Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific
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I was excited about this Hong Kong to Toronto flight for a variety of reasons. For one, I couldn’t wait for a long haul flight where I could hopefully get some real sleep, after an exhausting and largely sleepless few days.

Beyond that, this would be my first flight in Cathay Pacific’s long haul business class in several years, and also my first time experiencing their new business class soft product.

Let me give a bit of a spoiler alert up front, to share my impressions of the product at various points in the journey, in chronological order:

  • “Oh wow, this is nice.”
  • “This is really nice, actually… could this be one of the best business class products out there?”
  • “Oh no… how are they not getting the basics right?!”

So yeah, if you want more details, here are 4,000 more words for you…

Redeeming Miles For Cathay Pacific Business Class

I booked a Cathay Pacific business class award ticket all the way from Singapore to Toronto. The reason I chose to fly to Toronto is because the Hong Kong to Toronto flight was the only North American Cathay Pacific flight that day to be operated by the A350-1000, and that’s the plane I most wanted to review.

So I booked the following:

12/05 CX636 Singapore to Hong Kong departing 8:15PM arriving 12:05AM (+1 day)
12/06 CX828 Hong Kong to Toronto departing 10:35AM arriving 12:30PM

I booked the ticket using 70,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $66.10 in taxes and fees, which I’d say is a great deal.

See this post for the best credit cards for earning American AAdvantage miles,

Earn AA Miles

I’d note that in theory I could have also redeemed 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles for the ticket, which is an even better value. However, when I called Alaska they couldn’t see the award space, unfortunately.

See this post for the best credit cards for earning Alaska Mileage Plan miles, including the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card (review) and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card (review).

Cathay Pacific Business Class A350 Review

My 10:35AM flight to Toronto was scheduled to board at 9:55AM from Gate 36, so I got there quite a bit early. I had a great view of the A350-1000 from the gate, and my gosh, is it pretty or what?!

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 in Hong Kong

Boarding ended up starting at 10:05AM. While there is no first class on this plane, they still have a first class and oneworld Emerald boarding lane, meaning oneworld Emerald members are invited to board first. I wouldn’t wait to check out this product!

Cathay Pacific 828
Hong Kong (HKG) – Toronto (YYZ)
Friday, December 6
Depart: 10:35AM
Arrive: 12:30PM
Duration: 14hr55min
Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000
Seat: 22A ( Business Class)

I boarded through the forward door, where I was greeted by the inflight service manager and one of the business class flight attendants, and pointed towards my seat. The A350-1000 has a massive cabin between doors one and two, all of which consisted of business class seats.

Cathay Pacific has 46 Cirrus reverse herringbone business class seats on the A350-1000, so there are 12 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration (there are only 11 rows along the windows, but 12 rows in the center).

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin

One thing I immediately noticed is that Cathay Pacific has overhead bins in the center section of the cabin, just like British Airways does on their A350-1000. While practical, some airlines (like Qatar Airways) don’t put overhead bins there, which makes the cabin feel even more spacious..

Cathay Pacific business class cabin A350-1000

As is the norm for reverse herringbone seats, the center seats faced towards the center of the aircraft. Some might prefer these if traveling with someone, though the reality is that they’re sufficiently private so that you’d have to lean way forward to communicate with your “seatmate.” Therefore if traveling with someone I’d probably still select window seats.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seats

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seats

The window seats face the windows, and are fabulous. The seats and cabin were in great condition, which I guess shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since this plane was only delivered in July 2018.

Cathay Pacific business class seats A350

I had assigned myself seat 22A, the seat on the left side in the second to last row of business class.

Cathay Pacific business class seats A350

Cathay Pacific business class seats A350

To the left of the seat was a console with the entertainment controller, seat controls, and reading light.

Cathay Pacific business class seat & entertainment controls

To the side of that was a storage compartment that could be closed, which also had a mirror and a pouch.

Cathay Pacific business class seat storage unit

Inside the storage compartment was the 110v and USB outlet.

Cathay Pacific business class seat storage unit

I really loved the amount of legroom the seat had, as the area for your feet was huge, and there was even an area along the fuselage that was padded. This was noticeably more spacious than most reverse herringbone seats.

Cathay Pacific business class seat legroom

There was even a huge storage compartment to the bottom left of the seat, which very few reverse herringbone seats have.

Cathay Pacific business class seat storage

The tray table swung out from the left side of the seat, and could be folded over in half.

Cathay Pacific business class seat tray table

Then the armrest on the right side of the seat could be raised or lowered, and when raised there was even a water bottle holder.

Cathay Pacific business class seat armrest

As usual, the A350 overhead console is quite nice, though annoyingly Cathay Pacific doesn’t have individual air nozzles on this plane (on the plus side, the cabin wasn’t kept too warm).

Cathay Pacific business class seat overhead console

Reverse herringbone seats might seem pretty standard nowadays, but I was really surprised by these. With reverse herringbone seats you either have the Collins Super Diamond version (used by all kinds of airlines, like Air Canada), and you have the Cirrus seats (used on select American planes, Cathay Pacific, etc.).

