Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that came into focus with two objectives, figure out a way to ride in the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites and take advantage of a soon to be devalued sweet spot in the United Airlines Mileageplus award chart. Let's talk about the Suites first. Singapore Airlines introduced "Suites" class ten years ago when the A380 entered service and it was quite revolutionary and remains a top First Class product. The airline is in the process of returning their initial A380 frames to the lessor and receiving new built frames from Airbus. They took this opportunity to remodel their Suites class and introduce a new product. In July 2017 the word on the internet was SQ would deploy these Suites initially on a SIN-SYD-SIN turn, namely SQ 231/SQ232. With this information I started searching for a saver award on either segment. I located a seat on SQ 232 for May 4th, 2018 and set out to build a trip around this segment. This was the SYD-SIN segment so I started building from SYD back home, ideally staying with Krisflyer as the currency and a single ticket to limit the cost. There was no space on SQ12 (SIN-NRT-LAX) or SQ8 (SIN-ICN-LAX) so I looked to Star Alliance partners for help. In the end I found SQ SIN-HND and NH NRT-LAX. I called Krisflyer and had the ticket booked quickly for 127,500 krisflyer miles and $183.90 SGD in fees. This was before the most recent SQ award chart devaluation. At his point the new A380 had not gone into service so the seating chart was showing the old product. I selected seat 1A as a place holder until more information was divulged about the new Suites configuration.
The second objective involved the excellent redemption value using United Airlines Mileageplus in Thai Airways First Class between HKG and SYD via BKK. Tickled that I finally had a reason to book one of these awesome deals to Sydney I checked the date I needed and the space was there. For 40,000 miles it was too good to be true and they "fixed" the award chart not long after I booked.
If you're keeping score I now have an itinerary that looks like this: HKG-BKK-SYD-SIN-HND; NRT-LAX all in Suites/First for a very reasonable sum of points. The final hole is LAX-HKG. If I have to be in Hong Kong I naturally think of Cathay Pacific as the preferred way of getting there and this case was no different. With low expectations I pulled up the BA Avios search page (a good way to search for Oneworld award availability) and searched LAX-HKG for the exact day I required to meet up this the rest of this trip and by some divine action the space was there. I had some of the Avios needed and transferred the remaining points from AMEX and even took advantage of one of those 40% bonuses that is offered from time to time. I would normally use Alaska Airlines to book CX but my orphan Avios balance, the transfer bonus, and lack of AS miles (or Starpoints to convert) I decided to use BA and pay the outlandish 150k redemption. Feeling quite smug, and with the entire trip booked, all I had to do was wait the excruciating 8+ months until it was time to travel.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
I arrived at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal via Uber at around 21:45.
The Cathay Pacific app would not allow a mobile or self printed boarding pass so I was required to visit the counter.
I was immediately helped and my boarding pass was issued. Cathay Pacific participates in TSA Precheck so I decided to make the walk over to T4 and clear security there rather than deal with the interminable snaking line at the TBIT.
I figured since I was here I would drop in on the Flagship Lounge and start my evening with a nice glass of Bollinger. I presented my boarding pass to the lounge agent. She was a classic example of the lousy AA customer service to which I have become accustomed. The scanner wasn't reading the BP so she became frustrated. She finally muttered that she was just going to reprint it. I pointed out that it was a CX BP and she replied that I should have told her and she just kind of "waived" me into the lounge and pointed out there would not be a boarding announcement.
I'm happy to come back for a second visit. When I was here 6 weeks ago I was quite enamored of the place and found to be of higher quality than expected. I can confirm this is still my assessment.
I took a quick look at the buffet. I was tempted to grab a churro bite but resisted.
There was a "craft cocktail" station that I don't recall from last time.
Finally, the initial intent of my visit, the champagne bar. it wasn't Bollinger this time but still a quality wine was on offer in the same genre and price range.
I found a seat and watched a few minutes of an NBA playoff game. The lounge was quite crowded as AA has a large departure bank in the coming hour. If I was flying J on AA I can't say if I would prefer staying here or making the +/- 8 minute walk to the Oneworld Business Class Lounge at TBIT. I suppose it would have to do with how much time I had and what gate we were leaving from. I wish I had more time tonight to do a side by side comparison of the two. If I was top tier elite I would definitely plan to visit the Qantas First Lounge and skip this one entirely.
I embarked on that short walk over to TBIT.
The lineup of aircraft preparing for a journey over the Pacific Ocean at this hour is staggering. There are probably 20 departures to Asia/Oceana leaving LAX within a 3 hour window.
Qantas First Lounge - LAX
In past visits to this lounge I have been quite impressed with the food primarily but also the wine and cocktail options. I was happy to have waited to take dinner. Then, superimpose the angst and anticipation of embarking on a grand journey and it wouldn't be a stretch to describe me as giddy upon my arrival.
I was admitted in a curt and impersonal manner by the lounge attendant. Not as belligerent and accusatory as AA but still not in a gracious manner by any stretch. Perhaps I have to examine my expectations of hospitality.
