The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.
The average flight time is 16 hours and 38 minutes.More information
Welcome friends to the first leg of a trip my wife and I took over the course of 4 weeks in May/June.
I won't spoil the surprise by listing all the legs in advance, instead I'll reveal them as we go along!
WARNING! This is a long read for a number of reasons, and also there is a complete review of the TWA Hotel JFK in the tourism bonus section for those who want to take a look at that as well.
This flight was booked using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles.
I booked this flight 9 months before we traveled and paid 70,000 miles and US$33.10 in taxes and fees.
Now the eagle eyed among you will notice that I redeemed 70,000 miles and had a confirmed booking in First Class.
Yet this trip report is in Business Class.
This is one of the best uses of Alaska miles. 70K points for Cathay First is a real steal. This was to be my first ever flight in First and having built up to this for 9 months I was needless to say incredibly excited. That, however did not last………..
There is a story here and its not a fun one, so read on as I recall how extreme misfortune resulted in me being denied travel in First and coming within 90 minutes of not traveling and our entire trip unraveling at the first step.
I'm afraid this will be a long story, so if you want to read on!………………………..
We were staying the night at the TWA Hotel at JFK. See the tourism bonus below for a complete review of that hotel. It's……………….interesting!
The first sign that something was not right was when I tried to check in online.
I had been babysitting my reservation since I booked it. I always do this with reservations, its just my nature. I have expert flyer to alert me of any changes and I usually log in and check reservations at the airline website at least once a week.
After I got my Alaska PNR and Cathay PNR I rigorously checked both all the way in the run up to the flight. The flight was ticketed and everything showed just fine on the Cathay site. I had picked my seat, it was to be 2A.
When I tried to check in online the Cathay site threw up an error saying there was a problem with my ticket.
Thinking it may just be because it was issued by a partner I tried to check my wife in. That went fine, so I knew that the Alaska issued ticket was not the problem.
The time was around 10pm, so about 12 hours before we were due to depart. I figured there was plenty of time to resolve this before travel day.
I called Cathay in Hong Kong and they checked my reservation. All was well they said, my seat was reserved, ticket was issued and everything checked out.
Still feeling nervous I decided to call Alaska and have them look over things.
Spoke to a very nice and helpful agent. Told him what was going on and he put me on hold to check things out. He came back and told me that both he and a supervisor looked over the reservation and they even called Cathay themselves and that everything was fine.
He was confused as to why I couldn't check in but just put it down to a peculiar website glitch at Cathay and that I would be able to check in fine at the airport.
Feeling reassured I went to bed ready for a quite wonderful day of flying ahead.
Got to the Cathay desk right at 7am for our 10am departure. I wanted to be early not only incase there was any further problem but to experience the AA Flagship First lounge and dining. I strode up to the First desk and was seen to immediately.
"Hmmmm, there seems to be some problem with your ticket, I can't check you in…."
And so began one of the most frustrating and stressful 3 hours of my life…………
The agent called her supervisor over and he tried to check me in. Nope.
They explained that my PNR was there, the reservation was absolutely fine. When they tried to attach my ticket number to the reservation it could not be done.
I would have to go over to the ticketing desk. At this moment it was around 7:20 and I was still feeling like this just needed a call to sort out.
We went to the ticketing desk and had about a 15 minute wait as she was dealing with someone else.
When it was my turn I gave her a print of the reservation and the Cathay flight coupon.
She tried to get the ticket to attach the reservation but couldn't do it.
She explained to me she had never seen this before. What was happening was that when she tried to match them the ticket showed under the name of another person for a flight 5 years ago that incredibly was somehow still valid for travel.
She called Alaska as she said that this was their ticket and they had to resolve the problem.
She spoke with an agent, but unfortunately due to the time difference it was still before 5am West Coast time. The agents both talked for a while and I could only hear one side of the conversation of course, but I did hear her say that the other ticket number was almost identical to mine except it ended with a 6 and mine a 3. She said when she entered my ticket number with the 3 on the end it pulled up the other ticket.
After a long time things were getting serious. The flight closed at 9am and it was now past 8am. The Alaska agent told her the team that could deal with this would not start until 5:30PDT or 8:30 in New York. There was no guarantee they could solve the problem and re-issue the ticket before 9am.
