Greetings Flight Report community and welcome aboard.
The genesis for this trip was actually a trip in July 2018. My pal Mark and I had a spectacular Lufthansa First Class extravaganza that left us in Tokyo with a need for a ride home. Enter Virgin Atlantic and their unbelievable redemption of 110k Flying Club points for a round trip in ANA First Class. In the miles and points world that's the preferred was to get between the US West Coast and Tokyo. The gods of mileage redemption smiled on us and we found two F seats from Tokyo to LAX on the July day we needed. His was HND-LAX and mine NRT-LAX but it was good enough. Flying Club require a round trip redemption so we had to park the return segment somewhere. I scoured Expertflyer and found two First Class seats on LAX-NRT for January 17th, 2019. Darn it all we'd have to plan a second trip around that segment. If we must. So then, you're up to speed on how we and why we presented ourselves at LAX on this date and time.
As for building out a trip around this flight to Tokyo it was easy. Mark loved eating around Singapore on a previous trip so I told him if we ever get a chance to go back to that part of the world I think he would really enjoy Kuala Lumpur, for many of the same reasons he enjoyed Singapore. Amazing cuisines as a result cultural diversity chief among them. I added that KL is like a less polished version of Singapore. Also, it's a much less expensive hotel town so we could stay in luxury for a fraction of the price. So it was settled, we'd make our way down to KUL and, since we were in the neighborhood, we'd swing by Hong Kong on the way home. Mark hasn't had the pleasure of visiting HK either.
In the 6 months between trips I planed and schemed and fleshed out all of the segments on points (some his but mostly mine) so that we would travel in relative comfort. We would rely on Delta to non-rev home on the last T-Pac segment, which likely meant economy class for Mark. Can't win them all.
Spoiler alert: Things didn't go to plan for either of us. The first installment contains the unfortunate circumstances.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
Waking up in the sky on the 53rd floor of The Conrad Hong Kong is a special way to start the day. The excitement of the beautiful Cathay Pacific lounges and a flight in Japan Airlines first class before me would usually have me out the door to the airport bright and early. The beautiful room and views were captivating enough to slow me down and as a result I was was not at the airport as promptly as I am accustomed. A taxi to Central and an HK Express zip over to the airport later and I was air side about 120 minutes before departure. My normal path is to stop in at The Wing first but this stop will be omitted today due to late arrival of the outbound passenger. Off to The Pier directly but on foot rather than via the train.
It's a bit of a technicality, my gaining access to this lounge, so I am prepared to debate the issue with the attendant. One of the best aspects, and banes, of the Oneworld alliance is the generous lounge policy. If you are connecting to a member flight in first the same day you may use the first class or equivalent lounge at stations along your itinerary. The downside is that everyone gets into the F lounges and they can be a bit crowded. I presented my CX J boarding pass and also my itinerary, on a separate ticket, for my Japan Airlines flight, the same day, in first class. She scans the boarding pass, types briefly in the computer, and then stamps the boarding pass with "The Pier" (I suppose so I can come and go without having to explain the circumstances each time?) and welcomes me in. No rules lesson required.
After passing the ticketing assistance area you reach the main corridor of the lounge. A turn left will vector you towards the bar and pantry where a right turn will terminate at the dining room.
I make the right turn and seek out breakfast. As I walk down the hall to the dining room i am reminded how much I enjoy the asthetic of this space. The colors, the furniture, the plush carpet and marble style walls. It is so well designed to sooth and make one feel at home.
There are not many patrons at this time so service is immediate. I'm offered beverages and a menu.
I request The Vitalizer, a Bloody Mary, and of course water. 3 drinks, aggressive, I know. The Vitalizer is great, the bloody is uninspired, and the water is…moist.
This is a day of extreme gluttony so one must proceed with caution. The offer of repast will be constant so I start slowly by requesting a lovely bowl of noodles.
After a very satisfying breakfast I meander off to the opposite side of the lounge to stake out a position and simply enjoy the surroundings.
For those guests who are short on time to visit the sit down restaurant there is The Pantry. A variety of snacks are laid out for self serve and a variety of beverages are available for the taking as well. To my eye there is a larger variety of food here than I have experienced on past visits.
I couldn't resist a sample to pair with the Perrier Jouet.
Centurion Lounge - HKG
As much as I adore this space I have a good walk from gate 64 back to gate 19. Along the way I'm distracted by a shiny lounge and the opportunity for a proper cocktail, even if it has a ridiculous paper straw. I'm all for protecting wildlife but I'll just sip from the glass, thank you.
I continue the trek to gate 19 and spot this one of a kind airplane. It seems she won't be spotted for a while now.
The Lunar New year decorations are in full force at HKG.
The scene at gate 19 is standard Oneworld boarding where the "elite" line is half a mile long.
