Review of Cathay Pacific flight Hong Kong Paris in Business

Airline Cathay Pacific
Flight CX261
Class Business
Seat 11A
Aircraft Boeing 747-400
Flight time 12:35
Take-off 13 Jul 12, 23:45
Arrival at 14 Jul 12, 06:20
CX 465 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 3411
Published on 5th February 2016
This flight and the returning one are over three years old at time of posting. Time has passed, and CX will soon retire their last 744s, while AF is revamping their J cabins. Flight CX261 is now operated with a B777-300ER, anyway. Apart from the historical interest, I chose to produce an English version because these two flights illustrates two radically different flight experiences on the same route, and the result was not what AF-bashers and CX-lovers would have expected.

(I probably won’t translate the feeder TPE<>HKG flights)

Hong-Kong – Paris (B747 - Cathay Pacific) My worst HKG-CDG ever – YOU ARE HERE
Paris – Hong-Kong (B777 – Air France) My best CDG-HKG ever

(I do not count my flights to/from the mythical Kai Tak airport, in the pre-FR era).

This FR starts when I left the aircraft from TPE. There was a longish walk to the nearest control point of connecting flight BPs, providing the access to the Departures level upstairs. There are several similar control points, so that you do no need to go all the way to the center of the terminal and possibly walk all the way back in the same jetty (like in BKK). As usual, photography was prohibited there, but there was a good vantage point overlooking another control point.

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I had already received the BP of my connecting flight, and I only needed to check the gate which had been announced on the IFE screen of the previous flight.

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The flights departing from HKG that evening. They were really all kinds of destinations. The clock on the right is of course an animation on the screen.

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Some plane-spotting : the KL 744 flying back to AMS. The tarmac is not brightly lit in HKG, which does not make photography with a compact camera very easy.

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CX A340 and A330 CX

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KA A330

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And an OX 747.

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There were self-serve internet stations here and there, but all were busy, except one for a good reason.

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The keyboard of this computer was stuck in Chinese mode (ZH = zhongwen 中文 = Chinese in Mandarin), which made it impossible to type any website’s address, be it as exceptional as that of Flight Report ;) I could only select between Traditional Chinese in Hong-Kong and Taiwan variants and Simplified Chinese (used on the Mainland). S.A.R. means "Special Administrative Region", the name of the status of HK for 50 years since its return to China. Hong-Kong SAR is the official administrative name in China, but nobody would dare use Taiwan ROC ("Republic Of China") here.

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Yes of course, there were others on the right,

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… but they were reserved for the customers of the shop on the left.

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I don’t know if these high school girls belonged to that category

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Since darkness made plane spotting difficult, I visited "The Pier" lounge, accessible at the lower level by escalators or an elevator.

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Air conditioning in HKG was much more aggressive than in TPE, which was an ecological absurdity, and justified wearing adequate protective clothing. At that time, my running gag was wearing my usual business suit when traveling by plane, which may not correspond to your standard definition, but generated sometimes amusing reaction from the staff. (The list of items prohibited on board aircraft has increased in the past decades, but to date, high visibility vests and hard hats are still accepted. I had taken my hard hat off at TPE’s immigration control, per regulation). I received a warm welcome at the lounge’s desk: the staff obviously liked passengers traveling for business, no matter what their business was.

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I was not impressed by this lounge (neither by that in TPE). Too crowded, and the food was nothing notesworthy.

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Newspapers in different languages.

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The buffet is on the left, and there is a counter in the back for made on order noodles.

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The offering was very similar to that of the lounge in TPE

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Sandwiches in protective wrappings

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The tables and seats in the eating area. I had no wifi signal in that part of the lounge.

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This was my selection, not much because I knew I would have dinner in the plane.

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Going through the self-use computers area

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… with the traditional corporate screenshot.

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There were power ports in many places, but like often in Hong-Kong, they were only Type G. Woe behold who forgot to travel with an adapter! especially travelers connecting here between countries using different types of plugs. (I was once in that situation). That there were no multi-standard power port there, in contrast to Mainland China where they are ubiquitous in the most remote locations, was beyond my understanding.

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It was time for boarding ; the extremity of that jetty close to Gate 67 was reserved for flights to the US, with an additional passport and BP check before reaching the gate itself, with a sign reminding the restrictions on liquids on board (the Americans did not even trust water taken airside from a water fountain after the HKG security check).

