Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A350 (HKG-SIN)

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A350 (HKG-SIN)

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FROM: HKG
TO: SIN
CABIN: Business
DATE: December 2023
REVIEW RATING:
SEAT MAP: A350-1000
BEN SAYS: Cathay Pacific's A350 business class offers excellent reverse herringbone seats, extensive entertainment, fast Wi-Fi, and tasty food, but the service leaves a bit to be desired.
22
The Long Way to Abu Dhabi
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After a long day of lounge hopping at Hong Kong Airport, it was time to continue my long journey to Abu Dhabi, flying Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350-1000 business class from Hong Kong to Singapore.

As is just about always the case, flying business class within Asia is an absolute treat, and blows away what we’re used to in the United States. Cathay Pacific’s A350s have some of my favorite reverse herringbone seats, great entertainment and Wi-Fi, and an extensive food and drink selection. I’d say the only thing that didn’t impress me all that much was the service — it’s not that service was bad, but rather it was just very assembly line-esque, and wasn’t very polished.

Let’s get into the review…

How I booked my Cathay Pacific business class ticket

Unfortunately since the start of the pandemic, Cathay Pacific premium cabin award space has become almost non-existent when booking through partner frequent flyer programs. However, I did find award availability directly through Cathay Pacific’s frequent flyer program, and managed to book the following in business class for 28,000 miles plus $75.39 in taxes and fees:

12/02 CX657 Hong Kong to Singapore departing 4:00PM arriving 8:10PM

Cathay Pacific partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou, so the miles are pretty easy to come by.

Cathay Pacific business class lounge & boarding

Hong Kong is a fantastic airport in terms of oneworld lounge access. As a Cathay Pacific business class passenger, you can visit a variety of lounges, ranging from The Pier Business Class Lounge to the Qantas Lounge. However, since I have oneworld Emerald status, I was also able to visit The Pier First Class Lounge and The Wing First Class Lounge.

Lounge access in Hong Kong is probably the best part of flying with Cathay Pacific (which isn’t intended to be shade — these are just among the best first class and best business class lounges in the world)..

My flight was scheduled to depart at 4PM from gate 65, located just near The Pier Lounge, so that was convenient.

Cathay Pacific departure gate Hong Kong Airport
Cathay Pacific departure gate Hong Kong Airport

I saw the gorgeous 2018-delivered A350-1000 with the registration code B-LXF at the gate, which would be flying me to Singapore — what a beauty!

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Hong Kong Airport

Boarding started at exactly 3:20PM, as scheduled. Even on flights without first class, Cathay Pacific invites oneworld Emerald members to board first, so that’s how boarding started, followed by business class and oneworld Sapphire members.

Cathay Pacific boarding signage Hong Kong Airport

Cathay Pacific A350 business class cabin & seats

On its Airbus A350-1000s, Cathay Pacific has 46 business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, all located between the first and second set of doors. This is a massive cabin, as it’s not often you have this many business class seats in a single zone.

Cathay Pacific’s A350s have reverse herringbone seats, and specifically have a customized version of Safran’s Cirrus product. This is among the better reverse herringbone products out there, as it feels considerably more spacious than your typical reverse herringbone seat, and also has more storage.

It’s not quite as good as the Aerospace Elements product, which you’ll find on Starlux Airlines’ A350s, but it’s still very good. What’s most impressive is that this seat was introduced back in 2016, so it has been around for quite some time, and still impresses.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class cabin
Cathay Pacific A350 business class cabin

Those traveling with others may prefer sitting in one of the center seats, so that they can kind of talk with their seat mate. The reality is that you’ll still have quite a bit of privacy in these seats, and you’ll have to lean forward to communicate with the person next to you.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seats

Meanwhile those traveling alone will want to try to snag a window seat. I selected seat 23A, the window seat on the left side in the last row.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat
Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat

In terms of the seat features, there’s a panel to the side of the seat, which contains the entertainment controller, reading light, and seat controls. There’s also an enclosed storage compartment with a vanity, a hook for headphones, and it’s also where the charging ports are located (which include AC and USB-A plugs).

