With a flight departing after 1pm, we strolled to the airport at around 10am, thinking it would be a leisurely check-in. Indeed the check-in area at Cathay Pacific was quite empty as it was situated beside its airline partner Air Berlin. There was no one in the First Class line and we proceed to check-in.
Düsseldorf airport terminal
However it turns out there was some confusion with regards to my Dad's ticketing. Both of the tickets were booked separately and redeemed using American Airlines AAdvantage miles so that might be the cause here. Furthermore Cathay Pacific was just starting flights out of Düsseldorf recently when I checked in for the flight. It was a bit of a wait as the check-in agent conversed with her supervisors and made a few calls before we got our boarding pass. I also had to ask for window seats and enquired how full the cabin was and was given a reply of 'pretty full'. One drawback to the whole process was that Düsseldorf was a bit of an outstation and did not have baggage handlers for First Class passengers, so I had to bring my ski/snowboard bag to the end of the terminal near the Lufthansa counters where odd-sized baggage are checked in. That was the main blemish here and a far cry from the First Class counters in Hong Kong. For that matter, ANA even has baggage handlers for its First Class passengers in San Francisco.
Cathay Pacific check-in counters
After returning to meet up with my Dad who was waiting with out hand carried baggage, we went on to queue at the customs line for the tax refund and it seems many tourists were at a loss as to whether to check-in first or get the stamp first. Apparently you need to check-in and get the boarding pass, then bring the checked luggage over and get the stamp, before bringing the luggage over to the counter again to be checked in. It was a very troublesome process and not a very orderly in my opinion as Singapore Changi does this the best way with customs clearance occurring first before checking in the luggage.
Boarding pass for the DUS-HKG flight
Fortunately being a smaller European airport, Düsseldorf does not see much crowds during security check and thus we still did have some time to spare before the flight. This was even after all the delays caused by waiting for the tax refund and bringing my odd sized luggage for check-in. While Cathay Pacific has a oneworld partner in Düsseldorf which is Air Berlin, the assigned lounge for business class passengers is actually the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.
Lufthansa Senator Lounge entrance
After passing both me and my dad's boarding pass, we were granted access into the lounge though there would be no boarding call for our Cathay flight here. Access to the internet is provided with a password that can be obtained from the reception. Inside the lounge it was quite spartan but they do have a nice space set up for beverages and food.
There was 2 main bar and beverage counters throughout this fairly large lounge. Aside from the usual espresso and coffee machines, there was tea bags, a nice selection of German beers, wines and other liquors. Soft drinks from the fountain and water were also readily available.
Beer and wine selection
Since it was yet to be lunch time, and we only had some fruits and coffee prior to coming to the lounge, we tried out some of the food on the buffet counter. The selections were mainly German fare like boiled sausages, cabbages, and potatoes.
Potatoes, cabbage and pickles
Aside from these, there was also some interesting selections like caramel pudding and curd with herbs. Not that I tried any of them but they were interesting choices. There was also some apples and bananas for those looking for more conventional and healthy snack options.
I think this lounge is nice to spend time in not just for its size but also how there was some segregation of space for guests who want to dine, to work and to relax. With the dining area at the other end, the clattering of cutleries will not disturb guests seeking to read magazines at the main seating area. Throughout the lounge, there are partial views of the tarmac so natural light does filter through as well.
Relaxing area with tarmac view
Next to the reading and seating area, there are also cubicles with power points along with a printer for guests who needs to get work done. Generally, the space and the availability of seating space for a prime time slot between 11am to 12noon shows this lounge was adequate considering it also allows entry to Star Alliance Gold partners.
Workstations in the lounge
As you may have noted as well, the lounge does a good job marketing the Lufthansa brand, and there was the Superflieger 747 poster which ferried the winning World Cup team back to Germany. While this may not be any luxurious lounge befitting a First Class experience, it was an adequate space for business passengers to get some food or some report done in a nice environment.
Lufthansa Superflieger 747 poster
Boarding the flight was a bit of a rush because there was no calls made in the lounge and we did not realize there was still passport control before boarding. Fortunately the passport control was empty and the ground crew was waiting for us across the passport control point. I remember thinking aloud that if it weren't for the fact we were seated in First Class, the plane might have left a long time ago!
Cathay Pacific tailfin spotted at Düsseldorf
CX376 Düsseldorf DUS - Hong Kong HKG STD-STA: 1320-0540 Actual: 1331-0634 Boeing 777-300ER B-KQK Gate A77 Seat 2K
Settling into Seat 2K
As we were the last passengers to enter the cabin, we were a bit flustered and the two cabin crew serving the First Class cabin was there to assist us. It was still an empty cabin and I wanted my Dad to be seated up front on 1K when the attendant said there was someone seated there without realizing I was seated there.