Historically I’ve preferred the Collins Super Diamond seats, but I actually think Cathay Pacific’s evolved Cirrus seats are the best:

  • The seat has a massive storage compartment to the bottom side of the seat, which no other reverse herringbone products do
  • The footwell was noticeably larger, especially with all the padding along the fuselage
  • All the seat controls were well designed, and there was also an enclosed storage compartment along the top side of the seat

So Cathay Pacific did a spectacular job with an evolved Cirrus seat, and I truly think this is the best “standard” reverse herringbone seat (we can debate whether British Airways’ reverse herringbone seat with a door is better or not).

So the flight started off on a high, and I was thinking between this seat, the reasonably priced Wi-Fi with no data caps, and a super friendly crew, it would be an amazing flight.

Anyway, waiting at my seat was an amenity kit, featuring a dental kit with mouthwash, eyeshades, earplugs, and a few types of creams & lotions. Best I could tell this wasn’t yet Cathay Pacific’s new style amenity kit.

Cathay Pacific business class amenity kit

There were also a pair of slippers waiting at my seat, along with a bottle of Evian water.

Cathay Pacific business class slippers

Cathay Pacific business class bottled water

Then there were a pair of alright headphones. The one oddity was that whenever I plugged my phone into the outlet the headphones would make a horrible buzzing noise at the same time, to the point that I just didn’t charge my phone while watching TV shows or movies.

Cathay Pacific business class headphones

Cathay Pacific’s business class menus are meant to look like newspapers, which is oh-so-adorable, in my opinion. I love this concept.

Cathay Pacific business class menu

Also already waiting at my seat was Cathay Pacific’s exceptional bedding, including a mattress sheet, and a thick pillow and duvet.

Cathay Pacific business class bedding

I could tell immediately that the crew would be excellent, as I usually find to be the case on Cathay Pacific. However, Cathay Pacific has a different approach to service than many other premium airlines, which is worth understanding:

  • Cathay Pacific generally has reactive service rather than proactive service, especially during non-meal times, largely intended to minimize disruption in the cabin (and yes, I actually buy into this and don’t mind it, because the second you push the call button they appear with a smile on their face)
  • Cathay Pacific very much has “assembly line” service in business class, though they’re supposed to be tackling that with their new dining concept

Anyway, about 15 minutes after settling in I was offered a pre-departure drink, with the choice between champagne, the Cathay Delight, apple juice, or water. I selected the Cathay Delight which is one of the best cold non-alcoholic drinks you’ll find on any airline, in my opinion.

Cathay Pacific business class pre-departure drink

A moment later I was offered a warm towel.

Cathay Pacific business class warm towel

Five minutes later Kelly, one of the flight attendants taking care of me, came by to introduce herself. With the new service concept they seem to have a lovely personalized welcome for every passenger, and she welcomed me on behalf of the inflight service manager Sue, explained there were six flight attendants taking care of us in business class, and that the flight time would be 13hr20min.

She also explained that a meal would be served after takeoff, and then the next meal would be served about four to five hours later, and then they would have a dine on demand concept after that. However, she explained that if I wanted anything moved around I could just let them know, and they could accommodate.

I know part of Cathay Pacific’s new service concept is giving flight attendants more of a chance to interact with passengers in a personalized way, and this is really a great way to start off the flight, in my opinion, so they nailed that.

At around 10:35AM the main cabin door was closed with just a few empty seats in business class. At this point the captain made his welcome aboard announcement. Full disclosure, I have a bit of an obsession with Cathay Pacific pilots.

More accurately, as a kid I always wanted to be an airline pilot, and specifically wanted to work for Cathay Pacific. I love how international their pilots are (often all four pilots in the cockpit are from different countries), and I also love how they have pilot bases all around the world. So sometimes you’ll get a pilot with a drawling southern US accent, and sometimes you’ll get a pilot with a crisp Hong Kong accent.

Anyway, this pilot had one of the coolest names ever, as his last name was the same as a popular junky snack (and no, it wasn’t Captain Cheeto or Captain Crunch). While the cockpit crew was Hong Kong based, he was Canadian.

Anyway he advised us that we’d have “a very quick flight time of 13hr24min.” Ah, the life of an ultra long haul pilot. And no, he actually wasn’t being sarcastic — he explained that the flight time was significantly shorter than usual, and that we’d be waiting about 15 minutes to push back, or else we’d be landing too early in Toronto). 13hr24min is indeed a short flight time for a flight blocked at 14hr55min.

One other funny note — seated behind me in the window was a young kid, and his dad was across the aisle. It was so adorable to hear his reactions to this plane (I wasn’t intending to eavesdrop, he just shared all of his opinions very loudly). “This plane is so nice, it’s so much better than the Boeing.” Then towards the end of the flight his dad tried to get him to sleep, pointing out that they were arriving early in the day and he’d be cranky if he didn’t get rest. The kid threw a bit of a temper tantrum, saying “no I want to enjoy the flight.” Hah!

A few minutes after the captain’s announcement the safety video was screened, and at 10:55AM we began our pushback, and five minutes later we began our taxi.

We taxied out to runway 7R, where we waited for a couple of cargo planes to take off, including a Cargolux 747 headed to Baku (how cool is that?), and also for an all-white Etihad 777 freighter to take off.

Cargolux 747 Hong Kong Airport

Then it was our turn. The A350 has a tail camera, so it was awesome to watch that during takeoff. What a view!!

Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

Usually I’m obsessed with just watching the tail camera, but the views out the window were even better. Also, one reason I love to sit towards the back of business class on the A350-1000 is because of the wing views.

View departing Hong Kong

View departing Hong Kong

As we climbed out I played around with the entertainment selection.

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

I started looking at the map for our flight, which was highly customizable. You know it’s a long flight when you can barely fit the origin and destination on the same screen at once!

Cathay Pacific moving map to Toronto

Cathay Pacific’s entertainment selection is excellent, with endless movies, TV shows, and live TV. Unlike their older system, this one was also highly responsive and high definition.

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

I have nothing but good things to say about the entertainment selection, with my only complaint being the several minutes of ads at the beginning of every show or movie (though you can fast forward through them). I ended up watching a few episodes of “Fresh Off The Boat,” because I have really bad taste in entertainment.

Cathay Pacific entertainment selection

The highlight of Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 entertainment is their Gogo 2Ku wifi, which is fast, reasonably priced, and has no data caps. There are two passes available:

  • $9.95 for one hour
  • $19.95 for the entire flight

That’s excellent pricing for Wi-Fi with no data caps, and you can even switch between devices. This is among the best Wi-Fi option of any ultra long haul airline, in my opinion.

Cathay Pacific A350 wifi

Cathay Pacific A350 wifi

The seatbelt sign was turned off about 15 minutes after takeoff, so I walked around the cabin a bit.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin

The 32 seat premium economy cabin was right behind business class, and unlike business class was mostly empty.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 premium economy cabin

There were two lavatories behind business class, though one seemed to be reserved for premium economy, while the other was for business class.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 lavatory

Then there were two more lavatories in the front, which had the benefit of having windows.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 lavatory

About 35 minutes after takeoff inflight service manager Sue stopped by my seat to welcome me onboard. Then about 10 minutes later drink and meal orders were taken.

The crew uses tablets for taking orders and throughout the service, which allows them to address passengers by name pretty easily (and they do so in a natural way, not like at some US airlines where they stare at the screen to try to pronounce your name). The other benefit is that the tablet seems to be connected to the galley, since my drink was delivered before the flight attendant ever returned to the galley.

The menu for the flight read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Then there was some more “reading,” as follows:

As you can see, they serve the main meal after takeoff, then they serve another meal halfway through the flight, and then they have a limited dine on demand concept for the remainder of the flight.

It’s nice that Cathay Pacific has eliminated the trolleys from business class service, as everything is now served directly. The only thing they use trolleys for is when they’re clearing trays.

55 minutes after takeoff I was served my first drink — I ordered a glass of the lovely Billecart-Salmon champagne, served with mixed nuts.

Cathay Pacific business class lunch — champagne & mixed nuts

Even though Cathay Pacific stopped using carts, aspects of the service still feel like an assembly line. For example, when my drink was done the glass was simply cleared, rather than being offered a refill.

85 minutes after takeoff my starter was served. Despite Cathay Pacific switching to more of a dine on demand concept, I still find their options to be quite limited. The only two appetizer choices were sliced pork with garlic sauce or cannellini beans and kale soup with crispy bacon.

When I placed the order they said they were out of the soup. I said then I’d just skip the appetizer because I don’t eat pork, and she said she’d see what she could do. They managed to find an extra soup and left out the bacon.

The soup was decent, as was the salad, though it was small. I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose Cathay’s excellent garlic bread. I know Cathay Pacific has also introduced new table-ware, though personally I find it to be kind of boring and bland.

Cathay Pacific business class lunch — soup & salad

It was a full two hours after takeoff before the main course was served. I ordered the wok-fried chicken with shrimp, dried fish, cashew nuts, and garlic chives, served with steamed jasmine rice. This sounded right up my alley, though it wasn’t very good. The presentation wasn’t good, the portion was small, and the taste was just “meh.”

Cathay Pacific business class lunch — main course

About 2hr20min after takeoff my dessert order was taken. I ordered the fruit and cheese plate, not fully realizing that those were two different things. That ended up being served about 2hr45min after takeoff, though was quite good, at least.

Cathay Pacific business class lunch — cheese & fruit

Since I’m a sucker for any and all Asian desserts, I also asked if I could have the milk tea tapioca pearl pudding, and the crew obliged.

Cathay Pacific business class lunch — dessert

My tray was cleared about three hours after takeoff. While the crew couldn’t have been kinder, Cathay Pacific has a lot of optimizing to do with their business class meal service. I appreciate that they got rid of serving everything in business class off carts, but this simply doesn’t do the trick:

  • The service takes way too long given how simple it is; it’s not as elaborate as the service offered by Austrian or Turkish, where I could understand it taking that long
  • The options are still really limited, even though they’ve intended to go with a more flexible menu
  • Not only are the options limited, but the food wasn’t great for the most part, in particular my main, which was supposed to be a “signature” dish
  • While the airline is working towards offering more personalized service, I do think that at least during the service they should offer drink refills, rather than just proactively taking away glasses

By the time the meal service was done there were just under 10hr30min remaining to Toronto, and I decided it was time to get some shuteye.

Map enroute to Toronto

While I didn’t use it, the entertainment controller lets you select whether you’d like to be woken up for the second meal or for landing, though I don’t know to what extent that’s observed.