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat features
Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat storage

The counter next to the seat is quite large, and you can easily place a laptop or a similarly sized item there during the flight.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat console

The tray table also extends out from that console. It can be folded over in half, in case you don’t want to use the whole thing and just want a bit more space.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat tray table

The back of the seat in front then has a huge, high definition monitor, which you can slide around to get the optimal viewing angle.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat

What sets this reverse herringbone product apart from others is just how spacious the ottoman area is in this seat. Many reverse herringbone seats have a tight footwell you have to place your feet into, but that’s not the case with this seat. Rather, there’s a huge, open ottoman, which makes the seat so much more comfortable, whether you’re just relaxing or trying to sleep.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat ottoman

Another cool feature of this seat is an enclosed storage compartment underneath the seat and to the side, which you don’t otherwise find in many reverse herringbone products. It’s useful to have a convenient place to store things.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat storage

The aisle-side of the seat has an armrest, which can be raised or lowered, depending on whether you want somewhere to rest your arm, or prefer a wider sleeping surface.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat armrest

While the overhead console is modern, unfortunately it only has reading lights, and not any individual air nozzles.

Cathay Pacific A350 overhead console

While this isn’t a cutting edge reverse herringbone seat in terms of having a door or USB-C charging, this remains one of the most comfortable reverse herringbone seats out there. And perhaps what’s most exciting is that in 2024, Cathay Pacific is introducing an all-new business class product, which will be known as the Aria Suite.

Cathay Pacific business class amenities

Waiting at each seat upon boarding was a simple pillow and blanket — this isn’t quite as good as Cathay Pacific’s long haul bedding, but that’s to be expected, given that I was on a much shorter flight.

Cathay Pacific business class pillow & blanket

There were also a pair of headphones at each seat, which I thought were pretty low quality, both in terms of comfort and noise canceling functionality.

Cathay Pacific business class headphones

There was also the menu for the flight, plus a bottle of water.

Cathay Pacific business class menu
Cathay Pacific business class bottled water

I’d note that unlike my short haul EVA Air 787 business class flight, there were no slippers offered on this flight.

Boarding was quite busy, given the number of business class passengers, but toward the end of boarding, pre-departure drinks were served. The choice was between sparkling wine, orange juice, and Cathay Delight (the carrier’s signature non-alcoholic drink).

Cathay Pacific business class pre-departure drink

A short while later, warm towels were also distributed.

Cathay Pacific business class warm towel

Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment & Wi-Fi

Cathay Pacific offers an extensive inflight entertainment selection, among the best out there. This consists of tons of movies, TV shows, live TV, audio, and games. You don’t have to worry about being bored on Cathay Pacific, as there are endless entertainment options, and I also appreciate how the monitor is high definition.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment
Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment

Cathay Pacific also has a great map feature on its Airbus A350s, which is highly customizable, in addition to a tail camera.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class entertainment

While the inflight entertainment is great, Cathay Pacific also offers Wi-Fi onboard. This flight had three pricing plans, all with no data caps:

  • You could buy a messaging pass for $3.95
  • You could buy a one hour pass for $9.95
  • You could buy a full flight pass for $12.95

I thought that pricing was totally fair, especially since you can switch between devices. I found the Wi-Fi speeds to be excellent.

Cathay Pacific A350 Wi-Fi

Speaking of Wi-Fi, one passenger on the other side of the cabin was obviously texting, and had their ringer on at the highest possible volume for the entire flight. Grrr….

Cathay Pacific A350 departure from Hong Kong

At 3:50PM, the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, and informed us of our 3hr14min flight time to Singapore. At 4PM the main cabin door closed, and there were eight empty seats in business class (so 38 seats were occupied). A moment later, the safety video was screened, and then five minutes later we began our pushback.

Pushing back Hong Kong Airport
Pushing back Hong Kong Airport

You know what’s super frustrating on Cathay Pacific’s A350s? When you have the choice of a gorgeous engine and wing view, or a high definition tail camera, how are you supposed to decide which to look at? It’s an impossible choice!

Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

At around 4:10PM we began our taxi, and it was only a short journey to runway 7R.

Taxiing Hong Kong Airport

We were cleared for takeoff shortly before 4:20PM.

Taking off Hong Kong Airport
Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera
Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

Hong Kong has historically been my favorite city in the world, and there’s just something so special about the view of the airport on takeoff, plus the city views, if you’re blessed with a takeoff in the right direction.

View after takeoff from Hong Kong Airport

Since we took off into the east and then made a sharp turn into the south, we had a gorgeous view of Victoria Harbour.

View after takeoff from Hong Kong Airport
View after takeoff from Hong Kong Airport

We had a pretty steep climb out, and the seatbelt sign was turned off about 10 minutes after takeoff.

Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

Cathay Pacific business class meal service

Shortly after takeoff, the meal service began. Dinner was served on this flight (which the airline refers to as a “refreshment”), and you can find the menu and drink list below.

