Flights Reviews

Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Comfortable long-haul business product with an excellent crew, tested on a short-haul flight.

First, an admission. We’re big Cathay Pacific fans here at Mainly Miles. While our ultimate allegiance lies with our favourite and much-loved Singapore Airlines, and their Star Alliance partners, sometimes our travels do take us into oneworld territory.

Occasionally it’s because there are business class deals just too good to refuse, which make even redeeming miles a bad idea (lately for us, these have cropped up with Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines). But more often, because business class redemptions with alternative carriers, especially intra-Asia, sometimes just make more sense than redeeming with SIA.

This was the case recently for our trip to Bangkok. A short flight yes, but as a treat for a few days away we wanted the relaxation and comfort of business class. Cash fares are still pretty steep for business on this route, so we went for the miles option.

Flight details

  • Flight: CX712 Singapore Changi T4 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
  • Class: Business
  • Seats: 17D & 17G
  • Aircraft Type: Airbus A350-900
  • Aircraft Registration: B-LRF
  • Date: 3 November 2017
  • Departure / Arrival: 14:00 / 15:35
  • Flight Time: 2h 35m
  • Cost: 8,000 British Airways Avios points + S$157.53 per person

Changi Terminal 4 and The Cathay Pacific Lounge

We took this flight just four days after the official opening of Changi’s new Terminal 4, with Cathay Pacific the first airline to operate out of the new facility. As both the terminal and the lounge were brand new, we took the opportunity to review them separately, and you can read those reviews here:

7720208080_IMG_0265
Cathay has opened their own dedicated lounge facility in Changi Terminal 4. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The Airbus A350

We specifically wanted to book a flight on Cathay’s new A350 because not only is it the latest aircraft to join their fleet, but also it guarantees their newest 1-2-1 flat bed business class seating. Flying Cathay’s 777 or A330 on flights from Singapore means a mixture of either the new 1-2-1 seating, which is designed primarily for long-haul flights, or the 2-2-2 regional business class which is a bit less desirable.

A350-900-Pic06
Cathay Pacific launched flights with the Airbus A350 in 2016, and the airline already has over 20 of the type in service, flying both regional and long-haul services. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Cathay are investing heavily in the A350, with over 20 of the aircraft now in service and a further 25 on order, also including the A350-1000 variant which will have similar range and seat 50 more passengers than the -900.

Business class cabin

A350 Seat Map
The Cathay A350 Business Class Seat Map

We made our way from the lounge (review here) which was about a 10 minute walk, and were welcomed on board and directed to our seats, a middle pair around halfway down the forward business section at 17D and 17G.

Straight away a great advantage was apparent over A350 flights we have flown on before in business class – overhead lockers above the centre seats, as well as at the sides.

Recently Airbus must have been on a drive to convince airlines that these aren’t needed in the business cabin, and to instead opt for a high ceiling to give a feeling of space. Recent flights we have taken in business on Singapore Airlines, Finnair and Qatar have shown, at least in our opinion, that it actually just results in a cavernous void above your head with strange ’70s-style flat blocky ceiling panels reminiscent in design from a Boeing 707!

Anyway I digress, the central overhead lockers on Cathay give the cabin a much more proportioned feel, and it seems like you can use your own locker space for your cabin bag when seated in the middle seats, rather than feeling slightly awkward about using what most would assume is the locker belonging to the window passenger.

OH Locker
Overhead lockers neatly fit standard-sized carry-on luggage. Thank goodness Cathay saw sense to also install these in the centre overhead section on their A350s in business class. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
17D Sign
The ‘winged’ privacy shell at head height on each seat now has a smart engraved seat number identifier on the A350. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Where to sit

If you’re travelling in business class on the Cathay A350 on your own, it will come as no surprise that the window seats (A or K) in this 1-2-1 configuration make perfect sense for you with the highest level of privacy and a great view from the large A350 windows.

If you can’t secure a window seat however, don’t be too concerned as there is still a good amount of privacy in the centre seat pairs.