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This was the 744 which was going to fly me to CDG:

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I discovered the disaster as soon as I had boarded her.

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I knew that CX had revamped its 777 J cabins only, but the reverse herringbone layout of that 747 was even worse than that of the A340-300 that I had had earlier on a CDG-HKG flight. My seat was 11A, on the right – my readers had probably guessed that.

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I doubt anybody could seriously claim that this was a window seat. It was a seat with a window behind it.

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Not only that seat, but all seats on both sides of the aircraft were actually non-window seats, or required elaborate acrobatics to see outside.

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Note too that this configuration prohibited any communication between passengers, even if traveling together. I quipped to one of the FAs that CX’s business class was for divorcing couples only.

The smaller cabin in the hump had the same layout, with a single aisle, and the passengers didn’t have any more access to the widows. The cabin was already in night lighting mode when I went up there.

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I liked the lighting of the staircase.

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The economy class had a conventional seat layout. In order to have a window seat, you had to obtain a Y ticket, and not everybody had this privilege.

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And how about your private belongings ? The answer is simple : there was zero storage space accessible from the seat, and everything had be placed in the overhead bins during take off and landing. There is a fake ottoman – you may not sit on it, it only provides an extension of the seat in the bed position – but you can’t place things below during theses phases of the flight. Economy passengers had a better deal in this regard and this was another demerit for this cabin layout.

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Sure, there was significant space behinf the seat, but you were not supposed to put thing there either, because the seat needed that space when being reclined.

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This cabin layout was supposed to provide more intimacy, but didn’t, because the space in front of the passengers was wide open towards the aisle, from where you had a panoramic view of the sleeping passengers, with various lightings.

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Now with night mood lighting

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Other views of the mood lighting during the night:

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From the seating position, this layout did not provide any more intimacy feeling. Note that during take-off, the gigantic 17” IFE screen was not turned towards the passenger, so that you needed to look at that of the seat in front which is too far away.

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There was a multistandard power port, but my Type E+F laptop plug did not fit in, and I had to use a Type A adapter.

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This was useless, because that power port did not deliver enough power for my laptop, whose battery kept draining mercilessly. There was enough power to recharge my camera, but this was a lot less useful for me. No, I did not use an internet connection: this corporate screen had been recorded in the lounge. Another demerit for on board comfort.

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I did not try the headphones, but this is where it was, under the tiny tablet where only a glass could fit.

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The passengers had to buckle a diagonal retractor belt, during take-off and landing only, a quirk that I had never seen that in any other plane.

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The frist two seats in the cabin creates a triangle in which duvets and blankets were stored. They were hard to reach, which forced the FAs to exercises which could be rated unaesthetic or sexy, depending on your tastes in that matter.

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If that was not enough, an ice cold draft lands right on my head, in any sitting position. There was no visible ventilation opening that I could block and I eventually asked for blankets to the FAs. They did not spare tha quantity, and made the rest on with a blanket wrapped around my head to avoid catching a cold (a very good quality blanket, BTW).

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The J cabin of CX on long haul flights ? It was like a factory ship : a very large vessel without portholes in which the cargo was progressively deep frozen on board.

Pushback was on time ; I had a hard time taking this picture through the window behind my seat.

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The safety card under a thick plastic protection, similar to that of the flight from TPE.

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The bilingual English – Chinese menu

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Distribution of a set of warm nuts and of drinks – a tomato juice for me. I have never been convinced by the warming up of nuts – I would rather have them cold.

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How could I reasonably imitate a signature shot with a glass of tomato juice and a window which is behind you ?

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A assortment of magazines in the galley.

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There were basically three FAs for that full J cabin with 24 seats : a Korean, a Taiwanese and a Malaysian. I had an interesting and lengthy chat with two of them. They were quite puzzled by the number of pictures that I was taking of everything (what I post here is a small selection!), and suspected me of being a CX auditor, more than a potential spy for a competing airline. The Taiwanese spoke flawless English. Another FA (possibly in J too) came at time of boarding – I did not learn where she was from, but she had a distinct Cantonese accent in English.

I saw this one obviously struggling against dozing, straightening suddenly her head at intervals in a typical manner when it started dropping.