I was faced with a decision. With time running out I would either have to risk waiting until 8:30 to see if the problem could be resolved or possibly miss the flight if it couldn't be done before 9am. There was one seat left in Business that I could take if I wanted to cancel my First ticket and book in Business.
At this point I felt that I had almost no other choice. The rest of our trip was hanging in the balance. The next flight at 2pm was an option but all 6 First seats were sold so there was no way to get in First on that flight anyway.
Feeling desperately disappointed, angry and frustrated I told them to cancel the First ticket and book me in Business.
By the time the ticket was issued and we got checked in it was 8:50am and boarding was only 30 minutes away.
It would be unfair to rate the check in experience given the situation we were dealing with.
However I will say I was disappointed in how little Cathay did to help. They refused to open up a last minute seat in F to Alaska which would have been the easiest way to resolve the situation. Alaska couldn't re-book me into F because there was no availability to them from Cathay.
Had Cathay simply released a seat (my original one!) then Alaska could have just cancelled my ticket and re-booked me right back into F with a new ticket.
The Cathay staff at JFK seemed to be decent enough but didn't really offer anything to proactively resolve things, just kind of throwing their hands up and saying this is Alaska's problem.
When we did finally check in the staff were helpful and got us processed quickly as time was rapidly running out.
Overall I had found JFK a surprisingly pleasant airport up until this point. The TSA experience departing though was abysmal.
Long queues and desperately inefficient and abrasive staff who did nothing to help anyone.
The thing that really bugs me about the TSA is that they are completely inconsistent.
I had my SLR camera and lens in my roll-aboard. I have flown out of the US a number of times with it before and never had to take it out of my bag.
Of course here I had to after it had been scanned and the agent did not exactly handle it with any care.
Just be consistent. Either make me put it in a bin on its own every time or never - make your minds up so I know what to expect and can be ready.
To cap it all the TSA agent somehow lost my lounge invitation from the bin.
Overall this was another 15 minutes and it was now well past 9am.
When we finally got to the lounge I was of course asked for my invitation. I had to explain that the TSA had lost it, so this caused some extra delay in getting entry. The agent on the desk however was very nice and could clearly tell that I was stressed and flustered. She kindly advised us that boarding would be called and told us to enjoy the lounge.
I was more than ready for some food and a drink at this stage. The lounge was very busy and it seemed quite nice.
We found a seat and I decided to grab some food and a drink before planning my lounge review.
Well less than 5 minutes later before I could even finish either my breakfast or drink boarding was of course called.
So unfortunately there are no pictures at all nor any semblance of a lounge review. We darted out knowing it was quite a walk to the gate, which would be Gate 47 on the C concourse.
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight Number: CX841
Departure: New York John F Kennedy JFK
Scheduled Departure Time: 1000
Actual Departure Time: 1011
Arrival: Hong Kong HKG
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1400 + 1 Day
Actual Arrival Time: 1303
Flight Time: 14:52
Travel Date: Monday May 27th 2019
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
When we arrived at the gate boarding was well underway.
Fortunately there was a separate lane for First and Business so we were able to bypass the queue entirely and went straight onto the aircraft.
Boarding was a single jet bridge to door L2 where we were greeted and pointed left to our seats in the mini-J cabin behind First.
My wife let me have seat 11A and she took 11D, so things worked out pretty well in that we had 2 seats next to each other in the front row of the mini-J cabin with only 2 rows.
I can't deny it was extremely tough being sat right behind 2A where I should have been sitting and even more so when I saw someone else take their seat there. My best guess was that someone upgraded using miles to the now available extra seat. I believe that F went out with 2 F seats empty further compounding my frustration.
I decided not to write this review until well after the event because I didn't want it to be coloured by my obviously angry and frustrated state.
I needed to wait to calm down so that I could offer an objective review.
For those who don't know, I work in ATC. That means I can't hold grudges and I have to constantly be fair and objective to all airlines I have to deal with. I mention this because this was probably the most disappointing flight of my life (excluding all that had gone on before boarding) in terms of the service and the food. I don't want people to think that I've written a bad review of CX just because I was mad at them for the ticketing issue.
That's not the case. I wrote my notes sticking just to facts and left my normal comments and thoughts out of them because I knew at the time I couldn't be fair.
I'll add now, just to complete the picture that Alaska absolutely treated me fabulously and made me whole. They of course refunded the 70,000 miles for the cancelled F ticket and after an investigation they also decided to refund me the 50,000 miles for my Business Class ticket so in the end this flight was effectively free.
