Review of Cathay Pacific flight New York Hong Kong in Business

Airline Cathay Pacific
Flight CX841
Class Business
Seat 11A
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 14:52
Take-off 27 May 19, 10:11
Arrival at 27 May 19, 13:03
CX   #4 out of 133 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 431 reviews
atco
By SILVER 1982
Published on 20th August 2019

a trip of a lifetime


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.


Routing


booking


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.


photo cx841_booking

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!………………………..


a ticketing fiasco


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.


check in


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.


american airlines flagship lounge


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.


cx841 jfk-hkg


photo 20190807_221211photo bkpw

Flight Details:
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
Class: Business
Seat: 11A
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: B-KPX

FR24 track:


photo cx841_fr24

Flightaware track:


photo cx841_fa

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.


photo 20190527_092233

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.


photo cx_77a_seatmapphoto gopro_cabin

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.


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Again so sorry for the blur. So annoyed at my phone.


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The actual seat is quite wide and comfy


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The seat details:
The side panel featuring IFE remote, reading light, seat controls, headphone jack, USB and universal power port.


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Amenity kit, headphones and bottled water were in the compartment, which had a mirror on the door.


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Bulkhead seat 11A with huge foot well. Blanket and pillow were ready at the seat at boarding.


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Literature pocket on the side of the seat at the entrance.


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Storage down by the footwell under the table


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There is an armrest at the side of the seat which can be raised and lowered as needed.


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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.


photo gopro_seat4

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!


photo 20190527_092407

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:

Amenity Kit:


photo 20190527_092420

Hot Towel:


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The (correct) menu:


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Food Options:


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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………


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Drinks Choices:


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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


photo gopro_taxi

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.


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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.


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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.


photo 20190527_111008

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.


photo 20190527_111307

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.


photo 20190527_113750

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.


photo 20190527_115620

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.


photo 20190527_122211

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.


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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……….


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Consisting of hand cream, lip balm and replenishing day cream


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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.
Thanks Cathay.

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.

Anyway……..


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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.


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Washroom. Small and cramped



Magazines available as well as the magic curtain to where I should have been sitting!


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Inflight magazine and shopping


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Safety card


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Are we there yet? Wish this flight would end! LOL

Seat Control panel with reading light on


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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.


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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!


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Approach and landing at Hong Kong…………..
Overflying Macau with airport visible (just!)



A welcome sight after a poor flight………The gate!


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Verdict

Cathay Pacific

5.1/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew2.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Meal/catering3.5

New York - JFK

5.5/10
Efficiency5.0
Access7.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Hong Kong - HKG

7.2/10
Efficiency5.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

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.

Information on the route New York (JFK) Hong Kong (HKG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 6 reviews of 1 airlines on the route New York (JFK) → Hong Kong (HKG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.

The average flight time is 16 hours and 36 minutes.

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22 Comments

  • Comment 517790 by
    socalnow GOLD 924 Comments

    What an absolutely terrible experience Atco, I'm so sorry to read about your frustration and disappointment. I know first world problems an all but a consumer had every right to be frustrated and disappointed if they don't receive the item for which they paid.

    After I got my Alaska PNR and Cathay PNR I rigorously checked both all the way in the run up to the flight.

    -I have the same habit. It also appears that we are similar in the anticipation building up for such a special experience and as the months, weeks, and finally days pass it only gets more intense. Then this.

    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'm nauseous just reading about it. Such an odd, unexpected, and inexplicable sequence of events. Truly baffling.

    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.

    -Count me in as confused. It would have been a good time for her to mention the snack menu was available at any time...but she failed to provide this service. perhaps she didn't want to be bothered... I will add that I have read many CX reviews that mention a lack of pro-active service but if the call button is used they are very prompt and accommodating.

    The pie was actually really good and probably the best food of the whole flight.

    -Looks very appetizing and comforting.

    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.

    -Finally something went your way. That's a kind gesture from AS but absolutely appropriate.

    The TWA hotel is so stunning. It's unfortunate to hear that it's a case of form over function in many regards. The rooftop pool and bar though...I must visit there some day!

