Cathay Pacific’s First Class seat isn’t ground-breaking or brand new, but its long-established reputation for comfort and service continues to win it many fans. With a brand new First Class product coming in 2021, we took a flight from Hong Kong to London in the current configuration to see whether it’s past its best, or still stands up to industry competition.
- Flight: CX253 Hong Kong T1 to London Heathrow T3
- Class: First
- Seats: 1A & 2A
- Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Aircraft Registration: B-KQJ
- Aircraft Age: 4.8 years
- Date: 3rd July 2018
- Departure / Arrival: 14:40 / 20:35
- Flight Time: 12h 55m
- Cost: 120,000 Avios + £34.20 per person
We arrived at Hong Kong International airport around 11.10am, three and a half hours prior to the departure time for our flight to London.
Cathay Pacific has its own dedicated First Class check-in counters in zone A.
Rather than the more traditional check in desks you find at airports with the luggage belt to the side and an agent sitting behind a desk, these are styled as ‘podiums’ where you interact with the agent while standing at eye height.
If you have checked luggage this is tagged and taken to a designated drop point out of sight by another agent.
The whole process was friendly and super-efficient, taking just 5 minutes. From here it was a short walk to the closest security checkpoint. This benefits from same level direct access to The Wing First Class lounge – out first stop for the obligatory review.
Passengers travelling in First Class with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong have a wide variety of lounge options, not only including the carrier’s own facilities but also the well-rated Qantas Hong Kong lounge.
Almost everyone will want to sample one of the two dedicated First Class lounges, The Wing or The Pier. If time permits, you may want to try both – as we did prior to our flight.
The Wing is a good starting point, right after the security checkpoint on the left side. Once you’ve passed through the priority security lane, take a left and you’ll find this lounge has its own dedicated entrance to the First Class section on the same level (those flying Business have to go downstairs to the main entrance).
The Wing is our recommended starting point, especially if you arrive early as the departure gate for Cathay flights is often not assigned until around 2.5 – 3 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. Here you can enjoy a ‘cabana’ – your own private room with a chaise lounge, shower and bath, among the plentiful other lounge facilities.
At peak times the cabanas can suffer a waiting time, so if it’s your goal to try one – this is definitely the first lounge you should head for in order to put your name down as soon as you arrive.
Heading straight to The Pier is another option, however you may then have a long walk back to your gate if you are departing in the 1-28 range (see map above). There is a train available, though we find it doesn’t save a huge amount of time.
Boarding commenced at 2.20pm and as we managed to be first on board, I went across to the right hand aisle to take a few photos of the other four First Class seats before returning to our ‘private aisle’ pair at 1A and 2A.
The two-row cabin is bright and airy, with no overhead lockers. However there is a crew rest compartment in the forward ceiling, reducing the height slightly.
The middle ‘D’ seats have a seat-height wall to the left side, shielding them from the left aisle, with a long opaque ‘window’ for some natural light to shine through from the actual windows during the daytime.
I wouldn’t personally choose a middle seat as a first preference, however the space remains very private and the seat is angled away from the aisle. It is also staggered slightly behind the ‘K’ window seat on the right in each case, which itself is angled towards the window, further enhancing privacy.
Eddie also managed to take a peek into the forward two-row Business Class cabin directly behind the First Class section. You can see why this is favoured over the much larger 12-row Business Class section behind the second aircraft doors.
Seat selection / the left aisle
As a couple we would strongly recommend seats 1A and 2A in First Class on the Cathay Pacific 777-300ER. That’s because these two seats have an aisle all to themselves, with the other four seats in this cabin (1D/K and 2 D/K) using the right hand aisle.
Foot traffic is very low on the left side and therefore this feels almost like your own private cabin.
One issue you may face with this is that seat 2A is a designated bassinet position in this cabin, and is therefore not available for advance selection (assuming you are not travelling with an infant).
You will have to call Cathay Pacific and ask to be assigned this seat. Provided it is still available they will do this for you, with the usual caveat that if a booking with an infant included is then made in First Class on your flight you might be relocated. With a total of only six seats in Cathay First, and another bassinet position available at seat 2K, this is a very slim chance indeed.
Eddie took seat 1A and I went for 2A. The first thing to note about the window seats in this cabin is that they all benefit from having three windows – no one is short changed here.
The space around the seat strikes you right away – it’s immense. Sure we had just come off the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites a couple of days before, but along with the new (and rare) Emirates 777 Suites that’s in a league of its own in floorspace terms.