Of course I was very happy with that resolution and feel Alaska have done all they can for me. They have still not been able to identify what happened with my ticket only that nobody had ever seen this before and nobody had any idea how it happened.
Two months later I've of course moved on and chalked this one up to experience, so while I of course feel this is an objective and fair review, I of course let you make your own minds up.
My previous flight on Cathay in Business was a significantly better experience and that was on a short, regional flight.
Adding insult to injury I only found out after about 10 days of our trip that my new phone had an issue with the camera. Often it would take the picture but not save it, so a ton of photos that I took of this flight and others never actually saved. It was a new phone and several shots ended up looking fine at the time but being blurry which of course was extremely annoying. So there are not as many shots as I would like from this flight.
I took my seat in 11A. The Cathay seat is well known and its a very, very good seat. Business on this 777 configuration is set out in 2 cabins.
A very private 2 row, 8 seat cabin behind First and in front of the L2 door and a much bigger 12 row, 45 seat cabin behind the L2 door.
CX Business is laid out in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration offering direct aisle access to each seat.
I would suggest that the prime seats in J in this aircraft are in the mini cabin. It's quite and private.
The seats in row 11 are even more prime because they have much bigger foot wells due to being at the bulkhead and not having to fit under the seat in front of them.
Additionally all the J class washrooms, all 4 are located right behind this mini cabin so its a very short walk.
The noise from the galley was not noticeable at all and if I were to fly CX again in J in this aircraft I would definitely be looking for one of these 8 seats.
Again so sorry for the blur. So annoyed at my phone.
The actual seat is quite wide and comfy
The seat details:
The side panel featuring IFE remote, reading light, seat controls, headphone jack, USB and universal power port.
Amenity kit, headphones and bottled water were in the compartment, which had a mirror on the door.
Bulkhead seat 11A with huge foot well. Blanket and pillow were ready at the seat at boarding.
Literature pocket on the side of the seat at the entrance.
Storage down by the footwell under the table
There is an armrest at the side of the seat which can be raised and lowered as needed.
Just under this armrest is a cubby to store your shoes which is a really handy little space.
I'm actually considering a small point and shoot camera for future reviews. My phone really pissed me off with some of the crappy shots, and worse taking shots but not saving them.
As soon as we had taken our seats I looked around for my menu as I could see my wife had one. Didn't see one, no big deal though.
We were greeted by a friendly member of crew who asked me what I would like to drink. Of course champagne would be most welcome after a turbulent start to the day! I also asked if I could perhaps get a menu when she had a moment. She seemed surprised I didn't have one but agreed to bring one.
She returned a few moments later with my drink and a menu.
Shortly after I started to get the feeling that this might not be the greatest flight.
Almost as soon as I had my menu and started looking through it, she returned and told me that was the wrong menu and she grabbed it back off me. She then started to take the menu's back off those who had them. In our 8 seat cabin it seemed like about half had menus the other half didn't.
Not an auspicious start.
My glass of champagne it would be fair to say wasn't the most generous pour I have ever seen!
And yes this was the full pour! I had not yet had a sip when I snapped this shot.
A hot towel was then handed out.
Unfortunately this was to be the zenith of the service on this flight. From here things just kept going downhill. More to come on that shortly.
Lets get some photos out of the way first:
The (correct) menu:
See where it says "Brunch" here on the menu. Am I seeing things or does it say "Served prior to landing"?
This will become an issue later on………
So far the lady serving our cabin was a more senior lady who seemed quite friendly and well intentioned.
Sadly she was not to continue serving our aisle. A much younger lady started serving us and I am sorry to say I have nothing good to say about her at all.
That member of cabin crew was consistently below average in her service. She was uninterested the whole flight and sadly she had absolutely zero warmth about her at all, everything seemed forced and very fake. She would occasionally check on people in their seats but not actually bother to see if they wanted anything. One time she zipped around to my seat, glanced in and looked at me but before I could ask for a drink she had gone.
This was fairly typical of her service strategy. She would peek into the reclined passengers and without making eye contact or ask if anything was wanted would just leave immediately and peek in at the next seat etc etc.
Just a note of how poor the service was on this flight I went almost 7 hours without being offered a drink. In the end I just decided to get up and get one myself.
