Ford’s First Time In Cathay Pacific First Class

My boyfriend Ford and I are presently on a trip to Asia. To start off the trip we visited Hong Kong, which is my favorite city in the world. While I’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific first class a countless number of times, this was Ford’s first time flying Cathay Pacific (and first trip to Asia altogether, for that matter). We booked this ticket last minute using 67,500 American AAdvantage miles per person.

Below he’s sharing his thoughts on the experience, especially as he just recently flew Emirates A380 first class. Stay tuned for more impressions from Ford about our trip, and in the meantime you can follow him on Instagram.


Ben and I are on another adventure, this time in Asia, now that we’ve conquered Dubai together for the first, but hopefully not last, time.

I’m still adjusting to Ben’s last-minute lifestyle and have had a hard time explaining it to “normal” people. We booked our flights to HK less than 48 hours before, don’t have a return ticket, and don’t even know where we are headed next. A few ideas include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Japan, although I forgot to pack sweaters so anything too far north may not make the cut. I think I’m returning to LA in perhaps the least direct route – heading west, since Ben has to go to the Middle East after this, and suggested I might as well tag along for the flights. I momentarily forgot where I was this morning. Stay tuned!

We flew from LAX to SFO on an American Airlines 737 that I sensed was older than I am (from the rather worn-in seats), but alas it was barely an hour flight and before we knew it we were in SFO and ready for our longer, and more exciting, leg of the trip to HKG.

Interestingly enough, because we picked up our boarding passes for the Cathay Pacific flight at an American Airlines kiosk at LAX, our Cathay boarding passes, printed by American, scanned as PreCheck even though it wasn’t written on the boarding pass and even though foreign carriers are not supposed to have access to TSA’s PreCheck program. The TSA agent actually directed us to the PreCheck line at SFO after checking our ID and boarding passes, and we gladly obliged!

The flight was delayed, which turned an already long layover into a painfully long one. As an early riser, I find 11 PM departures a struggle, and a midnight departure almost certainly necessitates an afternoon nap on my end in order to be fresh and ready to partake in all the flight has to offer. That said, delays happen and have to be expected from time to time!

Cathay-Pacific-777

However, the entire Cathay boarding process seemed a bit disorganized – they must have literally called 40 different individuals up to the counter over the loudspeaker (including in the lounge). I would say every 2 minutes for over an hour, they announced (butchered) names and asked flyers to approach the counter to sort out details. Frankly, this was rather annoying to listen to over and over and over again.

They also pushed the delayed boarding time from 10:50 PM to 11 PM to 11:10 PM once we had already begun to form a queue at 11 PM to board, and then didn’t allow anyone, including pre-board passengers, onto the plane until 11:25 PM.  This is my biggest bone to pick with the experience, and that’s because I’m putting on my critical reviewer hat as I write about our journey.

The flight itself was delightful. We boarded, ate a light meal and caviar, enjoyed several glasses of Krug and a tumbler of Johnnie Walker Blue on the rocks, and went to sleep on a very spacious and comfortable bed. I literally slept 8-9 hours total, only interrupted two times by some moderate turbulence that jolted me awake. In the morning, I watched the first episode of the latest season of True Detective on the entertainment systems and enjoyed cooked-to-order scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, a fruit smoothie, and a couple cappuccinos. An hour later, we landed in Hong Kong. I could hardly believe 14 hours of flying elapsed in the interim. It was magical.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class

I know many readers have a love-hate for Ben’s reviews of Emirates and the Gulf carriers, and given that my other international first class experience was on Emirates just a month ago, I thought I would go ahead and do a side-by-side comparison of some features.

The Plane

Cathay Pacific

The Boeing 777 doesn’t have a bar like Emirates, so ultimately I think Emirates wins in this category. While in the aggregate we didn’t spend that much time at the bar, the opportunity to make the short journey from our seat to the bar and stretch our legs with purpose is exceptional.

British-Airways-Lounge-Chicago-22

Emirates

The Airbus A380 has the aforementioned bar and massive First Class bathrooms complete with showers… I rest my case.

