Ever since AA increased first class award price to Asia zone 2 from 67,500 to 110,000 miles, I’ve opted for business class across the Pacific. Today I was reunited with Cathay Pacific First Class for the first time in 2 years, thanks to my Alaska Airlines miles (which remains a 70,000 mile redemption). While I won’t make a habit of it, I rediscovered just how much better first class is than business class, at least on Cathay Pacific, in terms of the seat/bed, food, service, and lounge. It’s not so much a knock on their business class (they have a great one) as it is a praise for their magnificent first class. That is, except for one significant weakness – I never sleep well on it. There are 2 main reasons.
Reason #1 – Turbulance
At least on the Hong Kong to US route, it’s always turbulent whenever I’ve flown it, and I’ve flown it many times. Today was especially bad, almost nonstop turbulence. You’re going to feel it no matter what, and it’s bad for sleep. Maybe it’s better on another route, such as HKG to Europe. Also, it seems better from US to HK (so it’s especially bad in the reverse direction), though I can’t say that with 100% certainty.
Reason #2 – Cabin Temperature
It’s almost always too hot onboard Cathay Pacific first or business class. Surprisingly it wasn’t the case today. They had the temperature on the cold side. Still, the duvet was too thick, and I constantly woke up to light sweat. It’s possible to ask for a lighter blanket, which I’ve done before. I’m temperature sensitive though; if you aren’t, it may not bother you, though the high temperature is well established.
Everything else was great.
I was looking forward to The Pier first class lounge, but it was a 15-20 minute walk from my gate, while The Wing is next to it. I went with the latter for sufficient time in the lounge. It did not disappoint. After a 20 minute wait for a Cabana, I was reunited with the famous shower suite, which I actually needed to soak my aching body after a strenuous hike. Afterwards, I enjoyed some food in the restaurant. On the a la carte menu, braised beef cheek was a hit, while grouper and scallop weren’t. On the buffet, I enjoyed the braised pork knuckles (see a theme here?). And that was all the room I had for food.
It didn’t take long after boarding for me to be reminded why seat 2A is my favorite seat in the sky. It’s so spacious and private – I’d guess 30% more usable space than their business class reverse herringbone. Storage was less plentiful than I remembered – there’s only one small compartment for small items. It seems like a more modern design could carve out a lot more storage space given the generous real estate.
In-flight service was impeccable. Chanel and Margaret were both lovely, truly at my service for the entire flight, in typical Cathay Pacific first class fashion. The bone-in tenderloin was possibly the best food I’ve ever had on a plane, and one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, period. I always appreciate the UNICEF donation envelope that takes any leftover currency you have. It’s a great way to get rid of unnecessary foreign currency and do some good.
First class more available than business?
I was searching for summer flight to Asia. I am seeing some Cathay Pacific first class availability (one seat per flight), but no business class. A friend had the same experience. I’ve seen this before and it comes and goes. I’d guess it’s temporary. If not, I guess they are forcing me to enjoy my favorite seat more 🙂 (at a price, of course).
I have no problem going back to only-business class after this. This was a rare splurge. Like I said, I won’t make a habit of it with the current earning/burning scheme.
In a Nutshell
This is truly a remarkable way to fly across the ocean. Too bad it’s ill-fitted for actual sleep, since the bed is so spacious. You’d have similar issues on business class from Hong Kong to US, but at least you aren’t paying as much. Maybe I should consider alternate routes from Asia. I’ve routed through Tokyo before, though I can’t recall the turbulence situation (JAL is just as bad with temperature). Any feedback is appreciated.