Welcome to my latest trip report, covering an exceptional flight in first class with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
After nearly 10 years in Asia with 2 countries, 3 companies, 7 roles, 8 bosses, 6 apartments, 7 bikes, 8 iPhones, 4 BlackBerries, 2 passports and 280 flights over 148 trips, it was time to close the adventure and return home to California and start a new journey. As Cathay Pacific brought me to Asia back in 2007 to start off my adventure, I thought it'd be only fitting to come home with Cathay Pacific.
Cathay Pacific's first class cabin and service have been reviewed countless times and my experience was as fantastic as expected from start to finish. Cathay, like other carriers, is shrinking the number of aircraft and routes with first class. For the Hong Kong to San Francisco route, only one of three daily flights offers first class.
Hong Kong International Airport is consistently efficient and regularly delayed, however, the numerous top-notch lounges make the often lengthy waits much more pleasant. The only real complaint is that there are no premium ground services for business or first class passengers or travelers with status.
Taking advantage of my fare class, I took a whistle stop tour of my favorite lounges for Cathay Pacific and OneWorld travelers.
The Pier First Class Lounge is easily one of the best lounges globally with incredibly thoughtful touches and an unmatched intimate feel.
This is the main entrance hall that connects the various areas.
The lounge is broken up into a number of rooms with various seating options and multiple charging ports.
The horseshoe shaped bar is gorgeous and rarely ever busy.
The beautifully designed restaurant follows a dine-to-order concept and offers exceptional food. I unfortunately came a bit too hungry and might have overindulged.
The lounge also offers a dozen private rooms that have a fantastic view of the apron.
After a lovely meal, I left the Pier to tour the other lounges.
The Wing First Class Lounge is far airier with a more open design but also generally a lot busier. At the entrance of the lounge is the champagne bar.
The Wing First Class Lounge's seating options are more traditional than the Pier. The lounge has a sit down restaurant along with a more traditional buffet style set-up.
The Wing Business Class Lounge's buffet area. Behind the buffet area is the now famous noodle bar that serves an excellent dan dan mien.
The Wing Business Class Lounge's downstairs seating area with additional food and drink buffet options.
B-KPP sitting at Gate 1, which is where Cathay's US-bound flights are usually found. While Cathay's now-retired 747 fleet helped the airline grow and expand, the introduction of the 777-300ER played a bigger role in turning the airline into the major global player it is today. In fact, with 53 in service, there are more 77Ws in service than 747s at any given time in history with Cathay.
Boarding through the forward door, I was greeted by Sue, our ISM (in-flight service manager), who escorted me to my seat and ended up providing the best service I've ever received on a flight and became a real friend. She would come and visit me throughout the flight to chat about our families, work and life in general. Sue, if you're reading this, thank you!
While Cathay Pacific’s first class seats aren’t fully enclosed, they’re super spacious and comfortable. You can easily seat two people fairly comfortable in a single seat along with a third on the ottoman which is also equipped with it's own seatbelt.
Refreshed about two years ago, the seat and finishes are showing their age.
The entertainment system and remote could also use an update. I also find it annoying that every program is preceded with 5 minutes of commercials.
Although the suites do not have doors as with the latest first class products, the cabin feels very private. There are only six seats spread across two rows in a 1-1-1 configuration.
For single travelers, the best seats are 1A and 2A, since those seats have the left aisle all to themselves. Meanwhile the middle seats and right window seats both face the right aisle, so that aisle is shared among four people.
We left the gate just a few minutes behind schedule and the captain informed us that with the favorable wind conditions on our route, we were expected to arrive around 90 minutes ahead of schedule. I might have been the only person on the flight that was disappointed. I am pretty sure I stifled a groan about the news.
Our takeoff roll was long with the full load as the mighty GE90s hurtled us into the night skies over Hong Kong.
Once the seatbelt sign was off, I took a tour of the long plane. Immediately behind first class is the mini business class cabin. Cathay's long-haul 777s are equipped with Zodiac's second generation Cirrus reverse herringbone seats. While still comfortable, they no longer feel fresh and the finishes are a bit bland. Cathay's refreshed Cirrus seats in the A350 have also had their share of issues.
The main business class cabin.
The small premium economy cabin.
Returning back the front, I changed into the pajamas provided. The meal service started immediately afterwards and while we had a full first class cabin, the service was always stellar and never felt rushed. Sue would come by and check if the food was to my liking and kept my glasses full.
Even though I indulged in the lounges, I couldn't miss Cathay's excellent caviar service.
The soup was also delicious. I think it's quite hard to mess up soup on a plane.
For my main, I couldn't decide between the steak or the ravioli so Sue had the crew combine the two.
The steak was nice, if slightly overcooked and the mushroom ravioli was lovely. I tried my best to finish everything but by the time I made it through half the plate, I was about to burst.
The meal was completed about two hours into the flight and was paced exceptionally well. After dessert, I requested turndown service as I was ready to catch some movies and rest.
I napped a bit and woke up to continue the movie I paused. Sue saw that I was up and brought by some snacks in case I felt peckish.
Cathay's first class beds and bedding are some of the best in the skies. There's a pleasant sense of space and privacy even though the suites aren't fully enclosed.
I had mentioned earlier that I don't really drink and thus, can't really tell the difference between the various champagnes, proseccos and sparkling wines. Sue hilariously thought maybe a sliced strawberry would make all the difference, it didn't. This poor bottle of Krug was completed wasted on me.
Settled in the flight ahead, I took a sound level recording. While the 777 has a reputation for being a loud airplane, it is very quiet at the front with only the faint sound of rushing wind.
Interestingly while we depart and arrive in the dark, much of the flight is actually during the day. I took this shot out of L2 right as the sun started to rise.
I napped a bit more and woke up to brilliant blue skies right outside my windows (love having more than one window once in a while).
I never did touch anything in that basket and just brought the items home to share.
A gorgeous view of the 777s wing and giant GE90 outside of L2.
Around 90 minutes before our arrival, it was time for breakfast. I ordered sunny side up AND scrambled eggs as Cathay prepares them freshly aboard. The breakfast was exceptional, even the croissants were warm and flakey.
Where Sue really went above and beyond is with my friend seated in economy that bought a last minute ticket to accompany me back to California. Throughout the flight, Sue would have her team check up on him and attempt to bring him treats. Unfortunately, he slept for most of the flight. He finally woke up for breakfast and Sue had an attendant bring him up to first class to have breakfast with me, which is a very special and rare treat.
A lovely sunset over the North Pacific as we neared the West Coast.
About 45 minutes before landing, I changed into my regular clothes and the captain provided our arrival information, confirming that we would arrive at 8:25pm, even sooner than expected arrival time. Our scheduled arrival time was 10:05pm.
Gazing out the window and seeing the first glimpse of the West Coast, I realized that after 10 years away from California, I was finally home.
Cathay Pacific The Pier - First Class Section
Hong Kong - HKG
San Francisco - SFO
My flight with Cathay Pacific was exceptional. The comfortable seat and delicious food were great but what really set this experience apart was the ISM Sue, who really took great care of me and my friend throughout the flight.
This truly was a fantastic way to end my 10 year adventure in Asia and I will remember this flight for a long long time.
Thank you Cathay Pacific!
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