Right away I notice there is something amiss with the lounge. i don't know if it's a routine cleaning or some plumbing issue but it's not a great first impression.
Undeterred, I proceed to the dinning room for dinner. There is a sign to wait to be seated so I comply and am greeted promptly and let to a two person table. The layout of the lounge is open such that you can view the kitchen and bar.
The Spring menu is presented.
The beverage options.
I remain impressed with the selection and diversity of flavors and ingredients represented on the menu. I usually start with the squid and the seasonal crudo. I guess Spring is not good for crudo as that has been removed, probably to my benefit, so I will be forced to branch out and try a different dish.
The Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut will serve as the aperitif.
Not totally willing to abandon the familiar I request the squid and the beef cheek tacos. I am rewarded with two dishes with outstanding flavors. The squid are tender with a crisp crust and the beef is fall apart soft with a deeply satisfying mole. Top marks the kitchen so far.
I kick myself for not requesting a small or "tasting" portion of dishes in these circumstances, I have to do better with that and reduce food waste.
Still interested in experiencing some more of the flavors on offer i request the chermoula spiced veg pie but rather than salad greens I ask for a side of chips. Naughty, I know it. The pie was a good choice with a light crust and beautiful scents of cumin emanating from the bowl. The contents were simple chickpeas, carrots, and green olives.
After dining I have a quick spin around the lounge and use the toilets. The main toilet and shower area are closed at this hour but other toilets exist near the lounge entrance.
A little time remains before boarding so I assume a position at the bar and request a Gin Spritz. It's an enjoyable and refreshing drink but lacking in depth.
CX881 appears to be the last Oneworld flight of the day (or the first flight of the day if you want to be pedantic) as the lounge staff are in cleanup mode as their work day winds down. Boarding was called and alas my time here had come to and end.
CX881 - LAX-HKG
It's fairly quiet in the airport as the last few flights board.
Gate 150 is a 5 minute walk from the lounge where I find B-KQG a 4.8 year old 777 in the old house colors.
There was a slight delay before boarding began with he usual call for First/Business/Elite which is more than half of the airplane. To make it even more exclusive door L1 was being used for F and J.
I was warmly greeted at the door by Ana, one of the two flight attendants in F today, and shown to seat 2A by Camille, the other F/A in First. My familiar and supremely comfortable home for the next 15 hours.
The cabin would go out 5/6 with three female passengers and 2 male. All seemingly traveling alone. I point out the gender count as I'm always amazed at the passenger demographics on these T-Pac flights in that they're almost entirely male in First Class.
Service was prompt with an offer of a beverage. Historically, for me, this meant Krug on Cathay Pacific but no more. CX have branched out and are serving a variety of premium Champagne including the excellent 2006 Tattinger Comtes Blanc De Blancs. I prefer this offering to Krug not only as I find it better matches my tastes but the novelty scores points too. Warm nuts and an oshibori are presented as well.
Travel kit and PYE lounge wear are also presented.
I take a moment to visit the well appointed lav and get comfortable in the pajamas.
Back 2A and the final touches are being put on the pre-departure process including distributing menus, headsets, and all important seat decor.
Meals are an interesting issue given the departure time. I took dinner in the lounge so i am in no need of a meal after departure so i tend to snack and go to sleep and enjoy the main meal at what amounts to breakfast time at home. That being said one of the many luxuries of CX F is that you can take a meal whenever you like and they provision the flight for an entire dinner service. Let's have a look at the possibilities.
There was some delay in departure that was attributed to cargo. We were updated by the Captain and Camille kept the Comtes and water topped up. She also asked about my dining preferences. I shared with her my request to enjoy the caviar and Tattinger after takeoff and then sleep, resuming the meal later in the flight. She went ahead and took my entire meal order as to set aside the items for later. I know this is a pain for the crew as they have to do an additional table setup but there was no whiff of hesitation on Camille's part.
At about 00:50 we were buttoned up and pushing back for taxi and takeoff.
I fired up Studio CX to look for something short to enjoy before bed. I selected a comedy special on my new favorite performer Michelle Wolf. If she has the hate filled hypocritical right in a lather she is all right by me.
The crew was released early in climb and the service began quickly. Champagne, water, and warm nuts were delivered quickly as the two flight attendants went about setting up beds for two of the other passengers who wished to sleep straight away. I appreciated this logical and thoughtful approach to prioritizing the service.
Once those who wished to sleep were situated Camille came back and setup my table for the caviar service. I wish i had thought to request "no bread" as it went untouched.
The caviar was beautifully presented with a host of accessories. It's a luxurious service and so very richly enjoyed.
As much as I could savor unborn sturgeon and Comtes all night sleep was critical. I wanted to start this long journey on a good footing of sleep to better enjoy subsequent segments. There's hardly a better place in the sky, if sleep is what you're after, as the CX bed and bedding are both top notch. I was able to tamp down my excitement for my circumstances and get some quality sleep.
