Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class A330 Hong Kong To Kuala Lumpur

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Our flight was departing from gate 36, which was only a very short walk from The Pier Lounge. It might sound like a distance based on the fact that The Pier is between gates 61 and 63, but due to the terminal layout it’s actually one of the closer gates to the lounge.

Hong Kong Airport terminal

We got to gate 36 at around 3:30PM, and just five minutes after that boarding was called. In Hong Kong the gates are set up so that premium boarding is on one side and general boarding on the other, which makes the process a bit more orderly.

Departure gate to Kuala Lumpur

Airbus A330 taking us to Kuala Lumpur

I had specifically booked a longhaul configured aircraft for this flight. Most of Cathay Pacific’s flights within Asia are operated by regionally configured aircraft, which feature their regional business class product. However, select flights are operated by longhaul configured aircraft, which feature their reverse herringbone product in business class. These are a huge improvement over the regional product, and worth going out of your way to book, in my opinion.

Cathay Pacific 729
Hong Kong (HKG) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Friday, November 13
Depart: 4:05PM
Arrive: 8:00PM
Duration: 3hr55min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 21K (Business Class)

We boarded through the forward door, where we were greeted by the inflight service manager, who pointed us towards the right aisle. Cathay Pacific’s A330 business class cabin consists of 39 seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each seat is fully flat and features direct aisle access, given that it’s a reverse herringbone product. This is the same business class product they have on their longhaul 777s, though the seat is a bit narrower, given that the cabin isn’t as wide as the 777’s.

The forward business class cabin features seven rows, so it’s where most of the business class seats are located.

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Cathay Pacific business class A330

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Cathay Pacific business class A330

Then there’s also a rear business class cabin, which I personally prefer. It only has 2-3 rows, so feels considerably more private. Also, since the lavatories are in front of the rear business class cabin, there’s virtually no foot traffic in the rear cabin during the flight (the downside is that during boarding everyone boards past your seat, even those entering through the second door of the plane).

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Business class view from seat 21K

I quickly found my seat, 21K, which was the last business class seat in front of premium economy, on the right side of the aircraft.

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Cathay Pacific business class, seat 21K

I love the reverse herringbone business class product, as it’s spacious and private. There was an ottoman of sorts which becomes part of the bed if you recline the seat, and then the TV screen “swings” out of the seat in front of you.

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Cathay Pacific business class, seat 21K

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Cathay Pacific airshow

To the right of the seat are the entertainment and seat controls, along with a reading light and power adapter. There’s also a storage compartment with the headphones there. It’s convenient to have everything in one place within easy reach of where you’re seated.

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Cathay Pacific business class seat & entertainment controls

The tray table swings out of the right side console, and then below that is even more storage. It’s awesome that the seat isn’t just extremely private and spacious, but also has plenty of storage.

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Cathay Pacific business class seat storage

You’d be hard pressed to see the person seated across from you, given the privacy “shield” along the side of the seat.

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Business class view from seat 21K

Once settled in the business class flight attendant working my aisle, Melanie, came by to offer a pre-departure beverage. I had both a glass of champagne and water.

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Cathay Pacific business class pre-departure drinks

As boarding continued we were offered fast track cards for Malaysia immigration.

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Malaysia fast track card

Shortly thereafter we were offered the menus for the flight.

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Cathay Pacific business class menu

Shortly before scheduled departure time the (Australian) captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and inform us of our flight time of 3hr28min. He also rather sheepishly informed us that the plane had “technical faults that required signing off of paperwork,” and he didn’t know exactly how long that would take. It seemed like the problem may not have been quite as far along as he was revealing.

By 4:05PM boarding was complete, and every seat in business class was taken. The inflight service manager made her welcome aboard announcement and began screening the safety video, though we were still sitting at the gate. 15 minutes later the captain came back on the PA and said we should be underway shortly.

Finally at 4:40PM we began our pushback on a gloomy Hong Kong afternoon.

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Rainy afternoon in Hong Kong

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Pushing back in Hong Kong

We taxied out to runway 7R, which took about 15 minutes.

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Taxiing in Hong Kong

Once there we were number two for takeoff behind another Cathay Pacific A330, which was on a parallel taxiway.

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Taxiing in Hong Kong

Soon enough it was our turn, and at 4:55PM we began our powerful takeoff roll.

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Taxiing onto runway Hong Kong Airport

We hit some light chop on the initial climb out, but the ride smoothed out pretty quickly once we passed through the first few layers of clouds.