As a couple it’s up to you whether you prefer two A or K seats one in front of the other, or the slightly more sociable (but still sufficiently private) D/G middle pair. We tend to go for the middle pair. The seat controls allow the business class seat to move a long way forwards, so that it’s easy to talk to your neighbour especially during meal times, or you can leave it fully back for a more private experience.

The smaller second business class cabin looks to have quite an intimate feel with just two rows and a total of eight seats, however there is only a partition wall separating it from the premium economy section, the first row of which does have infant bassinets, so we would probably not recommend this section due to the possible noise.

Infant bassinet positions in the business class cabin are at seats 12A and 12K, and these are also close to the toilets and forward galley, so we would recommend a seat towards the middle or back of this forward cabin.

Cabin Forward
Forward cabin view during boarding. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Business class seat

Seat 17D
Seat 17D. The bed extender is visible between the seat and the armrest. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Having flown Cathay’s new business class product on the 777-300ER and the A330, it’s immediately obvious on boarding that this is fundamentally the same seat. That’s not too surprising as this is already a leading international business class product. There have been some enhancements on the A350 over the earlier seats however.

The inflight entertainment has been enhanced – now the Panasonic eX3 system featuring larger HD screens, with all the features available immediately upon boarding, and the screens permitted to be extended during takeoff and landing.

There is also Wi-Fi available on board with access via your personal devices for a fee (a first for Cathay Pacific).

In bed mode the seat provides a larger sleeping surface compared to the older seats, with the bed extender now integrated into the armrest rather than the seat itself.

Champagne 17G
Champagne on boarding, and an opportunity to admire the larger, HD entertainment screen. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Once settled in we were offered a welcome drink with a choice of water, juice or champagne.

As this was a short-haul flight, no amenity kit was offered, but you can expect to receive one if you’re flying on a long-haul sector, featuring Jurlique products.

The seat also features ‘do not disturb’ and ‘wake up call’ functions, an enhancement over the previous business class seats, but only useful for a long-haul or overnight flight.

There is ample storage space, either in the large storage compartment beside your seat, or at the eye level storage cupboard beside you which also features a vanity mirror, a storage pouch for your mobile phone, and houses the headset.

The seat controls and reading light were intuitive and easy to use.

Seat controls

A350 Bed (Cathay Pacific)
We had no need to use the bed mode on this short flight, but on a long-haul service Cathay will provide you with a pillow, blanket and duvet for sleeping. The armrest can be stowed in retracted position (as shown) for more space, or extended for additional privacy. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)
Vanity
Eye-level storage compartment contains a vanity mirror, multi-socket and USB charging points, and a handy pouch for your phone. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Storage
The floor-level storage compartment at each seat has ample space, seen here with a MacBook, iPad and iPad mini. Still a lot of room left. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Food and beverages

After takeoff menus were handed out detailing the lunch service, drinks selection and wine list. Click the images below to enlarge:

Champagne 2
Cathay are serving Piper Heidsieck Champagne on this flight. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

A drinks service followed and we sampled the four wines on offer on this short flight, see the menus above for a full description of each wine.

The two white wines offered were:

  • Albert Bichot Mâcon-Lugny ‘Les Charmes’ (2016) . 3.9 stars on Vivino
  • Allan Scott Estate Sauvignon Blanc (2016). 3.9 stars on Vivino

The two red wines offered were:

  • Mommessin Morgon (2016) . 3.3 stars on Vivino
  • Kilikanoon Kellerman’s Run Shiraz (2015). 3.6 stars on Vivino

We didn’t try the dessert wine – Château de Levant Sauternes (2016), which scores 3.8 stars on Vivino.

We found the Albert Bichot wine a classic French white, but preferred the Allan Scott Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Both the red wines were drinkable and of a good standard, however we preferred the Shiraz.

The dining table pops out from the side console and can be stowed in a variety of positions, ultimately folding out into a decent sized eating or working area which moves backwards and forwards once extended to accommodate most of the seating positions you find most comfortable.

