Review: Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco

Filed Under: Awards, Cathay Pacific

We arrived in Hong Kong with about 40 minutes to make our connection. Our arrival gate was 60-something, and we were leaving from gate three. If you’re at all familiar with Hong Kong Airport, you know that gate might as well be in Macau based on the distance. While my mom was stylishly limping down the jet bridge in her slippers, I was trying to carry our four bags, so between us we looked like a bit of a circus act. I was delighted when I noticed that there was someone waiting at the bottom of the jet bridge with a sign with our name on it. I figured she had a Maserati (or I would’ve settled for a golf cart) waiting to take us to the other side of the terminal given our short connection.

Ah, who am I kidding, this is Cathay Pacific, the airline that offers one of the all around most solid first class products, yet can’t do ground services for $*&%. The problem is that the agent didn’t even work for Cathay Pacific, she was a contract worker. She didn’t speak much English, other than “hurry hurry.” I pointed at my mom’s feet and said “foot swelling, has to walk slow,” while she pointed out her watch and said “has to walk fast.” She proceeded to walk in front of us for the next 10 minutes while glancing down at her watch every few moments, during which time I think we made it from gate mid-60-something to low-60-something. Ain’t no way in hell we were going to make the connection at that point.

So I saw one of those “concierge” golf carts, which you can hire to drive you from one end of the terminal to the other. I stopped him and asked him to drive us to the other side of the terminal. Rather expensive at HKD60 per person, but well worth it if it meant not missing the flight. As we hopped on the agent that picked us up looked all confused, and I asked her to get on as well. I was happy to pay for her to come along so she could get us in the crew line at the transit security checkpoint, which I know is about the only thing they’re useful for.

Finally making some progress!

Sure enough she could at least expedite us through the security checkpoint, and we made it to the gate at the final boarding call, and were the last passengers aboard.

Cathay Pacific 870
Hong Kong (HKG) – San Francisco (SFO)
Sunday, June 16th
Depart: 2:10PM
Arrive: 11:40AM
Duration: 12hr30min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The reaction of the crew as we boarded drenched in sweat, with my mom wearing airline slippers and I lugging four carry-ons, was a bit priceless, but we quickly settled into our seats, 2K and 3K.

My seat, 2K

First Class cabin


The crew showed a lot of concern for my mother and quickly offered us pre-departure beverages. I just ordered a glass of water.

Pre-departure water

We were also offered amenity kits and Shanghai Tang pajamas.

Pajamas and amenity kit

Pajamas and slippers

Shanghai Tang!

Right as the door was about to close one of the gate agents got aboard to tell my mom something, and when she was gone I asked my mom what she had said. She replied “oh, just that our bags won’t make it and that they’re being sent to New York.” To New York?! Neither of us had New York as our final destination, so I wish I could’ve corrected that before the door closed. But unfortunately it was too late.

Once the door closed the San Francisco based captain, who sounded (and after seeing him at immigration on arrival, also looked) like he was all of 17 years old, welcomed us aboard and informed us of our flight time of 11hr53min, which he anticipated would put us into San Francisco roughly on-time.

We left the gate with seven of the nine first class seats taken. As we pushed back the safety video began to play. We taxied out to runway 7R, which took about 15 minutes.

Traffic at the terminal

South African A340

Cathay Pacific 747

Jet Airways 777

Air New Zealand 777

Once at runway 7R we were number one for takeoff and began our extremely long takeoff roll.

View on takeoff

Our climb out was gradual, and we hit a fair bit of chop for the first 10 or so minutes of the flight due to some thick clouds in the area.

View on climb out

Views on climb out

Views on climb out

Above the clouds

Once we leveled off the inflight supervisor came by to introduce herself and distribute the menus. The lunch menu read as follows:


And the wine list read as follows:







Service began with almonds and drinks — I ordered a Diet Coke.

Diet coke and almonds

Shortly after that my table was set. My mom and I were both beat at this point, so decided to dine separately, especially so she could keep her feet up. To start I had caviar and salmon, along with a glass of Krug.

Caviar and salmon

Next I had a lentil soup, which was quite good.

Soup course

I decided to skip the main course so had the salad with kwai fai chicken as well.

Mixed salad with kwai fai chicken

I then had a cheese course.

Cheese plate

And lastly the caramel fig cake with vanilla ice cream.

Caramel fig cake

As is customary with Cathay Pacific, I was also offered some pralines and a hot towel with the completion of the meal.

