Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. This is a trip of odds and ends. In July I needed a way home from Tokyo so I booked the best value in miles and points: ANA First Class with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. The catch is that they require a round trip booking so I had to "park" the USA -> Tokyo leg somewhere until I could flesh out a trip to use it on. I happened to find availability on November 9th so that's where it sat. The onward journey came as a result of the "90,000 Iberia Avios Promotion" that offered an insane number of Avios for buying 10 airplane tickets. I played along and ended up with 90,000 Avios for buying +/- $300 in travel. The catch, if you can call it that, was that the Avios had to be redeemed by 12/1/18. I used these Avios to book JAL NRT-SIN-HND with the NRT-SIN portion coupled with my ANA NRT-LAX. I "parked" the SIN return for a future trip. I began to look at ways to get back and my AA mileage balance was sufficient to consider Cathay Pacific First. I know they run sporadic F on regional flights so I began looking for one of those. I checked the usual suspects of SIN, BKK, and MNL and could not find any F being offered at all on the day I needed. Somehow I considered Jakarta and it all lined up perfectly. I booked CGK-HKG (overnight in HKG)-LAX-LAS in CX and AA First. The final piece was positioning from SIN to CGK. I quickly and, probably foolishly, booked First with Singapore Airlines for this portion of the trip just to have a taste of their tremendous First Class experience.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
Lounge Hoppers Rejoice: The Wing, The Centurion, and The Pier
I'm up early despite the short night of sleep. The prospect of flying International First Class on a well regarded carrier like Cathay Pacific creates too much excitement for me to stay asleep. The anticipation is too much for me to overcome so I get out of bed, gawk at the view of sun beginning to illuminate Victoria Harbor, pinch myself, and head out.
There's no place like Hong Kong for Oneworld lounge hopping so I make sure and depart to the airport with plenty of time to enjoy the facilities.
I never have checked bags but the idea of checking in at Kowloon (or Hong Kong) station is a fantastic one.
The ride to the airport is fast and smooth. I'm already holding a boarding pass but I stop in at the First Class check in to inquire if there's a fast track immigration/security for premium cabin passengers. I'm told there is and I'm also directed to another area to answer some pre-departure screening questions, for USA flights. I never found an expedited immigration or security lane but I was in still through in about 10 minutes.
It's hard not to stop at The Wing when you are right there. I know my flight will depart from a gate in this area, it seems all US flights do, so I toil with coming back and finishing with The Wing or start here. I decide to start here mainly because of the Cabanas.
It's early still so the lounge is not crowded but there is a wait for a cabana. I take my pager and have a walk around.
Before I even decide on a place to sit I'm buzzed for the cabana. This is such a unique feature for an airline lounge to have a private suite of this size and level of amenity. I saved doing my bathing and grooming for the airport. This room design and finishes has aged exceptionally. It still exudes understated elegance and quality after all of these years. I suppose that describes the CX F onboard experience as well.
Clothes pressing service.
The space is so fantastic and relaxing you forget you're in an airport and I also tend to lose track of time. Groomed and refreshed I decide to drop by the dining room. I look around and peruse the menu, but I save my appetite for future endeavors.
I'm generally a fan of the American Express Centurion Lounges. I've only visited a few (SFO, DFW, IAH, and SEA) and they all have been a step up from a standard airline lounge. The Hong Kong location has all of the trademark features with the addition of a special section for "Black Card" holders to which I am not permitted.
Entrance with living wall.
Conference table right after the check in desk.
A tended bar with a carefully curated cocktail list.
I was admiring the Soycar cocktail but really wanted a Bloody Mary so the bartender made me his Bloody Mary with soy sauce instead of salt. It came out quite nice.
There is a compact but sufficient buffet.
A variety of seating with some decent views.
Overall it's a nice space but I think if I have access to the suite of CX lounges at HKG I wouldn't bother to stop in here. Maybe for a cocktail but that's about the only element here that may be superior.
I'm ready for breakfast now so I make the walk to The Pier. It's one of my favorite airport lounges anywhere and it's a real treat to spend time there.
I am admitted and opt to go directly to the dining room.
I am greeted right away, shown to a table, and presented a menu.
These decisions are vexing. So many choices but limited food capacity. The soft shell crab was a new menu addition, to my recollection, so I opted for that. My order was taken promptly and I also requested the Ginger Forest cocktail and water. Both beverages were delivered promptly.
