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
Greetings flight report community and thank you for stopping by this report.
I've read about mistake fares but have always been too late to the party. That trend reversed as I sat in my den with my laptop on 12/31/18 and, as I often do, surfed over to one of my favorite miles and points blogs to see a post about some rather incredible airfares ex. Vietnam, in first class too. For fun I pivoted to an OTA website and sure enough, these fares were still live. I picked some random days and a few clicks later the tickets were purchased. Jennifer and I would be taking two trips to Vietnam and we were ecstatic. Please visit this post to read more about the planning and the first trip.
This series of posts will cover the second half of the mistake fare ticket. On this trip we added a visit to Laos and the enchanting Luang Prabang.
After a quick 6 hour nap at the Hilton Garden Inn JFK it was time to get up and return to the airport. Excitement was running high and the short night of sleep didn't seem to factor into our demeanor. Today I am spending 17 hours in Cathay Pacific First Class with my lovely wife, and that's about as exciting a day as an avgeek can imagine. No kids, no responsibilities, no cares. We were floating above the ground, I reckon.
There was no wait for the First Class check in and we were greeted by a friendly agent. There were some changes with our seat assignments one positive, one negative. For JFK-HKG we had been in 1A and 1D. The agent noticed this and offered us 1A and 2A. Excellent service, yes please. When presented with the totality of our boarding passes I noticed that we were no longer seated next to each other on the HKG-HAN segment. Not a big deal but why? They made some calls and determined that an equipment swap had occurred to an aircraft with a smaller J cabin. He said he would try to correct this and put a note in the reservation but the cabin was completely full. I thought it was odd that a Paid F fare (mistake or otherwise) could not have their seating preferences preserved as a matter of priority over others' but I guess not. Anyhow, it's a short flight and noting was going to get in the way of us having a spectacular day with Cathay Pacific.
We made our way to the Flagship Lounge complex and presented our invitation cards to the agent. This visit we were not subjected to the unnecessary escort to the FFD portion of the lounge.
Flagship Lounge is quiet in the morning as is the FFD area.
We opted for a seat at a table with a great window view and started the day with the excellent Krug Grand Cuvee. The pour was generous and humorous.
The breakfast menu was presented.
Some fruits to start.
We requested the parmesan polenta & poached eggs but for some reason they could not poach an egg so we settled for fried. Still a tasty dish. American needs to stop listing bacon cheddar biscuits on the menu as this was my third attempt to order them and my third time being told they were not available.
We also tried the avocado toast and while it was beautiful to behold the flavor combination was flat. Probably just needed to salt the avocado.
After breakfast we spent the remainder of time before boarding sipping Krug in gleeful anticipation. We actually left the lounge quite early to do a few laps around the concourses in preparation for a day of seated gluttony.
Our 777 to HKG is hiding behind this Delta, err, Latam 787.
It turned out that our walkabout took more time than anticipated and boarding was virtually complete when we arrived at the gate. The same agents that had checked us in were boarding the flight. In a sign of good service the young man that had been helping us addressed us by name and mentioned that he is still working on the seat issue. I appreciate the gesture.
We were warmly welcomed at the door by Klarabelle, the IFSM, and Colleen, the senior purser. Colleen was on her first flight as senior purser, which I didn't know was a thing until we got to chatting later in the flight. Colleen showed us to our seats and began the parade of drinks and gifts.
We're both nerds taking photos of our most fortunate surroundings.
Colleen was the embodiment of the perfect Cathay Pacific flight attendant. She is from Singapore and had that lovely Singlish accent. She was constantly smiling. Friendly and warm but also precise and professional. It was like having your favorite Aunty on the flight with you. She was very relieved to hear that we were continuing our travel past HKG. She asked us if we had heard about what's happening there with the protests. Bless her heart, I know we Americans are dreadfully uninformed, but yes, we are following the developments in HKG with a heavy heart.
My PDBs of choice, Champagne and water. Karen, the other FA in First Class also came by to introduce herself. She was a delightful presence as well.
Cathay Pacific had just introduced some service changes including new amenity kits and bedding from Bamford. The bags are attractive but the contents underwhelming. I guess mainly because I'm an Aesop fan.
The female bag.
Jennifer exploring the new kit.
The sleeper suits haven't changed which is fine by me. The PYE cotton is plush and soft to the touch.
Bamford amenities are now found in the lavatory too.