Here you have a seat easily wide enough for two people to sit in. It’s an enormous 36 inches wide, for our regular readers familiar with Singapore Airlines seats that’s 2 inches wider than the 2006 Business Class seat, and an inch wider than the 2013 First Class seat.
There’s also an ottoman, which may look small in the pictures but is probably bigger than an Economy Class seat!
A fold-down armrest is located alongside the seat to cater for the sheer width of the seat. Similar to the bolster cushion provided on the equally wide Singapore Airlines 2006 J seat, it allows you to sit comfortably when upright.
The crew came round to take our drinks order and we each went for a glass of Champagne. The beauty of the space available means it’s an obvious choice to take your pre-flight drinks together in a single ‘Suite’, so Eddie joined me in 2A.
We were each also served with a crab meat amuse-bouche which was very tasty and a nice welcoming touch. Introduced to First Class in 2014, the amuse-bouche was withdrawn in 2017 amid some other cuts, however it seems to be back which is great.
Hot towels were also provided. Pushback was postponed due to an air traffic control issue, and the crew came round to offer us a second glass of Champagne during the short 10-minute delay.
A large wardrobe is located to the side of the seat, where you enter from the aisle.
It is equipped with three hangers and an additional coat hook.
There is also plenty of room here for your carry on luggage, even if you have two carry on items. This of course is vital due to the lack of overhead lockers in the First Class cabin.
The storage of smaller carry on items is permitted below the ottoman even during taxi, take-off and landing. Perfect for quick access to essential items.
My large rucksack fit in the space under the ottoman with room to spare.
A further small cubby to the left of the seat is good for passports, phones and other small items.
Located beneath the IFE screen is an additional open storage area. It’s the perfect location to stow the pyjamas and amenity kits after they are handed out near the beginning of the flight. The space on the left side is larger than on the right, as you can see in the photo below.
As you may notice from some of the photos, the cabin on this older aircraft was starting to show some signs of wear and tear from a few years of use – however everything still worked.
The Cathay Pacific First Class seat has a multi-standard power socket, meaning it doesn’t really matter what kind of plug your device uses you will be able to keep its battery charged no problem without worrying about having the right adapter.
There is also a USB charging socket alongside – great for charging your mobile phone while also using the main socket for a larger device such as a laptop.
Table and workspace
A large sturdy table folds out from the sideboard. It moves back and forth allowing for easy access to the seat, for example if you need to use the toilet halfway through dinner. An additional section can be added to facilitate buddy dining. The table has no vertical adjustment but we didn’t find this an issue.
The armrest is also sturdy enough to provide a more casual workspace if required, I found this quite a comfortable way to do some work.
Amenity Kit and Pyjamas
After departure, the crew bring round Aesop amenity kits and pyjamas with a choice of size – Small, Medium or Large.
There’s a set of eye shades with the pyjamas, and if ear plugs are your thing you’ll find those in the amenity kit.
The kit was otherwise fairly basic for First Class, and also included:
- Aesop facial hydrating cream
- Aesop cream to soften and hydrate lips
- A dental kit with toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash
- A comb
There are two toilets for a maximum of six First Class passengers on the Cathay Pacific 777-300ER aircraft. That’s an excellent ratio and indeed neither of us ever had to wait to use the toilet throughout the flight.
Here you’ll find the same Aesop toiletries as those offered in The Wing and The Pier lounges.
The two toilets themselves are nothing to shout about – standard size on the 777 and finished nicely with a ceramic sink and some wood-effect panelling to match the trim on the First Class seats themselves.
The in-flight entertainment system on Cathay Pacific is in the form of an 18″ screen, a little on the small side when you compare to the Singapore Airlines First Class screen sizes on offer (23″ in 2006 Suites, 24″ in 2013 First and whopping 32″ in 2017 Suites).
Even Cathay Pacific’s Business Class passengers on its new A350 aircraft have an 18.5″ screen.
There are two versions of the IFE system on the Cathay 777-300ER, an older system like we had on our aircraft, and a newer high definition system now installed on 14 of the 32 aircraft featuring a First Class cabin. These also feature upgraded IFE remotes like those installed on the A350.
Nevertheless the movie and entertainment selection was good, the moving map display was still useful (though older with much less functionality), and the IFE system can still show the feed from the on-board external cameras, which is great.
A pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones is of course provided.
The seat is controlled via a small touchscreen located in the sideboard next to the seat. There are three preset positions and further adjustment of the individual parts of the seat is possible. It’s quite basic but does the job well.
The seat control touchscreen also adjusts the lighting, though more advanced lighting adjustment is possible through the IFE remote alongside.
Some basic seat controls are also located at the aisle side of the seat, these are ideal for the cabin crew to use for example when making up your bed or preparing your table for dinner service, without having to reach over you to the touchscreen controls (which would frankly be too far from them to reach I imagine).
After takeoff, we both ordered another glass of Champagne, which was served with warm nuts.
As you would expect in First Class, Cathay Pacific offers a wide selection in the drinks department.
The menu is ‘all in one’ and has a dedicated section listing the Champagne and wine selection, a range of Aperitifs and Cocktails, Whiskeys, Cognac, Liquors and Beer.
Of course, there is also a wide range of soft drinks including a signature ‘mocktail’.
Here are the options from the menu.
|Champagne & Wine
(click to enlarge)
|Aperitifs & Cocktails
(click to enlarge)
As always, we check on the Vivino rating (out of 5 stars) for the Champagne and wines offered on this flight.
|White & Champagne|
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006||4.5 stars|
|Chablis 1er Cru ‘Fourchaumes’ 2016||4.2 stars|
|Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016||3.8 stars|
|Poggio Al Tesoro Bolgheri Superiore Sondraia 2013||4.2 stars|
|Spy Valley Pinot Noir Johnson Vineyard Envoy 2015||3.6 stars|
|Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2008||4.3 stars|
|Warre’s Otima’06 Single Year Tawny Colheita Port 2006||4.2 stars|
These are broadly high-end wines which as you can see rate well, and retail at S$50 – S$200 each. The Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 is difficult to source in Singapore, but you can pick it up in Hong Kong from around S$160 a bottle.
Cathay’s vintage Champagne selection
Last time we flew Cathay First Class they were pouring Krug 2004. In April 2018 the airline started a “rotating programme of the finest vintage Champagnes” in the First Class cabin. Selections not only include the Krug 2004, but also the 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, which was served on our flight, the 2007 William Deutz Cuvee and the 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare.
We’ll be honest here – the Krug 2004 is a fantastic drop and a firm favourite of ours. We choose it over the Dom Perignon when flying First or Suites Class on Singapore Airlines and it never disappoints. We found the Tattinger Comtes de Champagne slightly sweet for our taste.
It was still perfectly enjoyable but we moved onto the wine selection perhaps a little more quickly than we would have done had Krug been on the menu!
A great feature of the Cathay Pacific First Class seat is the ability to dine together with a partner, friend or colleague at one of the suites.
We asked to have lunch together after departure at seat 1A and the crew happily set up the table for two there.
This is achieved with a large extender the crew attach to the standard table, almost doubling its size.
Another couple in seats 1D and 1K also opted to dine together, while the passengers in 2D and 2K were apparently travelling alone and ate at their individual seats.
The space on the ottoman seat for your dining companion is more than sufficient for most, though not quite as spacious as the Qantas First Class buddy dining ottoman, which we flew in March.
As this was a daytime flight, service commenced with lunch after takeoff. Later in the flight prior to landing in London, dinner was served. Snacks were also available throughout the flight, including noodles or a burger if you became peckish.
The menu below is provided shortly after takeoff and shows the options available.
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
It’s worth noting that Cathay have a ‘dine on demand’ service in First Class, allowing you to pick and choose what you wish to eat at a time best suited to your body clock (or just a general craving). This wasn’t particularly mentioned by the crew, nor does the menu itself go to any great lengths to advertise the feature.
It did seem ‘expected’ that we would have lunch straight after departure, though I’m sure the crew would happily oblige if you wanted to dine later instead.
Anyway, we were both hungry and happy to eat after takeoff, it was just a little surprising that the ‘on demand’ option was not made clear. Many passengers will be flying in this cabin for the first time and may not be aware of the perk (now you are!).
We both began with the legendary caviar and Champagne with traditional garnishes. This introductory dish is a course in itself, ahead of the soup / salad starter options and main courses.
A bread basket, butter and olive oil with balsamic vinegar are also provided for each passenger.
The crew even handwrite these cute little ‘Bon Appétit’ cards for each passenger, which is a nice touch.