I was immersed in some reading but noticed passengers who arrived after me were eating and I was not. I got the attention of the young woman who had taken my order and inquired as tot he status. She had that look of concern and said she would check. Another 5 minutes pass and she returns with the dish. She never divulged if she had forgotten to place the order, or what was the cause of the delay. No matter, I'm not in a rush, but it is not uncommon for lounge guests to be in a time sensitive environment when dining in an airport. The dish that arrived was well executed.
After breakfast I have a look about the lounge. I neglected to obtain a spa treatment slot when i arrived and now the openings are all too late for me.
I peek in on The Pantry and notice some subtle changes in the offerings. The jars with various snacks have been replaced by bowls, undoubtedly more practical. Also, the selection here seems to me to be enhanced with more savory options than I remember. Anyhow, it's a great space with good variety for those who fancy a quick bite or soft drink.
I made the move over to my favorite lounging space by the windows. Perhaps the morning rush had just ended or they were short staffed but the lounge was a mess with dishes and glasses everywhere.
Boarding time was approaching and the walk to gate 4 is substantial (and welcome before a long T-Pac flight) so I headed out.
The boarding area for gate 4 is cramped and you have to make your way past several queues to get to the correct spot. I made it by advertised boarding time but no boarding commenced.
About ten minutes passed and still no boarding. No communication either. Oneworld partner American Airlines is rubbing off on their Chinese counterparts. Finally a parade of wheelchairs boards so that signals we're close. In fact boarding did begin a couple of minutes later with F and J simultaneously. There was another security stop for questions and then we started the journey down the jetway. We didn't make it far before we were halted. The didn't allow enough time for the wheel chairs to clear the aircraft aisles so we could not proceed (this was not announced, nothing was, but it was obvious to me) . Stuck in the non-air conditioned jetway for another 10 minutes was uncomfortable and unnecessary. Quite a show by CX, it was if they have never boarded an airplane.
Finally at the door I was welcomed by Rose, the IFSM and shown to my seat by Irene. Kevin, the other flight attendant in First, added his welcome too. It took me a couple of beats to process that this was a slightly refreshed cabin compared to yesterday. The high resolution screen rather jumped out as new.
The IFE controller has also been updated.
Otherwise the space was just as lovely and familiar as ever.
Kevin was very engaging and enthusiastic from the go. He offered a drink to start and I selected my standard Champagne and water. The beautiful Deutz was served with some nuts.
Getting settled I was offered the amenity kit, and slipper / PJ set.
Another out of place sight on CX was the (reasonably priced) wi-fi information.
I wish I could adequately explain the sensation I get from sitting in the seat and the anticipation of departing on a long journey over the ocean in complete luxury. It's part giddiness, part disbelief(a pauper in the penthouse, if you will) , and even a twinge of sadness that another fantastic trip is entering the final leg. Anyhow, it's a whirlwind of emotion and I'm sure it's something to observe my silly grin.
As we ready for push back Kevin drop by with a blanket, which is welcome in the cool cabin.
Taxi is fraught with competing traffic.
Really enjoy the map on the handset with camera view or entertainment on the main screen.
It's our turn for the powerful push down 7R.
Shortly after the 10,000' chime Irene is in the aisle with another welcome, some banter about flying time, and a menu for the show that's soon to begin.
After a moment or two to contemplate the offerings Kevin arrives to inquire as to a beverage choice. Ever predictable I request the Deutz and water again. It is promptly delivered with an amuse dish (a savory panna cotta of sorts with sun dried tomato and balsamic "pearls"). The amuse used to be served during boarding, then it was enhanced away, and now it's back but served inflight.
Dine on demand is one of the many fantastic perks of flying in First. Yes, QR offers this in J but they don't execute it well as the pax to FA ratio is not as favorable. I opt for a longer cocktail hour rather than going straight into a meal. With Swiss timepiece precision my table was laid at the agreed upon time.
I select a charming movie featuring Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons called Hearts Beat Loud. I think it would be entertaining for any rock and roll fan of a certain age.
I think Cathay put it best, "Caviar and Champagne, a perfect match." So why not start there? The presentation, the spoon, the known scarcity, it all adds up to make an "event" that tickles me every time.
Let's roll up our sleeves (and loosen our belts) and get into the wine list. The Château de Santenay 2016 En Vesvau, Saint-Aubin will do. I can't say I reach for Chardonnay with any frequency but this one will likely change that. It's an excellent pour.
