I was excited about our entire trip back to Asia – but I was most excited about flying Cathay Pacific first class. I managed to snag two seats using British Airways Avios due to some persistence and obsessiveness. We were booked on CX 806 from Hong Kong to Chicago O’Hare, a 14 hour flight. So how’d it go with a two year old in tow?
In-town Check in and Security
The Airport Express is possibly my favorite method of getting to the airport that I’ve ever used. We didn’t want to risk the free shuttle being a mess again so we took a short taxi ride from the Hyatt Regency to Kowloon Station.
At Kowloon Station we used the in-town check in services. Having in-town check in is something unique to Hong Kong that is incredibly useful. Basically, all of the airlines have check in desks set up and the lines generally feel shorter than at the airport.
You use your Octopus card or Airport Express ticket to get into the turnstiles and then check in as if you were checking in at the airport. As long as you’re checking in 90 minutes before departure time you can check your bags all the way through to your destination. That was super useful for us with M in tow to not have to drag our bags one extra leg to the airport.
Oddly enough, you then leave the check in area and go to the trains where you have to tap your ticket again. Not sure why that’s the case, but it’s a pretty simple procedure. After that, it’s a short train ride to the airport (24 minutes from Central, a little shorter from Kowloon). Exit left for Terminal 1 or right for Terminal 2.
Security at Hong Kong was a breeze, there’s a family line, but really all of the lines are very efficient and move quickly. It’s basically the opposite of what security feels like in…other countries.
Cathay Pacific The Wing Lounge
After going through security, we hung a left and where at Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge, The Wing, after a two minute walk. The lounge is beautiful – it has a nice open feel one level above the gates and a great view of a bunch of the gates.
We settled onto one of the couches – M immediately started climbing over everything while Jess and I took turns exploring the food and drink options. Jess grabbed her customary chocolate croissant while I had a glass of the Veuve Clicquot Rose (they also have the standard champagne as well).
Unfortunately, we got to the airport a little late so we didn’t get to enjoy the lounge as much as we had hoped. There is a restaurant, showers, and cabanas (which are like private rooms with a shower). There’s also a champagne bar although you can just get champagne at the regular bar.
In retrospect, we should have gotten a cabana. Truth be told, I didn’t even get to grab a shot of them on this trip – but they are perfect for families with small children. There is plenty of stuff for a toddler to climb or mess with, a shower, a bathtub, and a daybed for resting.
I was also disappointed because I didn’t find the restaurant until ten minutes before we had to leave to board. The lounge isn’t very big but for some reason I had trouble finding where things were – I think it’s because of the dark/sleek design or maybe it’s just because I was making sure M didn’t climb on the furniture too much.
Anyway, I checked out the menu and the attendant asked if I’d be coming in. I told her that, unfortunately, I had to leave to board soon. She smiled and replied, kindly, “ “ – next time. I don’t know, what she said really got to me – with M turning two it personally just felt to me like I wouldn’t be back anytime soon – or maybe ever. And with that, we heard the boarding announcement and were off.
Cathay First Class Seat Selection and Boarding
We boarded at gate 4, which is right outside the lounge. We went out of the lounge the way we came but realized later that we could have exited through the business class lounge and been right at our gate.
Boarding was smooth, though when we got on the plane I realized I had made a mistake with seat selection. One Mile at a Time has a good primer on CX F seat selection that I wish he had released, oh, a month ago.
Anyway there are six seats in first class – 1A and 2A are on the left side with their own aisle – it would have been ideal to have been in these two seats with M since no one else would be using the aisle. Instead we were in 1A and 1D, which meant we were separated by a partition – no backup.
Barring grabbing 1A and 2A, it would have been better to have 1D and 1K so we could have been across the aisle from each other. Oh well, live and learn. It ended up working out okay in the sense that when one of us was taking care of M the other was completely undisturbed, though I was nervous about us not being able to support one another.
After we boarded we were given our amenity kits and pajamas. I grabbed a glass of champagne but passed on the amuse bouche we just had too much going on. I’m not too into amenity kits – too much toothpaste in our household these days – but the pajamas on Cathay are perhaps my favorite airline pajamas yet. They are soft, comfortable, and most importantly for the plane – don’t get static-y.