Cathay Pacific business class menu
Cathay Pacific business class menu
Cathay Pacific business class wine list
Cathay Pacific business class drink list
Cathay Pacific business class drink list

Meal orders had already been taken on the ground. While Cathay Pacific has excellent service in first class, the airline has what I call assembly-line service in business class. Most of the service is performed from carts, and isn’t terribly personalized. However, on this flight I found service to be a bit below the normal Cathay Pacific standard, which might partly reflect Cathay Pacific having a lot of junior employees nowadays.

For example, in business class Cathay Pacific offers mixed nuts with drinks on flights, and you’d think that you’d serve that before the meal. Instead, about 25 minutes after takeoff, the appetizer course was served with the mixed nuts on the tray, and then the drink came five minutes later (each tray also automatically had a glass of still water).

Is serving mixed nuts with the meal actually Cathay Pacific’s service procedure nowadays, or was the crew just being lazy or “efficient?” Anyway, the appetizer consisted of marinated prawns with Thai pomelo and green papaya salad, and it was pretty good. It was complemented by a boring “seasonal salad,” and there was also a selection from the bread basket (I chose garlic bread).

Cathay Pacific business class meal service

To drink, I ordered a dry martini. As mentioned above, it was served after the appetizer. Since the crew seemed to be in a rush, I first enjoyed the drink with nuts, and then later had the appetizer.

Cathay Pacific business class drink

About an hour after takeoff, the crew was back through the cabin with main courses. I selected the steamed halibut with cordyceps flowers, aged mandarin peel, and preserved black olives, which was the signature dish in collaboration with Duddell’s. The main course was absolutely delicious.

Cathay Pacific business class meal service

Again, the service just felt a bit sloppy. For example, I had finished my salad course completely and had placed the paper napkin holder in it. But that was just left on the tray when my appetizer course was cleared and my main course was served, rather than the crew removing it.

Cathay Pacific business class meal service

It’s by no means a huge deal, but when it comes to service, what differentiates an exceptional airline from a good airline is attention to detail, and that shows a lack of attention to detail. And heck, I’m not the only one who thinks details matter — Cathay Pacific’s own dining page says “the difference is in the detail.” 😉

Just under 90 minutes after takeoff, the crew passed through the cabin with the dessert trolley, containing the choice of fresh fruit, cheese, and ice cream. I was offered all three, and as an aviation geek, couldn’t help but select the Biscoff flavored ice cream.

Cathay Pacific business class meal service

The meal was quite tasty (especially the main course), but the service flown just felt impersonal and kind of sloppy.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class lavatories

Cathay Pacific has two lavatories located at the very front of the business class cabin. They’re modern and even have windows, but aren’t particularly spacious for premium cabin lavatories.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class lavatory
Cathay Pacific A350 business class lavatory

They have amenities from Bamford, which is a nice brand to have onboard.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class lavatory toiletries

There are also two lavatories in the galley by the second set of doors. However, I believe at least one of those is reserved for premium economy.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class bed

I was super tired on this flight (these review trips aren’t relaxing!), so I managed to doze off for nearly an hour. Even without the full bedding available on long haul flights, I found the seat to be comfortable for resting.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class bed

I think the below picture demonstrates how much more spacious this seat is in bed mode than your typical reverse herringbone seat.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class bed

Cathay Pacific business class service

Cathay Pacific has never had the most attentive service in business class, as the airline isn’t on the level of EVA Air or Singapore Airlines in that regard. That’s not because the crews aren’t professional, but rather just because the service flow works differently, and is more focused on efficiency than personalization.

That being said, I certainly got the sense that this crew was very junior, and it’s my understanding that this is a common problem at Cathay Pacific, as the airline (understandably) lost a lot of staff during the pandemic, given how much flying was eliminated for an extended period of time.

The crew was perfectly polite, but they weren’t very polished. I don’t expect the most personalized service on Cathay Pacific, but it seems like the airline isn’t even executing assembly-line service with much consistency.

Cathay Pacific A350 arrival in Singapore

At 7:15PM, the seatbelt sign was turned on, and an announcement was made for the crew to prepare for landing. That’s what woke me up from my brief nap. For the descent, I kept an eye on the map feature, as well as the tail camera, since it was dark outside at this point.

Map approaching Singapore

We ended up touching down in Singapore at 7:35PM.

Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

From there we had a roughly 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we pulled in at 7:45PM, 25 minutes ahead of schedule.

Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera
Cathay Pacific A350 tail camera

From there I headed to Singapore Airlines’ The Private Room, where I’d be spending the night, prior to my flight to Jakarta the following morning.

