Bling it on: Cathay Pacific First Class New York JFK to Vancouver

Filed Under: Awards, Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific 889
New York (JFK) – Vancouver (YVR)
Thursday, December 20
Depart: 10:00PM
Arrive: 12:55AM (+1 day)
Duration: 5hr55min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2D (First Class)

Boarding was through door 2L, and at the door we were greeted by one of the first class flight attendants, who escorted us to our seats in row two. I’m a huge fan of Cathay Pacific’s first class on both the 777 and 747. I love the 777 since it only has six seats, so is one of the smallest first class cabins out there. But I also love the 747 for the fact that first class is in the nose, so it’s extremely private and I love sitting in row one on the 747.

In this case I selected seat 2D, the center seat in row two, while my friend was in 2K.

Seat 2D

First class cabin

Seat 1D

Seats 1A & 2A

Anyway, this is where my flight turned from a typical Cathay Pacific flight to an out of the ordinary one. There were two flight attendants — one male and one female — working first class, both in their 20s. The female was probably the most chipper, enthusiastic, and informal flight attendant I’ve ever had. And as much as it felt totally uncharacteristic for Cathay Pacific, I loved it.

She started with “hi hun, let’s make this a good flight. What can I get you to drink?” I ordered a glass of Krug, which was promptly refilled several times, each time with a “there ya go hun.”

Most of the time I wouldn’t be thrilled about being called “hun,” but she said it in such an endearing and genuine way that I loved her. And it was obvious that she loved her job, so that made it all even more fun. The crew was Vancouver based and they were doing a same day turn to New York, meaning they worked the redeye from Vancouver to New York, had 15 hours in New York, and then worked the flight back to Vancouver.

Pre-departure champagne

“Hun, you want some Shanghai Tangs? What size?”

Shanghai Tang pajamas

That was followed by a hot towel and then the menu.

Hot towel

By the time the door closed all first class seats were taken. in 1D and 1K were an older married couple continuing on to Hong Kong. My first impression was that they were snobby New Yorkers that couldn’t be pleased, though I quickly realized my gut was wrong as soon as they were offered pajamas. The wife turned to the husband and said “oh my God honey, do you see they have PAJAMAS? These are fancy!” Love it!

Then in 2A was a young guy and in 1A a fairly young girl, both also just traveling to Vancouver.

The captain made his welcome aboard announcement shortly before pushback, advising us of our flight time of 5hr13min. The entire crew was Vancouver based, including the pilots. It reminded me a bit of what I had originally wanted to do with my life, which was to become a pilot for Cathay Pacific. While you see lots of expats working for them, rarely have I had American/Canadian pilots, so it’s always somewhat refreshing to have them, just so I can be reminded of what I didn’t end up pursuing! 😉

Anyway, we taxied to runway 13R, which didn’t take very long, and were airborne within about 20 minutes of our departure time. I watched the nose camera view for the entire departure.

Nose camera

Nose camera

After a quick takeoff roll we were airborne and encountered some pretty major turbulence on the climb out, definitely one of the bumpiest climb outs I’ve had in a while. As a result the crew had to remain seated for a while, and it was about 30 minutes into the flight before they could get up.

Map view on departure

Flight time remaining shortly after departure

Map view after departure

Since the service wouldn’t begin for a while I decided to browse the StudioCX entertainment selection. I didn’t have the attention span to watch a movie and had already seen just about all the sitcoms, so decided on “Undercover Boss.”


I first watched an episode featuring the CEO of Oriental Trading, who must be one of the most disillusioned people I’ve ever seen, and then watched an episode about the CEO of Yankee Candle.

Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss

About 30 minutes into the flight the meal service began.


The menu read as follows:

And the wine list read as follows:

To drink I had a Diet Coke, which was served with mixed nuts.

Diet Coke and mixed nuts

For the starter I had the lobster and mango salad, which was phenomenal.

Lobster and mango salad with lemon and olive oil dressing

I had way too much beef on my previous flight, so decided on the ravioli for the main. It was fine, though I’ve certainly had better pasta dishes on a plane.

Ricotta ravioli with cherry tomato ragout and arugula

For dessert I had the chocolate mascarpone cake.