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View after takeoff from Hong Kong

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View after takeoff from Hong Kong

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Airshow after departure from Hong Kong

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection, and eventually decided to watch a few episodes of “2 Broke Girls.”

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Cathay Pacific business class entertainment options

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Cathay Pacific business class entertainment options

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Cathay Pacific business class entertainment options

It was a gorgeous afternoon once we were at cruising altitude, at which point the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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View enroute to Kuala Lumpur

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View enroute to Kuala Lumpur

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View enroute to Kuala Lumpur

Shortly thereafter hot towels were distributed, and then the meal service began.

The menu read as follows:

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And the drinks/wine list read as follows:

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First a cart was rolled through the aisle with drinks and nuts. I had my daily quota of champagne in the lounge, so just had a sparkling water with mixed nuts.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner service — drinks and nuts

About 15 minutes after that a cart was rolled through the aisle with the appetizer. I found the meal service on this flight to be a bit puzzling. You’d think it would be a dinner flight since it left at 4PM and arrived at 8PM, but instead the meal was advertised as a “refreshment.” Rather than the standard dinner appetizer, we were offered fresh fruit to start. Odd.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner starter — fresh fruit and bread

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner starter — fresh seasonal fruit

It was served with the usual selection of bread, including Cathay Pacific’s excellent garlic bread.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner — garlic bread

Next the main courses were rolled around on a cart. Cathay Pacific is unique in that they don’t take orders for the main course, but rather just roll a cart through the aisle which displays all the options. It’s nice to decide what you’d like to eat by looking at the meals, rather than having to rely on the menu descriptions.

Cathay Pacific’s steamed black cod is consistently excellent, so I ordered that. This one was no exception. It wasn’t quite as good as the black cod I’ve had on other Cathay Pacific flights, but was still excellent.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner main course — steamed black cod

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner main course — steamed black cod

Ford had the soup for his main course.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner main course — chicken and mushroom noodle soup

Next the dessert trolley was rolled through the cabin. We had the choice of cheese or ice cream (vanilla or banana & cream). I select the banana & cream, and had a coffee to accompany it.

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner dessert — Haagen-Dazs ice cream

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Cathay Pacific business class dinner dessert — Haagen-Dazs banana & cream ice cream

The meal service was done about 90 minutes into the flight. The service was good, though in an “assembly line” sort of way. The crew was extremely friendly, but Cathay doing business class service on carts always makes the service feel a bit unpersonalized, in my opinion.

As dinner finished up I glanced out the window at the stunning sunset. Sunsets at altitude never get old!

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Sunset enroute to Kuala Lumpur

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Sunset enroute to Kuala Lumpur

After the meal service I dozed off for a bit. The crew came through the cabin every so often to see if anyone wanted anything, though I was stuffed at that point, between eating and drinking in The Pier, and then the meal service on this flight.

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A330 business class cabin view

At around 7:50PM Kuala Lumpur time the captain came on the PA to inform us we should be landing in Kuala Lumpur in about 30 minutes at 8:20PM local time.

At that point we began our descent and the cabin crew did their landing preparations, which included them dispersing pesticide spray throughout the cabin, which always feels a bit… dehumanizing.

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Airshow enroute to Kuala Lumpur

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Airshow enroute to Kuala Lumpur

Sure enough we had a very smooth touchdown at 8:20PM.

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Airshow enroute to Kuala Lumpur

From there it was an almost 10 minute taxi to the gate. It was so hot on the ground that the windows immediately fogged up, so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to take pictures.

Cathay Pacific A330 business class bottom line

It’s a real treat to get a longhaul configured aircraft on an intra-Asia flight on Cathay Pacific. The seat is unbeatable, and the service and entertainment were great as well. I find Cathay Pacific’s business class food to be good, but not exceptional.

This remains one of my favorite business class products out there.

  1. “last business business class seat in front of premium economy”

    I guess first business class, business business class and economy business class is a new thing…? What would economy economy look like then?

  2. Ben, how do you know which flights have the long-haul J config on regional flights? I have tried a number of times to book on these planes, and CX always changes them to the regional config. Thanks!

  3. @Lucky – What camera do you use to take photos from the plane? I have tried window shots with my Galaxy phone and they never turn out well. I always forget to take my camera out of luggage before take-off. Just curious, thanks!