Pushing back from Gate 47 at 1020, just 20 mins behind schedule
Departing 04L with a very long takeoff roll as one would expect. At 8,072 miles great circle its a long way even for an aircraft as impressive as the 777-300ER.
My past 15+ flights I've mounted my GoPro to the window using a suction mount. Never had any problem with it on any airline, including Cathay! Even on Delta they were fine with it!
And by the end of this trip with another 12+ flights on a variety of airlines nobody else had a problem with it :)
The younger crew member came around and said for "safety reasons" I had to take the camera down but I could hand hold it!
Of course I complied, given how the rest of the day had been going it all seemed appropriate.
I don't fight with cabin crew even when I feel they are being nonsensical as its a battle you can't win.
I wryly smiled to myself as I could now clearly see how this flight was going to go.
Fortunately we pushed back on time and made the long taxi down to 04L for our departure. Given how the day had been going I was rather delighted that the scheduled flight time showed us arriving an hour early with a much shorter than normal flight time.
There's not much more delightful sound in modern aviation than a GE90 starting up and then that unmistakable sound as the engines spool up on takeoff.
We departed to the North and were treated to some fabulous views of New York from the left hand side of the aircraft
Shortly after takeoff the service started, and it began well. The more senior flight attendant came to take drink and meal orders.
I chose a glass of champagne again and this was served with some lovely warmed nuts.
At this point things were going well. I was proactively offered a refill of my champagne without having to ask and then shortly before lunch was served I was again refilled.
After about 90 minutes in the air lunch was served.
This is where the disappointment level went into overdrive.
Sadly this was also the moment when the more senior flight attendant stopped serving our section and we were left at the mercy of the younger crew member.
I'll be blunt on my opinion of the food on this flight………….Abysmal.
First I want to comment on the menu that Cathay insists on using.
I found the thing to be far too big, cumbersome and generally irritating. There is absolutely no need to create a newspaper sized menu.
The thing was just annoying everytime you wanted to refer to it. Apart from the cumbersome size, the pages were not stapled so would often fall out and just referring to it to see what to drink required unfolding the entire thing and ensuring all the pages remained together.
Also the newspaper look extended to written articles, in this case about cheese. The annoying thing about it was that nothing referenced in the "article" was available on the flight, so it was a complete waste of time.
If you are going to insist on this idea, at least make it relevant to what is actually on the menu at the time.
Next comment is regarding the choice of courses.
At first glance it appears that Cathay offer a large selection of mains. It looks like there are 6 main courses to choose from. Excellent right?
On further examination though, its revealed that 3 of those selections are from the "Cravings" section of mid flight snacks!
So they are offering 3 courses of inflight snacks as mains and only 3 actual choices of lunch.
The food service is cheap and penny-pinching. A single starter with a small and dull salad. One piece of bread was handed out and that was it. No more bread was offered with the main.
Dessert was a single choice out of 4 options. No cheese and fruit and ice cream here. You pick one.
The entire meal service was served on a cheap, plastic tray.
Not a single thing in the entire meal service said premium. Frankly it was on par with the meal service I had in British Airways World Traveller Plus in 2017.
The food was not of a high quality either. The chicken I ordered was just OK, but dry. The rest of the main was bland and tasteless. The Pork starter was just OK too, however the nougat mousse dessert was by far the highlight of the meal. Rich and tasty, it was a good way to finish up an uninspiring and mediocre meal.
Sliced Poached Pork with Chinese Cabbage Salad, garlic Chinkiang dressing
Also note my ramekin of nuts hasn't been taken away yet.
Note too the crappy plastic tray and frankly how sparse this looks.
This would be the only piece of bread I would be entitled to during this meal.
Worth noting that there was no choice of bread either. The roll was just placed on my plate and that was it. No choice, no offering from a basket. Just a kind of here's your roll, take it or leave it.
Hugely disappointing main of seared chicken breast, polenta dumplings, mushroom goulash and broccolini.
No more bread! :(
Had the South African Chardonnay which was unmemorable.
I'll note too that I was served this single glass of wine and it was never refilled, nor was I offered a refill.
Also worth noting too that the service was painfully slow.
On my last Pacific crossing with EVA Air, once one dish was finished they had the next one on your table within seconds. Here I had a nice 15 minute wait from finishing my starter to being presented my main.
Best part of the meal was this very tasty dessert.
