Tried & Tested

Cathay Pacific A330-300 business class

13 Mar 2014 by GrahamSmith

CHECK-IN

Having arrived on a delayed Cape Town to Doha flight (to read a review, click here), I had missed my connection from Doha to Hong Kong and was subsequently re-routed back to Hong Kong via Dubai.

The initial journey from Doha to Dubai was in first class on QR1016 (to read a review, click here) and the final leg from Dubai to Hong Kong was in business class on Cathay Pacific flight CX746, departing Dubai Airport’s Terminal 1 at 1755 and scheduled to take seven hours and 55 minutes.

I did not have to check-in again at Dubai as my bags were already on their way. I did receive a new set of boarding passes at Cathay’s Dubai transfer desk, though.

The transfer desk was not easy to locate and it took me several trips to the airport information desk to get there. It would have been nearly impossible to find the desk without clear instructions as the desk was not marked in any way. The monitors above the transfer desk that usually show the airline name and/or flight number were all switched off.

THE LOUNGE

Cathay Pacific does not operate its own lounge at Dubai Airport. Passengers are instead advised to use the British Airways Galleries Lounge in Terminal 1.

The lounge is located near the centre of the vast terminal and clearly marked as such.

Inside the lounge it was a rather bleak affair. I found neither the furnishings nor the ambiance inviting and/or conducive to work, let alone relax. The place felt in urgent need of refurbishment — there were stains on the floors and leather chairs, the fabrics were torn in places and the wooden finishing was chipped wherever I looked.

There were no work stations and the wifi was not working when I visited.

The drinks selection on display was good. In addition to coffee/tea, juices, soft drinks and an international selection of spirits and liquors, two red wines, a white wine and a sparkling wine were offered. There was no bar service.

The food on display looked unappetising. There was an assortment of pastries and puffs, sandwiches and various deep-fried foods. They all looked like they had been sitting in their trays for hours though and not once did I notice any member of staff check on, or replenish, any of it. There were no to-order options.

BOARDING

Boarding for flight CX746 to Hong Kong was announced in the lounge at 1725. Departure that night was from Gate 19, a quick five-minute walk from the lounge.

Priority boarding for business class, members of the Marco Polo Club (Cathay Pacific’s loyalty programme) and premium economy class worked flawlessly and I was quickly onboard the aircraft.

I was shown to my seat in the second business class cabin and given assistance with stowing my bag. Hot towels, water, freshly-squeezed orange juice and champagne were offered.

Typical of Cathay Pacific, a very large selection of international newspapers and magazines was available on shelves in the front of the cabin.

THE SEAT

This medium-haul flight of seven hours and 55 minutes was operated by an Airbus A330-300 in Cathay’s three-class configuration, featuring business, premium economy and economy classes.

The 39 business class seats installed on this aircraft are the new-style long-haul seats introduced in late 2010. Seating is in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Business class spreads across two cabins, a large one of seven rows (11 throughout 18) in the very front of the aircraft and then a smaller cabin of three rows (19 throughout 21) after a galley and the second aircraft door. The seats are in A-D-G-K. For a seat plan of this aircraft, click here.

I was in seat 20A, a window seat in the smaller cabin. All seats are angled slightly, so window seats face a window. The middle seats (D-G) are angled inwards, but have been cleverly designed so you are not forced into making eye contact with your neighbour.

The seat has a real sense of space to it, both in terms of how wide it is and also the general privacy and airiness of the design. Since the seat is angled sideways, there is a triangular bit of seat cushion to one side between the seat and the armrest. This armrest is lowered for take-off and landing, but this is really psychological since the seat is so wide, you would have to be very wide yourself to manage to rest your elbow on it.

The seat reclines to meet a footrest, and if you only partially recline the seat this brings it into reach of your feet for a comfortable reading position, or one from where you can watch the 15.4-inch IFE screen, which pops out from the angled back of the seat in front of you.

All the controls for the seat and the IFE are in a convenient position to one side at shoulder height along with a reading light which has two levels of brightness, and the in-seat power (universal) and iPod USB jacks are here as well.

There is a large storage space beneath where the table appears from, although this has to be left empty for take-off and landing, and the table itself is good and firm. It also slides out from the armrest and slides back in, so you don’t have to lift it up into a vertical position to put it away and can get out of the seat by only pushing it slightly to one side, a nice touch.

There is also a side table next to this where you can store a lot of things during the flight and even a small area, which is to one side of the seat near the floor, with a sliding door which is a good place for your shoes. I wouldn’t put anything else in there because it would be too easy to forget it.

All seats are now also equipped with a multimedia outlet that allows passengers to connect their iPods and iPads to the system or charge their personal devices. In order to view or listen to the contents on their Apple gadgets on the IFE screens, passengers need to ask the cabin crew for a special cable and once connection is made, the device becomes the remote control. To charge the battery of a device, however, any regular USB cable would do.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

I was happy with seat 20A. I enjoyed the added sense of calm and privacy in the smaller cabin, especially on a red-eye flight like CX746. Note however that the proximity to the premium economy cabin and its first-row baby bassinet seats may become bothersome to some on overnight flights.