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The amneity kit was good qulity stuff and the pouch’s format made it reusable. What was missing in my opinion was a small comb, especially for a long haul night flight which invitably messes your hair.

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All the water served on board – this bottle distributed to the passengers or that provided during the meals was from Evian. I always found it ecologically ridiculous to send a container of Evian water bottles by sea from Marseilles to Hong-Kong. Isn’t there drinking water available closer to HK?

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I chose fish : it was cooked correctly, but I found the sauce too heavy

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Since I had eaten in the lounges in TPE and HKG and already had a quick dinner on the TPE-HKG flight, I skipped the cheese and had only a standard set of fruit for dessert.

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Chance had it that I was randomly selected for a customer satisfaction poll by CX

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This questionnaire was in excellent French, apart from some minor errors : an answer appeared twice, (2½ h – 3h), and the answer (2h – 2½ h) was missing for question 2h.

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And there, the ratings could range from "Sangat tidak puas" to "Sangat puas" (that is Malay)

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Nobody will be surprised to read that I rated "Sangat tidak puas" some aspects of comfort on board, but I asked for another form to complete this questionnaire, because there was no way I could express all my negative opinion on this reverse herringbone configuration.

« Would you consider flying CX again for another trip on this line ? »: my answer was “Definitely no”, and I meant it.

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Agreed, the lie flat bed was comfortable. But I really did not appreciate being awaken shortly after 3 am for breakfast, when landing was scheduled at 5:50. Over two hours and a half before touchdown, because it took the FA an agonizing time to bring the breakfast one item at a time. Some passengers might find it chic, but it was time consuming, and I hate being told in what order I should eat my breakfast.

Coffee and "berry smoothie" at 3:20

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A glass of water, fruit and a sample of butter at 3 :24

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Croissant and jam at 3 :25

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This is the choice for viennoiserie and jam

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Yogurt at 3 :37. You could choose from two flavors, which meant more time wasted for the service.

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I chose the Chinese dish. The Guilin spicy sauce was as spicy as I expected it to be: most people who have never been in China (including myself a long time ago) do not realize that Chinese cooking is very spicy in most parts of the country, with the notable exception in Guangzhou and to some extent in Shanghai. It was good, but I noted a regrettable etiquette mistake which is obvious on this picture.

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How Could CX serve this dish with disposable chopsticks? It was just as unacceptable as serving champagne in plasticware. It was politically incorrect too. These waribashi cost CX a food demerit.

The hot meal arrived at 3:53, which means that it took half an hour to serve a breakfast which was not very complex, even though the FAs were working fast.

The window was so hard to reach that I considered sending a physical therapist bill to Flight Report after all the pain to take these pictures. In reality, this was all I could see of the wing and reactors when looking back.

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But holding the camera against the window, upside down because the window frame would be less in the way, I managed to have a decent framing.

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All that for a winglet with such a nondescript decoration required motivation.

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The sun was rising behind the aircraft as she started her descent.

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Flying down between two cloud layers into CDG.

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Landing in CDG

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A very smooth touchdown

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And thrust reversers deployment

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Terminal 1 was still lit at dawn.

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Arrival at the terminal 2A at 5 :50, half an hour ahead of schedule. I took this rather wet picture of an Air Austral plane while disembarking. This Reunion Island based airline uses ambiguous wording to let people believe that the whole of that Indian Ocean island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but only a selection of natural sites are.

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How could I know that was not in China or Taiwan ? I only needed to look at the advertising on the jet-bridges (there are actually some other airports which resist to the Hong-Kong banking invader).

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A panoramic view with a well know brand on both sides, th CX 747, and a jam in the jetbridge because of a passport pre-check by immigration officers.

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I recognize that this passport check was not right at the plane’s door (I had that before : it is much more of a nuisance, because nobody has his passport ready there and there is no space to search for it in your hand luggage or clothing), and that the policeman who checked my passport told me “Bonjour” with the faintest smile. That was a considerable progress compared to my past experiences in CDG.

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I had taken a picture of the front landing gear for plane number geeks: she was B-HUI, an apt registration number, since 回 [hui] can mean « coming home » in Mandarin. Yes I know, HK’s official language is not Mandarin, but Cantonese…

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Going through immigration control was fast. There was a Parafe automated passport control gate (validated by reading a fingerprint, usable by French passport holders only), but it was faster to branch at the last moment to the nearest manned counter where nobody was waiting.