Getting it though was a bit of an ordeal. As my main was cleared away and the hideous tray was taken (as well as all my drink glasses with no offer of a refill) I was asked if I wanted anything else. I suspect dessert would not be forthcoming otherwise. I asked for the mousse and while I was looking at the menu to see what else was available I asked for ice cream as well only to notice that she had vanished.
After finishing my dessert, the glass was taken and that was it. Nothing else was offered.
It would be fair to say that Cathay don't exactly have the largest portions of anything in the Skies.
This isn't a meal course that will fill you up ala EVA Air.
Also their drink pours are stingy, as is their one dessert, one piece of bread policies.
This entire service just screamed cost savings.
Combine all of that with the fact that everything was served on a single plastic tray, then frankly I would hate to see what they were serving in Economy.
Finally my empty nut dish was cleared away, although again another disappointment was that neither tea nor coffee was offered after lunch.
Hot towels were handed out and that was pretty much the end of the service for the rest of the flight.
After the mediocre meal and the fact that it was only around 1230pm body clock time I wasn't ready for sleep so decided to recline back and check out the IFE.
Happily this is one area where Cathay hit the mark.
Headphones were average to poor. Noise cancellation was not great. Could still easily hear the engines and that was even being sat in front of them. I imagine further back it was much louder.
Before we check out the IFE lets take a quick look at the amenity kit…………
Usual items, a reasonable kit. Eye shade, socks, ear plugs, mouthwash, toothbrush and paste and Jurlique cosmetics……….
Consisting of hand cream, lip balm and replenishing day cream
Shortly after the lunch service had concluded cabin crew came around to instruct everyone to close the window shades. Remember it was barely 1pm by this time. I'm not sure how tired everyone is at that point in time.
Anyway I did as instructed. The gentleman sat behind me however kept his open a bit longer until I heard him be sharply rebuked by the crew and told to close them now.
So anyone who wanted to see those incredible views of the Polar North were out of luck.
At this point I'm feeling really unhappy with the experience.
Next came the most bizarre interaction and I still don't understand what happened.
A flight attendant appeared and asked for the next meal order. I was a bit taken aback given we had finished lunch not 30 minutes ago and I thought the next service was just before landing, some 12 hours away.
I mentioned that I wasn't sure at this point what I would feel like. Then she mentioned that in order to acclimatise people to Hong Kong time (now around 1am HK time) they would be serving something in about 6 hours as "breakfast".
I really didn't understand the service flow here. I had thought that this would be some kind of mid-flight snack and then the brunch would be served "prior to landing" as mentioned on the menu.
I said that I would probably try to sleep by then and wouldn't really want food at that point, assuming the brunch would be served about 2 hours out from HK.
She started saying I would get hungry if I didn't have something but never mentioned this would be the final food serving (7-8 hours before arrival !!), so I really didn't understand the service flow and concept here.
As a result I told her that none of the brunch choices appealed to me and that I would like something from the inflight cravings menu at brunch time (Still under the misapprehension that this would be 2 hours or so before landing). She walked off to take my wife's order. She had the same misunderstanding that I did and also didn't order anything believing we would get something closer to Hong Kong.
So this flight is booked at 16 hours.
Here is the service flow.
Lunch at 1:30 after departure - 14:30 before landing - Approx 1130am body time
Brunch at 9:00 after departure - 7:00 before landing - Approx 1900 body time
No food service at all for the final 7 hours!
Surely this isn't right is it? Has anyone flown CX841 before and can confirm its always like this?
After this strange interaction that was effectively it from the crew. They spent the rest of the flight in the galley apart from serving those who placed meal orders for the 9 hour mark. Which based on what I could see in our mini cabin was 2 meals out of 8 passengers.
As I mentioned the StudioCX IFE was good although certainly showing its age. Wide selection of movies, TV and music. The screen was large and quite responsive, however a little low res for 2019.
I'll note that my wife's screen and handset completely died 3 hours out from HK.
There was also no Wifi on this aircraft.
TV Choices. Lots to pick from
Some other options and features……….
Inflight map and external camera…………..
Frustratingly the inflight map would spend half its time in Chinese and half in English no matter what language option you selected on the home page. Rendering it useless half the time unless you were bi-lingual. It also couldn't be moved, zoomed or anything remotely interactive, it just cycled through various top down views. You had to watch a good 3 or 4 minutes to get to the information about time to arrival, distance to go, altitude etc.
Also the map is so old that the lines have jagged edges on them. I'm guessing the processing doesn't have the power to do aliasing on lines. It looks a bit like a 1980s low def CRT TV set.