I am signed up for the full experience so soup is next. It's creamy and mushroom laced and perfect with the rich savory wine.
Next stop on the gluttony train is in a healthy-ish part of town known as salad. To my memory CX salads always had an impressive protein however this one hasn't. The artichoke hearts do offer a texture that's similar. It's by no means a complaint, just an observation. Yes, i would have preferred the lobster that used to adorn the salad but the artichoke was delicious too.
I kept the wine list handy as it's time to move on. I was quite enthralled by the 2006 2006 Chateau Branaire-Ducru Saint Julien yesterday so I opted to rekindle our connection today. We picked up right where we left off.
For the main I requested the grilled dry aged British beef tenderloin on the bone. When Irene asked how I liked it cooked I did not give a clear and thoughtful answer. I assume most beef is already overcooked when it arrives on the airplane, at least that's been my experience. So I asked her to make it as rare as she can and noted that I understand the limitations. Well, she served a truly rare steak. Too rare for me really. It was warm, but just. The edge of the steak was perfect medium rare but the portion next to the bone was bloody. This was entirely of my doing and the meat was served exactly how I asked so there no complaint. Truely, by this point in the meal, I only really desire a few bites to enjoy with the sumptuous wine and perhaps a taste or two of the Bearnaise and red wine sauces. I was very content and relearned a lesson about assumptions: don't.
Over Japan at this juncture.
We're approaching one of my favorite neighborhoods, the creamery. I let Kevin know my preference to enjoy the cheese plate. Kevin is Port man so he is rather adamant that the cheese be taken in accompaniment. I'm easily convinced. Kevin's enthusiasm is much appreciated and he even fetches the Port served in J for a comparison. I enjoy the experience and, of course, the cheese is nice but it's a rather institutional selection and pales in comparison to the cheese service on JAL, ANA, or Lufthansa, to name a few.
Don't be a quitter, I was told at a tender age. OK, bring on dessert. A warm hazelnut cake, chocolate ice cream and vanilla sauce does read well. It looks and tastes as well.
Tokyo is on the horizon as we're still a bit heavy to climb to a more efficient altitude.
The last stop on any exceptional gluttony train is the digestif. I generally drawn to the single malt in these times but I opt for the blend in the form of Johnnie Walker Blue.
The turn down service is immediately executed upon request and the sleep surface and bedding are as luxurious as ever.
It's an unusually long rest for me. I sleep from just past Tokyo to almost San Francisco. All of the back-of-the-clock flying has caught up. was awake Irene is on the spot and offering to pick up the bed and start drinks and any breakfast wishes. Cappuccino is up first. Easy on the chocolate powder!
Breakfast isn't really needed but sounds like good fun. Some fruits to start please. A bread basket is also placed with the setting. Cappuccino number two is also generously adorned with chocolate powder, again. The cold pressed pineapple, lime, Asian pear juice is fantastic.
I have no idea why I ordered the egg breakfast, perhaps habit after a night of drinking. Nothing stands out as very good. The eggs are way overcooked. The congee would have been a far better choice. Maybe i wasn't fully awake when queried.
The final service item.
The sprawl is in sight as we glide gracefully down to 24R.
It's a long taxi all the way around to the North complex as another great pacific crossing comes to an end.
Cathay Pacific The Pier - First Class Section
Hong Kong - HKG
Los Angeles - LAX
The Ground Service: CX doesn't have this.
The Lounge: It's tough to top Hong Kong f a lounge lover like myself. The Pier stands out to me as a place where I really enjoy my time. I connect with the design, color pallate and, of course, the a la carte dining and extensive beverage selection. The Centurion Lounge is an excellent example of the type.
The Cabin: A slightly refreshed cabin in the form of wifi, a modern, high resolution screen and IFE controller. The things that didn't change shouldn't change. The 6 seat layout is supremely spacious, the bed is divine, and the privacy adequate.
The Crew: Irene and Kevin were an absolute pleasure to spend time with and the gave the impression of really enjoying their work and taking pride in the service they provided. Can't ask for much more than that.
The Food and Beverage: I would say the only missteps on the meals were of my doing. I communicated poorly on the cookery of the beef and, in a state of haze and confusion, I ordered the egg breakfast that had no chance of being anything special. My other critique would be the very average cheese presentation, both in terms of quality and selection.
Overall: The pleasure of this type of travel is as heightened today as it was the first time. It's a fantastic marvel that I get to partake in such decadence.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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