Refined decor seems to be hallmarks of Cathay Pacific's lounges and I like the fact they put in effort to hire a designer instead of just creating a standard lounge space.
Lounge space on the left section of The Bridge
With the long layover, I took the opportunity to refresh myself. Private and well appointed shower rooms are another great feature of Cathay Pacific's lounges in Hong Kong. I remember the first time getting on a plane refreshed after a shower in The Wing and it showed how to make long haul flying even more comfortable.
Private bathroom with wood accents
The bathrooms in Cathay Pacific's new lounge follows the design of the First Class cabanas in The Wing with wood accents. It creates for a comfortable and luxurious space to shower. Jurlique amenities are provided on the countertop for guests to use also with fresh towels, toothbrush, comb and essential toiletries. A spacious space for luggage with all the hooks and hangers to hang your clothes makes it practical as well to change and freshen up.
Shower space with rainshower and bench
Bath amenities box with towel
The left section of the lounge seems to have less people when I visited as I noticed a lot more people heading to the right section. One reason could be that the left section of the lounge has no Noodle Bar though it does have its own dining space. Right outside the shower area, there are more Solus chairs for guests to work and relax in.
Private Solus chairs in the lounge
Beyond that, there is another lounge area dubbed as The Bakery and Cafe where pastries, cookies and cakes are served. A small nook has countertop space where these cakes and cookies are presented. Guests could help themselves to wines and drinks from the machine here too.
The Bakery and Cafe with a view of the tarmac
Cookies and cake at the Cafe
Self-serve bar section in the Cafe
A small bar section at the end serves made-to-order coffee and specialty drinks, including Cathay Pacific's signature drinks served onboard. The drinks list includes a variety of wines and alcoholic choices too!
List of beverage available at the bar counter
After refreshing myself, I relaxed in one of the Solus chairs and obtained for myself a cup of mocha along with some cookies. Both the coffee and cookies are excellent and something that I would order in a cafe to enjoy. Great snacks and wifi certainly helped to pass the time in the lounge, and the fast wifi was great for Skype and Facetime on the smartphone to keep in touch with family too!
Coffee break in the lounge
Guests that needs to get some work done could also use the private work cubicles that did not have any workstations. However there was printers on the ready allowing transit passengers to get some work done while waiting. The omission of desktops was a nice touch since many people travel with laptops and tablets nowadays.
Work cubicles in the Business centre
With another hour to go before my flight, I head towards the dining space in this section of the lounge. This dining area lacks a noodle bar but it does have a full buffet option. The space caters to a smaller crowd but it was respectable with plenty of seats.
Dining space on the left section of the lounge
The buffet selection was good enough for guests to have a full meal since there are a good variety of salads on offer with various condiments. Soups are available along with a variety of steamed dumplings. For the main course, there was several stir-fried dishes including vegetables and steamed rice.
Buffet counter with salad bar
Dumplings on the buffet counter
To end the meal, diners could get some cheese and crackers or a selection of small cakes. Fresh fruits are also available for a quick snack to bring onto the plane. I have not seen any problem with guests grabbing a couple of apple or banana to bring with them to the plane, though I do not expect guests to fill up their bags with these snacks.
Cheese, cracker and condiments
For what it's worth, I had a full dinner at the lounge since the food served coincided with dinner. Being Hong Kong, there was small casseroles of pork ribs with rice that I always enjoy. Couple that with soup, some assorted stir-fry and I get a meal similar to that in a HK-style cafeteria. It even tastes good that I did not miss the usual Dan-dan noodles that I normally order from the Noodle bar.