After an hour or so of watching Fawlty Towers (props to Cathay for having that on the IFE!) I started to feel a bit sleepy and managed to get about 2 hours of light sleep.
The bed was very comfortable and spacious. Although the cabin was kept far too hot.
The pillow was small and not great, however the blanket was delightful. Warm and cosy but unfortunately the high cabin temperature meant that if you wrapped up in it you were very likely to be chargrilled.
Washroom. Small and cramped
Magazines available as well as the magic curtain to where I should have been sitting!
Inflight magazine and shopping
Are we there yet? Wish this flight would end! LOL
Seat Control panel with reading light on
Once I woke several crew members walked past but I was never asked if I wanted anything.
I watched the rest of the Fawlty Towers episodes which ate up a good 3 hours of a flight I was increasingly wanting to be over.
Eventually about 7 hours out from Hong Kong, so almost 8 after departure the inflight snack service was started and the cabin lights were turned on. So even if you wanted to skip the service you got woken by the lights anyway.
I was awake but completely ignored by the crew.
An hour later, almost 9 hours after departure and at least 7 hours after my last drink I got sick of waiting and went to get a coke for myself.
I'm referring to my notes as I write this, and noted that an additional 2 hours later, so now 11 hours in and with around 3:30 before landing there had still been absolutely no service. Still had not been offered anything, even a drink. The crew were hunkered down in the galley having a grand time.
At this point I was starving so I went to the galley to enquire if there was to be any additional meal or drink service. Would they be serving brunch soon? Only to be told that the service from 4 hours ago was it.
I guess the look on my face was quite something so I was told "Oh but you can have anything to eat or drink any time".
How nice to know. I decided to order the pie from the cravings menu and a beer.
About 3 hours out from Hong Kong my wife's IFE monitor and handset simply died. It became unresponsive and completely shut down.
By this point we simply didn't care anymore. We were just counting down the minutes until this horrendous day and flight was over and we could get off the plane.
The pie was actually really good and probably the best food of the whole flight.
My wife also had to get up and go to the galley to get food and a drink.
After I finished, my tray sat on my table and no crew member was to be seen. Eventually 20 minutes later while bringing my wife's food my tray was cleared. No drink or anything else was offered.
My wife's tray was never cleared. She finally got sick of it and ended up taking it back to the galley on her own to be rid of it.
Finally 56 minutes before landing fruit juice was offered. The first drinks run in the last 8 and a half hours.
By this point I was counting the minutes until we landed.
Fortunately the flight was making excellent time and we were looking at landing a full hour early. I was absolutely delighted and felt a huge sense of relief when Hong Kong came into view.
Our arrival took us over Shenzhen and Macau, it was however difficult to see much of Hong Kong due to the low cloud cover. Poor weather unfortunately would be a feature of our time in the SAR.
We went out over the South China Sea before looping back around to make our approach to 07L.
We landed at 1303, mercifully almost a full hour early and one of the worst flights I have taken was finally over.
We could not wait to get off the aircraft and fortunately our taxi was brief and just a few minutes after arrival we were parked. A final kick to the nuts was that we de-boarded through door L1, which meant a walk through the First cabin.
Immigration was a bit of a gong show, with a poorly laid out area and confusing lines and a general free for all regarding which line people were in. Also the walk seemed to have lots of choke points and all sorts of escalators which just created people swarms.
From there it was off to collect bags and find the shuttle to the Marriott SkyCity (not a trivial task thanks to a lot of construction going on that meant it was quite a hike to the shuttle area) which would be our home for the first night of our trip before heading to the World class Ritz-Carlton the next day. The early arrival meant I could grab an extra hour of spotting at the really nice Skydeck at the airport!
Approach and landing at Hong Kong…………..
Overflying Macau with airport visible (just!)
A welcome sight after a poor flight………The gate!
The TWA Hotel in JFK opened in May with a great deal of fanfare.
It also opened to a ton of criticism with an opening that was to put it mildly a complete fiasco. The hotel simply wasn't ready for paying guests.
I previously had a booking at the Courtyard JFK but once I heard that the TWA hotel was opening about 3 weeks before we would be in NY, I of course cancelled the Courtyard and booked at the TWA.
Of course at that time (April) there was no talk of a "soft opening", it was claimed that the hotel would be fully open. The only thing I really cared about was the rooftop pool and bar with incredible views over the runways and T5.