Chocolate mascarpone cake with raspberry coulis

Then to finish off the meal I had the best hot beverage served on any airline, in my opinion, which is Hong Kong milk tea. It was served with a bowl of pralines. Mmmm…

Hong Kong milk tea and pralines

After dinner I asked the crew for turndown service, which they gladly took care of. I slept like a baby for a few hours, thanks to Cathay Pacific’s excellent bedding. While they might not have the most private suites in the world, I do still find that I sleep among the best on Cathay Pacific. I woke up about 15 minutes out of Vancouver, as were initiating our final descent.

Turndown service

Turndown service

On descent

On descent

After bidding the crew farewell it was off to clear customs. Interestingly they requested that all passengers continuing to Hong Kong stay on the plane, which I’ve found to be pretty rare on “direct” flights in the past few years.

Thanks to the super late arrival time there were virtually no queues at immigration, though in Canada my issue with immigration isn’t ever the queues, but the terrorist-like questioning, as if you’re simultaneously trying to smuggle bombs, meth, and child porn into the country.

Hallway towards immigration hall

Once through customs began the (mis)adventures of a 90 minute hotel stay, which you can read about here.

On the whole Cathay Pacific is an unbeatable way to fly on a coast-to-coast flight. Their meal service is somewhat watered down on the transcontinental flight in that they don’t serve Balik salmon and caviar, but for a transcon it’s still an unbeatable way to fly.

Thanks for following along on this little adventure. Fortunately I finished this report just in time, as very shortly I’ll be jetting off on my Airbus 380 extravaganza, so there will be lots more coming shortly!

  1. Sounds like a great flight on CX, as usual, Ben! We’ve flown it twice already and are in love. In fact, most of our BA Avios are saved up to take advantage of this Fifth Freedom flight. Will be doing it again in F in about a month!

  2. Try entering YVR on business (probably everywhere in Canada, but no experience here…) as an American. Even with a 3 year work visa that was created solely for the work I was doing for my employer by a Canadian immigration attorney (not that you can tell that by the full 8.5x 11 page fold out visa stapled in your passport) you still get hassled.

    Essentially, you need to tell the normal immigration official why no Canadian could possibly ever do your job and that is why you have to come into Canada to do business. Do that 2-3 times and see how fast you sign up for Nexus.

  3. “But I also love the 747 for the fact that first class is in the nose, so it’s extremely private and I love sitting in row one on the 747.”

    If you’re traveling with someone, yes, but aren’t seats 1A and 2A more private for solo travelers?

    Just out of curiosity, what was the pre-arrival meal? Standard breakfast or snack?

  4. The flight is too short to have 2 different meal services.

    I took it once – great flight. Only problem is that westbound arrival of 1-2am (depending on DST or not), which is rather inconvenient.

  5. Scratch that…Just read that you took another flight. Was thinking you might try teh Bolt Bus or the train…

  6. To me this read like the best First Class flight you’ve had on AA in terms of soft product, complimented by Cathay’s hard product.

    Other than the lack of formalities were the service standards of attentiveness up to what you’ve come to expect from CX? Was the rest of the crew as informal?

    From other trip reports online I’m beginning to notice that YVR flights are a bit inconsistent. Pleasantly or not.


  7. “Within a few minutes boarding was announced, starting with first and business class, and so began one of the most interesting Cathay Pacific flights of my life…”

    So was it because of the FA (the fact that she called you “hun”) that it was the most interesting?

  8. “Within a few minutes boarding was announced, starting with first and business class, and so began one of the most interesting Cathay Pacific flights of my life…”

    So was it because of the FA (the fact that she called you “hun”) that it was the most interesting?

    I was hoping for more! 😉

  9. @ JRL — You’re absolutely right. Funny enough the service was totally up to CX standards otherwise, it was just “hun” vs. “Mr. Lucky.”

  10. @ AJK — Probably didn’t accurately describe the level of “hun” in this post, but yes, that’s what made this the most unique Cathay flight ever.

  11. Whoa… I’m Canadian and the exact opposite holds for me… US customs tends to grill you – Canadians just want to know how much alcohol I have… I guess it’s a matter of perspective!

    I can’t wait to read about the 380 flights.