Food was served simultaneously from the front in both business class cabins, but due to its smaller size this was finished faster in the second cabin and allowed for more sleep, if that is what you are looking for.

All of the seats have the advantage of having direct aisle access. If you are travelling as a couple, then the centre seats are for you; if travelling alone, I would go for the window seats (A or K). Some of these have two windows to look out of, some have one (row 25 for instance).

THE FLIGHT

We pushed back from the gate right on time at 1755 and were in the air in a few short minutes.

Cathay Pacific is well-known in the industry for delivering outstanding onboard service. This flight was no exception. All members of cabin crew seemed well-briefed on the passenger manifest, failing not once to address me by name, maintaining eye contact and making frequent enquiries into my well-being.

Another trademark of Cathay’s business class sees the chief cabin purser coming to your seat before take-off to personally welcome you onboard. This, too, was done in a very professional, yet non-intrusive manner, on this flight.

The IFE, Cathay Pacific’s Studio CX, was switched on as soon as the seatbelt sign went off. Studio CX is one of the best IFE systems I have experienced. There are hundreds of movies to choose from — the latest Hollywood releases, all-time favorites, comedy, Asian cinema, European cinema and Indian cinema. The majority of movies are available in English, French, German, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and Hindi.

The IFE screens are 15.4-inch and offer crystal-clear images. The noise-cancelling earphones provide great sound quality and really shut out all outside noises.

Dinner menus were distributed when the seat belt sign came off and read as follows:

Appetizer

  • Smoked trout with horseradish cream cheese
  • Mixed salad with olives and citrus coriander dressing 

Main Courses

  • Stir-fried beef with ginger and spring onion, steamed jasmine rice and pak choy
  • Chicken breast with onion mousse in tarragon sauce, parsnip potato puree, asparagus, baby squash and red pepper
  • Lamb kofta kebab with mini pita bread and garnishes
  • Penne pasta with kalamata olive, carrot, Kenya beans and mushroom cream sauce

Cheese and Dessert

  • Cheese selection
  • Fresh seasonal fruit
  • Plum crumble cake with cinnamon vanilla sauce

Dinner service started within five minutes of the seatbelt sign being turned off. A member of cabin crew assisted me with pulling out and unfolding the tray tables and then putting a white tablecloth on it. Then orders for drinks were taken which were delivered together with the starters shortly after.

Once I had finished my starters the crew came around with a cart displaying all four available main course options.

As I have commented in past reviews, I really like this Cathay Pacific signature service because of the flexibility and spontaneity it offers. It is always a bonus to see the food before you order it and have the opportunity to change your mind upon visual inspection.

The cart also came stocked with beverages and a plentiful bread basket.

The appetiser of smoked trout and salad looked and tasted fresh. I often find that trout can be an overly-fragrant fish if it is not freshly prepared, but this was not the case with this dish.

The Chinese beef stir-fry was very good. The chunks of beef were tender and enriched by a tasty oyster and Chinese vinegar sauce. The rice was moist and the pak choy still maintained a crunch.

The tray was cleared soon after I had finished and coffee and tea, as well as digestif and dessert orders, were taken.

I had the plum crumble cake which arrived nicely warmed up and beautifully garnished with fresh cut fruits. The crumbles were crunchy and the plum filling nicely accentuated with nuances of cinnamon. It went exceptionally well with the vanilla sauce.

An outstanding onboard dining experience.

There were still about six-and-a-half hours to go to Hong Kong by the time I had finished my dinner. I went straight to sleep and was woken up approximately 30 minutes before arrival into Hong Kong.

I was offered a quick breakfast but declined as I was still full.

ARRIVAL

The captain came on some 25 minutes before arrival into Hong Kong and informed us that we would arrive some 30 minutes ahead of schedule, at 0425 local time.

We landed early as promised and quickly disembarked the aircraft through Gate 4 at Hong Kong International Airport from where it was a short walk of five minutes to immigration and luggage reclaim.

I was at the luggage carrousel no later than 15 minutes after touch-down and had to wait less than five minutes for my suitcase to arrive.

VERDICT

Another exceptional onboard experience on Cathay Pacific.

The seat offers plenty of room and comfort, the IFE is extensive and the crew delivers their service with high efficiency, professionalism, gracefulness and charm.

The on-the-ground experience in Dubai was everything but exceptional, though. With two flights leaving Dubai for Hong Kong daily, Cathay Pacific might want to look into opening its own lounge facility at Dubai Airport. The signage for Cathay Pacific connecting passengers at Dubai Airport also needs urgent attention.


FACT FILE

  • PLANE TYPE A330-300
  • CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 21in
  • SEAT LENGTH 205cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Dubai to Hong Kong in March start from £3,140
  • CONTACT cathaypacific.com


Dominic Lalk


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