Bottom line

Flying business class within Asia is always a treat. Cathay Pacific’s A350s offer excellent reverse herringbone seats, extensive entertainment (including a tail camera), fast Wi-Fi, and tasty food. The only thing that didn’t impress me about the experience was the service — the crew wasn’t unfriendly, but also wasn’t very polished, and paled in comparison to what I’ve experienced on carriers like EVA Air and Singapore Airlines.

I’m looking forward to flying Cathay Pacific’s long haul business class again once the airline introduces its new product.

What’s your take on Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class?

Conversations (22)
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  1. DaV Guest

    Cannot agree more. I flew CX business class from HKG to Tokyo in Oct 2023. When invited to comment by email, I wrote, “the meal was distributed rather than served.”!

  2. Adrian Guest

    No the mixed nut service should be offered separately from the meal. It was totally unacceptable and you should email CX. I have a feeling that even the purser was "junior," as he or she allowed such a misstep from happening. HKG to Singapore is a three hours flight and it should be plenty of time to carry out the full three courses dinner along with a pre-meal drink and mixed nut service.

  3. Peter Guest

    Not sure if you notice, on CX A350 reverse herringbone seat. There are no airbag seat belt or should straps seat belt. I have always thought that was the single most unique and best feature of that seat (where every other reverse herringbone seat with have airbag seat belt or should strap seat belt which are both annoying to sleep or for take off and landing). The CX A350 airbag are located on the panel...

    Not sure if you notice, on CX A350 reverse herringbone seat. There are no airbag seat belt or should straps seat belt. I have always thought that was the single most unique and best feature of that seat (where every other reverse herringbone seat with have airbag seat belt or should strap seat belt which are both annoying to sleep or for take off and landing). The CX A350 airbag are located on the panel in the seat in front of you above the magazine rack. Which help makes this seat even more comfy in the sleeping position.

  4. MikeyInOregon Guest

    CX is not what it used to be. On my flight from HKG-SFO a few weeks ago service was pretty bad, there was no hot towel, no mixed nuts with drinks. The crew disappeared after meal service albeit it was a daytime flight, there was no topping off of drinks and no one checked on the pax. I finished a mid flight snack and no one cleared my tray even though they could see it...

    CX is not what it used to be. On my flight from HKG-SFO a few weeks ago service was pretty bad, there was no hot towel, no mixed nuts with drinks. The crew disappeared after meal service albeit it was a daytime flight, there was no topping off of drinks and no one checked on the pax. I finished a mid flight snack and no one cleared my tray even though they could see it walking by, they finally cleared it when they brought my breakfast hours later. The crew was very green, as you mentioned in your review. The lavatories were disgusting, it’s obvious that no one cleaned them the entire flight. I had the exact inflight experience from LHR-HKG. The only reason why I would still consider flying with them is their lounges in HKG, that’s probably the only good thing going for CX these days. In terms of service they’re not even close to the likes of EVA, ANA or SQ.

  5. Anthony Guest

    The TV screen seems very small if compared to other business class airlines. A large screen makes the difference !
    The meal also is small. I remember better days on Cathay Pacific
    Merry Xsmas

  6. ArnoldB Guest

    I really have to say that since you started posting "preview" articles for each upcoming review, I have been much less inclined to then actually read the full review...

    1. Jordan Diamond

      Like CX, this site is not what it use to be.

  7. simmonad Guest

    Am I the only person whom the CX Business lounge (visited in Feb-2020) left cold? In terms of food selection and ambience, I'd pick JED or BAH over HKG every time.

  8. Alpha Golf Guest

    They didn’t offer the Eton mess?

  9. Jake Guest

    You fail to mention how CX ruined the A350 cabin by turning down the cathedral ceiling option and instead installing those crushing needless bins in the center of the cabin.

    The difference between the cabin on SQ or QR and CX is striking.

  10. oliver Guest

    Hi Ben, it's not a problem of juniority, but rather a morale issue.

    From my observations, the crew is dissatisfied with the pay cuts and they express this by providing minimal service to passengers. They seem indifferent and sometimes even encourage passengers to file complaints. This is because (1) they want the issue of understaffing to be reported and (2) they are often not fired or penalised due to the difficulties CX is facing...

    Hi Ben, it's not a problem of juniority, but rather a morale issue.

    From my observations, the crew is dissatisfied with the pay cuts and they express this by providing minimal service to passengers. They seem indifferent and sometimes even encourage passengers to file complaints. This is because (1) they want the issue of understaffing to be reported and (2) they are often not fired or penalised due to the difficulties CX is facing in recruiting new flight attendants (hence the expansion of recruitment from mainland China).