Cathay Pacific business class wake up call

At this point I made my bed, which I found to be extremely comfortable, thanks to the excellent bedding and surprisingly spacious seat.

Cathay Pacific business class bed

Cathay Pacific business class bed

I got some solid sleep, and woke up about 6hr30min before landing, as we were crossing over from Russia to Alaska.

Map enroute to Toronto

Map enroute to Toronto

I worked for a bit, and then about 30 minutes later the second meal service began. Personally I find Cathay’s approach to meal service on this flight puzzling — in my opinion the main meals should be after takeoff and before landing, rather than the second meal being halfway through the flight. This limits the amount of uninterrupted sleep that many people will get to about four hours.

I get that this flight leaves fairly early in the day, but if you’re trying to adjust your schedule to Toronto then you’d want to try to sleep at roughly the halfway point of the flight.

While the lights weren’t turned to full brightness, they were turned about halfway up during the meal service.

Anyway, service began with a tray of orange juice, apple juice, and water being brought through the cabin.

Cathay Pacific business class second meal — drink

This was a light dinner, with everyone being served fresh fruit as the appetizer and a tasty black forest mousse as the dessert. There were three main options, including:

  • Chicken, mushroom, leek, potato, and mozzarella cheese pie
  • Minced beef fried rice with shredded lettuce
  • Spinach tagliatelle with mixed mushrooms, basil, and tomato sauce, with pecorino cheese

I selected the pie, which was tasty, though as one of the two main meals on a long haul flight, seemed rather limited.

Cathay Pacific business class second meal

After the meal I ordered a cappuccino, which was excellent — I appreciate that Cathay Pacific has espresso based drinks in business class.

Cathay Pacific business class cappuccino

I worked for another 90 minutes or so, and then managed to take another two hour nap closer to landing. At this point it was a beautiful day outside, at least based on the tail camera.

Tail camera enroute to Toronto

I woke up once again just under two hours before landing in Toronto, as we were passing Winnipeg.

Map enroute to Toronto

In the galley there was a small snack tray with some apples and packaged snacks.

Cathay Pacific business class snacks

About 90 minutes before landing I was asked if I wanted to order anything else before landing. The three options were as follows:

  • Broccoli, spinach, peas, almonds, preserved lemon, and goat’s cheese
  • Beef burger
  • Roasted duck with lai fun noodles in soup

I tried to order the first option, though they were out of it. I then ordered the beef burger. I’m not usually a burger guy (and this would be my second burger in 24 hours, though the last one was vegetarian), though I figured I should order it. I hadn’t been paying attention so didn’t realize there was bacon, so I took that off.

For a plane, both the burger and fries were decent.

Cathay Pacific business class burger

At around 11:20AM Toronto time the captain announced that we’d descend shortly, and would be landing in Toronto at around 11:50AM. 10 minutes later the crew prepared the cabin for landing, and five minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned on. OMG it was snowy!

View approaching Toronto

We had a smooth touchdown in Toronto at 11:50AM.

Taxiing in Toronto

From there we had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we pulled in next to an Air Transit A330 at 12PM.

Air Transat A330 Toronto

I had a perfect view of the A350-1000 upon deplaning.

Cathay Pacific A350 Toronto

I headed through immigration, and due to rolling delays on flights headed to the US, I managed to standby on an earlier flight down to Miami, though was in the middle seat in the second to last row, which was a first for me. Talk about a downgrade from Cathay Pacific business class!

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Bottom Line

Oh, Cathay Pacific, you’re making my job of coming to a conclusion on this product really hard.

I love the A350-1000, Cathay Pacific’s reverse herringbone seats on this plane are possibly my favorite reverse herringbone seats out there, the Wi-Fi was among the best you’ll find on any long haul airline, the entertainment selection excellent, the bedding was top notch, and the crew was fabulously friendly.

But then there’s the actual food quality and service flow. The airline has been testing an optimized business class meal service for a couple of years, and is this really the best they could come up with? The service is outrageously slow, the meal options are still limited (and then they run out of options), they serve a meal halfway through the flight, and the food isn’t actually that good.

When I boarded this flight I thought to myself “this could easily be one of the best five business class products in the world,” but then I was let down by the actual service flow. C’mon Cathay Pacific, you’re so close to offering something something industry leading!

Despite the shortcomings, I’d fly Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class again in a heartbeat. Between the excellent seat, bedding, and wifi, that’s a lot of what I look for in a good business class product.

If you’ve flown Cathay Pacific business class with their new service concept, what was your experience like?

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  1. @Ben one thing to note is that the middle seats can be moved forward about 6 inches or so, which makes conversing with your seatmate a little easier. I cannot recall if this is a unique feature for CX but I have noticed it on the 777s and a350.

  2. Why would any airline serve a main meal in the middle of the flight when you are trying to sleep? It makes no sense to me.

  3. Not surprised that CX J food falls short. The worst catering I’ve ever had was on CX in J; doorstop level pork cutlet that was gross.

    Not-logical food service seems to be a thing for both CX and SQ, eh? You had similar complaints about SIN-EWR.

  4. I flew AKL-HKG a few days ago on one of their A350-1000. The flight departed mid afternoon and arrived about 9pm local time in Hong Kong but the second meal service, a couple of hours before landing, was breakfast. I thought that was a bit odd.

