While Cathay Pacific has not updated its first class seat in quite a long time, it still offers one of the world’s best first class experiences – both onboard and on the ground – in the world.
As such, after having flown it on intra-Asian segments, I was excited to try Cathay Pacific’s first class on long-haul flights thanks to its insane sub-$850 error fare. First, I flew from Hong Kong to New York via Vancouver before returning on a non-stop flight from New York to Hong Kong.
I skipped reviewing the Hong Kong to Vancouver portion as the airline will be discontinuing first class on the route once it cuts the onward fifth freedom flight to New York. Instead, this review focuses on the return flight.
Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at New York JFK Airport
As my flight, CX841, was scheduled to depart at 10:00AM, I left the TWA Hotel around 7:45AM. About twenty minutes later, I found myself in JFK’s terminal 8 which is mainly used by American Airlines and its oneworld partners.
Since there was no one in line at Cathay Pacific’s first class check-in counter, I was issued boarding passes for both my flight to Hong Kong as well as my connecting flight to Da Nang in no time. I was also handed lounge invitations for lounges in both New York and Hong Kong.
I headed to the security check where – after checking my boarding pass – the staff directed me into the express lane.
That might save some time when the line is long. However, in my case, it was fairly useless. The express lane merged into the standard lane around the same place where end of the actual line was, and it took me almost 20 minutes to get through.
At JFK, Cathay Pacific business and first class passengers have access to American Airlines Flagship Lounge which is where I headed once airside.
I spent most of my time in the lounge in the Flagship First Dining restaurant reserved for first class passengers. There, I had a very filling and tasty breakfast, and met up with Yukihiro.
About 9:30AM, one of the Cathay Pacific’s ground staff members came into the restaurant saying “Guys, we’re almost done with boarding, so whenever you’re done…”
With that, we finished the breakfast and headed down into the main part of the terminal.
Less than ten minutes later, we were onboard where we were welcomed by Kenneth and Rina – the same excellent cabin crew members that I had the pleasure of flying with on my flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver a few days earlier.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class Cabin & Seat
Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ERs are equipped with a total of six full-flat first class seats in two rows. Each row only has three seats in a 1-1-1 layout. For comparison, most airlines install four seats per row in their first class on the 777.
There are no overhead bins in the cabin. Instead, each of the seats is equipped with a large storage cabinet.
As for the seats themselves, they are fairly outdated and do not feature door – i.e. they are not suites. However, that does not change the fact that the seats offer plenty of space and privacy, and are comfortable.
All of the seats are the same layout- and functionality-wise.
However, the two seats on the left side of the plane, 1A and 2A, offer extra privacy as there is only a wall rather than a seat across from them. The latter, 2A, has a slight edge since it is at the back of the cabin with nothing but the curtain separating first class from business class behind it.
That said, I was still more than happy with my right side window seat, 1A.
The seat was wide enough to fit two people side by side and it had an armrest that could be lowered to decrease the width of the seat by about a quarter.
Upon boarding, there were a large pillow placed on the seat and a smaller one attached to the headrest.
There was a pocket with the in-flight magazine and other printed materials on the privacy partition separating the seat from the aisle. The seat was equipped with a pair of reading lights – one on each side – as well.
Along the three windows that the seat spanned across, there was a faux wood counter in which a large and sturdy tray table was stored. There were also a small storage compartment, a touchscreen with seat controls, and the in-flight entertainment controller.
The panel under the counter featured the audio output, universal power outlet, and a USB charging port.
Across from the seat, there was an ottoman. It was large enough to serve as a second seat for face-to-face dining (which is the reason why it was equipped with a seatbelt) and for a carry-on suitcase to fit underneath.
Next to the ottoman was the large storage cabinet. On the outside of that, there were the in-flight entertainment screen and a storage compartment.
Perhaps the one negative thing about the seat that I should mention here is that it was quite beaten up. While unsurprising given the seat’s age, it’s a bit concerning given the lack of any specific refurbishment plans.
Cathay Pacific First Class Pre-Flight Service & Departure
Going back to the flight, not long after I settled in my seat, I was offered a welcome drink (I chose to have orange juice), warm nuts, and a warm towel.
