How I’m Flying Home From The Maldives

As most of you probably know about by now, I’m soon headed to the Maldives, despite not really having a great reason to do so. The planning process has been an adventure, to put it mildly, from figuring out the flights to deciding whether or not to upgrade at the Park Hyatt.

Another thing I’ve been trying to figure out is how to fly home after my trip. The Maldives is close to Colombo, Sri Lanka, which has some of the best premium cabin fares in the world. So I figured I’d just book a paid ticket home, given what a great value it represents.

As I posted about a couple of weeks back, I was originally trying to decide between flying Qatar Airways business class and Kuwait Airlines business class.

Kuwait-Airways-1

Kuwait-Airways-2

Both airlines had great prices. Qatar Airways would have made a useful review, while Kuwait Airways would no doubt have made an entertaining review.

I’ve now booked my return trip, and went with a completely different option.

Cathay Pacific business class fares out of the Maldives

Cathay Pacific publishes some great business class fares directly out of the Maldives. Interestingly these fares don’t display on online travel agencies, but rather only directly on Cathay Pacific’s website.

The business class fare from Male to Hong Kong to New York is ~$1,450 all-in one way. And there’s something to be said for the convenience of flying directly out of Male as opposed to first having to fly to Colombo, possibly spend a night at an airport hotel, flying early in the morning, etc.

You can’t beat a redeye out of Male, which allows you to leave the hotel in the late afternoon and get straight on your longhaul flight.

Cathay-Fare-1

The real reason I booked this itinerary

The single most consistent feedback I get on my trip reports is to review more business class products, since that’s what many of you can redeem for, given that you travel with family.

I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class more times than I can count, though I’ve never flown Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class.

I flew their new business class hard product once from Bangkok to Hong Kong, though that was it.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class

So while it might not be the most amusing review, I do think it’s probably the single most useful product I’ve yet to review. I’d argue Cathay Pacific’s business class is the most attainable business class product for award travel to Asia, given the availability and reasonable redemption cost through AAdvantage.

BA-CX

Crunching the numbers

The fare is ~$1,450. The distance of the itinerary is ~11,000 “butt in seat” miles one-way.

MLEHKGEWR

That means as an Executive Platinum member with American I earn:

  • ~11,000 elite qualifying miles
  • ~16,500 elite qualifying points
  • ~25,000 redeemable miles

AA-CX

I value American miles at ~1.8 cents each, so that’s like earning ~$450 worth of miles, which knocks the cost down to $1,000. And that doesn’t even account for the elite qualifying miles.

Crunching the numbers further, that’s the equivalent of redeeming ~55,000 miles for such a ticket (since I value those miles at ~$1,000). You couldn’t get an award from Maldives to the US for that cost in business class, so I’d say that’s a heck of a deal.

Bottom line

I’m really excited to finally give Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class a shot, and I’m curious if it impresses me as much as their first class (relatively speaking, that is). I’m also excited about flying directly out of Male, rather than first having to fly over to Colombo before getting on my longhaul flight.

I’m not going to lie, I booked the flight into Newark intentionally, since it’s operated by a three cabin 777-300ER (featuring business class, premium economy, and economy). Maybe I’m nuts, but I far prefer being in business class on a plane without a first class cabin.

Have you flown Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class? If so, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. “Maybe I’m nuts, but I far prefer being in business class on a plane without a first class cabin.”

    not nuts at all. i always do the same thing… simply prefer to be in the highest cabin on the particular flight.

  2. I’m really going to be interested in your review of it. I’ve commented before on your blog to say this, but my partner and I flew Cathay from Hong Kong to London in December ’13 and it was the worst experience I’ve ever had in business class. The food was disgusting (I had to spit some of it out), the beds aren’t flag so it was hard to sleep, the crew were rude and the entertainment system was sub-standard.

    I’ve read most of your trip reports, and you have nothing but good things to say about Cathay in First, so it must be a massive leap between the two.

  3. just flew CX regional J on the A330 and 777 HKG-SIN-HKG. was very pleased with the soft product but the recliner seating could use updating. look forward to seeing this review as I’m curious the different between longhaul biz and first.

  4. We flew this ex-MLE a few months ago. The fare had actually convinced us to make our second trip there within a year, pretty decadent for us.

    VIP check-in at MLE and overall a very pleasant experience back to YVR.