    A crew member can be junior yet well-intentioned, but I find it rare to encounter a well-intentioned CX flight attendant these days. The moment you step on the plane, they make it a point to show you how busy they are, and they repeatedly walk down the aisle at the speed of light to avoid any additional requests.

    What I find even more ridiculous is that the majority of the crew avoids asking "What would you like for dessert?" when they clear your main course. Instead, they ask "Would you like anything else?" to prevent passengers from ordering dessert or coffee on regional flights. On more than one occasion, I've had crew members who simply cleared my main course along with the tablecloth without saying a word, and I had to flag down the ISM to ask if dessert was being served.

    Cathay won't be able to fix its service problem until it can resolve its staffing issue. So, don't expect the CX service to improve anytime soon.

  11. Alex Guest

    A martini on the rocks?! Sacre bleu...

  12. Nikojas Guest

    Nice review. What’s the link between being an AV geek and the ice cream?!
    “As an aviation geek, couldn’t help but select the Biscoff flavored ice cream”.

    1. S Gold

      Biscoff cookies are common snacks given to passengers on Delta and United flights (not sure about AA), so frequent flyers of those airlines get a lot of those cookies. Hence picking that ice cream.

    2. TravelCat2 Gold

      AA provides Biscoff cookies too.

      Biscoff ice cream sounds great!

  13. LEo Diamond

    Is Cathay now serving Häagen-Dazs out of Hong Kong again? I thought Swire had some exclusive distribution rights for Mövenpick in Mainland China and Hong Kong, which is why Cathay serves Mövenpick.

    1. Sam Guest

      It’s HD out of and into HK (at least for regional flights).

  14. Mike O. Guest

    I wouldn't be surprised if the A350 eventually gets the Aria Suites once the 779s start rolling out. The A350s will be around 10 years old by the time the 779s start getting delivered and that's usually when CX starts to update their business class. While I think it'd make sense if they transfer the A350 seats onto the regional 773s and A330s, that's out the window as the A330s are expected to get new...

    I wouldn't be surprised if the A350 eventually gets the Aria Suites once the 779s start rolling out. The A350s will be around 10 years old by the time the 779s start getting delivered and that's usually when CX starts to update their business class. While I think it'd make sense if they transfer the A350 seats onto the regional 773s and A330s, that's out the window as the A330s are expected to get new recliners. And you lose a lot of real estate with these seats. You also have deal with dimensions, etc.

    I'm sure a lot of readers would agree with me, but it'd be really helpful if you can provide a speed test screenshot when using Wi-Fi.

    Anyhoo, Happy Holy Days to everybody!

  15. Danny Guest

    I totally concur with you regarding the assembly-line service on Cathay Pacific business class. Since post-pandemic, the Cathay Pacific business class flight attendants are no longer willing to go the extra mile to provide excellent service.

  16. Nathan Stevens Guest

    I think you may have to amend your Bottom line explainer. 'the crew wasn’t unfriendly, but also wasn’t very polished, and paled in comparison to what I’ve experienced on carriers like Cathay Pacific and EVA Air'. It's all about attention to detail!

  17. Peter Guest

    Flew Cathay HKG-DPS in September. There was a two hour+ delay at HKG announced at the gate so we had to trek back to the Pier First lounge. Best case scenario for a flight delay. I could not agree more with your recent review of that lounge.

    Plane type was changed so we did not get these lie-flat A350 seats, but instead an A330? with seats similar to US domestic first. The review about the service perfectly describes our experience.

  18. JK Guest

    Great review Ben! The product is holding up very well, the cabin looks stunning. Food and beverage looked solid as well. Cathay are definitely having a staff morale issue, hopefully things improve as they get back on their feet.

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Peter Guest

Not sure if you notice, on CX A350 reverse herringbone seat. There are no airbag seat belt or should straps seat belt. I have always thought that was the single most unique and best feature of that seat (where every other reverse herringbone seat with have airbag seat belt or should strap seat belt which are both annoying to sleep or for take off and landing). The CX A350 airbag are located on the panel in the seat in front of you above the magazine rack. Which help makes this seat even more comfy in the sleeping position.

1
ArnoldB Guest

I really have to say that since you started posting "preview" articles for each upcoming review, I have been much less inclined to then actually read the full review...

1
DaV Guest

Cannot agree more. I flew CX business class from HKG to Tokyo in Oct 2023. When invited to comment by email, I wrote, “the meal was distributed rather than served.”!

0
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