Cathay requires lap infants to wear one of those extension belts whenever the seatbelt sign is turned on. M really hated that so it often resulted in some loud protests whenever she had to put it on, including on takeoff.
Taking Meals with the Toddler
After take off our meal service began. As is our custom, we split time with M and ate separately, this time Jess got to eat first. Now I know a lot of people say first class with a toddler or lap infant is a waste, and I totally get that. But the flip side of that is in first class you can really have things the way you want them. The attendants are always super helpful and trying to meet your needs as best they can; with a little one in tow they seem to be even more accommodating.
So while Jess was eating her caviar, I decided to order something off of the snack menu for M – the Japanese braised pork ramen. I found the food off the snack menu worked much better for M, obviously first class fare can be a bit too fancy for toddlers.
We had a great time eating together – it’s tough to explain just how huge the seat is. I actually laid it out as a bed so we could spread out and instead of using the expansive tray table we just used the very large side table. We managed to minimize the number of noodles that hit the seat to two – a real coup!
Eventually it was my turn to eat. I’d definitely say the highlight of the meal was the caviar – you can never really go wrong with that. Although the seared tuna in the salad was very good, I don’t really enjoy eating large pieces of non-chopped lettuce so I let most of it go to waste.
I ordered the Wok-fried Maine lobster as my main – that was excellent. The only trouble with that is I couldn’t really figure out how to eat it without making a mess – luckily M was with Jess.
I finished with some cheese (tallegio and manchego I think) and the apple crumble. The cheese was excellent and the crumble was good even though I’m not a huge fan of dessert. We waited until M was asleep to eat dessert. The great thing about first class is the ability to get what you want when you want it and not on a set schedule.
I ordered noodles again twice throughout the flight. Once after M woke up and once for myself. Besides the ramen, there is also a noodle soup with fish balls – this was also pretty great. Unfortunately, I slept through breakfast service but Jess said the congee was excellent. No pictures, unfortunately.
One more thing of note – you can be served an afternoon tea set on request (you can have any snack at any time just hit the call button).
We had only about an hour when M slept on her own – so we decided to take tea together. It’s easy to eat with a companion – the ottoman even comes with a seatbelt for turbulence. The afternoon tea was a nice spread and we enjoyed a little bit of peace and quiet together. Jess has reminded me that my lack of sleep has caused me to mix up this flight with our flight home from Lyon. Oops! So I can’t speak to the quality of CX’s afternoon tea – but it does exist!
Finding Ways to Rest with the Toddler
I’d venture to say that aside from the Lufthansa 747 with a seat and bed, the Cathay Pacific first class seat is the most conducive premium cabin seat for a lap child. Like I said, the seat is huge. There is a nice little section to the right of the main seat where a toddler can sit comfortably.
If you lay the bed out, there is a ton of space – all three of us could sit on the bed with room to spare. The chair is comfortable both in the lounging and sleeping position – though when sleeping there is a little bit of a bump that was always sticking into my back a little bit.
Getting M to sleep was pretty tough. She was super into everything on the plane – light switches, seat controls, duty free magazine (searching for Hello Kitty). Compounding her overstimulation was the fact that every time we managed to get her to sleep, we’d hit a spot of turbulence.
Whenever her seatbelt went on she’d wake up get pretty mad (or not wake up and still be pretty mad). Unfortunately, there was a ton of turbulence on the flight – maybe 1/3 to ½ the flight. Maybe things would have been more comfortable otherwise.
Still, it was great to have the first class seat for M to sleep in. Both Jess and I spent some time sleeping with her in the bed and neither of us felt too overcrowded.
The entertainment system is also well set up to use when you’re in the bed. You don’t need to sleep at an angle to see the screen clearly which happens sometime on other products. I managed to watch a movie and a few TV shows on the flight, which of course you know I love.
As I mentioned, I got to sleep the late shift so I missed breakfast. Before we knew it, we were descending into Chicago.
This flight was definitely tough at times – the turbulence made it tougher on everyone. But the cabin crew and service was great and did their best to make everything easier for us. The seat was super comfortable and spacious enough for us to sleep with M. I definitely think this is one of the top first class products in the world (in my limited experience). At 67.5K AA miles, it’s definitely one of the best options out there right now. Cathay releases quite a bit of space close in, so if you’re flexible – go for it!
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