The Seat

Cathay Pacific: 1-1-1 configuration in First Class

The seat doesn’t have doors or an enclosed compartment, but the seats are organized in such a way that while sitting, other passengers and their seats aren’t visible. It lacks some of the features that I love about Emirates (which I’ll get into below), but the little buddy seat adds so much value. Ben and I were able to dine together and hang out for the first 2 hours, until I nearly keeled over exhaustion and decided it was time to sleep. 

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-04

The bed – heavenly. There was so much space. It felt like I was sleeping on a proper twin mattress, between the soft but firm bedding and the wide seat. As I said, I slept a full night thanks to the extremely comfortable seat. Cathay is the clear winner in this competition.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-39

Emirates: 1-2-1 configuration in First Class

The compartment itself is flawless in terms of amenities, with a large storage compartment, a lighted vanity and mirror, a desk lamp, writing kit, and a refreshments bar with Perrier, Voss, and juices. It also has doors, for added privacy. The seat, while spacious in general, isn’t the most comfortable, and the mattress they place on the bed tends to slide off over time. When fully flat, my feet were lodged under a compartment that limited my mobility. I didn’t feel trapped by any means, but my movement was restricted much more than it was in comparison to CX.

The Amenities

Cathay Pacific

I prefer their pajamas to Emirates simply because their shirt is a button up (with large, easy to button buttons) that can be put on over a t-shirt or other light shirt in the event you don’t want to change in the cramped bathroom, which is exactly what I did. Their toiletry kit was a little sparse, but I actually took and use the Aesop Rose Hip lip balm. I often think most of what’s included in an amenity kit is thrown away anyway, so my sense is that Cathay has it down to the necessities – a toothbrush with toothpaste and lip balm and moisturizer since the air on planes tends to be dry. 

Cathay-Pacific-Amenity-Kit

Their entertainment system, StudioCX, is good – but not great. I found the programming to be a bit limited, although I was pleased to see they had both the first and second seasons of True Detective. I’m very particular when it comes to movies and shows and can’t/won’t pay attention to something I’m bored with. I lucked out! If they hadn’t had True Detective, I probably would have found StudioCX to be a complete failure. That said, Cathay clearly studied up on what the best HBO programming of the moment is, so kudos to them.

Emirates

PJs, fully loaded toiletry kit, a writing kit, a personal refreshments bar, lighted vanity. Their entertainment system, ICE, has much more programming than Cathay’s and has programs that appeal to a wider audience in a variety of different languages.

The Service

Cathay Pacific

The service was good, but not exceptional. When setting the dinner table, they moved things a number of times, as if they were surprised that the breadbasket would take up room on the table or that our meal would need silverware. Given they were both experienced flight attendants, one would think they’d have it down to a science by now. One would also expect they would, since we were in First Class. Certainly a departure from the videos of Etihad’s Butlers, which make it seem as though silverware placement is life or death!

Neither of the flight attendants explained how to use and operate the seat and entertainment system nor did they initially introduce themselves. However, one did introduce himself shortly after we boarded and expressed a genuine interest in our trip and plans. The other flight attendant seemed (was?) devoid of personality. They were both, however, attentive. 

Cathay Pacific is ideal for someone who isn’t afraid to ask for what they want. When you press the call button, they quite literally drop whatever it is they are doing and appear at your seat within 5 seconds. I didn’t count, but it couldn’t have been more than 5 seconds. I don’t think I could have expected them to be there any faster than they were. I’m the kind of customer who likes to generally be left alone, unless I need something. For example, at a restaurant I detest being checked on periodically. Rather, I appreciate a server who notices when plates need to be cleared and when my glass is near empty.

I recently met a friend of Ben’s who said that he only had a bowl of cereal while on an in Business Class on an Etihad flight from IAD-AUH because he was too meek to ask for anything else. Cathay Pacific may not be a match for him in terms of service. I, on the other hand, am well suited for it. 😉

Emirates

The service on our flight blew me away. The attention to detail, as well as the genuine desire to please and provide excellent service on the part of the flight attendants, made it an unforgettable experience. That said, Ben said it was one of the top service experiences he has had on Emirates, so I think he may have ruined me with that flight… Oh, the agony.

The Food and Alcohol

Cathay Pacific

The caviar service was on point, and I very much like that they cook your breakfast eggs to order – a rarity in the sky! Like Emirates, they have a dine on demand menu, although it’s not nearly as comprehensive. Perhaps it’s best to take a peek at the menus and see for yourself. For Champagne, they serve Krug.