I then went for the burrata cheese salad, while Eddie had the lentil soup.
Both dishes were very good, as were the bread baskets we were both tucking into at an alarming rate (refills are available!).
Finally, it was the grilled USDA prime beef tenderloin that caught my eye as a main course, with Eddie opting for the confit side of pork.
After all that food, not to mention what we had in the lounge before the flight, it was hard to do justice to dessert. Nevertheless, Eddie found room for the fresh berries with rosewater syrup, and I went for the cheese plate on the proviso he had some too!
Both were good dishes. A little box with two chocolates finished off the dinner – an 85% dark chocolate with raspberry and a milk chocolate with hazelnut.
I didn’t get much sleep on this flight – I rarely do on day flights and trust me this is no slight on the fabulously comfortable bed on offer, it’s just how my body works. Eddie was apparently having no trouble on the sleep front, so buddy dining wasn’t now going to be an option! I therefore asked the crew for dinner at my seat a few hours prior to landing in London.
Having slept a while, watched a movie and sat around doing some work I didn’t want anything huge following the lavish lunch, so I checked with the crew that the duck confit wasn’t an enormous dish – I was looking for a light option.
They said it would be very manageable so I went for that. Service again starts with the bread basket, butter and oil, and a small seasonal fruit plate.
I’m glad I stuck with my first instinct on the menu – the duck confit was an absolutely beautiful dish and even had the edge over the (excellent) steak I had earlier as a main course for lunch. Eddie truly missed out by sleeping!
I’m not a huge fan of Italian wine but I went for a glass of the Tuscan Sondraia with my dinner and it paired really well with this dish.
Overall the food on this flight was very good. Food is served on Noritake fine bone chinaware, and presentation was excellent for all courses with close attention to detail from the cabin crew.
If you’re flying one of Cathay Pacific’s overnight flights to London in First Class, there’s an excellent breakfast option we couldn’t resist sharing with you here.
This was from our previous Cathay First Class flight in 2016. It was honestly the best breakfast I have ever had on a plane.
Our advice: save room for it. We still talk about this breakfast to this day, and it was a serious concern when booking this year’s daytime flight that we wouldn’t get it!
We’ve spoken already about how huge these seats are, so it’s no surprise they convert into an equally massive bed.
The crew are happy to set it up for you – though if you wish to do it yourself at any time simply hit the bed mode button and you can locate the mattress topper and duvet in your personal wardrobe.
The bed is extremely wide and comfortable, we measured it at 205cm long and 84cm wide at the widest shoulder-height point. Even the narrowest point at foot end is 40cm wide.
That’s a significantly bigger surface than Singapore Airlines are offering in their new A380 Suites cabin – with a standalone bed measuring 193cm long by 69cm wide, though the SIA 2013 First Class bed on the 777 is still slightly bigger than Cathay’s.
The thick mattress pad, plush duvet and large pillow make for a very comfortable experience in this bed. All the necessary storage compartments at the side and front remain accessible, as does the charging socket.
The comfort and space in this bed reminded us of the excellent one in the Qantas A380 First Class, which has had a bedding revamp this year including a new pillow menu.
I’m not actually a fan of daytime flights from Asia to Europe like this one.
It may be a personal thing but on flights of this length I find there is no way to fit them into your normal ‘awake time’, unlike a flight from say London to New York or Melbourne to Singapore taking around 7 hours, which can easily fit into your normal day.
In this case you’re waking up in the hotel (or at home) around 9am for breakfast before you head to the airport. When you finally land in London it will be 4.35am Hong Kong time the following morning.
There’s really no other solution than to sleep on board to mitigate this. While others can do this (I was witness to Eddie managing it no problem in 1A during a few visits to and from the toilet!) it’s just doesn’t come easily to me on a day flight.
I probably only slept for a couple of hours at most on this flight, despite the dark cabin, the copious Champagne, red wine, the tummy full of caviar and the super-comfy bedding. For me, it was just the wrong time of day.
Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ERs first came into service a little before the in-flight Wi-Fi revolution took hold. As such, there is no Wi-Fi offered on board on most of these planes. Ours was no exception, meaning our trip in Cathay Pacific’s First Class was an opportunity to disconnect from the world and truly immerse in the experience!
Wi-Fi is being fitted on newer aircraft though, it’s available on the airline’s newest A350 aircraft, it will certainly be installed on the upcoming 777-9s arriving in 2021, and it is even being progressively fitted on these older 777-300ERs.