After a good 6 hours rest I was up and stirring. After a trip to the lav I was approached by Camille and asked if I would like anything. I requested some sparkling water. When she dropped by with the water I decided to go ahead with the meal. Camille asked if i would like to start with the caviar and I agreed that would be a fantastic idea. The Comtes too, if any remains. So, this was one of the more unique breakfasts I've enjoyed.
The truffled potato leek soup was next. I'll be honest the only flavor i could extract as from the lovely bacon "grass" on top.
The lobster salad was insane in quantity and could, on it's own, be a full meal. It was quite well received as the lobster was tender and sweet. Unfortunately I hardly put a dent in it in order to enjoy more of the courses on offer.
Not inspired by any of the mains I took the beef on a whim. Also to pair with some wine. It tuned out to be a rather luscious and tender cut and i very much enjoyed the few bites I obliged.
What else would go bully with this Saint-Julien? Hmmmm, I know, the cheese.
Not wanting to be labeled a quitter I had a few bites of the bread pudding and dolce de leche ice cream. It was pretty fantastic with a warm side and cold side.
The meal as a whole was quite good and well executed. There were no complete flops and the only negative critique I have is for the flat soup. I enjoyed the film The Post during the meal and found it rather inspiring. The role of the free press is actively under attack in my country and has never been more important.
After dining there was probably 6 hours to Hong Kong some aided by my wine infused breakfast. About 90 minutes out Camille inquired if I might enjoy another bite before arrival. So, my duties as a consummate flight reporter compelled me to have a look at a second breakfast (really a late lunch at home). A cappuccino and fruit to start, served with the required bread basket. That toast is so perfectly…toasted.
The perfectly scrambled eggs were and accompaniments were next(some might call it the full English). Hands down the best egg preparation I've received in the sky. They are always overcooked in the air or on the ground for that matter. I'm not sure why I was served what looks to be a dozen eggs but still, the cookery, superb. I enjoyed a taste of everything on the plate (except the tomato and beans) and there were no disappointments.
We made our approach into a hazy Chek Lap Kok island. The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge almost complete.
A short taxi and genuine farewell to Ana and Camille and I was off into the airport. Please check out the bonus section for a look at The Wing, Deck, and Pier.
Cathay Pacific Lounge Hopping - HKG
My first stop was The Wing for a cabana. I was informed they were occupied and handed an pager that would alert me to return when one was available. So, I headed over the champagne bar so survey the selection. I poured a glass of the Roederer and before I could quaff the wine the buzzer went ablaze. Well, I guess I have shower Champagne now.
The cabanas have been around for some time but remain absolutely stunning to me. Perhaps it's my minimalist design aesthetic but I'm blown away by the space.
I had a great hot shower and made us of the pressing service to have my pants and shirt look more presentable.
Since my last visit to HKG CX have opened a new lounge called The Deck. It's always a fun trek to enjoy a new lounge so I made the journey over to gate 16 to see what was what. On my walk I noticed the Qantas lounge is right next door, which I've heard good things about, but decided to save it for another day.
The Deck is one level up from the gates and sports an "open end" deck area overlooking the gates. It's a lovely space in the style of The Pier.
The open end of the lounge houses the noodle bar and some restaurant style seating as well as communal tables and stools on the actual deck.
I spent a few minuets in the lounge enjoying some won ton noodle. The dumplings were really tender and it was a nice treat.
On my way out I ran into an old friend.
Final stop on my lounge tour was The Pier for no other reason than it's my favorite.
The long hallway leading from dining room to bar is so visually appealing.
The living room that places you eye level with the aircraft is simply beautiful.
I popped into the dinning room for a bowl of dan dan mien and "The Vitalizer" drink with kiwi and bitter melon.
Qantas First Class Lounge - TBIT
Los Angeles - LAX
Hong Kong - HKG
The Ground Service: Joining TSA Precheck is an upgrade in ground service of sorts. Even though you have to go to a different terminal to make use of it.
The Lounge: In the past I have regarded the Qantas First Lounge at LAX as the best in the USA when it comes to food and beverage service. That might not be the case anymore with the excellent Flagship Dining facilities and now TWO (2) Polaris Lounges but Qantas still hold their own. Critiques of the lounge include no apron/runway/tarmac views and rater pedestrian shower and restroom facilities.
The Cabin: The CX seat is long in the tooth and not very private. The video display is small with poor resolution compared to modern systems. Even accounting for those flaws it's still a fantastic place to spend time. In bed mode it's very spacious in all the right places. It's also very comfortable for lounging.
The Crew: Ana and Camille provided thoughtful and polished service at every interaction. The IFSM was thorough and she stopped not only at the beginning and end of the flight but a couple of times along they way to say hi and make sure all was well.
The Food and Beverage: I was pleasantly surprised here. OUtside of a great caviar presentation i didn't have high expectations. The Comtes was fantastic and the vast majority of the dishes I sampled were somewhere on the good to quite good scale.
Overall: From my observations Cathay Pacific remains a quality First Class carrier despite the financial challenges and changes in the competitive landscape. I would be very excited and fortunate to fly in the front with them again in the future.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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