I have boarded at gate 4 a couple of times and marvel at the length of that jet bridge but 19 wins hands down. It's half way to Macau before you see the airplane. Taking us up to Tokyo today is B-KPL delivered in October 2009 and in a 4 cabin configureation: F6C53W34Y201 (77H).
My late hour of booking left me with but a single window seat remaining, 26K. The close proximity to the Premium Economy cabin, specifically the bulkhead bassinet row, where you have an increaded chance of encoutering a baby suffering through pressurization discomfort, could be less than optimal. My love of window views wins the day and is given priority over any postential noise disruption. The have noise canceling headphones after all. Another note on 26K would be the postion over the wing. I would prefer a position before the wing to take in the view of the GE90 and the wing while leaving ground views intact, but that is not the case here. The 777-300ER wing is a lovely airfoil to observe so I was still pleased.
The Cirrus seat on Cathay Pacific is well reviewed. I find it a pleasant combination of comfort, privacy and storage. Let's have a look at the features and storage.
Shoe storage too.
Despite the massive size of the J cabin the staff was present and offered a hot towel as well as a beverage prior to departure. I enjoyed the juice. The Austrilian PIC welcomed us aboard via PA announcement too.
This aircraft had wifi and the newest CX IFE and map interface. The estimated arrival time might be a bit off…
Our push back was at 8:57 and our taxi to 7R took about 25 minutes. We passed HAECO where I counted 6 UA 777, 1 UA 767-300ER and an HA 767-300ER that is presumably there to be converted o UA spec. Some sights on taxi.
Takeoff is E/NE in the morning light.
The woman in the seat next to me was ever so classy with her shoes on the seat.
Looking through the map views as we make the journey north towards Taiwan. I didn't use the wifi or really get into Studio CX so i cannot comment on those. Historically the IFE selection has been extensive and varied.
I deployed the tray table in advance of the meal service.
Iris and Sharon were the flight attendants that primarily served the G/K side of the cabin. They were both arrestingly lovely and hard working. The 53 seat J cabin is a tall order for a coursed meal service in +/- 3 hours. A menu was distributed.
I tried to pop into the lav between cart runs but Sharon was too quick for me and was in the aisle witht he beverage service upon my exit. We were able to negotiace a pass.
I requested Champagne despite it not being on the menu. A glass was promptly provisioned however I did not learn the label.
The meal service started with a fruit pate and offer of bread form the basket. I was also served a glass of water which is appreciated. The fruit was rather pedestrian with unripe strawberry as the weakest link. The croissant was marginally flaky, as expected on an airplane. At least it wasn't one of those bread rolls disguised as a croissant that you get on US carriers. How dare they.
I opted for the dim sum selection and it was as I remembered it. The chicken glutinous rice is my favorite here. I wasn't hungry so i just nibbled a bit. The packet of chili oil is appreciated.
Service was attentive and I was offered (and declined) Champagne refills at regular intervals. There was a bit of a lag in clearing the tray but mostly because I finished what I wanted from the meal rather quickly.
After breakfast I put the seat in bed mode and drifted off for a nap that lasted until arrival announcements jarred me from my slumber. I was treated to a lovely view of the Japanese coast as we vectored over Tokyo Bay as we joined the patter to setup for landing on Haneda's runway 34L.
A safe and pleasant journey comes to an end at gate 143. It's a good walk tot he transit security but i have no need to rush as my 4 hour layover can afford a leisurly pace.
Cathay Pacific The Pier - First Class Section
Hong Kong - HKG
Tokyo - HND
I apologize for the delay in between installments. Life is funny that way.
The Ground Service: Efficient check in, no checked baggage. I used the kiosk so there was no employee interaction.
The Lounge: The Pier is one of my favorite in the world. Despite the generous Oneworld lounge access policies leading to crowding it still manages to feel special to me. The décor and amenities are top notch.
The Cabin: Excellent lie flat seats with direct aisle access for a flight of less than 4 hours. I couldn't ask for anything more. Well, First Class would be nice...
The Crew: Sharon and Iris did a commendable job with the brunch service. It's a large cabin so there is an assembly line feeling to the process. I'm not sure how to avoid that when there is so much to do in a short time window. I suppose increased staffing would help but I can't imagine that's economically feasible. My non-standard beverage request was accommodated (they don't stock Champagne on the service cart).
The Food and Beverage: Nothing memorable here. I suspect the Japanese option would have been a bit more interesting. Flying with JAL in First later in the day prompted me to save my appetite for that experience so I only picked at the offerings.
Overall: I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the experience. Starting any flight experience in The Pier First Class Lounge is fantastic so perhaps I'm letting that color my perspective of the flight. I have read varying options on the decline of CX J service but perhaps those are in the context of long haul and not regional. My expectations were met if not exceeded in this experience.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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