  12. I don’t know between the US and Canada whose customs officers are more inquisitive, but as a Canadian entering the US we can also get questioned quite extensively by US customs.

    If you see yourself routing through Vancouver a lot to get back home to Seattle, you can consider getting Nexus.

  13. haha what did us New Yorkers ever do to you? If I recall correctly sometime within the last few weeks, you also met an “uppity” New Yorker. Gruff yes, but softies at heart we are!

  14. Ben –

    You know that feeling you get after a long night of bow-chika-bow-wow?

    Reading the whole ‘Bling it On’ trip report gave me that feeling. That warm fuzzy, dizzy feeling like no other. You did it!

    The. Most. Satisfying. Trip. Report. Ever.

    Now if you will excuse me …

  15. @ Derrick — And I totally agree with you. I happen to think about US and Canadian immigration are ridiculous!

    @ AJ — Now that I live in Seattle I definitely want to get Nexus.

  16. @ Heather — Hahaha, for what it’s worth I’m actually from New York, so no dislike for New Yorkers here. They’re just easy targets. 😀

    @ Donald — I love flying and aviation is probably my greatest passion in life, and I always thought doing it full time would be a blast. The issue is that you’re entirely at the mercy of your seniority number, and that seems incredibly demotivating. You’re also entirely at the mercy of your company. If you don’t like the direction they’re headed or they go out of business, you can’t just make a career jump, because you’ll start as the most junior person at the new company.

    All that was just more frustration than I wanted to deal with.

  17. Some of the disguises on Undercover boss are worse than what you’d see on Halloween! Lol. But a good show.

  18. @Lucky thanks for the answer! Those were some points I had never thought about. I followed another, stronger passion and have been able to live out that dream(and still have the aviation bug)!

  19. Hmmm… How many points did this require? This looks awesome, but as someone who takes 5+ hour flights from NYC to the West Coast (SFO, LAX, etc) fairly regularly in coach, I would rather save up the points for use in buisness or first class to Hong Kong on Cathay…

  20. @ Donald — Sounds like you have the best of both worlds!

    @ Anthony — Well I used 90,000 miles for Abu Dhabi to New York to Vancouver, so this extra segment didn’t really cost me anything extra. Usually it would cost 25,000 miles one-way in coach or 32,500 miles one-way in business.

    Agree it’s a much better value to redeem miles for transpacific flights.

  21. I don’t go to Canada any more because of their Immigration staff. The rumoured 10% secondary inspection and having relatives in Calgary seem to always make me a target

  22. Cathay’s first class bed, is hands down the widest bed in the sky and the only first class bed you can sleep with your hand all the way stretched out underneath your pillow and not touch the wall of the mini suite. No other first class bed or suite can offer that. Nobody !
    Cathay’s first class cabins on their 777’s and 747’s are also the least crowded offering more square footage per passenger then any other airline. 6 passengers int their 777’s, BA, JL, NH, etc.. all have 8 !! WELL DONE CATHAY !!!!!!

  23. Nice pics mate! The Vancouver-JFK route is always done by Vancouver base pilots. The cabin crew are split between the Vancouver baased and Hong Kong based crew. A HKG based crew would arrive into YVR for about 2-3 days or so then would fly into JFK in the morning, fly out of JFK a the same day later that night, stay in Vancouver for about a day, then fly back to HKG. That’s the usual pattern for the cabin crew. I’ve had the same questioning experience when I arrived into YVR for the very first time. Who are your friends, jobe description, etc. Lasted for about 5-10 minutes or so which was annoying to be honest. And I had a U.S. passport which really did not matter.

    Happen to know the name of the cabin crew who called you “hun”? She must be cute! 😀 I get to fly with the YVR crew alot and some of them are cute.

    Anyways, great report. Not just this one but the others as well.

  24. Hi Lucky –

    I am not a US/EU/Canadian passport holder that requires a visa to get into MOST countries… If I am taking the JFK-YVR-HKG flight… would I be required to disembark and go through Canadian passport control?


  25. Yet more AGEIST comments- you even admit to judging people without good cause with your “snobby New Yorkers” remark.
    (Don’t you think you’re kinda overusing that word a bit??)

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