Cathay-Pacific-Breakfast

Krug

Emirates

The variety and selection of wines and spirits on Emirates is hard to compete with, and the quality of the food, as well as the breadth of the menu, is likewise, the leader here. For Champagne, they serve Dom Perignon.

The Bathrooms

Cathay Pacific

Sadly, they’re only a tad larger than what you find on standard US carriers. 🙁 I believe they’re supposed to be cleaned fairly often, though I’m not certain this happened on our flight.

Emirates

They’re larger than most powder rooms! In fact, they’re “full bathrooms” if you’re looking at it from a real estate perspective.

Bottom line

For me, there isn’t one clear winner. It’s a draw. In some fantasy world where you can choose a direct, long haul flight on either Emirates or Cathay, which would I choose? Depends how much l sleep I want to get, since Cathay’s seat and bed, in terms of both size and comfort, wins by a landslide.

Regardless of which is better, the value of falling asleep off the coast of California and waking up over Asia cannot be understated.

Comments

  1. interesting to hear your observations and i appreciate the comparison to EK, which i have yet to fly — but soon, thankfully. i’ve always told people that cathay offers a different kind of consistent luxury. they’re the maybach to EK’s maserati. while i love the ‘attend only when called’ service standard, it intimidates a lot of people and so i wish sometimes their crews were a bit more perceptive in anticipating travelers’ needs. FWIW the crews can vary so differently: i’ve found the YVR-based crews to be the friendliest and most engaging. the food and drink have always been the highlight of my CX flights and CX Studio has always been sufficient for me. love the hard product and sleep solidly each time i fly them.

    look forward to reading what’s next!

  2. As interesting as this is, I’m not sure how much value it adds. It would be much more interesting if, instead of having others review airlines we’re already seen dozens of reports from you here anyway, they review airlines you haven’t flown in a while (like Swiss) or airlines you don’t fly all that often (like ANA), to get a really nice new point of view.

    Or, it would be nice to see some new reviews of airlines you haven’t ever reviewed yet, or reviews of airlines with upgraded premium cabins. Some choices:

    *Garuda’s new first and business
    *Air France’s new first and business
    *Iberia business class
    *South African business class
    *SAS business class
    *Emirates business class

    And like Swiss, it would be nice to see updates of airlines you haven’t flown in a while as well, like Thai.

    Granted, it was nice to see you review a new business class seat for American, but at the end of the day, its another AA flight…again, it is interesting to see other people’s POV, but if you went a year without reviewing Cathay, Emirates, American, or Qatar, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. I’m just saying as this constructive criticism, btw, nothing else.

  3. Definitely Cathay, not just because they are great, but because you get to get off the plane in Hong Kong which is probably the most amazing city in the world! Thanks for the report.

  4. Loved the review. I just read your little bio and saw that you are from Newport! I too grew up in Newport and still spend most of the year there. Such a funny coincidence.

  5. Nice report, Ford. I appreciated the side-by-side comparisons between EK and CX, and will bear them in mind if I fly from the UK to Asia. I’ve never been to Hong Kong, but it’s definitely on my list. I’m British and have visited the US around 20 times, but never gone to Asia. Maybe it’s time to be more adventurous when taking my summer vacations?!

  6. While I agree with you to some degree, this was Lucky taking his significant other to HKG for the first time. CX was the natural choice and frankly only choice.

    Swiss F is only bookable to elite members of LH FF program.

    AF F is only bookable to elite members of Flyingblue and at a extremely high award rate. Would be fun to read about, but you would be crazy to use miles for it. Even SFO777 over on Flyertalk ended up doing a paid ticket instead of miles, and that was after having done 16 segments on Delta as a status run. New J looks good but is not available on many routes yet, AF seems to be taking a a long time rolling it out.

    SK new J seems to almost be the Loch Ness monster of awards, very difficult to find. Lucky has said he want to try it.

    It would be nice to see a review of EK J, but it’s bad value on miles compared to F.

    Iberia only have their new J product on a small part of their fleet yet, if I remember correctly.

    There is a short review of Garuda F on the site already by Nick, but would love a longer review of both F and J.

  7. Good for Lucky, but again, I don’t think this review really adds much value to this site or gives us any insight we don’t already know about Cathay first.