Side pockets and storage under the monitor
After we got settled down, jackets placed in the closet and luggage stowed underneath the ottoman, hot towels were provided for us to freshen up. Cathay Pacific's First Class has been refreshed since I was last onboard, and it was a nice update to an already stellar product. The usual fresh orchids are still there and there was the touch screen seat controls on the armrest. Otherwise the colours of the cabin are slightly darker to give a more refined ambience.
Fresh orchids on the seat
The crew then got busy to serving us with the welcome beverage with champagne on offer. Since it was going to take-off, I just had a glass of water first and decided to leave the champagne for after take-off.
Purser Sue who was from Malaysia came over to distribute pyjamas and the amenity kit. I was asked for a choice of medium or small, and I went with medium as I think small might be too short in terms of sleeve length for me.
Pye pyjamas set
For the amenity kit I asked for the female amenity kit which I intend to give to my Mum, and since my Dad would have the male amenity kit anyway. On the ottoman, there was also a pillow.
Aésop amenity kit
Contents of the amenity kit
Turns out there was only 2 of us in First Class which adds to a great experience since there was 2 crews serving us. That also meant a more attentive service with meal orders taken before we take-off.
Menu for the flight
The menu for the flight read as follow:
Then there was a separate and well defined wine list, with a wine of the month promotion:
During this time the Captain also announced a flight time of 11 hours. Short queue for take off was another good part of departing from the smaller airport but it does make for a shorter experience onboard this nice cabin! It was a clear weather over Düsseldorf this afternoon and as we took off, we passed by the nearby town of Essen and the view was magnificent throughout our climb towards cruising altitude.
Take-off from Düsseldorf
Flying past the town of Essen
After reaching cruising altitude, the inflight service manager (ISM) personally came over to greet my Dad and myself by welcoming us onboard the flight. With the warm welcome, what followed was a ramekin of warm cashews with a beverage of choice served before the proper meal service. Since it was a nice afternoon flight, I opted for the Hong Kong style milk tea which I liked but the rendition provided was a bit too bland.
Hong Kong style milk tea and warm cashews
Touch screen seat controls
Shortly after the crew came over and asked when we wanted to dine. Being in First Class and with an empty cabin made it easy to provide this service of dining whenever it pleases you! Since it is common in Asian culture for families to dine together, I made the call for me and my Dad to dine in his cabin, and this was another pleasure of being in First Class!
Cruising on First Class
After picking the Chinese meal for both of us, Sue asked if we would like the caviar service as well. For sure, since that is always one thing to look forward to while in First Class. As expected the caviar service was great with all the requisites! I also had the glass of champagne with caviar as suggested by the menu. Along with the dishes, there was also a handwritten note from the crew, something that I did not receive the last time I took Cathay Pacific First Class. So it was a redeeming factor of sorts.
Caviar and traditional garnishes
A bread basket was also placed on the table along with butter for us to enjoy.
Champagne and bread basket
Next up was the ginseng soup, and it was perfect like my last experience. Chinese soup are probably like my comfort food as I grew up with them and reminds me most of home. And I think Cathay Pacific does this best.
American ginseng, conch, pork and red date soup
Prawn in the main course a bit too salty though it works well with the freshly cooked white rice. Another specialty of First Class on Cathay Pacific is the rice is cooked with an onboard rice cooker. So no more of those dried up rice beads at the bottom of the casserole.
Stir-fried prawn with XO sauce with rice and vegetables
The crew then came around asking us if we would like desserts. We chose one of each, a western dessert of berries and cream since it was summer after all and a chinese dessert of black sesame paste. The latter was excellent by the way notwithstanding the unappealing presentation.
Berries and cream
While waiting for the dessert, Sue came over and asked if she could make the bed on my seat but I asked if she could instead set the bed on both 1 and 2D. However there was a problem with the seat on 2D, so my bed was set on 2K instead.
Black sesame sweet soup
There was a bit of turbulence during meal service though it did not disrupt it that badly and about 3 hours into the flight, which delayed the coffee and tea service as I asked for a cup of cappuccino. The coffee came with truffles that I did not partake in considering how much I already ate.
Cappuccino with truffles and chocolates
Retreated back to seat 2D to watch a HK movie titled Helios after the meal service. In the meantime, I asked for a cup of Johnnie Walker Blue Label for my dad and myself in order to help me sleep a bit during this daytime flight.
