Week in the Clouds: Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge Shanghai, American Business Class Shanghai to Los Angeles

Filed Under: American, Mileage Runs

I took the Maglev to the airport from Longyang Station,which takes about seven minutes at a maximum speed of 431 kilometers per hour (to the best of my knowledge it’s the world’s fastest train). While I think it’s more practical to just take a cab to the airport, there’s something fun about going 431 kilometers per hour.


At our maximum speed

I made it to the airport around 5:45PM, right as check-in opened for my flight to Los Angeles. I waited in the first class queue and despite being the first person in line, the passenger being helped was taking forever.


American check-in

The agent that checked me in nearly had a heart attack after five boarding passes printed out for my journey (Shanghai to Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York to Miami to Tampa). He simply had a confused look and said “I’ve never seen this many before.”

I headed straight for immigration and security, which was a painless process. From there I went to the Cathay Pacific lounge located near gate D68, which unfortunately doesn’t have a first class section (which I would have been entitled to use as a OneWorld Emerald). Like most lounges at Shanghai Airport it’s “open air” and on the second level of the terminal, so you hear all the boarding announcements, unfortunately.


Cathay Pacific lounge entrance

The lounge was fairly empty and featured plenty of seating, though was unmemorable.

Cathay Pacific lounge

Cathay Pacific lounge

The snack selection was fairly limited, consisting mostly of cookies, finger sandwiches, chips, some dim sum, etc.

Snack selection

Snack selection

Snack selection

Snack selection

Magazine selection

Boarding started right on time at 9:05PM at gate D71 with first and business class.


Gate D71

Once my boarding pass was verified there was an agent on the jet bridge checking passports, and then several agents doing “security checks,” which everyone had to go through. I’m used to these in other countries where they actually search your bags (I mean, that would at least add some theoretical layer of security), but here they simply asked “where are your liquids?” I opened my bag and pointed to them, and they said “okay, thank you.” Are they serious? First time I’ve seen the “honor system” used for security.

American 182
Shanghai (PVG) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Tuesday, January 31
Depart: 9:45PM
Arrive: 5:25PM
Duration: 11hr40min
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Seat: 9B (Business Class)

Once onboard I was welcomed by the flight attendants and directed to my seat in row nine, which is the bulkhead. Once again the crew seemed to be split between “senior mamas” and language qualified flight attendants. This flight is apparently one of the most senior for the LA base, so it was interesting that the language qualified flight attendants in business class were both under 30, while the non-language qualified flight attendants were at least double their age.

Within a few minutes I was offered a pre-departure beverage and went with a mimosa. American’s orange juice is barely drinkable, as is their champagne, but together they’re actually half decent.

Pre-departure mimosa

Boarding finished up within about 15 minutes as the flight was once again really empty. There were at most 10-12 of us in business class, so I had a set of two seats to myself.

Seats across from me

Business class

Before pushback the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and advise us of our flight time of 9hr59min, anticipating we would be almost two hours early. Holy cow. I guess the winds are really strong, given that the flight on the way out was almost an hour longer than usual.

We began a quick taxi to our departure runway, where we had to hold short because the flight attendants hadn’t started the safety video early enough, so we had to wait for about five minutes as they finished it. At the same time they passed out menus and amenity kits in business class.

Despite that, we took off at 9:43PM, still two minutes before our scheduled departure time.

After a smooth climb out the seatbelt sign was turned off within about 20 minutes, at which point I changed into pajamas and the service began, starting with the distribution of hot towels and Bose headphones.


The dinner menu read as follows:

Service for whatever reason was very slow, as the flight attendants took forever to set up the cart. Eventually they were through the cabin with drinks and nuts. I ordered a Diet Coke with lime. Nut refills were offered a few minutes later.

Diet Coke with lime and hot nuts

About 30 minutes after the beverage service, the flight attendant rolled through with the appetizer/salad cart. I’ve heard catering out of Shanghai is pretty bad, and that was definitely the case. I ate the salad and shrimp, though the chicken was pretty inedible.

Salad and appetizer

For the main course I ordered the beef filet, which was inedible, so I just let it be (I would’ve ordered the vegetarian option, but alas there wasn’t one).

Main course

Then for dessert I had the ice cream with strawberry coulis and crumbs. It was, of course, delicious.


By the time the meal was finished it was 11:45PM in Shanghai, and I went to bed at around 7PM most nights during my trip (as you can tell, I’m a really exciting person). So at this point I was dead tired, and even American’s angled flat seats wouldn’t prevent me from sleeping.

To increase comfort somewhat, though, I decided to make a pillow and blanket fortress to make the seat a bit more cushioned. Fortunately the three seats in the center section were empty too, so five pillows and five blankets later I was actually rather comfortable, and slept for a solid six hours.

Reclined seat

I woke up with just under two hours to go to Los Angeles, at which point the pre-arrival meal service began.

The meal was supposedly “brunch,” but this is quite possibly the strangest “brunch” menu I’ve ever seen. The menu read as follows:

So that’s juice and breakfast breads with a shrimp salad or bacon tomato sandwich? Really?

Just about everyone commented about how strange that was. C’mon American, either serve breakfast or the typical pizza/sandwich option, but this inbetween service was downright odd.

I had the sandwich, and it was pretty nasty.


As we continued our descent Bose headphones were once again collected and the customs/immigration video was played, along with the “in-flight UNICEF team leader” asking for spare change.