Then, I was brought a pair of pajamas and Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and an Aesop amenity kit.
The amenity kit came in men’s and women’s versions, and the men’s version included a toothbrush, tooth paste, a comb, earplugs, and mouth wash among other things. I found it interesting – and useful – that it included a microfiber cloth.
With everyone onboard, we pushed back well ahead of schedule, at 9:48AM.
After several minutes of taxiing and waiting for our turn to depart, at 10:06AM, we took off from runway 04L.
While climbing out, we were offered some nice views including those of Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Then, once we reached our initial cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, the cabin crew went around the cabin putting fresh flowers into the vases mounted on the wall next to each seat.
Getting Some Work Done Before Lunch
The in-flight service started about 25 minutes after take-off when I was served Coke Zero and another portion of warm nuts.
The seatbelt signs were switched off around the same time as well.
Another 15 minutes later, Kenneth came by to take my lunch order. I chose from the extensive menu (more about that below), and I mentioned that both Yukihiro and I had a very filling breakfast on the ground, and so would prefer to wait for a couple of hours before having lunch.
I also told him that we would like to try the face-to-face dining feature of the seat.
After that, I decided to get some work done while watching Bohemian Rhapsody on the in-flight entertainment system.
Later, I asked Kenneth for Oriental Breeze – Cathay’s signature mocktail. While doing so, we also briefly chatted about my stay in the United States, as well as about his visit to the Oshkosh airshow.
The drink was brought by Rina about five minutes later.
A bit more than an hour later, I went over to seat 1A to chat with Yukihiro a bit. We were joined by Kenneth and ended up photographing Cathay Pacific’s original beer, Betsy, for a few minutes.
By this time, we were flying over Canada, heading more or less straight north.
Face-to-Face Lunch in Cathay Pacific’s First Class
Around 1:30PM New York time, Kenneth came to my seat to prepare the table for lunch. He first pulled the tray table out before bringing an attachment that increased the table’s size by about 60% so that it could accommodate two people.
Not long after that, Yukihiro came over, and the lunch experience started.
Let’s start by looking at the menu.
First, we were both brought a bread basket that included some rolls and excellent garlic bread.
Then, Yukihiro was served a glass of Champagne in preparation for the caviar service. Not long after that, we were both brought a can of King’s Imperial caviar, some garnishes, and a mother of pearl spoon.
Once the caviar was cleared, soup was served. While Yukihiro had the Chinese option (Silkie chicken, Chinese yam, and wolfberry soup), I had the yellow pepper lemongrass soup which I really enjoyed.
Then, appetizers followed. Since the Chinese option didn’t sound too appetizing, both Yukihiro and I initially ordered the international option – cured salmon loin with brown quinoa and a quail egg.
However, later on, we decided to split a portion of the Chinese appetizer – dried shredded bean curd and garlic salad – as well. While it didn’t look very appetizing, it was actually quite good.
While the international appetizer wasn’t bad, I enjoyed the, in a way similar, appetizer on my flight to Vancouver – Balik salmon with quail egg, white anchovies, and wasabi mayonnaise – more.
For the main meal, I opted for the fish – grilled halibut – while Yukihiro went with the Chinese option – wok fried lobster with spring onion and ginger, choy sum, and steamed jasmin rice.
While the fish was good, I would have appreciated if it came with a bit more sauce.
Originally, I was thinking of opting for the beef, but since I had a slightly different steak dish on my way to New York, I decided to try the fish instead.
To finish the meal, we both had fresh seasonal berries with creme fraiche for the dessert. I ordered peppermint tea to go with it.
One minor thing worth noting about the meal service is that while an amuse bouche was served on my flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver, it wasn’t served on this flight. I am not sure what (dis)qualifies a flight for that service.
All in all, though, the whole meal was quite enjoyable. With a lot of talking and looking out of the window at Greenland’s magnificent scenery including glaciers, it took us about two hours to finish.
Cathay Pacific’s Turndown Service
Once we were done with the meal and Yukihiro went back to his seat, I decided to change into the pajamas. While I was in the restroom changing, one of the crew members put my seat into its full-flat position, and put a mattress pad and a duvet on top of it.