    The only thing we found odd was the no carry-on rule, so we had to check our 20″ roll-aboards, a minor nuisance. We’ve never seen that in any Businees Class.

  5. IMO the CX J seat is great but otherwise it’s nothing special. The food is particularly bad. Unlike a lot of of airlines where business class food is cooked separately (meat separate from veggies separate from starches) and then plated by the FAs to preserve the texture of each item by cooking it different amounts of time, CX’s business class mains are just in a single dish cooked at one temperature like in coach, so it amounts to coach food in a nicer dish. And as I recall there’s not much by way of a dine on demand option, unlike in many other business classes.

  6. @Bgriff: The Chinese main along with rice are now in 2 dishes with the rice in a bowl. Other mains are still in a casserole.

    As far as the seat goes, I like it but still miss some elements from the previous herringbone or “coffin” seats.

    If you haven’t heard, the new seating layout for the upcoming A359 has been released.

  7. @Tom C You know, not too many 777 business class flights have all-aisle access. CX, is one of a few companies doing that. If you flew on a 777-300ER, you should be guaranteed to get a full-flat bed. CX’s contemporary cabin design really makes it unique. Most companies with contemporary cabin design do not have good equipment (Swiss, they don’t even have 777), most of companies with good equipment do not have contemporary design. (Emirates, Singapore Airlines)
    In my opinon good equipment ranking:
    A380 > 747-8 > 777-300ER > A350 / 787

  8. Bad food seconded. The wines aren’t anything to write home to Mom about either but it sure beats American. The best thing about CX J is the lounges in HK – pick one!

  9. Wow, that is an amazing deal you got on that one. I was looking at paid Cathay business class ticket, HKG – JFK/EWR – HKG a couple of months ago and the lowest price was shockingly expensive – close to US$9,000!

  10. @ No Name — Yep, fixed, thanks. For what it’s worth, Kuwait is soon getting a new business class product (which still doesn’t look great), and I feel like that would be a good time to try them.

  11. @Lucky –

    What website/software do you use to show your itineraries above?
    Also, how do you make the globe showing the routing?

    Noah

  12. @Gene
    EWR-MLE one way 8K$ return 13-14K$ is some of the examples I find of CX website.

    @Noah Sprenger
    Map is gcmap (google it)

  13. Is it basically the same (or similar ) hard product / seat aa AA ‘s 777W?.
    Might be interesting to catch the differences….

  14. After all that, you chose CX J? Disappointing…

    Incidentally, what *did* you end up doing with upgrade at PH?

  15. I have done this exact itinerary. As you say, the redeye MLE-HKG is timed well, except you may have to pay for a late checkout at a hotel in MLE. Next comes a shower, breakfast, and champagne is one of the great HKG lounges. Agree that CX J food is just ok, but I usually eat a nice meal in the Wing before departure. I may do this again this year if I need the miles. BTW the Maldives Immigration officer looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I was just transiting (24 hour layover). Once I told him that air fares were much lower originating from MLE, he smiled and sent me on my way.

  16. Nice. I thought you were going to say that you booked EY 787 business class, but this is better than the other options you listed on your previous post, maybe except JL J.

  17. @BHill if you plan to depart from Hong Kong, then don’t choose CX. Air China and China Eastern (Sometimes even Hainan Airlines) have great deals departing from Hong Kong to North America. However, if you are departing from Japan, China or Taiwan, then you should consider CX as it sometimes has great deals for business class. In general, adding an flights with unnecessary stops lots of times are cheaper. (It doesn’t make much sense to transist in Hong Kong if you are departing from Peking or Tokyo to North America, right?)

  18. My way on deciding whether or not buy or redeem business ticket

    10 cpm or less : I got a deal! I should buy it.
    10 ~ 15 cpm : depends on airlines, I may buy the ticket
    15 ~ 25cpm : Normal business ticket price, based on aircraft, I may buy it
    25cpm or above: that’s crazy, there is no way I will buy a business ticket at this price!

  19. I flew CX in J LAX-HKG about a year ago, and I’m scheduled to fly them agin within the next week.

    They have the same seat that is lucky’s favorite business class seat, but I find it to be a very hard seat. To try to combat that, I’ve purchased a thick yoga mat and trimmed it a bit, and I’m bringing a flat sheet to improve the bed a bit. As far as meals, it’s mediocre to decent (comparable to BA CW). I found the best meal was actually the mid-flight noodle snack you can order, or the lounge food in the Wing F restaurant.