The plan was to head up there for an afternoon of spotting.
It was with some alarm I read reports coming out of the early guests that most of it wasn't open, including the roof area. In the run up to our stay I tried to get hold of the hotel a number of times. It's almost impossible to do so. Emails go unanswered and they don't respond on either Twitter or Facebook. I did finally get hold of someone when I found a phone number and they said the roof area was hopefully opening on the long weekend - which was when we were staying.
I thought long and hard about cancelling but decided to stick with it and hope for the best. Worst case at least we were on the airport and would just have a quick hop over to T8 for our Cathay flight the next morning.
I'm glad I did!
We arrived at T4 after our Delta flight from YYZ and took the AirTrain over to T5.
From there its a fair walk to get to the TWA Hotel. At least by the time we arrived there were plenty of signs and we found the elevator to the hotel with no trouble (Its down at the baggage reclaim for Jetblue in T5)
From there the elevator takes you up to a landing area and the entrance to the famous tubes that take you back in time to the hotel itself!
The iconic tubes
The hotel looks fabulous.
They have absolutely nailed the bygone era and its really like heading back into a sixties time warp. Its incredibly impressive in every way.
However what they forgot was functionality.
You see the tubes and that gorgeous TWA red carpet?
Good luck with your roller case or rollaboard on that. The pile is incredibly thick. We each had one suitcase and a rollaboard with us, they are the 4 wheel variety. I had to tip both my bags onto 2 wheels and pull hard to drag it over the carpet. There was absolutely no way you could simply push them.
This sadly would become a bit of a theme with the hotel overall. It looks stunning but as a hotel it functions terribly and is so badly thought out in many ways.
We arrived out of the tubes into the stunning main hall
Original Solari board
Problem is that nothing is laid out intuitively. In every hotel I have been to you enter into the lobby and head straight to the check in desk. Here it took some finding as the check in is located down a level and stuck in a corner out of the way.
The check in itself went smoothly, largely thanks to the fact you have to do it yourself. Human interaction is minimal.
Check out is done the same way.
You do everything on the screen in front and then program your own door card.
It was novel and even though we were well before check in time, we were able to check in with no issue and head to our runway view room.
Note that there are lots of stairs and you will have to lug any bags you have up them. There are no porters or bell staff so you are on your own with luggage.
We checked into our room which was on the 2nd floor. It would be generous to call it a runway view from that level. More like a ramp and front of T5 view.
The room itself was tiny but I understand that's pretty typical for New York.
The room itself was again poorly thought out.
The windows were completely see through so anyone from outside can see right into the room, especially at night.
Therefore there are only 2 options, either completely exposed with the roller shutter up or completely closed in with the shutter down. The shutter was not fully controllable, it was either up or down.
The phone also did not work and there was zero storage space. No closet and lots of little things that nobody really cares about. There was a huge minibar area and also a snack tray that took up way too much space.
There is no waste bin either, you are supposed to just put your garbage on a mat to be disposed of.
At the premium price the room has huge shortcomings.
However I didn't care about the room. To me this hotel is about one thing and one thing only and that's the rooftop pool and bar terrace…..
This is an aviation lovers dream plain (plane? lol) and simple.
The views over the T5 and T4 ramps are unbelievable. Also right infront of you are runways 22L/04R and 22R/04L.
As 13L/31R and 13R/31L are currently closed for construction this meant every movement was right infront of the hotel.
It was simply sensational.
In a rare piece of good fortune for me this was to be the very first day the pool terrace was fully opened. The pool bar wasn't fully operational but I could not have cared less.
I took up a seat at the bar area and spent the entire day here. It was truly heavenly.
The pool also looked incredibly inviting, however the looks of several faces when they stepped into it led me to believe the water was still chilly!
This really is probably the best spotting location in New York. Safe, secure and hassle free
As the afternoon wore on they started to open the bar and in a really nice touch handed out complimentary cocktails. This was truly a remarkable day and a spotting dream come true.
There were amazing views of the hotel as well
Not even torrential rain and some thunderstorms could ruin my enthusiasm. The place got soaked and I ended up the only one still left as the day drew to a close. However my patience was rewarded with the most incredible golden hour light and sunset.
Once the spotting was done it was time to head back and find food.
