The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.
The average flight time is 12 hours and 15 minutes.More information
This is the second part of a two-leg journey from Manila to London. The legs involved in this journey are listed below. Click on the other leg for more details about it.
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 needed to be paid.
Little did I know then that that would be the first of two delays to this journey. A volcanic eruption 50 miles south of the airport would keep me from flying for 48 more hours.
The arrival gate was at the extreme end of the terminal from the gate of my next flight. But Hong Kong International Airport made it convenient with several transfer points. Feeling that the one closer to the front of the airport was going to be crowded, I decided to use the ones closer to my arrival gate. But first, I made an enquiry from Cathay's nearby transfer desk if there are seats left on the earlier flights to London. They told me it was no longer possible to transfer to them. Instead, they wrote my next flight's gate number for my reference.
Unfortunately the departure automated people mover moved in only one direction. This meant passengers with gates in the front of the terminal who want to explore facilities at the rear end of the airport would have to travel back by foot. But it felt like a shorter walk than I thought and I stopped by some shops along the way.
One of the advantages of having my journey moved was that I was slotted into a later flight for Heathrow which meant more time at the lounges. Having explored The Bridge and Pier previously, I decided to try The Wing this time. The atmosphere on the lower floor was intimate. But there was more than enough seating. Food options consisted of macaroni and cheese as well as paella and chocolate moose. I sampled just a little to keep my diet under control. After a while I went upstairs to find more seating. Alas, Cathay's signature noodle bar was located there too. The upper floor featured a coffee bar where one could sample some biscuits. One of the things Cathay Pacific lounge users were treated to was a view of gates 2-4. I am a bit unsure of what to think of the high-roof lounge and the fact that no glass separated the top floor from the rest of the terminal. But the lounge was complete in what to offer valued customers.
For the next 20-ish minutes, I wanted to try my luck at seeing what the Qantas lounge looked like. To those on the departure floor, the entrance to it is confusing. But when I got there, it was too late: the lounged closed for the day.
So I returned to The Wing. After relaxing for a few moments, it was time to hit the showers. The agent made sure that I was escorted to a clean and ready-to-use cubicle. The shower facility looked a bit different from the other lounges but it looked very inviting and tranquil. It was complete with amenities. I had a comfortable shower and felt refreshed after 15 minutes.
TIP: Cathay Pacific has four different business class lounges scattered across Hong Kong International Airport. If you're constrained for time, select the lounge closest to the gate of your next departing/onward flight.
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I used the business class lane and there were no queues. I was greeted by the in-flight service manager at the door and I enquired if there were still seats in the front row. He said it was all full at first but alas, a few seconds later he reminded me that the passenger seated in front could not make the flight so he recommended I take it. It wasn't exactly a window seat but given how cozy the front business class cabin is, I took the offer anyway. And I was lucky as the seat next to me was not occupied. Even if I knew that there were dozens of business class passengers in the cabin behind me, it the front row felt exclusive. And sitting in the middle bloc made me realise how narrow the 77W aircraft is compared to the 747-400.
In my personal cabinet was a headset, bottle of water, and amenity kit.
Also when I boarded was it evident through the moving map that the aircraft hasn't been refreshed with the latest in-flight entertainment system. The interface was circa-2012. The audio/video selection was adequate and I found enough to fill my playlist. Just as with my other flights, this business class seat had an AC power adapter and a USB port, which doubles up as an iPod dock to play content from on the passenger's IFE unit.
Like the first flight, the menu came in the form of a newsletter and a breakfast card was provided for us to fill out and leave on the coat hook. I made my breakfast selection promptly and it was the continental option that I fancied. The cabin crew who attended to me gave me some recommendations for the supper meal. Ultimately, I chose the cod option.
We left the gate on time but the actual take-off had to wait for a half-hour. It was a long taxi to the runway. But the IFE playlist kept me company.
About 30-45 minutes after take-off, the first meal was served. The cod meal was delicious. And even if I did not get the low-fat meal I needed, it look like a healthy offering nonetheless with large portions of veggies all over. It was an all wipe-out. To hopefully help me sleep, I ordered camomile tea as my beverage. The ice cream desert was also tasty.
Right after the meal service, I went to the toilet to freshen up for bed. It gave me an opportunity to check whether the contents of it are consistent with my previous trip. And they were even though the amenity bag was of a different colour. One thing I wish they had though was a shaving pack.
Time to roll out the bed sheets and duvets. The beddings are easy to set up by the passenger him-/herself. By just holding down one button, the seat becomes a bed instantly. Apart from the relatively slightly bumpy first half due to turbulence, I could say that I had a 'normal' sleep and it was a comfortable surface to lie down on. The crew tried tuning down the lights and my personal video screen to help me. The armrest on the side of the aisle provided me with some extra privacy.
At about midway through the flight, I woke up and grabbed a quick snack at the galley. It was those dark chocolate treats and a sundried tomato-flavoured snack that I fancied. After these quick bites, I went back to bed for an hour or so.
