I think there has to be a degree of perspective when comparing Cathay’s hard product with the likes of Qatar or Thai. It’s always going to be the case that X airline will come out with a newer/better product. Cathay’s product is no longer new – it’s been around for a few years now. But NO other airline can compete in offering such a product on the overwhelming majority of their long haul fleet. Yes, Qatar’s new product is great (although it is essentially the same seat design as Cathay). But how many aircraft have it? And let’s not forget you also could end up on a Qatar long haul flight in an angle lay flat bed with no direct aisle access. The same is for Thai. I would imagine once these carriers have the majority of their fleet kitted out with their newest products people will be gushing over an even better product some other airline has launched.
As for the rest – it’s down to personal preference. For example, personally I cannot stand those staggered J class configurations where your feet have to fit into an enclosed space under the seat in front of you. I find it uncomfortable and claustrophobic. For others, it’s their dream seat. But if I flew say Etihad and had such a seat I wouldn’t expect anything in terms of compensation because I find it cramped/uncomfortable or I didn’t like the way they did their meal service or the CSD didn’t introduce themselves. I would just say ‘it is not the product for me’ and chose not to fly with them in the future.
It’s the same with the lounges. I think Cathay’s HKG J class lounges are nothing short of superb and blow most of the competition out of the water. I love how all their J class lounges have a different feel/theme at HKG instead of copies of the same. I love how they all offer extensive dining options. I find them far superior to QF J class lounges in OZ/Thai/SQ/MH J class lounges. I rate their F lounge below the QF F class lounges in OZ though. As for Qatar – well how many lounges do they operate? Two? So I guess yes, it’s not difficult to offer something pretty extraordinary.
What I like most about Cathay though is the consistency. In around thirty J class long haul sectors each has been a mirror of the one before. I’ve never had anything but a fully flat bed with direct aisle access. I’ve always had a charming IFSM that despite being a OWE via BA makes me feel more valued at CX than I feel when flying BA. Yes, the younger crew can be a little ermmm…ditzy. They seem to panic a little sometimes and get in a fluster. But this is always compensated for by the calmness, grace and professionalism of the more senior ladies (they always seem to be ladies). If ever anything has not been quite right (twice I have not liked my food and both times they have proactively noticed my full plate and offered an alternative) they always apologise and try to put things right. No attitude, no dismissive mentality.
Yes, they do not have much of a ‘wow’ factor. But i’d rather know exactly what I am getting than to be ‘wowed’ 20% of the time and totally disappointed with my angle flat bed the rest of the time.
I’m not a CX apologist (in fact I work for one of it’s competitors!) and i’m sure they are not perfect. But if they flew any route I wanted to fly, they would most definitely be my #1 choice.