Towel and pralines

Service throughout the meal was good though unmemorable. The crew was exactly what you expect from Cathay Pacific, but didn’t stand out in any way. Part of that might be that this was a 747 with a larger first class cabin than the 777, and seven of the nine seats were taken.

Once I was done with lunch I requested turndown service as I was tired. We had about 10 hours to go to San Francisco, and I managed to sleep for a solid seven.

Turndown service

I woke up about three hours out of San Francisco and decided to order some egg tarts from the snack menu. I wasn’t really hungry, but no Cathay Pacific ex-Hong Kong flight is complete without them, in my opinion. I had some Hong Kong style milk tea to go along with it.

The snack menu read as follows, for what it’s worth:


Hong Kong style milk tea and egg tarts


I watched a few sitcoms for the next hour or so, and before I knew it we were a bit over an hour out of San Francisco, and it was time for the breakfast service. The breakfast menu read as follows:


I had some fruit and wheat toast to start.

Fruit and toast

Then I had some strawberry yogurt.


And then I had some scrambled eggs, which I ordered well done, and they were indeed cooked perfectly to my liking. I love that unlike other airlines, Cathay Pacific offers Tabasco sauce on their flights.

Scrambled eggs

About 30 minutes out the captain once again came on the PA to advise us we were initiating our descent. As always the views on approach were beautiful, and we touched down right on-time on runway 28R.

Approach into SFO

Our taxi to the gate was quick, and on arrival we bid farewell to our crew. Per the crew’s suggestion we had a wheelchair waiting for my mom, which made her trip through immigration a bit easier.

Planes at SFO

My mom doesn’t have Global Entry so while she was going through immigration I headed to the baggage department. Though we’d been told in advance that our bags wouldn’t make it, I was absolutely delighted to find that the agent had already filled out the missing bag reports! All I had to do was tell him to which address I wanted the bags sent. I mean, it seems like common sense to do that, but I’ve never had that happen before.

By the time my mom cleared immigration I already had copies of both of the missing baggage forms, so we headed over to the American terminal. It was really tough saying goodbye to her, especially since she didn’t have much of a choice but to fly on her own back to Tampa even though she really wasn’t in much of a state to travel. I was fortunately able to change my Alaska flight to Seattle around a bit so I could wait with her till her flight’s departure, but wish that she could have rested a bit longer in San Francisco.

Stay tuned, because in the next installment my mom will be sharing her thoughts of the trip!

  1. Great report! I do knownthat SQ also offers Tabasco sauce on all their flights. It is about the only inconsistency with SQ. Sometimes they poor the tabasco sachets onto a little saucer for you and on other flights they just hand you the sachets.

  2. Ok, here it goes, I finally mustered up some courage to swallow the shame and ask the question. What is the bag like thing (like a money bag with a knot) that is usually served along with caviar?

    On my first LH F trip recently, I furtively glanced at the guy in the next seat to see if he does something with the bag. he didn’t, so I didn’t do anything with it either.

    I think I am right in assuming it is not edible, but what is it’s purpose?

  3. Are you referring to the lemon which is kept in a “bag” so when you squeeze it the seeds don’t fall onto your salmon or whatever?

  4. You need to start ordering the main course even if you are not hungry. You are missing out on a big portion of the trip report by not including it.

  5. @Rasputin

    you mean the lemon? i don’t really like lemon on my food so i never use it… some do, you don’t have to.

    btw, i miss wannaporn!

  6. “Rather expensive at HKD60 (golf cart ride) per person, but well worth it if it meant not missing the flight.” I know people love to rip U.S. airports, but at every U.S. airport I’ve been to so far the golf cart ride is free.

  7. Yay, another trip report! I was afraid you had decided to actually take some personal time. Phew! I hope your Mom isn’t like mine and feeling guilty for “spoiling” your trip. I am not all that far behind her in age and realizing that my body isnt always as reliable as it used to be 🙁 Tell the truth…after all this intense traveling, do you ever look at the menu and wish they had meatloaf for a change??? (BTW, what do you suppose “pork floss” Is? Hopefully not what I am imagining…) Thanks, Lucky!

  8. How were the HK style egg tarts?!? Unfortunately, when I flew CX back in August, they didn’t have any by the time I ordered them! I kindly asked how many they had and apparently for 6 First class passengers, they only had 2 egg tarts :/
    Next time I’ll order them first thing!
    By the way, you’re lucky you got Shanghai Tang PJ’s! On my trip they provided us with a local HKG-brand PYE. I don’t have any Shanghai Tang PJs but the PYE one was quite comfortable.