    Like you, I thought the meal service was a bit slow and, now that you’ve mentioned it, I don’t recall being offered a refill of my glass at all.

    The hard product tho. It was a much more pleasant flight than the 777 I took to LHR a few hours later.

  5. I can’t speak to your circadian rhythms but it seems to me the meal times roughly correspond to either lunch and dinner HKG time. Or dinner and breakfast YYZ time.

    But I agree the dinner service time is way too long.

  6. In my opinion, food in CX its business never stands out. That’s also the case for veggie meals, ordered in advance. They could learn so much from Qatar Airways or Turkish.

  7. I get a complaint about service being slow, but on a route this long I think thats a relatively minor issue. If this was a 6 hour redeye I’d have a totally different reaction.

  8. @ Evan — To be clear, I actually don’t mind a drawn out service on a flight this long departing early in the day. That’s to say that if there are many courses, constant drink refills, etc., I’m totally fine with it. My issue here was that it just felt like a lot of waiting, and wasn’t much of an experience. The food was mediocre, and it seemingly took forever between courses. In other words, I don’t consider sitting with an empty plate for 20 minutes to be part of a good drawn out dining experience.

  9. @ Pete — It’s tricky to figure out the right approach to meal service on a flight with a 13 hour time difference. But there’s fundamentally an issue when there aren’t more than four (or so) interrupted hours of sleep on a 13 hour flight. Personally I think they should have the first meal be at the beginning of the flight, and then just do dine on demand for the rest of the flight, and also add some breakfast options. That seems like a win-win.

  10. I find the cabin to be quite sterile in contrast to the 77Ws and A330s. The loss of the blue fabric in the inner shell of the seat as well as the artwork made a difference.

    What they should do in my opinion for upcoming business class seats is ditch the champagne and green color palette altogether and “mimic” the palette of what you’ll find in the redesigned lounges. Like some faux wood on the bulkhead perhaps?!

  11. On my LAX-HKG roundtrip in October I got to experience the new Cathay soft product in business, but not on the A350. While I agree the meal service was a little clunky, it didn’t bother me as much as you (and we did not have a major meal service mid-flight, so sleep went uninterrupted). But the food I had was, across the board, excellent and well presented. The warm “salad” of broccoli, spinach, peas, almonds, preserved lemon, and goat’s cheese is one of the best things I’ve ever had on a plane — I wanted a second serving but they ran out.

    My AA EXP status ends in January. Without SWUs to coddle me on AA flights to Asia, I expect I’ll be using Cathay more in the coming year — and I’m looking forward to it.

    Question: How does Cathay business compare with Japan Airlines?

  12. Is it my imagination or does it seem that traditional breakfast choices are becoming scarce on Asian trans Pacific flights? I love my omeletes, toast, marmalade croissants, muesli etc. I had a very similiar experience earlier this week on the JAL NRT-SEA flight with their total lack of breakfast service.

  13. The seats look amazing! Why the heck would they fall short on the soft product!?! I mean, its Cathay Pacific! I think so highly of the airline until the past 2 years. What is happening with these Oneworld carriers. BA and AA have already fallen short, and I hope CX isn’t next.

  14. Thanks, great review. I have a couple of questions that have probably been answered on this blog a million times before, but here they are anyway: 1) when you book a flight like this on a partner airline with Advantage miles, does the award get you only the partner’s flight or the entire itenerary? In other words did your 70k get you to Toronto or all the way to Miami? 2) Is there an easy way to see these on line or do you have to call American? I’m looking to book Raleigh to Tokyo in Business with Advantage miles and I want to use JAL for the long haul leg. I’m not seeing those options on line. Thanks

  15. WOW, did they really serve so little Cathay delight as your pre-departure drink. Let’s be positive the glass was a quarter full rather than 3/4 empty!!

  16. Review was on point. Optimizing uninterrupted sleep should be top priority for ultra-long hauls, and a meal interruption mid-flight makes absolutely no sense, especially when the first meal takes 3 hours.

  17. Hi Ben – great review, thank you. Slow service and average food don’t make for compelling reasons to fly business Cathay. They used to be the benchmark (a long time ago). There are plenty of better options.

  18. Before the rise of the Gulf airlines Cathay and Singapore were regarded as unmatched across the world and while both had their fan base both were absolutely excellent.

    IMO Cathay always had the edge and certainly in business class IMO they still do. On the very long haul routes where you really see service in action they still have a strong edge over Singapore on all fronts.

  19. Just flew sfo-hkg on A350 a few days ago. My worst Cathay flight ever. Normally I avoid the A350 option simply because I don’t like the late morning departure…hard to get any sleep, but decided to try it out.

    You neglected to mention two incredibly annoying aspects of the J seats on the A350:. First, no privacy divider between middle two! A small 6 inch divider is all that kept me from playing footsies with my neighbor. I could also see his screen all flight, especially troublesome when trying to sleep. Second, the side cutout makes the screen opposite the aisle within view when reclined, again disrupting sleep. I hate wearing the blindfold masks, but was forced to because of these two poor seat designs.

    I also had a really poor crew for the flight. Unfriendly, non-proactive, and talked loudly in galley all flight when people were trying to sleep. Cathay is losing some lustre in my eyes.