The food options at the hotel are dire. There is a rather fancy restaurant onsite but it has strange opening hours and is difficult to get a table at. They don't take walk up diners even if they are hotel guests.
We decided to head into the terminal to have dinner.
On our return we took a look around a bit more.
We decided to head to Connie for drinks. I mean you kind of have to don't you?
You can almost imagine yourself at Idlewild about to board for some exotic destination!
Cockpit was closed off but you could see in
Seating was partially from the original
The menu options
We didn't stay long, just had the one drink. We had an early start next morning and a long day. Also there really wasn't anything to do in Connie.
The TWA hotel is stunning to look at. Its a masterpiece of design and the hotel group have really captured the 60s vibe brilliantly.
On so many levels this could be a truly incredible hotel experience but the lack of almost any kind of basic hotel functionality is going to really hold it back.
Imagine an airport hotel with no bell staff, no concierge and no room service.
So many things have been badly thought out. Carpet too thick to drag suitcases on? Rooms that are completely exposed to the outside World?Really? There appears to have been zero testing done on this hotel as to whether it actually works as a hotel (spoiler: It doesn't!)
It has so many shortcomings and all of the criticism that has been thrown its way is totally valid. The hotel is poorly run, staff are not well trained and its all a bit of a wreck to be honest.
However I would go back there in a heartbeat.
The roof pool and bar terrace is one of the most amazing locations I have ever been. Every single avgeek should have this on their bucket list. Its really that good and for my completely absolves all the other issues in this hotel.
If you are an avgeek I can't recommend this hotel enough. If you are looking for a good airport hotel, then you will give yourself nightmares if you stay here.
For so many reasons this was the most disappointing flight I have ever taken.
I say this in the context of flying of course in a premium cabin. Any ultra long haul in J or F is going to be better than the experience in Y of course, its not the intent to compare the two experiences, but to compare the J experience to other J experiences.
My overall feelings on the service on this flight are basically there was none. It was absolutely abysmal. I don't know whether it was the individual crew or if its just this flight and the service flow that Cathay have implemented. For a 15+ hour day flight it was and I don't use this word lightly a disgrace. For a premium cabin to offer absolutely nothing for the last 7 hours of an ultra long haul flight is unacceptable. Had I paid thousands of dollars for a cash fare for this rubbish I would have been left seething.
Frankly if this is Cathay Business Class across the Pacific you can keep it, because its awful. I would pick almost anyone else over them including China Eastern who are about half the price.
With the fares Cathay charge to deliver this dire service is tantamount to highway robbery.
In light of this experience I simply cannot recommend Cathay Pacific for trans-pacific travel in Business Class. There are simply too many better options.
In comparison to EVA Air they are miles behind. So far behind they can't even see EVA Air.
Cost cutting is obvious and the whole experience feels like BA did a few years ago. A sad, old legacy airline trying to stay premium and relevant but doing it on a tiny budget and failing at almost everything they do.
Nothing about Cathay Business says Premium except for the seat.
The seat is outstanding, but these were introduced years ago before the cost cutting kicked in. Hard product is as good as anything in the skies but the soft product is pretty dire.
Food was some of the worst I've ever experienced in a premium cabin. Drinks were nothing to write home about, the kind you could pick up from your local supermarket and of course that's if and when you were lucky enough to be given anything.
IFE was good although showing its age, and my wife's system died completely during the flight.
Service was the biggest let down by far. EVA Air, Garuda, JAL, ANA, Singapore Airlines and even Air Canada all blow Cathay out of the water from my experience.
Given a choice Cathay would be very low down my list of airlines that I would look to cross the Pacific with in Business again. Frankly I would much rather fly Air Canada.
The danger with cost cutting when you have a brand is (as BA found to their cost) that if you cut too far and if you take away things that say premium when you charge premium prices and attach the premium label to your brand is that you cut the essence of why people are choosing you in the first place.
Cathay are struggling, and on the basis of my experience I can see why. They simply don't offer a good product in relation to their competitors and the price they want to charge.
I find it strange that on our regional BKK-SIN flight last year, the experience was outstanding. The food, crew and (long haul A333) seat and cabin were great and we had a lovely flight. It was a huge shock that the long haul experience was so poor in comparison, especially on a flagship route.
I won't be in any hurry to ever fly Cathay Business on a long haul, trans Pacific again. Their First Class on the other hand?
Well, would have been nice to have found out today. Hopefully I can try again at a future time.