For the lunch one of us chose the Stir fried beef, and the other chose the pan fried salmon fillet.

Starter
Before the main course arrives, the tray is presented first with the starter of mixed fruit and berries. Bread is also offered. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
MealBeef
Stir fried beef with egg fried rice. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The beef was very good, as was the egg fried rice. The salmon was also an excellent dish, well cooked and flavoursome.

Salmon
Pan fried salmon fillet with quinoa. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We clarified with the crew whether the smaller table cloth was only used on regional flights and they confirmed this, on a long-haul flight your table will be dressed with a full-sized tablecloth before each meal.

In-flight entertainment & Wi-Fi

The new Panasonic eX3 system with HD screens is fitted on the Cathay A350. As we already mentioned, the system is available immediately upon boarding and the screens are permitted to be extended during takeoff and landing so you can really maximise your viewing time.

We found the movie and TV selection had a huge range to choose from. There were also news and magazine publications, a 3D interactive route map and two external camera views.

The user interface was well designed and easy to navigate, as it’s a touchscreen and not too far away we found this was the easiest way to control the system, however the retractable hand-held device next to your seat can also be used.

IFE Control
IFE Control. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The smaller seat-side control device has a large screen a bit like an iPhone and can also feature a different channel to the main display, like the flight map for example.

It is also used as a game controller if you want to pass some time that way during your flight.

One great advantage of the Cathay Pacific A350 is Wi-Fi connectivity, a first for the airline. The system is available above 10,000ft (i.e. around 5 minutes after takeoff up to around 10 minutes before landing).

Unfortunately it’s not complimentary even in business class, the pricing schedule as follows is rather steep and applies to all passengers.

  • US$9.95 for 1 hour
  • US$12.95 for the whole flight (flight duration 6 hours or less)
  • US$19.95 for the whole flight (flights longer than 6 hours)

For a longer sector, such as a flight from Hong Kong to Europe, it may be of use to you particularly if you have a couple of hours work to catch up on, but for a short flight to Bangkok it doesn’t really represent good value.

Toilets

There are three toilets in the business class cabin on the A350-900, two at the forward area just behind the front doors, and one at the rear of the forward business cabin in the galley area behind the second main aircraft door on the right hand side.

Three toilets result in a decent ratio for 38 passengers (about 13 passengers to each toilet). The best business class ratio we’ve seen lately is Thai Airways on their A350 (7 passengers to each toilet), the worst will be suffered by the poor business class passengers of Lufthansa on their A350 (24 passengers to each toilet, shocking).

crew.jpg
Our crew were excellent on this flight. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We found the toilet on this aircraft to be small but functional with a smart design and nice backlit mirror. The wall was a bit dusty which was unfortunate to see, but otherwise cleanliness was good.

Crew

We always have good service on Cathay Pacific, which reflects their high training and service standards, though the experience can sometimes seem a bit robotic and impersonal, and we would broadly say that Singapore Airlines usually do a better job here.

The crew on this short flight however were excellent and very engaging with the passengers.

Summary

Cathay Pacific has a really nice long-haul business class product and have made a few neat enhancements on their latest aircraft – this new Airbus A350.

We particularly liked the improved IFE system, as the screen size, image quality and wide selection would be really welcome for a long-haul flight. The crew were also really friendly and engaging which helps make a good flight great.

Our only negative comments from this experience would be that the Wi-Fi is too expensive, and on a minor note the toilet walls were dusty, which always makes you question the rest of the aircraft cleanliness.

Overall we would definitely recommend Cathay Pacific business class on the A350, and would travel on it again.

4star

2 comments

  1. Two things I love about CX’s A350… Best steak (both tasty and done medium rare) I ever had on board ANY flight.. SIN>BKK.. and great novelty that forward toilet had a window so you (a guy) can pee and look at clouds at 30-35,000 feet…

    Btw, nice site.. just discovered today and have already read majority of your articles.. keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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