    Again Atco I'm at a loss for words on how this whole thing turned out. I appreciate you sharing it. As someone who is so methodical, caring, and anticipatory I know the outcome is even more of a disappointment. I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip and presumably some happier flying.

    • Comment 517914 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello Christian,

      Thank you so much for your kind words.
      I still get excited every time I step on an airplane, no matter where I'm going or in what class. I don't think that will ever leave me!

      You are right, I had spent 9 months waiting for my first flight in First and the disappointment was huge at the time.
      I often have misfortune with travel plans (need I say Cathay A350!) so I tend to babysit my reservations, often checking multiple times per week as well as regular checks on Expert Flyer to ensure nothing is amiss.

      I'm sure you will love the TWA Hotel, provided you have expectations set accordingly!

      Without giving anything away the rest of the trip was perfect and the highlight of my flying life is the next report, which I am currently writing. It was a truly exceptional experience and I can't wait to get the review completed!

      Many thanks again, your compassion, empathy and kindness are truly impressive.
      Happy travels, eagerly awaiting your next report whenever that may come our way!

      • Comment 517943 by
        socalnow GOLD 924 Comments

        Hi Atco, I feel bad as I have a couple of excellent CX F trips to share coming up!

        • Comment 518048 by
          atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

          Haha, I shall look forward to reading them as I am sure they will be like all your other reports. Superbly written, entertaining and informative.

          I'll just have a small cry in private :)

          I was so going to jump on those error fares, but having had almost a month off last September, a week off in March and another month off in June this year I couldn't make anything work leave wise so I declined. I was also fairly confident that CX wouldn't honor them given the inventory that was sold, so lesson learned on that one!

  • Comment 517791 by
    juddsol SILVER 19 Comments

    This is just the craziest thing I've ever read. I'm so sorry that it all seemed to just never end. I am planning a big trip next summer and want to use points to fly first or business. One possible location is HK but given what you just wrote, I may just settle for a quick hop to the west coast then a 5th freedom on Singapore.

    • Comment 517915 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello Juddsol,

      Many thanks for your comments and kind thoughts.
      I would certainly give second thoughts to CX unless you can get First. I do still want to try that but I wouldn't chose their J again. EVA are absolutely superb if you are looking to go East Coast to the SE Asia region. Of course SQ are always a safe and trusty bet.
      HK is a wonderful place to visit (perhaps not at this exact moment!) and I would certainly recommend it if you have never been.

      Many thanks, and safe, happy travels

  • Comment 517796 by
    JAZ350 SILVER 51 Comments

    WOW I am sorry that you had to experience this. I would have expected Cathay to at least invite you and your wife into the First Class cabin when you boarded.
    My business experience on Cathay was far different than what I just read and I'm assuming it was bad luck with the crew and catering out of JFK; nonetheless, no excuse. Alaska Airlines really came through at the end of the day. Kudos to them.
    This is the first time i've sat and read word for word on a flight report. Thanks for taking the time out to inform us on this. I wish you safe travels in the future.

    • Comment 517920 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello JAZ350,

      Thank you so much for your comments and nice words.
      I'm glad that my report was informative and hopefully interesting!
      The onboard crew did nothing at all for us. The more I've thought about it over the time that has passed, the more frustrated I am that Cathay did absolutely nothing to help.
      Fortunately Alaska made up for everything in the end, they really did earn major kudos for how they handled things.
      I think we got a bad crew as well more than anything. Our last CX J flight from BKK-SIN was very enjoyable. Although it does sound like the service flow on these flights is set up that way which I just find a bit incomprehensible to be honest.

      Wishing you safe and enjoyable travels

  • Comment 517798 by
    JW19 117 Comments

    Ever since I've tried QR from JFK, I never looked back. I was treated like royalty everytime I set foot on board and their ala Carte dining without trays blows others servicing that route out of the water. I recommend you giving them a shot rather than going rounds with sub par airlines.