    I recommend the mini-cabin K side if possible (seats 11 and 12) if any of your flights are in the four class cabin. The A side has more crew traffic (linen bin is in front of 11D). Though I don’t know the config on the 3 class to EWR.

  20. I’m a bit surprised by how much people dislike CX business. I flew it SFO-DPS RT and absolutely loved it. To me all airplane food seems fairly mediocre and I’m not a big drinker so alcohol choices aren’t a big deal. It was the spacious and private seat, the great entertainment options, and professional service that won me over.

  21. I flew business on CX EWR-HKG last month and it is a rock solid product, not doubt that this is a no brainer, especially because you do not have to go to CMB.

    Strange this non carry on rule, I actually flew with some of my scuba dive gear in my carry on with CX.

  22. Thanks for a very interesting post. I can see the $1450 fare if I book close in, but for my dates next January, the fares are five times the cost.

    Also, can’t see any cheap CMB-EWR (or CMB-LAX) fares. I thought the cheap fares would be from CMB, not MLE. Any info on the $1450 fare rules – is it a sale for travel between certain dates?

    Any deals on first class from either CMB or MLE?

    Any thoughts on who would have a great CMB-LAX fare for January with a great hard product and gives AA EQMs?

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  23. Hello Lucky, my wife and I plan to visit Malives in Sep. But we have to stop in Tawan. What airline (alliance)would you highly suggest to book via free point/miles? Thanks.

  24. Thanks for taking one for the team in doing this. I’m about to book my first Cathay trip, for BKK in February in Business, and would love to know what to expect. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised by the comments about the food being bad. I’d always anecdotally heard that they were top notch in all ways.

  25. Now that you’ve let us in on your return plans, what’re you going to fly on the outbound? 😉

  26. We flew CX biz class MNL-HKG-JNB for one part of our around-the-world honeymoon. It was an excellent experience. Like your flight, the main leg of ours was an overnight long-haul. And the lounges at HKG were so good we almost wished our flight was delayed! Entered the plane feeling great and we were very happy with the service. We enjoyed the hard product though I still think the best lie-flat bed we’ve been on was with LAN. Flying an overnight international flight in the front of the plane is just such a great option compared to paying for a hotel and then wasting daylight hours on a long flight. Have fun on the trip!
    Michael @ The Honeymoon Guy

  27. I’ve booked a few of these ex-MLE tickets. The seat is great for business class, as you know since you’ve been on the AA version. The soft product is *OK* but not as good as say EK or QR in J, but leagues better than US-based carrier.

    Since you booked into EWR, it is somewhat irrelevant, but you can upgrade into F for only 50k AsiaMiles. I transferred 40k SPG points for the upgrade and was really happy. It seems they have a different bucket for upgrades too–you don’t need to find award space to confirm an upgrade. So keep that in mind, the change fee is only $35 after all if you want to change to JFK 😉

  28. “Maybe I’m nuts, but I far prefer being in business class on a plane without a first class cabin.”

    That isn’t being nuts, that’s just vanity.

  29. Recently flew Cathay Business from HK to JFK in Jan. The service was good, seat was comfy but I am a little disappointed with Food & Beverage. Not much choice on movies as I remember.The Amenity Kit was just like Kit for former Economy before cost cutting . The best thing for the Businese Class is ‘The Wing’ lounge in HK.Even though I am a big fan of Cathay, given the choice I would have picked ANA or Singapore for their Businese Class service.

  30. @ Derek — Flying EVA for the transpacific flight with a stopover seems like it would be the best option then.

  31. @ qasr — Hah, thanks for the report and the heads up about the upgrade. To be honest I’m sort of wanting to fly business over first so I can actually review it for once. Would be tough not to be in first class if on a four cabin plane, though. 😀

  32. @ beachfan — Did you look at fares on Qatar Airways from CMB to JFK? They should be quite reasonable around your dates.

  33. While the 333 on MLE-HKG has regularly scheduled new business clas, changes can happen.

    Lucky: would be interested to see if you can document the differences between the set on the 333 & 77W. The 333 seat is substantially narrower, especially in the footwell. (Assuming non-bulkhead that is, the bulkhead seats are much better)

  34. flew CX J out of maldives when we left park hyatt back in december (1200 one way to chicago with a stopover in HKG – can’t be beat). we left the hotel around 5p in the afternoon on the boat and got to MLE with A LOT of time to spare.