The Bamford day pillow and blanket add a nice splash of color to the cabin.
The aircraft today has the updated livery on the outside but not the refreshed interior. The IFE is the older style controller and poor resolution monitor.
Our male captain had an Indian accent and announced we were ready for departure early. The International cockpit crew consisted of a female Senior FO who sounded Australian, a female FO of Chinese ancestry, and a male 2nd officer of unidentified ethnicity. True to the Captain's word we pushed from the gate at 9:56 and made our way to runway 4L.
Rolling for a loooong domestic flight.
We got our moneys worth out of 4L's 11,351' as I'm sure there's lots of gas on board.
To the northeast initially.
I got cozy with the new Bamford day blanket. It is soft and warm.
Orchids were positioned after takeoff.
Colleen presented the beautiful Amour de Deutz Brut Millesime 2009. The more I am exposed to these 100% chardonnay Blanc de Blancs wines the more I'm finding them to my liking. Light and complex with excellent minerality. Don't wander off too far with that bottle Colleen…
A funny study of contrasts: Jennifer went with some hot tea and closed window shades where I have all the windows open and I'm in Champagne heaven. I resisted the impulse to tell her she's doing it wrong.
Klarabelle offered the substantial menu presented on a bamboo board. She advised us that we may choose anything we like at any time in the flight. I very much appreciate that despite the 10:00 departure lunch is the first meal. They haven't cost cut this down to a breakfast/brunch offering.
Need we read on? I kid, of course I'm going to taste it all!
After a sufficient cocktail hour (tea hour if you're doing it wrong) we opted to take a meal in suite 2A. I don't fit well in the buddy seat and this meal isn't going to do anything to help that. Colleen cheerfully setup the extended table and precisely laid out the place settings and bread baskets.
Karen pointed out that the caviar is from a new (to CX) purveyor and asked for our feedback as to how we enjoyed it. I found the eggs firm with good mouth feel. There are subtle aromas and sea essence. I'm happy to keep "testing" it to make sure. The blanc de blancs was a glamourous companion to this course.
A look at the label reveals it's farmed by Kaluga Queen in Qiandao Lake, China. It makes sense as China is now the worlds leading producer and consumer of the delicacy. Kaluga claims that a remarkable 21 of France’s 27 restaurants holding three Michelin stars serve their caviar, per an article in Robb Report dated 8/13/19.
Staying with the Chardonnay theme I asked for the Ropiteau Freres Meursault 2017. The wine features bright fruit and acid.
Yellow pepper lemongrass soup is up next. It's cream based so the acidic wine is a nice foil.
The cured salmon loin (balik style), brown quinoa, green beans and quail egg "salad" was beautiful and substantial.
Really the star of the dinner show, for me, is the Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2008. This staple of the Cathay Pacific cellar is a joy to experience. I selected beef for lunch with the express purpose of enjoying this wine.
Normally beef in the sky is a compromise but not today. Karen was in the galley position and she did a masterful job with this dish. The plating is stunning and the cookery is perfection. I praised her to the point of blushing.
Jennifer opted for the fresh arugula ravioli because, you know, she's doing it wrong.
Our lunch time view over the north of Canada.
We opted to share some cheese to finish and Colleen insisted we enjoy the port as well. Of course the Chateau Lynch-Bages was still making itself known.
The wine carnage is obvious.
The scenery outside just kept getting more stunning as the angle of light changed and we progressed further north.
Lunch was cleared and I was glued to the window. I asked Colleen if we would be tracking near the "north pole" (for lack of a better term). She asked me to hold on a minute and she would check. I watched her head to the front of the airplane and pick up the intercom phone to call the cockpit. She returned to happily inform me that yes, we would be. I followed up asking at what point int he flight will this occur. I again watched her head to the front of the airplane and pick up the intercom phone to call the cockpit. This time she returned and said it would occur within two hours and the cockpit will call her when we are as close as we're going to be. Just lovely service gestures all around. She could have easily blown me off or at least the cockpit crew could have, but no, they took an interest because I took an interest.
The CX box of chocolates revealed.
I opted to enhance my arctic viewing pleasure with a glass of the Glenmorangie Signet. Colleen didn't want to serve the drink alone so I think she raided the business class snack basket to accompany.
