So we took M back to Asia before she turned two and figured we owed H the same. Coming to Hong Kong for only a week seemed like a great idea back in August, time will tell whether it was! But since H managed to get himself born in July going this summer before he turns two is impossible. The first and last steps of our journey: flights with two kids on Cathay Pacific BOS-HKG (and return) in business class.
My buddy Dan reviewed Cathay Pacific business class awhile back so I won’t bother too much with the details. Bottom line: super solid, comfortable product with good food and tons of entertainment. Truly an ideal way to fly to Hong Kong in business class as an adult. Also, one of the only reasons we managed to go to Hong Kong for such a short time (7 nights) with such young kids was being able to fly in business class. (The other? Grandparents.)
This post will focus on how the flight affected our kids. We spent 420,000 AA miles to fly in J so it’s fair to question whether it was worth it. Here are some things that stood out to me as a parent of a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old flying BOS-HKG on Cathay Pacific.
The lap infant fare cost much less than expected
You need to buy a lap infant ticket when flying internationally.Of course this ticket doesn’t cost a ton since it’s not full price – for most airlines, including AA, it costs 10% of the cash fare. This includes award tickets (though some awesome airlines like British Airways and Korean Air charge 10% of the miles. Aeroplan also has set cash costs which really save you money if you’re booking premium cabins). I wrote about my experience doing just that with United here. You technically need to get a lap infant ticket on domestic flights as well but those cost nothing.
Anyway, I prepared myself to pay 10% of the cash fare for our business class seats, around $800. Like with United, I decided to wait until the last week to call in for the lap infant. Business class fares don’t fluctuate too much so I didn’t think I risked much.
The AAgent surprised me by quoting me about $240 for the lap infant ticket. I’m not sure how she came up with that (coach fare, perhaps), but I took it and ran! So you never know…but be prepared to pay quite a bit. We have before.
Leaving at 1:45 AM is really tough on the kids (outbound)
As a parent, I always prefer direct flights. So when Cathay Pacific started the Boston to Hong Kong flight it was pretty exciting. The downside, however, is a 1:45 AM departure time on the outbound.
We decided to put the kids to bed at normal time (8 PM, I guess an hour early for M). We woke them up right around 11:30 PM and then left immediately. They were pretty groggy and then mostly delirious at the airport, not a great start to the trip.
Of course, we didn’t sleep at all so by the time we all boarded the plane we had kids with not enough sleep and parents with none. Jess boarded first with M and got her settled while H and I played in the empty terminal. By the time the boys got on the plane, it was time to go, so we settled in for the long haul.
The return flight leaves at a much more reasonable time, 6:10 PM Hong Kong time. Of course, it arrives at 10:10 PM Boston time, leading to a lot of jet lag, but I’ll leave that to another post.
15.5 hours is an incredibly long time
Our flight to Hong Kong took 15 and a half hours, the return took about 15. For the most part, the return was much easier – both kids slept about eight hours. The rest of the time M watched a ton of Doc McStuffins and other TV, while H…went nuts? I’d say 18-24 months is quite possibly the worst time to travel with your child.
A toddler that age knows what they want but can’t express it. They want to go places but don’t necessarily have the physical skills to do so consistently. Plus, H needs to move around much more than his sister did at that age.
One thing I’m not sure we made the right decision about, we got three seats in a row. That means to cross to the other side we had to go through the galley. That meant more room for H to walk, but I felt bad cutting through to help out. Eventually I just started climbing over the center console!
Entertaining the kids
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We bought a bunch of stuff to entertain the kids on the plane. Some things, like Wikki sticks and some car magnets, didn’t work out too well for our kids. But other stuff, like this Melissa and Doug Color Blast coloring book (with “magic pen”), provided great entertainment not only on the plane but throughout the trip.