    • Comment 517917 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hi JW19,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      I have a stash of AA miles sitting waiting for my first trip with QR, hopefully next fall ready to go. Absolutely can't wait to try out QSuites and the much loved QR service!

  • Comment 517900 by
    OH-LWE 33 Comments

    I take the 841 all the time from JFK and often return on the 830. Their service flow on these ultra long-haul flights is just like that - nothing to eat for the final six hours. When I get off the flight I'm just beginning to get a little hungry so I look for something to eat right as I land in HK.

    • Comment 517921 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello OH-LWE,

      Many thanks for taking time to comment and for confirming that this is indeed standard Cathay service flow.
      It's bizarre to me that their menu would state brunch would be served "before landing". I guess 7 hours before is technically correct but I can't imagine that we are the first people who have taken that to mean just before landing and not halfway through the flight!

      That should be made much clearer on the menu or by the crew.

      Thank you for your information, and safe travels

  • Comment 517953 by
    YGeorgeW SILVER 92 Comments

    Hi Atco,

    Good to see you posting again - looking forward to reading this trip and hoping it only gets better from here. Sorry you had this experience - you shouldn't be worried at all regarding complaining about first-world problems. Flying itself (even on a domestic narrowbody in economy) is a first world problem, in any cabin.

    Feeling desperately disappointed, angry and frustrated I told them to cancel the First ticket and book me in Business.

    Absolutely brutal - I was downgraded earlier this year from LH F to LH J because of an equipment swap and the response was essentially take it up with United.

    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.

    Just curious, what phone is it? I've recently gotten the Samsung Galaxy S10 and have been very pleased with the camera, though phones are very limited when taking pictures through glass (and the Samsung is a bit lacking in low light situations).

    Had the South African Chardonnay which was unmemorable.

    Not going to lie, my first thought reading this was: at least chardonnay goes with chicken breast.

    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.

    Did you ever feel there was a language barrier in general? I was under the impression that CX flight attendants had excellent English.

    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.

    Ricky at Prince of Travel did a recent review of CX F and said that he felt it was off as well. I think it was a mistake on their part to honor the mistake fare (some people probably will disagree) and it may be trickling down to other cabins as well. They were just starting to return to profitability before then. The recent protests certainly aren't going to help either. These are definitely tough times for CX.

    Looking forward to the rest of this journey.

    • Comment 518005 by
      socalnow GOLD 924 Comments

      Greetings YGeorgeW, I had forgotten about your LH story that was so unfortunate.

      Ricky at Prince of Travel did a recent review of CX F and said that he felt it was off as well. I think it was a mistake on their part to honor the mistake fare (some people probably will disagree) and it may be trickling down to other cabins as well.

      -I'll go ahead and disagree. Even tough I benefited from the error fare, so perhaps I am biased, I have personally enjoyed 3 trips in CX F since the error fare was honored and they have all been very good to great. Now 3 isn't a huge sample size but we can add it to the data set. I was expecting some let down and I just haven't seen it personally. Atco had an atrocious experience so hopefully it's not a foreshadow of a total collapse.

      Happy flying.

      • Comment 518012 by
        YGeorgeW SILVER 92 Comments

        Hi Christian,

        Thanks for the data points! Good to hear that you had different experiences and that it was positive. I should clarify (my fault for combining the sentences), my thoughts on whether it was a mistake to honor the fare is actually only partially related a potential downgrade in the soft product. The main reason is that I think that given CX was struggling to achieve profitability in several years before the last few, there wasn't that much room for extravagence given how many tickets seemed to have been booked from the fare. It put a lot of pressure on the bottom line while trying to maintain an excellent product. Given the strain recent events must have put on the airline in addition, I just worry about how this year will turn out for CX.

        Regarding the post over on Prince of Travel, I probably should have added "a little" before off. He only noted very small differences (such as the crew struggling more, not refreshing the bathroom between each use, meal being a little worse off than before, etc...) It's only due to CX's very high standards and reputation that there was anything to note at all. The few comments in that post also echoed the sentiment.