  20. Great review Ben, I have the exact same opinion about this product having flown CX830 and CX841 a couple of weeks ago. Both of them are flights blocked at 16 hours and I really don’t understand why they have their main dinner service 8 hours into the flight..? It doesn’t make any sense.. Anyway, the crew on both flights were excellent!

    And I do envy you, the Cathay Delight drink is amazing; they didn’t serve that one on my flights. They served the Oriental Breeze drink instead..

  21. AS never has the same availability as OW.

    As an aside – I was arranging a flight from CPT-LAX-SEA a few years back. AS could provide J on CX to LAX but their own AS flight to SEA was blocked in main cabin (call me basic economy). AA provided J on QR to LAX and “F” on the very same connecting flight to SEA

    Needless to say I chose QR. What is so surprising is that AS never seems to provide a “J” connect for their long haul rewards. (AS F is no better than PE or weak J on any half decent airline). This is becoming so irritating that my future travel is tending toward other carriers.

  22. “and my gosh, is it pretty or what?!”

    After 30+ years as an ATC at ATL I can actually say, who gives a F#÷$, it’s an airplane.

    I just don’t get the enamor, maybe I’m biased.

  23. Not surprised at all about about the food…

    I lived in HK for 5 years and flew them (exclusively in C/F) numerous times to Europe, BKK and SFO. I never once had a decent meal. Probably because everything was already cooked and already on the service trolley – so all the choices are readily available.

    To make matters worse, my tour of the catering service put me off airline food coming out of HK altogether! Thank good the tour happened the last year of living there.

  24. @Ben
    “Then there were a pair of alright headphones. The one oddity was that whenever I plugged my phone into the outlet the headphones would make a horrible buzzing noise at the same time, to the point that I just didn’t charge my phone while watching TV shows or movies.”

    As a vendor of this equipment that competed on the tender where these items were selected, I can tell you that these (inadequete) noise-cancellation headphones were purchased purely on the basis of lowest price, much to the frustration of the CX IFE team (the airline had lost a bucket load in the financial year when the tender was issued).

    The noise that you heard is the fact that in order to save cost the selected h/p manufacturer did not use cable that is shielded from the EMI (electro magnetic interference) that is generated by having the ‘phone plugged-in. It’s a simple recification that quality h/p manufacturers ensure is standard design.

    The old saying, “You get what you pay for”, I guess!

  25. “Cathay Pacific has also introduced new table-wear (sic)”

    Should read “table-ware”

    “While the crew wouldn’t have been kinder…”

    I think you mean, “while the crew couldn’t have been kinder.” “Wouldn’t” suggests that they were actively resisting being kind, i.e. that that they were deliberately grumpy. “Couldn’t” suggests that they were as kind as humanly possible.

    Lovely review, but you need a proof reader to take this to the next level.

  26. @Ben… Did you guys hold departure 15 min. due to slot restrictions at YYZ? It certainly couldn’t have been due to availability of Customs due to your mid-day arrival

  27. Just an FYI, all Cathay pilots are based in Hong Kong these days and have been for some time, maybe 5-10 years or so. It’s one of the primary drivers of high expat turnover. Reopening of bases is dangled like a carrot in front of new starters (spoiler alert: always returning to basing “soon”)

  28. I can never understand how some airlines have great food in J but some, like CX and BR have horrific food. CX in my opinion has the worst food of any airlines I’ve ever flown in and BR comes second. Can’t they call up Turkish or Emirates and ask them for the name of their caterer?

  29. Maybe the kid behind you can be the next OMAAT a decades or two later 😉

    As for the signature dish, I’m very sure it must have tasted excellent to the executives when they taste tested this dish: when it was cooked fresh in a relatively small quantity. However it doesn’t really work when cooked in a mass production manner to be used for reheating on a plane. <– this is something I think CX often overlooked when they design their menu. Of course everything would have tasted great during their taste testing when they got Chefs and stuff cooking the food fresh and serving it hot.

  30. Guessing you had the Impossible burger at the Pier As the first burger? I have it each time I’m there 🙂

  31. Thanks for the detailed review.
    Absolutely loving your comment………”The crew uses tablets for taking orders and throughout the service, which allows them to address passengers by name pretty easily (and they do so in a natural way, not like at some US airlines where they stare at the screen to try to pronounce your name).”
    I think it makes such a big difference to be addressed by your name in a natural way. If you feel the crew has to make too strong efforts to call you by your name, better they just don’t do it.

  32. @ Dangerous Dave — I actually had it at the Plaza Premium First Lounge, and enjoyed it. Then saw it on the menu at the Pier again, but figured I shouldn’t have it a second time. Was quite good. 🙂

  33. @ Charlotte — Hmmm, are you sure about that? I’m 99% certain they at least still have pilot bases in YVR, JFK, and LAX, or at least did as of last year. I know because I flew next to a YVR based CX pilot just last year. I know they’re basing new hires in HKG, but maybe they’re still keeping the bases for existing pilots? Curious if this changed very recently, or if I’m missing something…

  34. @ Always Flying Somewhere — Best I can tell it was neither a customs not slot restriction, but rather they just made the decision they’d rather wait than arrive too early. Customs was indeed quiet when we arrived.