    As for the airlines listed…whether or not they are a good value isn’t the point. Part of this site is to review different premium products so that people can get an idea of what to expect from those products if and when they decide to fly on them, whether paid or redeemed.

  8. “…and first trip to Asia altogether”

    “..now that we’ve conquered Dubai together for the first”

    Geographically, Dubai is in Asia. 🙂

  9. Well I loved the review – it is definitely good to get a fresh perspective from a companion traveller – wouldn’t every one of us enjoy introducing somebody cool and gorgeous to Cathay First?

  10. Good review but I agree with others that it is getting very repetitive to see reviews of Emirates, Cathay, Singapore first class. It is time for you to go outside the box and try other airlines and more business class. In my case for example I fly paid business class for all my business travels (not first class) so it would be very helpful to know which one I should pick if I have an option.

  11. Truth be told, unlike those hungering for new information and tips, I follow the site for entertainment value. Ford’s writing is articulate, witty and fun to read.

    Waiting for the couple’s Singapore Suites experience one day…. (and maybe even a future journey among Ben, Ford and the senior Herr Schlappig? “Benny, zist guy ist great!”) 😉

  12. A decent review but a snoozefest. The seemingly endless FC Emirates reviews have successfully beaten a dead horse. We get it, Emirates has showers in their planes. Most of us will never get to experience it. It’s like reading articles comparing a Bentley to a Rolls Royce. We know they are both great cars, and we will never get to drive them. I agree with other posters, why not review flights on the non beaten to death airlines on Boardingarea.

  13. Ford what a great review. Love reading both your reports. Never mind the naysayers lol… Keep it up eh.. As in the great reviews@:)

  14. Thanks for the review, but can we get more reviews on airlines you haven’t tried? Also, more business class reviews would be appreciated. First class is great, but most of us do our traveling in business class.

  15. Wine list and menu? We know about (and appreciate!) the Krug and the caviar. We (well, some of us) would like to know the rest of the culinary story. Glad you had a good trip, Ford, and look forward to your version of your journeys together.

  16. Ford, StudioCX had two Almodovar films (two!) when I last flew CX. Women on the Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and Talk To Her. That automatically makes it the best IFE in the industry 😉

  17. Hey guys I’m looking to fly to EZE aporox 24 February ’16 from DUB return late July. Any suggestions re flying from alternative airport in Europe for cheaper fare Currently €1100 aporox atm from DUB. Thanks

  18. I would never add ice to the blue label, it’s way too expensive.
    On the other hand it’s free anyway….next time I’m going to order a blue label with coke 🙂

  19. ” I lucked out! If they hadn’t had True Detective, I probably would have found StudioCX to be a complete failure. That said, Cathay clearly studied up on what the best HBO programming of the moment is, so kudos to them.”

    @Ford Either you were being sarcastic or you really have only watched the first episode of season 2. Because season 2 is a giant heap of unwatchable garbage with terrible casting to top it off.

  20. I feel embarrassed for all the people who commented negatively. Not every single post has to be an academic article with new information. There’s a thing called entertainment value, and I personally enjoy reading Ford’s reviews (especially when he disagrees with Lucky! It’s very cute. I can just imagine them arguing). This post wasn’t written by Lucky, so Emirates or another airline, it’s offering a new perspective, and I for one enjoyed reading it.

  21. Really enjoyed Ford’s review for only the fact his writing style is far more polished than Lucky’s which frankly makes it hard to take him seriously. Looking forward to more posts from him!

  22. @ YYZgayguy I didn’t even think to look for Almodovar films! I love his work as well. Especially Volver and Women on the Verge Of a Nervous Breakdown.

  23. Despite @No Name comments, this was an interesting review from a new perspective. CX is NOT the only choice to HKG (SQ offers wonderful service on the SFO-HKG route). Contrary to some readers’ impressions, this blog is also read with great interest by those of us who actually pay for our tickets and want to learn which airlines/aircraft-routings offer us top value for service and comfort.

  24. Ford, Trust me, do not waste your time on season 2 of TD. The first season was fantastic. Season 2 was an indecipherable mess of a storyline featuring mumbling passing for acting, awful characters with zero redeeming qualities and an overly-depressing tone from the first minute to the last. Vinci makes the fictional city in Seven look positively dandy by comparison.