The policeman asked me where I was coming from ; I wondered why, since a French citizen could legitimately come from anywhere, only Customs would make a difference. Maybe it was plain curiosity and boredom.

Now I needed to recover my checked luggage, which is always the part of air travel which I find least enjoyable. The space was limited, the conveyors took time to start and the luggage pieces arrived isolated, but the priority tags were respected and my luggage arrived together at 6:32. Forty-eight minutes after reaching the parking position: that was a very bad performance, especially since this was not yet the morning rush hour, but it was only 12 minutes after the plane’s scheduled arrival time.

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Verdict

Cathay Pacific

7.0/10
Cabin3.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Meal/catering7.5

Cathay Pacific The Pier - Business Class Section

8.8/10
Comfort9.0
Meal/catering9.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Services9.0

Hong Kong - HKG

8.9/10
Efficiency10.0
Access8.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness10.0

Paris - CDG

7.6/10
Efficiency6.5
Access8.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

The conclusion is a high contrast story. The punctuality of the flight was excellent and even compensated the inefficiency of CDG’s luggage handlers. The FAs were very friendly, I has interesting conversations with two of them and their quality of service was flawless. The catering on board was OK, but not exceptional and loses half a point for disposable chopsticks reasons.

Comfort on board was a disaster. From a standard 8 grade, I deducted 1.5 for having no window, at any seat, and 2 points for the ice cold air. I deducted 1 point for the power port which could not power my laptop and 0.5 point for the absence of storage space accessible from the seat. I deducted half a point for the wake-up at 3 am. I add half a point for the quality and quantity of the blankets and duvet, including those requested when I complained about the cold.

That leaves only 3 points for in flight comfort. This grade is only meaningful when related to the price of the ticket: I would have been less severe if I had been in Economy, but being too cold was not acceptable, anywhere in the plane.

HKG was as usual excellent (apart from the out of service internet access computer, and the perennial issue that the power ports are G type only)

A warm welcome : the staff at The Pier lounge in HKG passed my high visibility vest test with flying colors. That lounge was above industry standards in all respects.

CDG was sadly as usual below industry standards in all respects. A passport check in the jet bridge is neither convenient nor welcoming. The luggage handling was unacceptably slow, and there was no free wifi internet access then.

Information on the route Hong Kong (HKG) Paris (CDG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 38 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Hong Kong (HKG) → Paris (CDG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.

The average flight time is 12 hours and 51 minutes.

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9 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 156830 by
    Sneiled 11 Comments

    Thanks for this nice trip report. I am surprised to see CX using the 747 to CDG.
    Regarding the passport control at CDG at the jet bridge, it was just a screening done on random flights as part of tightened security measures (Etat d'urgence & Vigipirate) following the Paris Attacks in Nov 2015. It is just a police check as you could also encounter anywhere else (same at train stations) It is done by the Police and not the custom officer. So you should not mix things up like that and understand the situation in a country that is now facing terrorism.

    CDG has done a terrific job the past few years by upgrading their facilities at 2A and 2C. WIFI is free and usually working well. However, ground handling for luggage upon arrival and customs clearance still need some improvement as it could be very long wait. What is industry standard for you for an airport such as CDG? Have you ever been to the 2E?
    Hope you will have better experience at ADP next time.

    • Comment 334490 by
      eminere™ 274 Comments

      LOL Marathon all I can say is you would make a formidable barrister!

    • Comment 334099 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9849 Comments

      You overlooked an important piece of information on this flight : it was flown in 2012. As stated in my introduction, CX no longer operates 747s on this route.

      Your reference to the present state of emergency is not only anachronistic, but erroneous. These passport checks in the jetbridge predate the 2015 terrorist attacks and are unrelated to them. Their purpose is to avoid the situation where a passenger without the adequate travel documents arrives airside and can no longer be traced to his/her incoming flights. It can be a long and complicated process to identify his actual identity and nationality if the passport is fake. I once saw two young African girls being intercepted and apparently in that situation.

      I did not make myself clear : the question about the place I was coming from was not at the jetbridge passport check, but at the immigration control, where the Parafe booths are located. I know the difference between police and customs, and often point out this frequent confusion on the web.