View from seat 2D
Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky
After the meal, we also changed into our pyjamas. I have to say I did not miss the Shanghai Tang branding at all as the Pye-branded pyjamas were really comfortable and made of a higher quality material. Probably one of the best airline pyjamas on offer.
Lavatory onboard the 777-300ER
The lavatory itself is also equipped with Aésop amenities. While not as impressive as the lavatories onboard the A380 or the 747, Cathay Pacific also tried to differentiate the lavatories with wood accents and a nicer vanity counter top. It did make it more comfortable for brushing my teeth before I sleep.
Aésop amenities onboard the lavatory
Just before the cabin lights were dimmed, I got around to take some photos of the empty First Class cabin and to just walk around to aid in the digestion of all the food I just consumed!
Seat 1A and 2A
Spacious First Class cabin with no overhead compartments[/caption]
The turndown service on First Class is also another great differentiator with the seat converted to a comfortable bed with plush duvets and pillows. Bottles of evian mineral water was also placed by the bedside with the turndown service. As I got sleepy, I paused the entertainment screen to move over to the bed.
Seat 1D converted to a bed for my Dad
As usual, Asian airlines tend to have a warmer cabin and the daytime flight made it difficult to get a deep sleep. But I did manage a couple hours of shut eye before I just lazed around in the seat.
Seat 2K turndown service
Decided to just call off on the sleep and asked for a snack. At first the other stewardess offered me the chocolates but I was thinking of something savoury and asked if they had any chips. In the end she obtained for me potato chips and chinese tea which I also ordered. It was nice to have the tea brought along with some cookies that I finished as well.
Chinese tea and cookies
As I finished the snacks while watching my inflight movie, I realized I was still a bit hungry. Thus I asked for sunny side up eggs with the leftover caviar. This would be served before my breakfast, and it made for that ultimate inflight snack!
Sunny side up with caviar
As my eggs was served, I realized my dad woke up as he wasn't able to sleep much either. However he was not feeling hungry yet. With both of us awake, the crew came around to ask him as well for any drinks or snacks. We decided to hold off breakfast till slightly later.
Fruit plate and croissants
About 45 minutes later, the purser came around to prepare our tables for breakfast. This time round we had the meals on our separate seats. Starting with the fruit plate, I was also offered yogurt and cereal, along with a basket of croissants. I also requested for another cappuccino with the freshly squeezed orange juice that is unique to First Class. It was also nice of them to provide small bottles of honey and preserves for the croissants.
Lobster congee with steamed mushroom rice roll
When flying with Cathay Pacific, I actually always look forward to their congee for breakfast. Again it is more like a comfort food for me, and the lobster congee onboard this flight did not disappoint. It also came with a mushroom rice roll that I enjoyed. It definitely made for a filling breakfast before landing!
Seat on Cathay Pacific First Class
Having 2 seats each certainly made it nicer as you get one seat for eating and lounging and another seat for sleeping. It is worth noting that the cabin crew came around to collect the duvets after passengers wakes up, with the service always prompt and efficient. Breakfast service was a much shorter affair compared to the hours we spent over lunch and with that out of the way, we changed back to our clothes.
Center seats on descent[/caption]
We were greeted with a nice sunrise as we started the descent and the warmth of the sunrise filtering into the cabin certainly perked me up. It also accentuates the beauty of the cabin with no overhead compartments making it appear more spacious. It is all these little details that elevates First Class to another flying experience!
Sunrise on descent
However as we descended under the cloud cover, it got a bit dark. Though with the morning sun, I was able to spot the continuous work on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge link that is one of the mega projects undertaken in this part of the world.
Construction of the HK-Zhuhai-Macau bridge
It was also a very nice landing into the airport to conclude another smooth journey onboard Cathay Pacific. We actually landed slightly behind schedule but with a connecting flight later tonight, there was no hurry for us. In this particular instance, the front door was opened for disembarkation and with only 2 of us in the cabin, we were the first to exit the airplane.
Hong Kong International Airport
The 777-300ER on landing at Hong Kong
Lufthansa Senator Lounge
Düsseldorf - DUS
Hong Kong - HKG
Cathay Pacific might not have the fanciest suites but it does the job well in creating a fantastic First Class experience. Perhaps it was the company of my Dad that made this flight extra special or maybe it was the empty cabin that elevates it further to a private jet kind of experience. The service from the 2 attendants serving us was very cordial and professional with all our requests met. While they might be cutting back elsewhere, the amenities in First Class seems to be upgraded. From the Aésop amenities and Pye pyjamas, to the quality Chinese cuisine and the extensive drinks list, I enjoyed this flight even after having experienced more private suite flights onboard ANA and Asiana. Cathay Pacific is still one of the airlines to fly with up front!
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