    After I had already invested 3 hours of my life on this dreck, it became my perverse goal to muddle through to the bitter end. I’m a pretty smart fellow and I swear as the final scene played (the totally bizarre death of Vince Vaughn’s character…I mean really, WTF was that?) I realize I had no idea of what had happened….for the entire arc. Ford, again, stay away from TD 2.

  25. Ford, @Mike and @RoloT are right. Season 2 is terrible. I wanted so badly to like it. In the end, I felt like an idiot for wasting so much time waiting for it to get better.

    Great review of CX. Looking forward to hearing more about the rest of your trip.

  26. I liked TD Season 2, but only in retrospect. Rachel McAdams was enough to keep me watching until it started getting better. Reminds me of The Counsellor, beautiful visuals of California with a disjointed story that only makes sense after you’re done watching it. Don’t compare it to Season 1, it pales in comparison, just appreciate it on its own.

  27. “I feel embarrassed for all the people who commented negatively”

    Why on earth would you even feel that? People are allowed to disagree on subjects. As long as people aren’t being trolls, of course.

    “it’s offering a new perspective”

    Not really, its more or less the same stuff we’ve heard dozens of times before already. The only interesting point was his thinking StudioCX, is good, but not great. Most people consider it among the top 3 airline IFE systems out there. So at least that point was interesting.

    “There’s a thing called entertainment value”

    Yeah, but that is subjective. People have different opinions and levels to tolerance for what it is considered “entertainment”. I really don’t care about singing cabdrivers or whatever. I’d be much more interested in say, Lucky or Tiffany’s take on a subject like this:

    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/11/airline-websites-2015-front-end-performance-ux-lessons-learned/

    Yes, its a long article, but probably more relevant to readers of this site regardless of why they visit.

    Again, I don’t know why anyone gets so defensive when constructive criticism if offered, which is what most people were offering. If anything, I find it hilarious that some people commenting here seemed to be more offended than either Lucky of Ford are.

  28. So your favorite tv series features four characters slowly revealing their childhood traumas and wounds. Makes for a lot of interesting klatch moments with Ben, I bet. 🙂

    When reviewing airlines one has to account for cultural differences. Perhaps it wasn’t the FA fumbling about table setting, but just trying to remember which pieces didn’t fall on the floor earlier during turbulence.

    Finally, I learned from your comparison that CX’s lavatories aren’t suited for frisky encounters in the sky or helping each other change from PJ’s.

  29. I find the rising tide of negative feedback on recent posts most interesting. I wonder how much of those have come from long-time readers who have noticed the real change in direction of the site.

  30. “Johnnie Walker Blue on the rocks”

    Ben, Ford, your champagne tastes are very good, but you drink whisky like heretics !

  31. I do agree. Ben has a overwhelming love for the Emirates airlines like Qatar, Emirates, Eitihad. But it would be fun and a learning experience if we can know the first class reviews for other airlines for comparison as well, such as New Zealand Air, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Air France, Turkish Airways e.t.c.

  32. Just Flew EK FC JFK to DXB to SIN and the reverse on the 380. Its the plane that made the difference not the suite for me. The shear space (and quiet) of the 380 just blew this Boeing guy away. But for premium functional Porsche like elegance the Lufthansa FC suites are my fav over either Cathy or Emirates.

  33. Ford, now that you are leading the way here, to keep the grumbers happy (no offense I too as an armchair traveler would love to see a wider range of reviews) why not grab a trip on one of the UFO thingies that pilots report and review that?

    Actually serious question, have you or Lucky ever seen one from your time in the air?

    [a good and respected book with pilot reports is Leslie Keens UFOs for those interested, ]

  34. Okay let’s all put on our prejudice aside and look toward the value of experience that Ben and Ford provide in their reviews. If your not happy because Ben has a real life then you need to move on! The reviews are offering more since Fords arrival in Ben’s life. Obviously there are people in the world that cant get past that someone is happy and enjoying life. They both have a lot to offer in their reviews. And the perspective of being able to travel together is an immense offering you can’t get anywhere else. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see them travel together. I met my guy 20 years ago and now being 40 I wouldn’t take away our travel experiences ever it enlightened my life. Keep up the writing guys. Stay proud of who you are and many more years of travel to come!

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