  9. @ Tom I agree with wwk5d that if one isn’t eating the entree, best to skip it. I understand Lucky’s point from a prior post that they may toss it out but maybe the FA will get to eat it instead. (Or “could I get this to go?”)

    Is the dounble boiled aloe vera to eat or for one’s skin? 😉

    I think this will be a One Mile at a Time first to get Mom’s point of view. The anticipation builds…

  10. Thank you everyone for the responses. Lemon/Lime eh! I never would have guessed that. I just left that precious bag alone on both the LH F segments. If I knew that, I would have tried it with the caviar.

    Thanks again.

  11. “I love that unlike other airlines, Cathay Pacific offers Tabasco sauce on their flights.”

    Well, Swiss does…and you should know 😉

    I have to admit, their snack menu looks pretty good, especially when compared to SQ’s.

  12. Love that you paid for the contract worker as well. (Awkward phrasing, that)

    But is your mom okay? I am traveling with my 71 year old mom in a month or so and can see us doing this. Remind me to limit her to a single bag.

  13. @ Joey — They were GREAT. Interesting they only cater two, guess I got lucky.

    And indeed I’ll miss the Shanghai Tang pajamas…

  14. @ Dave D — In the end she was fine, though it took her about a week at home before she was back to normal. Definitely learned that next time taking the most direct routing is important, and also to not be too active. Oh, and good shoes for her are also important!

  15. @ Joey – I heard that PYE PJs are lighter (not as warm) as Tang so may be better for warmer weather.

    @ Lucky – can’t wait for your mom’s report! BTW, is it pretty standard to serve breakfast/pre-arrival meal an hour out?

    @ Dave D – my mom’s a bit younger but based on her experience I’d try to limit overall time she has to be up (so morning flights are preferable; mom’s outbound flight was around 6 pm and she had 4-5 hour layover, so she was up for 36+ hrs total which was a bit much). There are probably different ways to prevent foot problems but my mom says putting feet up as soon as she got on a plane worked on her inbound flight (on outbound she put them up later and they were more swollen). A week or so to recover sounds about right but may depend on time difference.

  16. @ Ivan Y — Usually it’s more like 90 minutes out, though I requested to wait till as close to arrival as possible, and the crew was pretty accommodating.

  17. I have never flown the 747 CX only the 777.

    That nose seems a little bit crowded like the BA FC. Do you think it is just the picture or too many seats?

    I can’t wait for your Mom’s installment. This episode feels like a scene “Home Alone” movie.

  18. @ Jorge — The cabin doesn’t feel quite as spacious as the 777, though keep in mind they only have nine seats in the nose, while British Airways fits 14 seats in the same area. So I do think it’s still quite spacious.

  19. @ Lucky – Hmm… then SQ crew did start breakfast too late on my mom’s flight. It was less than an hour out and they were pretty slow so she felt a bit rushed. I guess, when they are understaffed and/or overwhelmed, they are less accommodating. She enjoyed her flights though and spent quite a bit of time talking to the crew apparently – on one flight there was a husband & wife team working in F which is pretty cool.

  20. Love the trip report. I just got back from HKG flying Cathay first class for the first time thanks to your blog – amazing experience and I’m ready to do it again! I started searching for flights from JFK – HKG next year (I tried May – August), but I haven’t been able to find any availability in F (when I booked my previous flight, there were at least a few days each month with 2 seats available). Have you noticed more limited first class availability on Cathay lately far out? There seem to be plenty of seats in Business. Thanks Lucky!

  21. @ Trevor — Hmmm, they do seem to be holding back space a bit more than usual. I’d hold off a bit longer and I’m sure they will start releasing space.

    So happy to hear you had a great trip!

  22. If you have a short connection like in this situation and end up not getting to the gate in time, then would you be stranded, or would the airline put you on the next flight?

  23. Compression socks, compression socks….my wife makes me wear them on long hauls;……….nice report.

  24. wow, long trip, glad your mom enjoyed it. When my dad and I returned from JNB on CX, it was JNB-HKG-SFO-SEA-HNL, no stopover since we did it on the front end.

    F Class the entire trip, but my dad actually survived it a bit better than me. I passed out on the final segment from SEA, but he was bright and chipper throughout. But we had one night at the JNB Intercon the night before travel and had a good chance to rest for nearly 24 hours before and I think that made a huge difference, especially after being up country on safari before that.

  25. We just arrived on CX 879, SFO to HKG business class. Our flight was delayed 15 hours due to labor problems. I wasn’t aware that crews were doing sickins. I lost the cost of one night’s hotel and made a reimbursement claim. Very unlike Cathay. But be aware.

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