  35. Thanks Lucky.

    The fares are good to NYC, not quite as good to LAX (where I could take AA JFK-LAX). Hard to give up CX F though.

  36. No luck to YVR. Interesting that you could route MLE-HKG-YVR-JFK for $1450, but MLE-HKG-YVR is several time more expensive. Hidden city ticketing would help.

  37. Cathay is a pain to book because they don’t publish their business class fares (so you don’t see them on Expert Flyer, Google Flights or ITA Matrix) and their website is a pain to use and, obviously, doesn’t offer comparisons with other airlines.

    Have you found an easy way to do business class searches that include CX fares? A local Expedia site (e.g. expedia.com.th for departipure from BKK) works for browsing available flights (but it’s a bit clunky), but there’s none for countries like LK and MV and does not display fares independent of availability.

    Any tips? I recently realized I’ve missed flying CX a few times because of their lack of published fares that are widely searchable and bookable!

  38. “Maybe I’m nuts, but I far prefer being in business class on a plane without a first class cabin.” FOMO?

    I agree with others here CX J F&B is mediocre. The seat used to be cutting edge (Direct Aisle Access was an evolutionary leap) but has since been surpassed by quite a few models flying. The most annoying thing about the seat is that one arm ends up constantly trying to find comfort due to the wedging of the console.

    I do think Lucky, that in order to best review First cabins, you do need to mix in Business class trips so you have a precise and up to date understanding of what the contrast/benefit is between the two cabins (that is, just how much is it worth to go for First over Business on various airlines – particularly for paid fares).

  39. My friend flew EWR-HKG in CX J and she said it was fine. She has also flown ANA J from JFK. According to her, she would take ANA J over CX J any day of the week and twice on Sunday…lol!!!

    I’ve only flown CX F JFK-HKG and ANA F JFK-NRT. While CX F was great, ANA F was just out of this world. Since my friend has traveled CX J and ANA J, it appears that ANA continues their excellence even in Business class for both soft and hard products.

  40. Lucky

    To clarify, the website screenshot that shows the CX itineraries available for reward travel is from CX’s own website? I’ve never seen this screen although I’ve only logged in via Asia Miles. Do I need a Marco Polo account to access the views you’ve shown?

    Many thanks

  41. @ Good service — Can’t say I have, I always just go to Cathay’s site directly to search their fares.

  42. @ grandgourmand — Might be possible, though I haven’t tried pricing it. You can give it a try through their multi-city site.

  43. CX J is…. well, very consistent. Same seat everywhere, same mediocre (but perfectly edible) food, same good (but robotic) service, same great IFE, no wifi. The best thing about the food is that you can order noodles or other snacks at any time. Otherwise, for general quality, I’d say the food is slightly worse than AA international J catering from a year ago (but much better than the current catering on AA).

    Hint for the food: ask for chili sauce. 🙂

  44. Based on a 2014 experience, expect a long line at airport check-in. Lots of Marco Polo elites use their awards to visit Male. Plaza Premium lounge has bread, juice and water. The A330 has a smaller version of the reverse herringbone layout.

    The in-flight meal is scarce. Billecart-Salmon for bubbly, NZ and Aussie recent years choices for vino, gravlax salmon starter, stir-fried chicken, fresh fruit, packaged cheese, reconstituted cheesecake. A light meal available for later: soup, chicken something, cheesecake again.

    Enjoy the tropics!

  45. Really excited for this review, Lucky! I booked ex-MLE Cathay Business class fares but had to cancel them, so I’m eager to read about your experience.

  46. “Maybe I’m nuts, but I far prefer being in business class on a plane without a first class cabin.”

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? It’s not because you’re nuts, it’s because you want to be travelling in the highest cabin possible on the aircraft.

  47. We’ve got a BKK-HKG in F (though no F on this route so we’re in J), and it’s the old Biz class. Does CX ever swap out planes closer to travel? We needed an early flight to get more time in the HKG lounges.

  48. Lucky
    I missed this post a few weeks ago. I’m really excited to hear your thoughts on the Cathay Biz product on a long haul. Interested in how it compares to AA and US.
    cheers
    Willbw02

  49. That fare seems to have disappeared… it’s $2300 one way now, way out in advance.

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