Dinner in the lounge
I did enjoy the facilities and amenities provided by Cathay Pacific's Business Class lounge at The Bridge. In fact I think this is the best Business Class lounge that I have been too, even when considering Singapore Airlines' fantastic Silver Kris lounge in Changi Airport. The multiple segmentation of the lounge creates its own distinct space that can cater to travellers whose needs might differ. The flyer that has a long layover can have a nice shower, read some magazines, do some work, relax with coffee and have a nice meal, while the short transit traveller could grab snacks or just have a nice space for a quick phone call. With plenty of seats and private work spaces along with places to unwind and get comfortable, I do not mind the long layover at all. The white marble decor works very well with contemporary furnishings to create a modern living environment with plenty of natural light facing the tarmac. This makes it feel like being at home, and who doesn't like that?
Coffee and tea selection
Welcome aboard Cathay Pacific
CX797 Hong Kong International HKG - Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK STD-STA: 1905-2250 Actual: 2001-2311 Airbus A330-300 B-LAJ Gate Seat 15A
I was the last to board the business class cabin at around 6:50pm, though the plane was still awaiting some connecting passengers. Given that I had taken this flight several times before, I was expecting a regional Business class configuration (a <a href="https://quirrow.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/cathay-pacific-regional-business-class-a330-hkg-cgk/">trip report I had covered here</a>). Thus I was pleasantly delighted by the Cirrus long-haul seat configuration which is preferred against the fixed shell regional Business Class seat. The regional configuration is Cathay Pacific's achilles heel when compared to Singapore Airlines that have a much nicer regional Business Class seat.
Boarding the flight
One of Cathay Pacific's signature drink, 'Oriental Breeze' was part of the welcome beverage provided to passengers. Naturally I picked that option from the tray. Since I had covered most parts of the seat in my previous flight which has the same seat and configuration, I would just say the Cirrus cabin was fantastic to lounge in.
Oriental breeze and hot towel
Over the PA system, the captain announced an estimated flight time of 4 hour and 11 minutes. Though we were advised of some delays in departure due to weather as Hong Kong was under a Cyclone Signal 1 earlier in the afternoon that has caused slight delays. I do wish that Cathay not keep its passengers cooped up waiting inside the plane though.
Cathay Cirrus Business Class cabin
Only one passenger was offered additional drinks during the wait. Must be a CX diamond member in 14A, as I thought to myself. It was disappointing for certain that other Business class passengers were not offered extra drinks for the long wait on the ground. Fortunately I was in Business class and on the long-haul seat so I was definitely comfortable waiting and reading my newspaper.
Empty middle seats on Cathay Business Class
Menus were distributed during the wait on the ground and a passenger in 16A requests' for hot chocolate was rejected as pullback was to begin shortly after. Pullback began at 7:33pm while the crew went around to prepare cabin for take off. Apparently Cathay Pacific requests for devices to be unplugged from the USB outlet for take off and landing. This was a first time for me and I wonder what was the reason since none was given by the crew.
The menu for the flight read as follow:
Inflight entertainment system also reset itself during the pullback, and as usual, these electronic systems are prone to trouble. Since the system reboot was for the whole cabin, I figured it was some error not limited to my seat.
StudioCX welcome screen
After taking off, I took the chance to use the restroom since we had such a long wait on the ground. On the way there, I observed the Business Class cabin was lightly loaded with several empty seats in the middle section, though most of the window seats were occupied. Lavatory interior was well maintained with a nice-smelling orchid placed on the wall. Jurlique amenities were provided for Business class passengers too though the size of the lavatory was small as expected in an A330.
Orchid in the lavatory
Back at my seat, the cabin crew went about to offer pre-dinner drinks. On top of requesting for another cup of the Oriental Breeze mix, I asked for a stationery kit as well. I made sure to request for nuts with my drink lest they did not include it in the service like my last Cathay Pacific flight.
More Oriental Breeze and nuts
Before long, dinner service started with the laying of the table cloth. My past experience with this flight was I would fill myself up in the lounge before boarding which I did this time as well. I was not expecting anything good served onboard thus I was surprised with the nice salmon appetizer that comes with créme fraiche and some roe. The side garden salad looked greener too, while the garlic bread served from the basket was still good!