Not long after I got back to my seat, Rina brought me Cathay’s signature box of Godiva pralines and a toothpick.
At this point, it was around 4PM New York time – or 4AM Hong Kong time – and so, I decided to get some sleep.
First, I finished watching Bohemian Rhapsody, though.
In-Flight Snack in Cathay Pacific First Class
I slept for about five and a half hours before waking up at 9:30AM Hong Kong time.
Just a couple of minutes later, Kenneth brought me a glass of orange juice, a can of sparkling water, and a warm towel. At that time, I ordered a burger – one of the items on the in-flight snack menu.
Just for reference, the other items available included shrimp wonton noodle soup, shrimp quesadilla, and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
About twenty minutes later, Kenneth came to set up my table, and right after that, I got my burger. It was quite good – in fact, I liked it more than the one Cathay Pacific serves in its The Pier first class lounge.
After finishing the burger, I (re)watched The Matrix and got some work done.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER In-Flight Entertainment
Before continuing with the flight, let me talk about the in-flight entertainment system a bit.
While on some airframes, Cathay Pacific has updated the screens and remote controls in first class, on my flight, they were both fairly outdated. The low screen resolution is something worth mentioning.
It’s also worth noting that while the refurbished 777-300ERs offer a modern in-flight map, the one I was on was only equipped with an “old school” one with automatically rotating views.
That said, the content – while not as extensive as Emirates’ or Turkish Airlines’ for example – was more than sufficient even for a fifteen hour flight. There was a good choice of movies, and while the TV shows didn’t include full seasons, I still enjoyed watching a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory.
The Bose noise-cancelling headphones are about as good as it gets.
The aircraft I flew on was not equipped with wi-fi. That said, Cathay Pacific is in the process of equipping its 777-300ERs with wi-fi, and so, some of the aircraft already offer it while others will follow later.
Cathay Pacific Long-Haul First Class Dinner
Around 11:30AM, I was handed an invitation to join Marco Polo Club – which among other things comes with free lounge passes – for free. My dinner (although at the destination it was lunch time) order was taken at that time as well.
From the menu below, I decided to choose the steamed sea bass – fish again – for the main course. There were no options for the starter and the dessert.
About fifteen minutes later, my table was set up. Right after that, I was served the bread basket and fruit plate.
While the fruit plate was nice, it was nowhere near the quality or quantity of the one offered in American’s Flagship First Dining restaurant.
The main course came with a bowl of rice and some kai lan, and was quite enjoyable.
Finally, the dessert was served. I decided to have some peppermint tea at that time as well.
While for some people the dessert might not look as appetizing as a chocolate cake or similar, I actually preferred it over a “proper” cake and enjoyed it.
Arrival at Hong Kong Airport
Throughout the “dinner,” I watched some The Big Bang Theory episodes which I continued to watch until landing.
At 12:54PM, the captain announced that we would soon be starting our descent and that we were expecting to land at 1:30PM. She also mentioned that it was a nice 31 degree Celsius-afternoon with scattered clouds in Hong Kong.
Not long after that, Kenneth came to collect the bedding and we chatted a bit about my trip among other things.
Fifteen minutes later, at 1:15PM, the seatbelt signs were switched on as we started our descent.
The landing gear was lowered about half an hour after that.
We touched down at Hong Kong airport at 1:49PM, and ten minutes later, at 1:59PM, we reached our parking spot.
After landing, Yukihiro and I visited the flight deck briefly before disembarking and heading into the terminal.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class Summary
At more than 8,000 miles, this was my longest flight. Thanks to Cathay Pacific first class’ friendly crew, enjoyable meals, and excellent bed – as well as the amazing views over Greenland – it was also one of the most enjoyable flights I’ve taken to date.
There really is nothing considerably negative I could say about this flight. Perhaps the only thing worth mentioning is that the seats were quite worn out and that the persona screen’s resolution was quite old.
However, in spite of that, it was by far the most comfortable airline seat I’ve flown in (which, I guess, is unsurprising since I haven’t flown in other first class seats) – and I didn’t mind the fact that rather than being a suite since even then it provided plenty of privacy.
The ability to dine face-to-face was a nice bonus.
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