The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.
The average flight time is 2 hours and 21 minutes.More information
I was scheduled to depart four days earlier than when this trip actually took place. However due to a personal emergency, I was forced to delay my departure by four days. Let's just say that it could have been worse and more costly. Given the penalties and fare differences, it would have cost me upwards of £750 (over $1,000) to change the flight and there was a possibility of booking economy class with another airline to cut my losses. But I got lucky that at the last minute, I found a flight where only the penalty/rebooking fee of £350 had to be paid.
TIP: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers personal emergencies. You never know when such events could strike.
The change of flight meant that I would miss out on flying with Cathay's two newest aircraft types: the Airbus A350-900 and Airbus A350-1000. This was because with my adjusted schedule, I would be flying via Heathrow. I was resigned to flying on two Boeing 777-300ERs. On the flip side, Cathay allows arriving business class passengers to freshen up at Heathrow Airport.
I got my preferred seats and was excited to check in. On January 12, everything at the airport was proceeding as normal up… until I queued at passport control. It was there I received a text from my companion telling me massive flight cancellations were on the way. I checked with passport control staff and they had not received any word on such. But it was at the Cathay Pacific lounge that the situation became clearer: no flights would be departing from NAIA for the rest of that day. Flight movement was suspended due to an eruption at Taal Volcano 50 miles away from the airport, which is relatively nearby in geological terms. I was advised to contact the rebooking hotline or ticketing counter later but with the help of someone on the phone at the lounge, my rebooked flight was all sorted out.
I grabbed my bags and headed home still nervous. Given that volcanoes behave in all sorts of ways, I feared that the worst was yet to come and wouldn't be surprised if I would be in Manila for up to two more weeks. Before midday on Monday January 13, the airport reopened but there were still severe delays. The flights took until the following morning to clear.
TIP: When a possible catastrophic event emerges that you think might affect your flight, contact your carrier first before proceeding to the airport.
Once I contacted Cathay Pacific's global reservations hotline to check if the flight would push through on January 14, it was all-systems go. I only saw that two flights were cancelled. Given what I have been through, the phrase "third time's a charm" was apt for this.
We arrived at the airport three hours and forty-five minutes before departure. Surprisingly, the check-in area for Cathay was not congested. I queued at the Business Class lane and was served instantly. The agent was helpful enough to get me a seating area that I had trouble securing for my Hong Kong-London flight: the window seats.
As there was still quite a bit of time, I spent nearly an hour at Mary Grace with the person who brought me to the airport. We parted ways shortly after before five-thirty in the afternoon.
It took me forty minutes to clear passport control. The queue was moving quickly at first but once I approached the front two rows, each booth serving our lane was occupied by only one officer (when it is full, two officers per booth should be on-duty). Once I got cleared, I went straight to security checks which was not too slow.
Before going to the lounge, I purchased some treats at one of the stores. They were polvoron, a famous snack that Filipinos eat. They were overpriced at ₱220 (approximately US$4.40, £3.38, €3.90) per pack.
Oneworld carriers only have one lounge at NAIA's Terminal 3: Cathay Pacific's. In terms of the interior, Cathay Pacific applies a very consistent design to it so that passengers can recognise it regardless of their location in the world. Most of the elements found in the Heathrow and some Hong Kong business class lounges are provided for in the Manila lounge, including its famous noodle bar. The one missing feature was the shower room, but given that Manila-Hong Kong flights are short, its absence was understandable. And I did not see a reason why passengers would need to use it.
A slightly more significant feature missing was the First Class section of the lounge. Although most Cathay flights involving Manila feature business class as the highest class of service, there are still eligible Marco Polo and oneworld frequent flyers who fly the route and I feel they should not be deprived the privilege of first class-style lounge access.
Given that I was on a diet of a sort, I did not focus on sampling the food. But compared to Sunday, the lounge was much more tranquil.
Gate 115 was filled with passengers. Queues along the economy class lane were massive but lucky for me, there was another door for business class passengers. I found my seat quickly. Once I got settled, I asked the flight attendants if I could still order a special meal for my connecting flight. They said that they would try and even if they didn’t guarantee it, I was impressed that they tried to make contact with those in-charge.