      I appreciate your kind suggestion that I should try to understand the current situation in France. As a French citizen living in Paris much closer to the locations of the 2015 terrorist attacks than you realized (and having a vivid memory of the 1995 attacks too), I find it somewhat amusing.

      CDG has indeed made progress in the past years (wifi was not free at that time). Some flaws of CDG are cast in concrete, like the inadequate rail link, or the too narrow jetties at CDG-2F. Other facilities make sluggish progress - the catering in the Air France CDG-2E lounges was terrible in 2012, and it is still below par today. Staff friendliness has improved too, but has still some way to go. I suggest you use the Search facility of this website to find out if I ever patronized Terminal 2E :)

      Thanks for taking time to read this report and post a comment !

  • Comment 156890 by
    Quirrow 155 Comments

    I was actually on these seats onboard CX as well for the HKG-YVR flight and YVR-JFK. One was onboard the 747 in the upper deck, another time on the 777-300ER. Of course, not CX has upgraded all its business class to a much better reverse herringbone version.

    However I noticed you were comparing CX lie flat seats to AF 777 seats which I assume is non lie-flat seats (based on 2012). In my opinion, lie-flat seats beats non lie-flats anytime. And I actually like the privacy of these lie-flat seats. The only issue I had was the window view which is not useful at all.

    As for the evian water, I believe CX uses the local Bonaqua brand now, though on certain flights they do use mineral water from the departure country. Also I think evian has a big presence in Asia.

    • Comment 334124 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9849 Comments

      Unlike the vast majority of seasoned travelers, I never had a problem sleeping in AF's old non-lie flat seats, and do not value the privacy offered by the more recent J cabin layouts.
      (On the other hand, KLM's old J seat was a lot more inclined, and I hated it). The acceptance of dissenting minority opinions is something I like on Flight Report :)

      Evian water is indeed often found in the Far East. Sea container shipping of non fragile stuff is actually very cheap, and bottle water has to be trucked from the mainland, so the overall environmental cost may not be excessive in the case of HK.

      Thanks for stopping by and your comment !

  • Comment 156982 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this old FR. It's interesting to see how CX has evolved in just a few years.

    Back in 2011 I flew JFK-YVR on a CX 777 and my plane had this J configuration. I remember walking back and trying the seat for a few minutes and it felt very claustrophobic and annoyingly limited in space. I wondered how could CX install these coffins in J. I guess they were following VS's lead since they also had a similar layout in J. I am so glad that CX got rid of these.

    I guess you made a fashion statement with those blankets all over your head. One has to do whatever it takes to avoid sickness. I am surprised that there was no vent control and that the cabin was cold for an Asian carrier.

    In June I will revisit a flight that I took last year to GIG and see if things have improved with AA. ;)

    • Comment 334235 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9849 Comments

      At time of flying, CX had already realized that this cabin layout was a mistake and decided upon the change (I received an elaborate answer to my formal complaint after the flight). A costly mistake, but that is what it costs to stay at the top. Other airlines prefer to ignore such customer complaints and stay the course.

      Not catching a cold was a priority for me when wrapping a blanket around my head. Making it clear to the FA that I was so uncomfortable that I would rather look ridiculous was a bonus. That I did not care about looking ridiculous was a bonus to the bonus ;)

      Thanks for your comment !

  • Comment 157216 by
    NGO85 1648 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this throwback FR with us Marathon!

    I love your bathroom shot in the lounge, because you are not the only person wearing reflective clothing ;) And I'm not going to even comment on you dressed as Lawrence of Arabia later in the flight^^

    In the shot of your plane, you can see a pair of UA B744 in the old livery :)

    I also strongly dislike the reverse herringbone seats since they offer no privacy, you are very exposed. I almost booked a trip on AC in J, but the plane would have this seating configuration, so just settled on UA in Y. I'm sure the Y seat will have much better windows :)

    It's funny because the CX catering looks like it hasn't changed at all in the past 4 years. The meals looks the same and the tableware is the same. They still have those green packaged toothpick and dental floss.

    As far as disposable chopsticks go, they creep in on all carriers. At least they gave you a real hashioki :)

    They still use Evian water today. It's all about name brand recognition and nothing to do with practicality ;)

    That is quite the festive looking CX amenity kit, I have never seen the old CX kit before. That's definitely a keeper!

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