29th May 2014 at 15:50 #576424
Anonymous29th May 2014 at 15:50 #576425
INTRODUCTION: I was originally supposed to depart on the CX714 flight that leaves Singapore for Hong Kong at 0120 on May 9.
However due to inclement weather that had hit the Special Administrative Region of China the previous night (resulting in a Red Rainstorm Signal), Cathay Pacific’s (CX) ground staff at Singapore Changi Airport informed all passengers that our flight had been delayed until 1300.
Understandably, this announcement was met with anger and frustration from several of my fellow passengers – many who argued that the delay would cause them to miss their onward connections.
However, I have to give props to the CX team in Singapore who truly tried their best to handle the difficult situation. While all Singapore residents were instructed to return home for the night, all other passengers were given a complimentary night at hotels.
I was sent to Amara Singapore Hotel for the night, and managed to catch a good night’s sleep before catching a taxi to the airport at 1000. All transportation costs were covered by CX.
CHECK-IN: I arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 1 at 1020, and proceeded to the Cathay Pacific business class check-in counter at row 12. I informed the attendant that I was one of the “delayed passengers”, and provided the original boarding pass that featured the 0120 departure time stamp.
This was quickly confirmed, and I was promptly booked on the re-timed CX714. The attendant asked me if I had a preference in terms of getting a seat on the upper deck or on the main deck.
Upon hearing this, I knew that the operating aircraft was one of the airline’s Boeing 747-400s – a special treat personally for me as CX will soon be retiring its fleet of 747s, and I truly wanted to experience the business class product one more time.
I chose to be seated at the upper deck, and was assigned seats 82A. I had a single piece of checked baggage, and the entire process was quick and effective. I proceeded into the immigration area at 1030, and cleared it within three minutes.
THE LOUNGE: While CX offers a total of nine daily flights into Singapore daily, the airline does not have a dedicated lounge at Changi Airport. Instead, it uses a contract lounge, known as the Skyview Lounge.
Located on the second level near Gate D30, I used an escalator to access the lounge. Upon presenting my boarding pass to the agent at the reception desk, I was allowed into the main sitting area of the lounge.
The Skyview Lounge is separated into two different sections – one in a bright and open area which features large windows that offer commanding views of the tarmac, and an indoor section that is more private and recluse.
As I had to do some work, I made my way to the indoor area of the lounge. As expected, there were only a few passengers in the indoor section and I had an ample number of seats to choose from.
The F&B offering at the Skyview Lounge was pretty standard, with a number of hot dishes and drinks on offer. While there is nothing particularly wrong with that, it just doesn’t compare to the quality offering available at the dedicated CX’s lounges in Hong Kong.
First/business travellers flying with Cathay should note that while the airline does not offer a dedicated lounge in Terminal 1, fellow Oneworld members British Airways and Qantas do. You could try considering them as alternatives to the Skyview Lounge.
BOARDING: I made my way to the boarding area at 1230. As is common at Changi Airport, security screening is done at the boarding gate. I made my way through the X-ray machine quickly, before presenting my travel documents to a CX staff member.
The attendant asked me if I was a passenger from the delayed flight, and when I confirmed this, she offered her apologies and handed me a travel claim document that I could use in the event that I wanted to pursue further action against the airline.
I was able to board the plane immediately as it was already 1240, and therefore made my way through the aerobridge into the aircraft.
THE SEAT: As previously indicated, I had requested a seat in the upper deck of the Boeing 747-400, and was assigned seat 82A. While the business class cabin on the main deck of the aircraft features a seating configuration of 1-2-1, the upper deck seats are positioned in a 1-1 arrangement. My seat was located near the front of the cabin, on the left side.
In addition, I soon learnt that I was the only passenger sat at the upper deck of the aircraft. According to the stewardess, the were only 13 people in business class, as all passengers (who were part of the original delayed service) with onward connections had been provided with direct flights to their end destinations – a true testament to the level of quality that CX continues to offer even during difficult situations.
Business class seats on the B747-400s are the old herringbone-style design, commonly described as the “coffin”. While controversial to some, who will point out that the seat can become particularly tight around the shoulders, it does offer direct aisle access and is able to turn into a fully flat bed… not bad for a 3hr 40mins flight.
Personally, I would have preferred this over CX’s new regional business class product which only offers a “lazy-Z” mode by combining a 36-degree recline with an extendable leg rest’s 60-degree upswing.
THE FLIGHT: Upon boarding the aircraft, a stewardess addressed me by my name, and showed me to my seat. She took my coat from me and hanged it at the back of the cabin.