  35. Ben, you’re right this is a great seat and the best J-class seat out there. I don’t think I need a door at all. I’ve experienced it on EWR-HKG and IAD-HKG (on A350-1000, which is really a stunning plane.) The seat and WiFi make me seek out the EWR, IAD and YYZ routes. I fly most between NYC and PVG and spent the last few years trying out F and J on JL, NH, BR, CI and CX (obviously) and this is the best transpacific option. (No reason to fly through the Middle East or Singapore, IMHO).

    The food has always been CX’s achille’s heel. I did experience a great lamb chop that was First-Class quality, though sad you did not get that on this flight.

  36. @Ben It was actually myself and my son that were seated behind you.
    I do apologize if his excessive movie watching disrupted your flight in any way. His excitement in the features of the seat are twofold. Firstly as the A350-1000 has just started the non daily YYZ route he had only ever been in the B777 before as we travel this route a fair bit home from HK to Canada, and this was his first time onboard one. Secondly it was also a bit of a dig to me in age old Airbus vs Boeing, as I fly Boeings for CX.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your flight on us and were very complimentary of the product. I will pass on your comments on the Service. As a note evening Long Haul departures have a meal after Takeoff followed by a meal before Landing, while daytime departures usually have meals at normal meal times. Perhaps I’ll be flying next time when it comeS time for you to review our 777X in the not so distant future, no spoiler alerts but I hear even better cabin enhancements to come.

  37. @ Embarrassed Dad — Nothing at all to be embarrassed about, his enthusiasm was adorable, and reminded me so much of me at that age (and heck, probably still me right now). Honestly made the flight all the better. Hope to fly with you some day. 🙂

  38. What a great way to begin and end your flights to and from Toronto on the Airbus A350-1000s.

    That Business Class main meal looked like they scrapped the remnants out of the wok onto that plate, before throwing the pan into the sink to be washed. Pathetic. And to think people may $$ for a J Class fare.

  39. I flew the A350-900 from HKG to LGW last month. I loved the seat and how it fits into the surrounding ledges to make a larger bed space when the seat is fully reclined into a bed. There’s even an extra bit by the seat entrance that I missed. The things I didn’t like were the pillow – so thick that I couldn’t use it – and the meals. On both flights they kind of forgot to offer dessert until I asked for it. Was a bit weird the first time but twice in two fights felt like it was a a deliberate thing to cut costs. Neither dessert very interesting either. Great airline though.

  40. No need to put down Fresh Off the Boat.

    I flew the CX A359 to IAD about a month ago. If I could only fly one a/c type it would definitely be the A350. The service was also underwhelming to say the least. They never even bothered to collect my glass or empty water bottles before landing. I felt like they were quite inattentive.

  41. It is weird reading this review and realizing that I have had a consistently better experiences on United Polaris between HKG and EWR. From the seats to the food to the service to the amenities, CX would rate lower across the board. I find the seats offer more privacy, the food offerings are at least comparable (and the services are relatively quick and at reasonable times), the flight crew has always been pleasant and addressed me by name, and the amenity kits, bedding, and pajamas are a notch better. Plus, there are air nozzles overhead each seat.

    I think US carriers get a lot of flack for terrible service and offerings, particularly for premium classes. While they may never reach the level of excellence shown by the ME or some Asian carriers, United and Delta are really solid products these days.

    There are things CX does that are awesome, like their airport lounges, the hard product is really good, and I have never had outright terrible service. I do think CX could really step up their game however, particularly in the catering department.

  42. Thanks for the review- I think that seat looks amazing and like they really thought of how to maximize space for side sleepers. Query- are the footwells in the middle seats as close together as they seem in the pictures?

    I find food makes or breaks a flight this long. And this looks awful and the vegetarian or lighter options seem repetitive (pasta and pasta annnnnd pasta). Also, why no breakfast options? It seems odd indeed.

    I do not mind trolley service for appetizers and desserts a la Turkish, that way I can see things and it feels very personalized.

    I’d eat a veggie burger with cheese and fries any day on a flight rather than the lame remix pasta dish (or south asian dish you usually get when ordering vegetarian ahead).

  43. @ echino — Neither. I think pigs are cute and smart animals, and view them no differently as dogs for those purposes. So I just make the choice not to eat them.

  44. @Ben (and @Embarrassed Dad) – based on the fight map photos, “we were crossing over from Russia to Alaska” didn’t actually happen. It appears that this flight took a detour east of Japan and Kamchatka, avoiding Russian airspace. Was it just the wind pattern that day, or is there something else going on?

  45. I was led to believe so but could have failed to consider North America. There may also be a small number of very senior commuting pilots remaining? It would be good if you could get a definitive answer though as the party line is “no overseas based pilots, bases opening soon!”

  46. @ Charlotte — Maybe Embarrassed Dad above could chime in? 99% sure they still have at least a couple of North America bases.

  47. I flew the exact flight a few days after. I totally agree with the comment about the limited choices and the signature dish being somewhat underwhelming. Trying to hard to be very Cantonese?
    The roast duck noodle was certainly a much better choice when I ordered it between the 2 meal service. I was surprised that the dessert and cheese was not offered unless I asked.
    The bedding was a major improvement over the older planes, which I flew over from YYZ to HKG for the first leg of the two way trip. Eventually, it is a much better option than Air Canada and the airlines based out of the U.S.
    I will have to try Singapore airlines on the next long haul transpacific journey.