With four hours left in the flight, I played with the IFE and played a few episodes of one of my favourite sitcomes, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Almost everyone in the front business class cabin was watching an IFE flick so I wasn't alone at this point.
From time to time, I returned my seat to the fully-flat position to enjoy my remaining time with the best business class bed I could hope to enjoy.
Two hours or so were left in-flight. The changing mood lighting signified breakfast time was almost upon us. I played the latest Star Wars film even though the flight time remaining would be shorter than the film's length (still I skipped some portions). As for the breakfast, the continental option contained mostly fruits and yoghurt. It was a healthy companion for me whilst I continued watching the feature film on my IFE unit. In no time, it was completely consumed.
I took the liberty of visiting rear cabins to find that this particular 77W still sported an older economy class (circa 2012) with nine seats in each row (3-3-3 arrangement). This signified the older IFE was still in place but the fact that the seating arrangement is just 3-3-3 abreast means economy class passengers here are getting a more comfortable ride. And with fewer passengers, it hopefully does not slow down the boarding and deplaning process.
For most of the flight I continued to kick back to the Star Wars film. Just as it ended, the captain came back announcing we were a half hour away from landing. And although he apologised for the longer flight, I was saddened that it meant my business class experience was about to end. I just continued listening to my playlist at this time. Once the wheels touched the ground, the IFE switched automatically away from passenger control. A few minutes after, we docked at the gate. I picked up my hand luggage from the lockers. But strange for this flight was that only one jetbridge was ordered. Luckily, it was closer to what I sat and it made me glad to sit in the smaller business class cabin.
TIP: Once you know you want to fly long-haul business class on a Cathay Pacific 77W or A359, please choose a seat in the smaller business class cabin at the time of booking. As there are slightly different configurations, use the seat map embedded in the booking feature. These cabins are usually separated by an exit row and/or galley. You will feel as if you have exclusive treatment without booking first class.
My business class experience did not end on the door of the aircraft just yet.
First, as a business class passenger, I was entitled to use the fast-track passport control lane at Heathrow. The lanes featured short queues. But where I felt a slight bottleneck was at baggage claim. It took almost 15 minutes from the first bags emerging for me to be reunited with all of my own.
Cathay Pacific had one final treat for business class passengers. Given that I came from a long-haul flight, I was entitled to use the American Airlines arrival lounge which was on the landside portion of Terminal 3. First, I had a shower at their arrival facilities. I was pleasantly surprised that they were spotless and complete with amenities. There was even a trap door at the back of the entrance for passengers to store the clothes they will change to. Afterwards, it was time for me to enjoy the rest of the lounge for the next hour-and-a-half. I grabbed some breakfast which was delicious but felt constrained to not eat the bacon bits. In addition, I used the computer terminals to print out a document to renew my passport. We had trouble at first and even the lounge staff was slightly confused on how to use it. But I managed to figure out how to to use it eventually. Before leaving, I transferred stuff between my bags.
After having four flights with Cathay Pacific's business class, it has proven itself to be among the very best in the industry. I find their pre-departure and onboard offers overwhelming. It is unbelievable in the first place for them to offer their five-star service at relatively bargain basement prices. For sure, there could be things they could work on to give Singapore Airlines or Qatar Airways a run for their money. But I was still all the more grateful to experience a legitimate long-haul business class of a five-star carrier. Overall, once you experience Cathay's business class, it will feel very difficult to want to go back to economy class.
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.
- Lounge (departure lounge only) (9/10): The atmosphere gave you a feel that it was uniquely Cathay. The lower floor gave one an intimate and welcoming feeling. Plenty of seating everywhere. The shower cubicles were tidy and well-stocked. There seemed to be a decent amount of snacks especially at The Wing lounge. Even though I have to be on a diet, it would be good to have a bigger variety such as what they have in The Pier lounge.
- Boarding Process (10/10): It was smooth.
- Seat Comfort (10/10): It was a legitimate flat bed. One could even sit on the 'upper' part (where you place your back and head). - The fact that it was configured 1-2-1 allowed not only direct aisle access for every passenger but also purpose-built space for their stuff and privacy.
- Food (9/10): Delicious food and healthy options available despite not getting a special low-fat meal. There were choices for everyone though I would have preferred Cathay has steak and chicken options too. They could also borrow a page out of Singapore Airlines' playbook by giving business class passengers an option to select their 'standard meal' online.
- Cabin Crew (10/10): Need I say more? Their attention to detail, especially to a passenger's needs cannot be overstated. A special shout out to James, the cabin service manager who reseated me in the smaller business class cabin.
Punctuality (8/10): Although we departed more or less on time, we arrived a little bit behind schedule but not by very much.
- In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (8/10): There was an adequate choice for someone like me. But the aircraft did not feature wifi and the new interactive moving map as the other long-haul 77Ws.