Cured salmon with fennel and créme fraiche
The appetizer was a nice start to the meal and I finished it even though I had a filling dinner already in the lounge. The wait in the tarmac for take-off must have made me hungry again. For the main course, Cathay Pacific allows Business passengers to choose from the tray as all choices are displayed prominently. I picked the Chinese selection once again since they tend to be the solid options. It was nice to see Cathay offering chopsticks with the main courses as a while back, they used to offer chopsticks only for First Class passengers. The pan fried chicken with onion sauce was tasty like what is served in a HK-style cafeteria. That meant canteen-style food but it was tasty nonetheless and to my liking. A lesson for airlines is to offer tasty edible food rather than be ambitious with overly fancy food that might not work with re-heating.
Pan fried chicken with onion sauce, served with kailan and steamed jasmine rice
The pace of the meal service was good but considering the flight was quite empty, I thought it could be better. There was a bit of a lag between the main course and the dessert and given the portions for main course are not even that large, I thought most passengers would be done quickly with it. Though the crew did at least go around to offer drinks.
Meal service with dimmed lights
A cheese course was offered on top of fruits after the main course was cleared. Fresh cutleries were laid out and this has become essential in a premium airline. Furthermore I liked the inclusion of mango in the fruit platter for this route to a tropical nation!
Cheese and crackers with fruits
Häagen-Dazs ice cream was offered to passengers and this flight has a good range of flavours onboard. Ice cream flavours were mango & raspberry, summer berries & cream, and cookies & cream, a nice departure from the plain vanilla. More tropical fruit flavours for me please!
Häagen-Dazs ice cream
In the end of the meal, I requested for cappuccino during the crew's walk-around where they offered tea or coffee. The cappuccino had the right amount of foam and a dusting of cocoa while brown sugar was also offered with a fresh tea spoon. Great presentation and quality once again.
Cappuccino with brown sugar
Hot towels distributed once again after the meal. The number of hot towels offered in a premium cabin can also be another benchmark to differentiate a great airline or otherwise. After all, there is nothing like the feeling of clean hands after the meal and ability to continue with your inflight movie uninterrupted.
Hot towel after the meal
I reclined my seat to a lie-flat position after the meal and continued with my movie just to test out if I could watch a movie comfortably while fully reclined. It turns out that was not possible and a lounge mode is probably better for watching the superb StudioCX system.
View from the lie-flat seat
After completing my inflight movie, I took a nap just as we passed Vietnam. The lie flat seat along with a nice ambient lighting in the cabin allowed me to rest for about an hour before the captain announced through the cabin of our descent.
Moving map display
While these seats are fantastic, the monitors need to be stowed on descent and that prohibited the continuous watching of the inflight entertainment. On a light load those forward facing and full lie-flat seats might be better for movie-addicts-on-a-plane.
Seat view on descent
Our flight landed into Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta uneventfully, as we docked by a gate. Arrival customs and immigration was surprisingly pleasant at this late in the night but there was a long wait for the luggage to appear. That meant the luggage carousel was crowded by the time the first luggage appears. So it seems Jakarta has solved the problem of inefficient immigration but has yet to solve the issue of slow luggage delivery. In the United States it is the other way around.
Arrival at CGK
Cathay Pacific - The Bridge Lounge
Hong Kong - HKG
Jakarta - CGK
Cathay Pacific has delivered great service as expected of this premium airline with the quality in amenities and food served in the cabin. However there are some rules and regulations like boarding passengers way too early even when the plane is going to be stuck on the ground and the need to unplug devices from the USB port which does make it feel slightly backward. It should be imperative for airlines to solve workflows and procedures to make a journey as comfortable and efficient as possible, and the onus is not on the passenger to feel it was taken for a ride. I thought the crew in this particular flight to be just doing about their work and not really making an effort for the passengers, making it a tad of another boring flight. Fortunately, this flight was served with the new 'Cirrus' seat that makes up for the lacklustre crew.
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