        Of course, CX gained reputationally for keeping their word and honoring the fare. That value isn't something that can be easily measured.

        Thanks for chatting, looking forward to your next report.

    • Comment 518053 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Greetings YGeorgeW,

      Thanks as always for reading and your comments.

      After this little disaster everything went superbly. Checked off some bucket list items. It was very much a trip of a lifetime, although one I hope to repeat several of the experiences of again over time.

      My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S9+. I am very disappointed with the camera in low light conditions. It's quite bad. The issue with some of the photos taking but not saving seemed to be something to do with a corruption in the gallery. Once I re-installed the camera and gallery apps the issue resolved and fortunately I have not seen it since. Having upgraded from the S6, its a better phone but I'm not sure if the camera is worse.

      I remember well your awful LH F experience which was also handled terribly by the operating airline. Its a shame that airline's don't do more with partner purchased tickets when problems arise. The passing of the buck to their partner is a really crappy practice.

      Thank you for noticing my excellent wine pairing choice! :D There might even be more surprising choices on future flights!

      No language barrier with crew, English standard was excellent. Just not a very good explanation of the service flow especially with the misleading statement about brunch being served "before landing". I suppose 7 hours before technically is before landing but I don't think that fits with what most people's expectation would be which ensured I had an incorrect idea of what the service was going to be.

      I saw Ricky's report, and follow his site religiously. I shared much of the same views, although I do think that much of what we ran into was caused by a poor crew who simply wanted to sit in the galley and do nothing for the whole flight. Perhaps they were polishing their resume's for jobs with the US3 :D

      Best wishes to you and happy travels

  • Comment 518024 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4952 Comments

    Well....this was unexpected. Here I was thinking this would have been a fantastic flight and nope...

    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.

    I'm the same way. I've been burned too many times in the past so I obsessively check reservations...plus my nerdy side loves looking at seatmaps...I'm weird.

    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.

    Absolutely ridiculous! I would have thrown a sh&t fit of biblical proportions. Even if they couldn't get a hold of revenue management to release the inventory in F, they could have certainly done a manual upgrade to F (issues in J) upon check-in and annotated the PNR. Pure incompetence and lack of effort.

    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.

    It's obvious that you're being very fair in your review--it's very difficult not to let these things influence your opinions so I commend you on your efforts!

    I'm also glad that Alaska followed up and did the right thing...and of course they would because they blow the US3 out of the water when it comes to customer care.

    Thank you for the thorough review of the TWA hotel. Having read similar reviews I decided not to splurge for the runway view room when I stay there in a few weeks. It was double the price...couldn't justify it considering there's the rooftop bar.

    I took up a seat at the bar area and spent the entire day here. It was truly heavenly.

    Fantastic pics! And the WX looked good until the Tstorms anyway. The light conditions were perfect.

    Imagine an airport hotel with no bell staff, no concierge and no room service.

    That's nuts...no room service!? I mean their prices for standard rooms aren't exorbitant, but they aren't cheap either at 260-280/night and over 400/night for runway views. At those prices you expect there to be at least some services yikes.

    Oh well, I'm still looking forward to it and keeping my fingers crossed for good WX for spotting!

    Thanks for sharing and so sorry about your experience!

    • Comment 518055 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello Kevin,

      So nice to see you as ever. Hope all is well with you.

      I think we have the same seatmap gene. I spend far too much of my life in expertflyer obsessing over seatmaps. It has saved me on a couple of occasions including my next flight report. Without Expertflyer that would have been another minor disappointment - Not end of the world stuff but not what I had originally booked and wanted to experience.
      Fortunately EF saved the day and the result was an experience as incredible as this one was poor.

      I did surprise myself with my degree of self control at the Cathay desk. Frustration was the order of the day and desperately trying to save our trip which was in rapid danger of going off the rails right from the start. In the end it was relief that there was a single J seat available otherwise I was looking at 15 hours in Economy which after booking and being set up for First might possibly have resulted in me having a blow up that would have rivaled Chernobyl.