As I was the sole passenger on the upper deck, the cabin crew was able to make the flight a more personal one. I was told that I could have my meal whenever I wanted to (I requested to have it at 1430), and if necessary, I was free to move to any other seat in the upper cabin.
Drink orders were taken and I opted to try the airline’s signature drink, Cathay Delight. Made from a blend of kiwi juice, coconut milk and mint leaves, I found the drink extremely refreshing.
The plane pushed back at around 1315, and took off about seven minutes later. Upon reaching cruising altitude, the seat belt sign was switched off and the inflight entertainment system was activated.
I reclined my seat slightly and pulled out the LCD monitor from the “side wall”. As it was the middle of the afternoon, the sunlight from the window behind me caused a glare on the LCD screen. I tried to pull the shades down but annoyingly found it difficult to do so, as the window was right behind my seat.
This meant that I had to push the LCD monitor back to its original position before being able to get off my seat, and pull the window shades down.
After I had shut the blinds, I settled back into my chair, before pulling out the LCD monitor again. The interface was touch-enabled and so I was able to easily browse through the wide selection of entertainment content that Studio CX had to offer.
I finally settled upon watching the movie, Saving Mr. Banks – a feel-good tale about how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) had persuaded author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in granting him the rights to her book, Mary Poppins. The book was adapted into the famous 1964 film, which went on to win five Academy Awards.
Shortly after I had started watching the movie, a stewardess came over to retrieve my now empty drink glass, and asked if I’d liked another. I told her that I did.
She also handed me the lunch menu, which featured three different main courses. I could choose my meal first, and she would serve it to me at 1430, as requested.
The menu is listed below:
Seared tuna with asparagus and wasabi mayonnaise
Mixed seasonal salad with French vinaigrette
Sauteed halibut with shallot black bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Shanghainese pak choy
Grilled Australian prime beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce, roasted new potatoes, broccoli and carrots
Thai red curry chicken with steamed jasmine rice and mixed vegetables
Chess and Dessert
Fresh seasonal fruit
Chocolate and caramel mousse cake with vanilla sauce
I chose the beef tenderloin as my main course, which was duly noted by the attendant when she came to serve me my second glass of Cathay Delight.
My meal came promptly at 1430, and I was very impressed with the quality of the food, especially the main course. The problem with beef is that it can turn out overcooked and tough if heated too long. However, mine was extremely tender, and my knife cut through the meat like butter. The Bearnaise was rich and that complemented the beef well.
The tuna started was excellent too. I was initially quite sceptical that seared tuna could taste good at altitude, as the fish is usually very bland. However, CX prepares theirs with a seared black pepper coating, and this helped to perfume the tuna.
After I had finished the main course, fruits were served. While most were fresh and sweet, I noticed that one of the strawberries was black on one side and informed the attendant of this. She apologised profusely and promised to provide me with another plate. And boy did she deliver! I was served an entire bowl of strawberries, and this time I didn’t have a single complaint to make.
The rest of the flight went by without a hitch but as we approached Hong Kong, the plane began to experience some turbulence – most likely from the poor weather that the city was still facing. The seatbelt sign came back on, and persisted through the rest of the flight.
ARRIVAL: Descent was announced at 1625, and I placed my seat and LCD monitor back in their original positions. The attendant came over to lift the window shades back up.
While we were in the midst of descending into Hong Kong International Airport, something rare and quite remarkable occurred. The aircraft was struck directly by a bolt of lightning. A loud bang and flash of light swept through the cabin, which did startle me (as did many passengers in the main deck… according to the attendant).
The captain immediately made an announcement reassuring everyone that the aircraft was design to withstand a lightning strike and that there was nothing to be alarmed about. Very professional.
We touched down in Hong Kong at 1645 and my coat was returned to me as I was about to climb down the stairs. I was out of the aircraft five minutes later.
VERDICT: A true mark of a great airline is how it reacts during difficult circumstances. I have to praise Cathay Pacific for the way it handled the situation. A delayed flight could not be helped, especially when this was due to safety reasons.
The airline also truly seemed apologetic for the delay, and all members of the cabin crew seemed particularly determined to make my flight experience a comfortable and pleasurable one. Overall, they succeeded in doing so.29th May 2014 at 18:07 #576426
Excellent review thank you Clement.
Having flown hundreds of thousands of miles with CX over the years I know that when things go right they are excellent and a leader in class. They have competition on many fronts though. When things go wrong they remain excellent and a leader in class and here they have little competition except from perhaps SQ. Others pale in comparison.
That’s why I’ve been a CXDiamond for many years and I intend to remain one because it’s when things go wrong you really need and depend on the excellent customer service that really only one other comes close to.
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