Besides that coloring book, three other things we bought stood out. First, we bought more take and toss sippy cups. We find that our kids thermoses sort of explode due to changes in cabin pressure; these sippy cups provide a way to keep the kids hydrated without worrying about a mess. (Tip: if you do bring a thermos, keep the cap open to adjust for the pressure. Science!). They only cost $1.25 when I got the, $4 now but still worth it to me. Note they are add on items.
Secondly, Jess bought this huge Tsum Tsum sticker book which occupied M for a long time. She loves this sticker book and played with it a ton even after we arrived. Jess bought it at Target for $15 or something but you can grab it from Amazon for $10.
But da real MVP by far was this pill planner box Jess bought. I confess, I was completely skeptical about this. But I should have realized multi-purpose items reign supreme. We hid snacks, stickers, etc. in the pill planning box and both kids loved to pop each box open to get what was inside. This especially saved us with H, who probably used the box for over an hour throughout the course of each flight. Pill planning boxes – not just for the elderly!
Flying in business class helps, though I’m not sure how much
Like I said at the top, we couldn’t have done this trip without flying in business class. But that mostly is a function of how little time we were in Hong Kong. Now I know Trevor can do Hong Kong in 48 hours, but kids obviously are different. Not only do they get a ton of jetlag, but the parents get a lot less rest – so adrenaline runs out.
The best part of flying business was maximizing rest. When the kids slept, we could lay down fully, so even though I only grabbed three hours on each flight, I felt better than if I had stayed upright. Having food on demand also helped, but you can get cup noodles in economy so that mostly washed out.
I’d say the second benefit came from the attentive service. Since we had a much better flight attendant to passenger ratio, they helped out a big deal. Remember, on Cathay J, they expect you to ring the call button when you need something so don’t be afraid to do that. I’m always impressed by the quality of Cathay’s flight attendants and these flights were no exception.
Finally, and this sounds dumb, but the fact that there were so many buttons to push really helped to keep H occupied. Toddlers are silly, just give them stuff to push and they can stay happy for quite awhile!
Amenities are nice, but a longhaul flight is about survival
Despite the nice amenities of being in business class, we mostly arrived at both our destinations wrecked. A fifteen hour flight with two kids feels like a long war of attrition. It’s nice to lie fully down, but you can never fully rest because you keep one ear open for your kids.
We had no major meltdowns (greater than 5 minutes), but we had a couple minor ones to deal with. Come to think of it, we probably dealt with the same number as we’d deal with in a regular 15 hour day so that wasn’t too bad. No dirty looks either!
Cathay gave H an “amenity kit” with a couple of diapers and Mustela – nice stuff! I actually needed a new small bag for our passports so I’m using it now. I’m guessing they do this in economy too but I don’t know for sure. A nice little baby amenity. In terms of being lap infant friendly, Cathay was great.
The toughest part of flying with a lap infant on Cathay
To me the hardest part was using a seatbelt on H when taking off, landing, or in turbulence. In the States, on most carriers you just literally hold the lap infant in your lap. On Cathay and many other foreign carriers, they give you a seat belt to loop with your own. You then need to buckle that around the kid.
Both my kids unequivocably hate that thing. They don’t mind wearing a seat belt sitting alone, but they hate the lap + seat combination. So the most stressful time of the flight? Sitting in turbulence with a freaking out H on my (or Jess’) lap. Luckily our flights were pretty smooth so we didn’t need to worry about it too much!
I recognize plenty of our friends fly to Asia with their young kids in coach so I know how lucky we were to fly up front. I’m glad we got to do it, the whole purpose of this trip was to get H back before he turns two. Unfortunately, that meant we could only stay a week, but thankfully we had the miles to fly in J. That really helped minimize jet lag – though that still was pretty rough (to be continued).
Overall, Cathay Pacific J is a wonderful way to fly to Asia, if you’ve got the miles it’s a worthy redemption. A hefty redemption at 420,000 miles to be sure, but that’s why we play the game. Remember you can use AA or Alaska miles, the latter much cheaper! Stay tuned to read about my jetlag wars with H – fun times were had by none!