As for the seat itself, the recline and storage were fairly limited but adequate for a short-haul flight. Don't expect lie-flat seats here. Also, the seating area is designed such that passengers who choose to recline their seats would not intrude on the passenger behind them, so that's useful. Whilst I think the configuration is generally reasonable for short haul flights, the likes of Singapore Airlines are going a step further with flat beds in regional business and I think Cathay should consider making their business class product at least lie-flat. But given that the carrier needed to squeeze in as many economy class passengers as possible, this should be understandable for the moment.
I was seated in the same bloc as my Hong Kong-Manila flight but found myself in the aisle seat this time. I found the circa-2016 IFE interface loaded and finally, their new airshow/moving map channel where passengers can customise the angle and zoom they wish to view the flight progress from. I loaded up some of my favourite music to accompany me as I view the progress of the flight. There was one AC power and one USB outlet which were adequate for my needs.
We took off 40 minutes after scheduled departure time. And we managed to fly due northeast first before heading in the direction of Hong Kong.
Shortly after the seatbelt sign was off, the cabin crew prepared for the meal service. Before I knew it, the crew served me with my special low-fat meal request. At first, I was jealous because looking at the menu, those who chose standard meals had a choice between steak and salmon. But I was served with a salmon meal anyway but with more portions of vegetables, so it wasn’t too different from one of the standard meals. Desert was delicious. The food was filling.
The cabin crew collected our food for before the first half of the flight ended. They let me keep my desert and milk to continue consuming. They came back for it.
For the next few minutes, I went to the economy class section and I didn’t find the aisles particularly narrow despite the new 3-4-3 seating configuration. But there were plenty of seats here. And it’s just as well as they needed to make room for passengers forced to reschedule their trips due to last Sunday’s airport closure.
For the rest of the journey, I stayed at my seat, listened to my playlist, and watched the moving map. Occasionally, I switched the screen to the connecting flights page and found my next flight was far away from my arrival gate.
Before I knew it, there was a half-hour left in this first leg. The seat belt sign was switched on indicating an initial descent into Hong Kong. It was time to retract my seat. I just spent the rest of my time watching the moving map, flight connecting information screen, and windows whilst listening to my playlist. But it was weird as my connecting flight's information disappeared even though it was visible a few minutes ago.
Once the flight landed, all that mattered was it was slightly ahead of schedule which meant more time to enjoy Cathay's signature lounges in Hong Kong. But we'll discuss more of that in the next post.
These are rated from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score. This covers aspects of the flight experience that Cathay Pacific and its ground agents are responsible for with a focus on Business Class.
- Check-in (10/10): The staff was helpful and I was able to get my request to a window seat.
- Lounge (9/10): The features and design are largely consistent with what Cathay Pacific offers elsewhere.
- Boarding Process (8/10): From a far, it was a bit difficult to see the business class lane. However, when I found it, the process became quick. It was good to see that two jet bridges were in use. It could have been improved by having clear signs at the jet bridges indicating where the business class entrance is. Most passengers may assume there is only one entrance to the whole aircraft when there is in fact two.
- Seating area (8/10): As this was a two-seater bloc, I didn’t have much trouble moving around. The seat had reasonable recline for a short flight and the recline of the seat back was not intrusive though Cathay should consider investing in lie-flat beds for regional flights.
- Food (10/10): The salmon meal tonight was tasty. It was full-course. I was jealous of the choices afforded to passengers who chose a standard meal.
- Cabin Crew (10/10): When I mentioned to the crew that I requested for a low-diet meal for just one of the legs but not the other , they paid prompt attention to it without me requesting for it explicitly. The crew in this flight went out of its way to make sure my needs were attended to. They were polite and friendly.
- Punctuality (9/10): The flight departed slightly behind schedule in Manila. The important part though was the flight landed slightly ahead of schedule.
- In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (9/10): Nice to see it is touchscreen operated in addition to remote-operated. The choice was adequate. Liked that there was an option for wifi. The interface is a huge leap for Cathay’s regional 777s, which normally get hand-me downs.