My name is Dan, and I am a friend and avid follower of the “asthejoeflies” blog. As one of Joe-sensei’s top protégés in the points and miles game, Joe has allowed me to contribute a guest post regarding my trans-pacific escapades this summer. (Ed. note: Daniel-san is also the producer of the Saverocity Observation Deck and a legendary Hearthstone player).
In the previous post, I introduced Korea’s Asiana and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airlines as contenders of our “Ninja Battle of Eastern Carrier Business Class!” I compared the lounges, aircraft equipment and seats from my experience this past summer. Continuing the battle, in this post I will discuss the food, service, in-flight entertainment and overall winner!
Training Diet (Food)
The best part of flying premium class has to be the food. My impressions from friends who have flown these two airlines is that the food is spectacular (at least compared to US carriers) so my expectations were sky high! Both flights served a meal shortly after take off and about 2 hours before landing. Western and Eastern course meals were offered for both meals.
While my wife and I usually try to order different meals at restaurants, weddings etc, our excitement to be traveling to Asia led us to both order the Korean Bibimbap main course. Funny enough, we noticed most of the Koreans on board ordered Western meals which looked quite good as well.
In my opinion, the main course was the best part of the meal (as it should be!) You can’t compare it to authentic bibimbap in Korea, or even in restaurants in the States, but it was quite good for an airplane meal and I cleaned off the bowl in no time.
Dessert was a bit disappointing (some Korean crackers/cookies) which doesn’t warrant a picture.
After nearly 2 weeks in Taiwan, I was probably getting a bit tired of Asian food so I opted for Western meal options on the Cathay flight back home.
I ordered the Western breakfast (poached egg, sausage and bacon). What I was served was not worthy of a picture. The tomato in the dish had disintegrated in the heating process leaving the egg, sausage and bacon soaking in watery tomato juice. Looking over at my neighbors, the Chinese breakfast didn’t seem to fare much better.
Having heard rave reviews about the great food on Cathay from friends and family, I was pretty disappointed with the food served during the set meals. Had I known beforehand, I probably would have been more satisfied just ordering the burger for all the meals. (Ed note: Go to McDonald’s before you leave Hong Kong or something because you got to eat Asian food on Asian carriers in my opinion).
Fighting Styles (Service)
My wife and I were blown away by Asiana’s flight attendants and their service to the passengers. A few anecdotes illustrate why we were so impressed:
- Upon boarding the plane, my wife was feeling quite hungry since it was already 1PM and there hadn’t been any lunch option at the Swiss Lounge. She asked the flight attendant for some peanuts to go with the pre-flight drink, and when the flight attendant saw her scarfing down the nuts, she offered to make my wife a sandwich. Within 5 minutes, the flight attendant returned with a warmed croissant ham and cheese sandwich all before the airplane doors had even been closed! (Ed note: Wow, in business class? I’m impressed).
- Again, pre-flight, an elderly Korean lady was settling into the seat across the aisle from us. She looked as if she might have been a bit cold as she wrapped herself around the shoulders with the down blanket. Without prompting that I could discern, a flight attendant came with two additional blankets and went ahead mummifying the appreciative elderly lady, wrapping her legs/feet and midriff with additional blankets and then returning multiple time throughout the flight to help tuck the lady in.
- Throughout the trip, the flight attendants were constantly patrolling the cabin looking to assist in any way. On multiple occasions, a half empty cup or wrapper I had set aside would disappear so silently and quickly to the point where my wife and I were joking about ninjas on the plane.
Cathay’s service was by no means poor, my one annoyance was that during meal times, all passengers were served each course simultaneously. On Asiana, as soon as you completed one meal course, you were offered the next one (as a fast eater, I probably finished my meal about 20 minutes ahead of my wife). On Cathay, the pace of the meal seemed to be limited by the slowest eater in the cabin. Which meant by the time dessert rolled around, I had already given up waiting, brushed my teeth, and was in bed sleeping.
Genjutsu (In-Flight Entertainment)
Unlike Joe-sensei, the ultimate connoisseur of in-flight entertainment, I haven’t developed the same refined taste in IFE since I typically bring my own in the form of an iPad. Both flights offered touchscreen systems with easy to navigate entertainment options (and both flights had Avengers: Age of Ultron for Joe!) While both flights seemed to have about the same number of titles (in terms of movies and TV shows), the options available on Cathay were much more interesting to me (either by random chance or perhaps better curated). I watched half of Insurgent on the Asiana flight before getting bored and returning to my Naruto. On the Cathay flight, I found Fury, Big Hero 6 and a Hong Kong comedy–From Vegas to Macau, to be quite entertaining. I can’t remember the last time I watched 3 movies in a row!
And after the dust settles, the winner is….
ASIANA! Overall, I felt I had a much better experience on the Asiana flight than the Cathay Pacific flight. In terms of equipment and seats, both products were fairly similar in quality and comfort. However, the main difference between the two flights was the attention to detail of the flight attendants which not only showed in anticipating passenger needs, but the quality and preparation of the food. I don’t think flying in the A380 made much of a difference in the travel experience, but if you’re even the slightest airplane enthusiast, it’s still a cool experience to try at least once.
The Asiana flight from JFK to ICN can be booked with 80k United points and availability is fairly open (except for summers and holidays). Cathay Pacific flights can be booked with 55k American Airlines points, although the flights are not as readily available unless you’re booking a year in advance. However, availability in business/first class is almost always guaranteed to open up last minute (about a week before the flight).
Thanks again to Joe-sensei for showing me the ropes in the points and miles game. Blogs like this and others at Saverocity really help the travel planning process more accessible. We look forward to sharing future travel adventures another time!
Perhaps I should have booked that first class Cathay seat after all… (Ed note: DUH).