After a smooth descent we touched down in LA nearly two hours early, and had a quick taxi to the gate.

View on descent

View on descent

Immigration took only a matter of minutes thanks to Global Entry, so I found myself in the Flagship Lounge in no time, though sadly only half of my journey was done. After four uneventful flights and 24 hours I found myself in my W bed at home.

  1. Im disappointed in looking at that menu as no veggie option was offered…..I wont be flying this route no doubt….

  2. WOW… I’m impressed… You went 33 miles in 7 minutes on the Maglev!
    It is better than a taxi I think when otherwise you wouldn’t get there going 280 miles an hour.!

  3. @ JetAway — Yeah, tell me about it…

    @ Ozaer — Really surprising they wouldn’t have a vegetarian option, especially out of China where the meat can be questionable.

    @ Bryce — Well that’s the maximum speed, and it’s only at it for less than a minute before slowing down. The reason it takes a bit longer is because the station isn’t all that practically located, not to mention you have to buy tickets, wait for the next train, etc. In the end the whole trip took me about 45 minutes, which was a bit longer than the trip on the way out.

  4. “I waited in the first class queue and despite being the first person in line, the passenger being helped was taking forever.”

    Huh? What passenger? Were you referring to yourself? lol

    Too bad the catering on this route was horrible, in your other TR, the food seems pretty good (by US carrier standards)…

  5. @ Andy — Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear. There was someone being helped, and I was the first persn in line. I don’t consider a person being helped to be in the queue.

  6. I love airline food, even when flying in Y. I love school cafeteria food. I love microwave meals. As not great as that picture of the beef dish looks, I bet I would’ve loved it. The cheese and bacon sandwich sounds awesome too!

  7. What do you think about F in AA versus J, especially for sleeping? How comfortable were the angled J seats versus the flatbed F seats? Just curious.

  8. @ Dave Op — I actually think the difference between business and first class on American is huge, in particular for sleeping. In first class I can get a good night of sleep, while in business class I get an “airplane nap” at best. So I think first class is well worth the premium if using miles or upgrading with a systemwide upgrade.

  9. You took the Maglev? I thought they went out of business. Oh, wait…never mind.

    What kind of wine did they offer you with your breakfast sandwich?

  10. I love the Maglev. Makes Acela Express seem like a Greyhound bus!

    UA’s catering out of PVG is actually quite good. I’ve been in both F and C, and never been disappointed by the meals (both initial and pre-landing).

  11. The catering looked awful. Presentation sucked.

    Why didn’t you ask for another item off the menu when your sorry excuse for a “Steak” was inedible?

    Is it permissible in Business Class on AA or UA to order multiple entrees off the menu like they’ll let you do on CX, or it is that really a FC on CX perk?


  12. not to be picky, as Lucky probably mean the “fastest regular service train”, but the TGV Est in France broke the world speed record on rails with 574 km/h. It went so fast that the live newsfeed could not send proper audio and video data from the train.

    Regarding security, I think we should all stop with the “being safe” crap, as we all well know that if somebody wanted to make great harm on a plane he does not bring bombs/weapons/whatever by personal item, but instead you just bribe the cargo people, TWA style.

    A working group of the EU Commission has deemed liquid bans within Europa as utterly useless already in 2008, too bad the EU Commission said that they could change policies only from 2015 and onwards.

    I am ranting, because there is ABSOLUTELY no reason for such absurd security measures on planes and they only annoy the heck out of passengers whilst having absolutely no effect on safety, freedom or whatever positive and comfortable buzzword you want to use.

  13. Ben – I realized there was still the start/stop issue. Really I just wanted to get an idea for the magnitude and was surprised when I converted to miles per hour.

  14. I recommend take the Maglev in Shanghai, rather than a taxi.

    Taking the Maglev is a relaxing experience, and going so fast slows down time so you arrive a little younger.

    Taking a taxi to or from the Shanghai airport, on the other hand, always ages me…evidently watching my life pass before my eyes several times during the ride takes a toll.

    The first, and only, time I took a cab from the airport to downtown my driver got into a game of chicken with a concrete truck. Fortunately, the truck driver gave up, leaving me with a mental movie of his truck skidding down the highway (at an angle) with brakes locked and tires smoking. From then on, it’s been Maglev for me!

  15. Ben, thanks for replying to my question on item 10. I love to read an article how the difference between each airline/plane model business class and first class for sleeping. Generally, I would think a flatbed business class and first class difference will be small or not that big. But, I am just making up this assumption, as I have never flown international first class before. My 2 cents for a potential future article.

  16. Re: Brunch vs. Breakfast. Come on, Ben. WIth a 5:30 PM or so LAX arrival, everyone’s bio-clocks are going to be screwed up. The simple sandwich option does not sound inappropriate to to me. In fact, given AA’s typically awful food service, it is probably a better choice than their ‘Standard’ breakfast offerings!

  17. I get the main point for the Shanghai flights. I move to LA in July and have a trip there in November. Apparently the flight there is going to take 14hr 25min and going back 12hr 37min. Although I’m not connecting as well as in business class, is the situation I’m in good or bad?

  18. Holy crab, er crap! 😉
    You went at 2x the speed a 777 lands at and 1/2 the cruise speed!

  19. More critisisim: (someone tell me how to spell that! 😉 )
    Sundae off center, starter off center, potato over the edge on the first main besides the disgusting look.
    Toast slices not aligned either! 😉

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