Cathay Pacific have been scooping up awards left and right and centre for their new business class design and, after a comfy twelve hour flight with them, it’s easy to see why. To Hong Kong on the new and back on the old, I managed to compare and contrast side by side flights so to speak to then get back and give you the lowdown.
With two seats in the centre and one each by the window, Cathay’s new curved design makes you feel like there’s no one near you at all. In the old cabin, your feet point towards the aisle but in the new design your head does, cradled by a tall, tough screen that creates a topless cocoon.
If you’re in the centre, you can open your cupboard door to “screen” off the passenger next to you or keep it closed if you want to lean over and chat. This is exactly the kind of arrangement that suits business travel but it’s rather less romantic if you’re on your honeymoon, say, and fancy more of a snuggle.
As for storage, there’s enough room to stow an elephant and its offspring never mind the limited hand luggage apparatus you’re allowed to squeeze past security these days. As well as the entire overhead locker, there’s a side cupboard, a foot locker, a water bottle pocket and a spacious side storage area. I tend to travel packed to the max with laptops, i-gadgets and devices but they looked small and foolish as they rolled around the place here.
Entertainment has all the usual suspects, with your own noise-cancelling headphones hanging neatly in your side cupboard. The only gripe here is that the TV screen takes a long time to switch to off from standby. Not such a problem when it’s your own TV flashdancing around but it’s incredibly bright when you’re trying to sleep and the person next to you has pushed theirs back into its takeoff position. That’s really the only chink in the private cocoon armour.
There’s a surplus of those super-hot, super-soothing rolled flannels brought around and, for the first time ever, I wanted to dawdle in the toilets rather than take a gulp of air before going in and racing out as soon as possible. As well as orchids and scented spritzers, there were lotions, potions and proper towels. And the ultimate luxury, ladies and gents: no queue and plenty of space.
You’ll also find a power supply with an international adaptor in each seat plus a mirror to remind you that your surroundings look better than you. There’s a step so that the shorter among us can reach the overhead locker as well as a USB and iPod dock in each space.
Food was an event unto itself, with white linen tablecloths and wine and cocktails paired to match. In the name of research, I tested their signature cocktail, a Pacific Sunrise, which was fresh and citrusy but a little on the sharp side for me.
Dinner took quite some time and proceeded at a leisurely pace, unlike in the old business class where dishes were whisked away before I’d quite finished and an either/or option given when it came to dessert, cheese and coffee.
Whisky smoked Loch Fyne salmon, apple celeriac remoulade and horseradish crème fraiche.
Szechuanese chicken with Yu Shang chilli sauce, steamed rice and shanghai pak choy with garlic.
Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Camembert, Butler’s Secret cheese platter.
Fresh seasonal fruit.
Chocolate mirror delice
Tea and coffee and pralines.
Lime, mango, pineapple, yougurt and ginger energiser
Fresh seasonal fruit and yoghurt
Spinach and ricotta crepes with grilled kassler
Assorted breakfast bread served with preserves, honey and butter
Tea and coffee
(Note – on the return Hong Kong to London flight, a lighter (and shorter) meal was available so that you could get to work or get to sleep faster.)
Impeccable. In fact, bless them, a little too eager. I’d poke my head above the parapet to have a look around and someone would run down the aisle to see whether I wanted anything. My apologies to the cabin crew for the enforced aerobic workout.
Ah, the most important part (for me, anyway.) Beds in both old and new fold flat but the newer design provides much more protection from passengers chatting around you and from accidental nudges from people striding down the aisle. The storage space in the new business cabin also means you’re not in bed with your laptop, toes tangled in the cord, which was harder to avoid in the old design. There’s even an ergonomically designed triangle so you can fold your knees up into the foetal position and a cotton covered duvet rather than a scratchy static blanket.
Contents: socks, foam ear plugs, tissue, Murad pomegranate lip protector SPF 15, Essential C Night moisturiser, Revitalizing body cream, dental kit, eye mask plus a 30% discount voucher for a Murad signature facial.
Cathay’s Business lounges have, well, a business feel. You haven’t got the razzamatazz of, say, Virgin’s flagship lounge at Heathrow with its egg shaped chairs, massage therapist on site and magenta spot-lit snooker table.
You do have plenty of workstations, magazines, TVs with the news, fresh food prepared on site and of course fast wifi.
My favourite of the three lounges in Hong Kong was The Cabin with its chic juice bar and spectacular panorama of aircraft taking off against the lush green Hong Kong mountains.
Meanwhile, my taste of First Class at The Wing with its fine dining experience and expert table service showed me a glimpse of what the next level up is like!
Not to be overlooked, of course, is the ability to zoom right off the plane and on with your life. No need to wait to reassemble your belongings, no need to queue to leave the plane and, with priority luggage tags and fast track immigration facilities, no need to let the airport slow you down.
My seat: 20G – a good distance from, well everything else going on (toilets, food prep area, and the cabin crew chatting facility.) The only disadvantage for me: no view from the window.
88K on the return. Window view blocked by the head rest and close to the cabin crew seats so noisier during the flight.
All of it. So comfortable for sleeping, so organised for working and so enjoyable for eating. Really, I had to think long and hard to fill in the next section.
The glare from your neighbour’s screen can be distracting for a few minutes before it powers off. The older style business class cabins are noisier and you can get jolted by people walking down the aisle. Plus a window seat on the old business class doesn’t allow you a view through the window. And, er, the orchid wobbles on take off…
Find the Cathay Business Class Factsheet here. Although I usually use my own photos, out of respect for my fellow passengers, I’m using Cathay photos to show you the inside. Let’s face it, when you’re flying you don’t want people taking your photo and plastering it all over the internet, now do you.
But just so you know that I was there and did review this myself, I shall embarrass myself with quick snapshot of my good self on the plane. There, satisfied?!
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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