      This was the hardest report I've had to write. I didn't want it to seem like I was just going to dump on Cathay because I was annoyed and frustrated. Its partly why its taken so long to get this one out.

      I think you have made a wise choice with forgoing the runway view room. I wouldn't bother again. The windows are thick and the glass is over 2" apart so photography through them is impossible. Much better to save the cash and spend the day on the roof.
      My runway view room was only on the 2nd floor so the view was crap anyway. Though at the time the premium over the regular room was only about $20 so no big deal.

      I think you will love the hotel. For an avgeek its a paradise. For flying out of JFK its the only hotel I would stay at simply because of that roof area.
      Hopefully I have allowed you to go into it with appropriate expectations and you will have a great time. Despite its huge shortcomings that roof makes it one of the top 10 spotting hotels in the World without any doubt.
      Will look forward to seeing your report and if much has changed since May!

      Best wishes, happy travels!

  • Comment 518068 by
    PolarOne 1 Comments

    Hi Atco, thanks for sharing your nightmare-ish experience on CX!
    I flew on Y on CX830 to JFK the same day you flew in to HKG, and I still remember how shocked half the cabin was when they were woken up halfway through the flight (about six hours after the first meal service) to have "brunch". The last two hours of the flight was almost chaotic, with FAs running down the aisle serving everyone cup noodles before they quickly ran out of it.
    It was mind-boggling for me that a 16-hour flight gets the same amount of meal service as a 9-hour flight to Australia, and whoever came up with that service arrangement must have high expectations on the passengers' ability to starve.
    But with that said, despite the apparent cost-cutting measures, CX's service is still decent on short or mid-range flights (because of the direct competitions?), I hope your next flight with CX will get better!

    • Comment 518217 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Greetings PolarOne,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing your experience on Cathay!
      It was so strange that second meal service and turning all the lights on to wake everyone up. In J the last 2 hours were very peaceful mostly because there was absolutely zero service and the crew were taking it easy in the galley!

      I totally agree with everything you have said. To me the entire service concept of these flights is completely whacko and I can't understand what CX are thinking. On such an important route, one they serve 3 times a day, to have such a nonsensical service flow just beggars belief.

      I also agree that on regional flights CX are very good. Our BKK-SIN last year was the complete opposite of this gong show and very enjoyable.

      I look forward to flying CX again around Asia and one day in F across the Pacific but I will be avoiding them I think on ultra long haul in J or below.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and best wishes for your future travels!

  • Comment 518081 by
    BenChDC 5 Comments

    I had a similar experience with CX last week travelling in C from SEA-HKG. Food was pretty abysmal and the meal tray sat in front of me for about half an hour after I finished for both meals, Numerous flight attendants walked past me but it seems like they can only do one thing at a time and won't or can't pick up the meal tray if they are going to the galley to get something. I actually found the seat to be really uncomfortable. It was too hard for me to sleep comfortably and since CX does not provide a seat topper, I had a pain in my hip because of the crease in the seat. I ended up using my blanket as a substitute seat topper, which was okay because it was really hot on the plane. Also, what is with CX not providing slippers? Are they the only Asian airline not providing slippers? Some airlines even provide slippers in Y now.

    After this flight, I just changed my return flight back to Seattle to EVA. In my book, there is just no comparison between EVA and CX. EVA is just a vastly superior experience.

    • Comment 518219 by
      atco SILVER AUTHOR 127 Comments

      Hello BenChDC,

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing your CX experience as well.
      You make many great points, and you are spot on about things like the mattress pad and slippers. I hadn't even thought of those things. Slippers in trans pacific J are pretty much standard now aren't they? Even AC offer them!
      I didn't find the seat especially uncomfortable, although a mattress pad would have been much nicer and like your flight the cabin was like a furnace which was what caused me to have such poor sleep.
      I absolutely agree with your comments about EVA. I would take EVA over CX for a long haul like this every single time, and you are right there is absolutely no comparison between the two products. One is Business Class done to perfection, the other is Business Class on the cheap.

      All the best and have a wonderful flight back in the fantastic Royal Laurel Class!

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