At last count four of the 777-300ER aircraft fitted with a First Class cabin have Wi-Fi installed, giving you a chance of around 12% that you’ll have the option to remain connected on your journey in this cabin. That will later improve to 100% as we understand Cathay will eventually refit all its 777-300ER aircraft with this functionality.
Which Cathay Pacific aircraft feature First Class?
First Class is only installed on Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Even then not every plane has it fitted, only the 4-class versions (32 out of 52 such aircraft).
While these planes sometimes pop up on the Singapore – Hong Kong route, it is not a regular destination. You will have to be travelling to one of the following cities from Hong Kong to be guaranteed a 777-300ER with a First Class cabin, as of November 2018:
- Los Angeles
- New York-JFK
- San Francisco
The aircraft also fly from Vancouver to New York-JFK and vice-versa, a nice 5 or 6-hour experience in this cabin.
New York-JFK to Hong Kong is the longest Cathay Pacific route with a First Class cabin at 16 hours 15 minutes.
Even then it is further complicated in that not every 777-300ER flight on these routes is flown with a 4-class aircraft featuring a First cabin. For example between Hong Kong and London-Heathrow Cathay Pacific is offering 5 daily flights and generally 2 of these flown by 3-class aircraft with no First Class cabin.
How can you experience Cathay First Class?
One of the most common questions we’re asked after reviewing a product like this is ‘How can I do the same?’ or ‘What miles do I need and how many?’.
As you can see at the top of this review, we used our British Airways Avios for these redemption tickets. That set us back a cool 120,000 points + £34 (S$62) each.
You might assume, being the miles aficionados we are, that this is therefore the best way to secure a Cathay Pacific First Class seat on this route. It’s not! These are simply the only oneworld / Cathay partner points we had available in a sufficient quantity at the time of booking to secure two First Class seats to London.
Securing award seats on this route is not impossible, but also isn’t the easiest trick in the book especially if your dates aren’t particularly flexible. Remember Cathay only has 6 seats per flight to play with here. It’s therefore important to jump on whatever availability you can get for these flights, provided you have the miles to do so.
|Cathay First Class redemption Hong Kong – London|
|FFP used||First Class|
There’s a clear winner here and we make no excuses for putting it ‘First’ (pun intended). Just 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles will secure you this exact seat on this exact route.
As you can see our own redemption in this case using Avios points was at the higher end expenditure required for this route. Avios are truly best value in Asia-Pacific (or anywhere in fact) for redemptions up to 3,000 miles, beyond that they become a much poorer deal.
Do note that if you are booking a Cathay Pacific award using Alaska miles you will have to call to book, ideally having found the award space already using the British Airways Avios site or similar.
There are many woes about what Cathay Pacific award space Alaska Mileage Plan does and doesn’t have access too. We don’t know exactly how it works, but we know some things:
- Broadly in our experience, if you can find oneworld award space through the British Airways Avios site, Alaska agents can normally see and book it too.
- Sometimes, they can’t see the same award space, for whatever reason.
- Sometimes, they can see more award space, for whatever reason.
Cathay Pacific provides a solid First Class product on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Initial impressions when you look at photos of the cabin relate to a lack of privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, these aren’t ‘enclosed suites’ and double beds aren’t available, however privacy is excellent.
It’s difficult to explain but these seats work. They just work.
As we’ve said – on paper the Cathay Pacific First Class product shouldn’t rate that highly these days, in a world of enclosed suites and double beds, but they do and we think we know why. Everything you experience in Cathay First Class comes from decades of experience, meaning the product and service has evolved well over time.
The crew on our flight were good throughout, though not overly attentive (we’ve had better Cathay crews). When it comes to meal service the attention to detail is excellent however.
A brand new First Class product will be coming to Cathay Pacific with delivery of the Boeing 777-9 in 2021. The airline has stated that enclosed suites are an option for the cabin, however they have not yet made a final decision on the design nor released any details yet.
Once it’s flying we’ll certainly be keen to try it, but until then we think you won’t be disappointed with the existing Cathay Pacific First Class – very worthy of its good and longstanding reputation. A dated product, but a solid one.
Review: Cathay A350 Business Class
Review: Emirates New 777-300ER First Class Suites
Review: Qantas A380 First Class
Review: Qatar A350-1000 Qsuites Business Class
Review: Singapore Airlines New A380 Suites Class
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)