  48. @SBS This is usually a flaw in the moving map display. It does know attitude, speed and time left to fly and where you are in the world, however it doesn’t know the planned route. Therefore it traces the route you have flown and projects forward a great circle track the rest of the way to destination, which may differ significantly from the planed route due to winds, turbulence etc.

  49. @Charolette Yes we still have pilots based outside HK, in USA, Canada, Europe and Australia and NZ

  50. I flew HKG-SEA on A350-900 about 2.5 weeks ago in J. The A350s are definitely better in terms of comfort for passengers than the 777s. I agreed everything you have to say about the seat. I’ve had the best quality sleep on CX’s F and J; better than Emirates’ A380 First and Korean 777-300ER First in my opinion. They served pretty quick for the Seattle flight, but then, it’s a shorter flight (just over 10 hours). For food, I found CX catering to be good, but have room for improvement. I usually picked the Cantonese options and I found them fine, but I have to say the presentation of the wok-stir fry you had was bad. I like CX food because they are not salty like most airlines, and they tried to use more spices instead. I remember one time I used the Chinese hot sauce provided (I just like spicy food), and they make sure I got the hot sauce on my next meal. Also, I really appreciate that CX always serve hot/warm bread in ALL classes. No one wants to be served stone cold roll.

    I like they are using the tablet to take order; however, I found that when you order dinner, you need to order everything (from starter to main to dessert). They are all listed in the menu, but if you skipped something, they assume you don’t want them. So take your time and look through the menu and make sure you order everything that you want. They are pretty good at responding when you press the call button though. I am guessing that they may have pull your soup from First Class (outside of main course, the choices for some starters are sometimes the same between J and F). CX flight attendance seem to try their best to meet your request, unlike those US carriers, in which I got “no” a lot without any attempt to even try.

    And note to self, try the Cathay Delight next time. I do enjoy the Betsy though.

    Thanks for the reviews! I enjoy your site!

  51. I just flew roundrip between ORD and HKG a couple weeks ago on CX and was surprised by the mid-flight meal service. It is a terrible time to force wake travelers to feed them. It really disrupted the ability to sleep a few hours straight to hedge off jet lag. It was not as bad going to Asia, but the return flight was especially miserable. A week later and I’m still not acclimated to the time changes.

    The last time I flew CX (before this most recent flight), I was fortunate enough to fly in First. It was dine on demand, so I was not woken up by the FA’s to eat. And the past couple years, I had flown multiple times to HKG on AA (connecting in either LAX or DFW), and they also do not serve the second meal in the middle of the flight. They serve the second meal a couple hours before landing – which seems to make the most sense.

  52. The long-haul J product on A350 and the 777 is fine. The PE product on the 350 is great (the best IMO). However the PE and Y product on CX’s 777 is cr*p. The pitch on the 777 for both PE and Y has been reduced greatly. I’ve flown plenty on CX the last 20 years, mostly in J but occasionally in Y and W. I’ve moved my Y/W bookings for myself and my co to JL/BR for Asia/Americas and TK for Europe.

    Lucky, I know its tough, but try a review of CX’s 777 Y product sometime…inquiring minds want to know!… 😉

  53. Very nicely written and detailed report! Cathay Pacific hard product has always been impressive…
    Regarding your main dish, I guess you didn’t like it as it had ‘dried fish’. I don’t know if you had had dried fish before or not but it requires an acquired taste and won’t be pleasing to majority trying it for the first time.

  54. I flew CX PE long haul+ (UK>Aus)
    a couple of days ago. Flown CX Biz before.

    In PE they also have this strange service flow on a 12h flight – first meal, five hours later second meal, then nothing for the remainder. Could it be due to crew breaks or rest time? It’s highly annoying.

    Agree with previous poster – PEY on the new A350 is fab, nothing to write home about on the 777. As for Y – 10 abreast looks utterly dire.

  55. @ Ben, do you know when the new Bamford business class amenity kit will be making it’s debut?

    @Edd M, As I remembered, the reason why CX does the meal service that way is due to laziness and cost control. For a long haul flight, if they served a meal after takeoff and second meal before landing, there is a 8 to 9 hours gap between meals. And most passengers will get hungry midflight and asked for cup noodles and other snacks. To save cost, CX decided to move the second meal to midflight and nothing prior to landing.

    On average, this can save them over 100 cup noodles a flight. Multiply that by 365 days. That can be substantial savings. Not to mention, the time saved for crews not having to make 100 cup noodles each flight.

    Most airlines nowadays talk about consumer centricity. However, most of the service flow still used, do not focus on consumers’ needs. Hope for the better soon!

  56. Totally with you on the service flow issue. My recent BOS-HKG-SYD flights were OK on the first sector but the second – a daytime flight – seemed to have the meals at odd sort of times, and there seemed to be up to half an hour between the table being prepped and any food or drink appearing, even having pre-ordered at the beginning of the flight. And no follow up on servcie offers.

  57. actually, according to, the a350 wifi is offered by panasonic and the 777 and a330 wifi is gogo

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