  4. @ julian – As a Hong Kong traveler I can answer that. 😀

    First of all, you’ll only get a dilemma on the A330s (333). The Boeing 777-300ERs (77W) all feature the new product while the Boeing 777-300s (773) and the Boeing 777-200s (772) feature the regional product exclusively. The Airbus A340s (343) and the Boeing 747s (747) have the older herringbone seat.

    When making a fake revenue booking, get to the confirm stage, then it’ll tell you to enter your details. They don’t ask for a payment, so create a fake name, a fake email (e.g. [email protected]), and click Submit (or whatever the button is). Get through the confirmation stage (the thing that pops up). Finally, there’ll be a confirmation where you’ll be able to select your seat. If the seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, it’s what Lucky got in this review. If the seats are in a 2-2-2 configuration, they’re the regional product you end up flying.

  5. Thanks for that Alvin.

    Like Julian, I would still be interested to know how Benjamin found out in advance as it may be another method. I always get lumbered with 2-2-2 on my regional sectors (all A330s).

  6. @Alvin | Young Travelers of Hong Kong

    Thank you Alvin. I am actually aware of the seat configuration but CX usually swap planes up until the last days and many of these routes end up with the regional config.

    For instance, this past July I flew HKG-BKK on CX 713 I believe, and during the previous 15 days the flight was operated with a combination of A343, A333 (old and new), 772, 777, and if I recall maybe even a 747 (got A333 regional in the end). In 2016 I am booked on HKG-SIN return and at this time looks like a 1-2-1 config but am sure it will change….


  7. @ Joe @ julian – In that case you’re kind of stuck with it – which is why under the option booking a 777-300ER operating regionally is the best. The aircraft operating premium economy are most reliable as premium economy is only on aircraft with this configuration (there are a few aircraft with the new business, new economy and no premium economy, but as far as I know those are usually far and few and often subbed). If your 777-300ER gets subbed by a regional 777-300, it’s REALLY tough luck though it’s not likely given how many 777-300ERs Cathay has in their fleet.

    @ Rob – Lucky may have used ExpertFlyer, which is more efficient but only if you have an account. Signing up is like signing up for a North Korean visa.

  8. “Signing up is like signing up for a North Korean visa.” – How so? Doesn’t seem particularly bad to me…

  9. I’m quite like the trolley service on Cathay, you get to peruse the choices on display. One downside of the combination of reverse herringbone and trolleys is the unerring ability of the cabin crew to bash the side of the seat when you are trying to sleep through breakfast.

  10. @ Ed — I agree that I like it for the mains, where you can look at the options, but that’s not really the case for drinks or appetizers, where they simply remove the items from the cart’s “storage.”

  11. Lucky, by my first comment, I meant you had a typo – you typed “the last business business class seat” as opposed to “the last business class seat”.

    @ Rob – Maybe just me, but it tends to reload a lot and I have to start again every time. Managed to get through though.

    @ Joe – No problem.

  12. I’m guessing that’s not the first time you’ve been sprayed by a crew member but then again I could be wrong.

  13. @Alvin: booked premium econ before but there was equipment change and all premium econ passengers were upgraded to business (not that I was complaining :)). So planes with premium econ classes may not be the best bet – they get switched last minute too!

  14. Which one do you prefer then when talking about the business class? The one of Qatar or that of Cathay Pacific?

  15. @ Edwin — If it’s Qatar’s new business class, then I’d say I prefer that. Otherwise I prefer Cathay Pacific business class.

  16. I could never understand the sprays. Every flight I’ve taken on CX from HKG to KUL (>10x), they do this. It’s the only airline that I know that does it when you fly into KUL

    I’ve always done CX for all my KUL-HKG/HKG-KUL flights. Amazing product

  17. @Lucky Hello, I am going to buy a ticket in F/J on CA/CX from PEK-KUL. My 2 options are an 8 AM flight that gets in around 11 and the KUL flight leaves at 4 PM and gets in at 8 PM or leaving PEK at 1230 PM getting at 4 and leaving HKG at 830 PM and getting into KUL at 1230 AM.

    Here is what I am debating, I’m keen to try the food CA F food but would rather have lunch on the plane as I don’t like breakfast food which I assume is on the 8 AM flight. However, it looks like the 4 PM HKG-KUL flight has 1-2-1 business class seating and the late flight is regional class and obviously the late flight gets in at 1230 AM which is pretty late.

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