To this point I haven't mentioned that there were 3 other passengers in F this morning. One woman in the middle section wheo enjoyed lunch and went to sleep and then two young Chinese American guys traveling together (perhaps benefiting from the same fare we enjoyed) sitting in the starboard side window seats. I was happy to see that they were window gazers as well so there was no pressure to close the shades. Many times I looked over and one or more of them was pressed up against the window taking photos just as I was doing. There's safety in numbers.
True to her word Colleen came rushing down the aisle, alarmingly at first, to inform me that we were at the north pole (we didn't' get in to the details as to how we are defining our location). She enjoyed the view with me for a few minutes as we chatted about how amazing it is to be flying 36,000 feet above this desolate landscape.
I was then treated to an arctic sunset.
The timing of this flight, especially for someone on west coast US time, was not conducive to sleep. We departed at what was 7am in California. I could see this being frustrating to someone who didn't relish every second of being up here as I did. I'm not here to sleep. We've been flying for 7 hours with 9.5 still to go. Awesome!
I turned to the StudioCX and cued up season 2 of Big Little Lies and binged away. I decided a snack should accompany my TV show and rang the call button. Karen turned up as Colleen but be on her sleeping break. I requested the shrimp wontons in noodle soup and a glass of the Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from Marlborough New Zealand. I also asked for some chilies to enjoy with the soup.
What a treat to enjoy wonton noodle soup over the arctic.
After a few episodes of my show I decided I needed to at least try and get some sleep so I rang the call button and requested the bed made. This time a more junior crew member, and dare I say dizzyingly beautiful, was covering the front and she responded instantly and made up a luxurious sleep environment complete with the new Bamford bedding and pillow mist.
Nothing but compliments for the quality of the Bamford bedding. The cabin was on the cool side so it was lovely to have a plush duvet to melt into. I managed a nap of around 2 hours. Jennifer got a solid 8 hours. I envy that ability, I do. I was just too wound up with the joy of flight, sharing the experience with her, the top notch crew, the food and wine, all of it.
Nap time wrapped up over Mongolia for me. I lounged and enjoyed a couple episodes of Big Little Lies accompanied by Perrier.
Colleen, back from break, inquired about my dinner preferences. I wanted something but didn't need anything. I opined that if some caviar and Deutz remained I would be happy to find a home for them. Colleen went to survey the inventory and returned with the goods. Very apologetic that she could not locate any more blinis. Things were rather dream like at this point. Somebody pinch me.
Since we're snacking I reckon the shrimp quesadilla would work well with the Deutz. I've read several reports raving about he quesadilla soI had a go. Surprisingly enjoyable. Again the plating is on point.
A cappuccino and Perrier to enjoy as I reflect on this spectacular journey.
I simply marvel about how Colleen and Karen can make 16.5 hours in flight seem like a short stroll down to your neighborhood restaurant for dinner. Assuming you live in a really interesting neighborhood…
The map foretold the inevitable, the flight was ending.
We touched down into a grey Hong Kong evening.
The Ground Service: I was impressed that the ground agents took my surprise and concern about te seat assignments issue on the HKG_HAN flight seriously and made some effort to understand and rectify, even if they were unable. I also was impressed by the proactive suggestion to move me to 2A, a more optimal seat and in fact my preferred seat.
The Lounge: The Flagship First Dining continues to impress. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop but it hasn't yet. Well done American Airlines.
The Cabin: It hasn't changed much in the last 10 years but that's fine by me. The refreshed cabin with the higher resolution IFE is preferred but thankfully the window proved to be excellent IFE on this trip. Having 1A and 2A and a "private aisle" on our side was a fantastic luxury.
The Crew: I was absolutely taken with Colleen and Karen. Such genuine hospitality and caring. Jennifer and I came into the relationship fairly high on the joyful scale and they just piled on more. Colleen was recently married and at a wonderful and content place in life. It was a fantastic enhancement spending time talking with her about life in Singapore and her plans for the future. I wish her all the best.
The Food and Beverage: Normally not something that comes to mind as a strength of Cathay Pacific when compared to their peers. Today though, I won at steak roulette. The wines and caviar are simply unreal and make the experience all the more memorable.
Overall: I don't want to get to metaphysical here but it's hard for Jennifer and I to wrap our heads around this good fortune. To benefit from the mistake fare is an extraordinary bounty by itself. Then adding on the lovely crew and extraordinary flight experience it just seems hard to believe we could be having these experiences but here we are.
Thanks for coming along on this series of flights and leaving any feedback along the way. Happy flying.