Tried & Tested

Cathay Pacific B777-300 regional business class

30 Apr 2014 by Clement Huang

CHECK-IN

I used Cathay Pacific’s (CX) online check-in service, which opens 48 hours before departure, and had selected my seat and received my digital boarding pass in less than two minutes. The bag drop-off at zone A at Hong Kong International Airport, CX’s premium customer area, was similarly straightforward and didn’t involve any queuing. I was checked in at 0850 for the 1010 departure to Denpasar on CX785.

THE LOUNGE

Having previously visited three of CX’s lounges – The Wing, The Pier and The Cabin – I decided to try out the latest facility, The Bridge, near Gate 35. The 2,567 sqm space designed by Foster + Partners is tastefully decked out in the airline’s green, grey and beige tones and features separate dining and bar areas in white marble that offer unobstructed views of the airport’s busy tarmacs. While the varied hot and cold breakfast choices were impressive, I had difficulty finding a vacant seat, and service was slow and a little erratic.

BOARDING

We began boarding at 0945 with priority given to business class passengers and members of the Marco Polo Club. I arrived at my seat at 0955.

THE SEAT

I was in 12A, the second row of business class at the very front of the aircraft. CX introduced its new regional business class product last year and expects to have its entire regional fleet retrofitted by the end of 2014.

The new regional product is a vast improvement over the airline’s previous one but travellers may be disappointed if they expect it to be comparable to CX’s long-haul premium product which the airline – confusingly but to the delight of many frequent flyers – also routinely offers on its regional network.

Arranged in forward-facing pairs, the seats are a little roomier than the old ones, with the width increased from 20 to 21 inches and the pitch extended from 45 to 47 inches. Relaxing is made easy in the seat’s “lazy-Z” mode by combining the 36-degree recline with the extendable leg rest’s 60-degree upswing. Each seat is encased in a shell which prevents the passenger in front of you encroaching on your space.

The seat also has a larger fold-down tray table at 20 inches wide and 14.5 inches deep, but both my fellow passenger and I found it to be flimsy. It couldn’t support the weight of a heavy laptop – not to mention our elbows – making work during the flight a near-impossible task.

The 12.1-inch TV installed in the seatback feels a little inadequate for a new business class product, as many airlines have screens measuring a minimum of 15.4 inches in their premium cabins.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

I tend to avoid the first row of any cabin unless it is not immediately facing a galley or washroom. I opted for the second row and was perfectly happy with that choice. Though the side pairs in row 12 (A,B – H,K) face a bulkhead, they offer extra legroom and are among the cabin’s quietest seats.

THE FLIGHT

We took off 35 minutes late at 1045 due to air traffic control clearance issues. The seatbelt sign went off some ten minutes later and drink orders were taken. My drinks, a fresh and fruity Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne and a mint iced tea, arrived almost instantly and food orders were then taken.

About an hour into the flight lunch service commenced. I started with soya-baked salmon with asparagus and wasabi mayonnaise, accompanied by a mixed seasonal salad and warm garlic bread. My chosen main course was scallops and prawn sambal with steamed jasmine rice and coconut okra. The dish featured an ample portion of nicely seared seafood but it could have been improved with more vegetables from the perspective of both taste and presentation.

The service was good but lacked the personalisation CX is known for, such as addressing passengers by name and remembering drink preferences.

ARRIVAL

Despite the initial delay, we landed right on time at 1500 in Denpasar. We were parked at a remote stand which meant a bus transfer to the immigration hall. There were no fast track lines for premium passengers and clearing immigration took almost 40 minutes, although this was hardly the airline’s fault.

VERDICT

The new regional business class is a definite step up from its predecessor, although nowhere near as impressive as its long-haul counterpart. Unsteady tray tables make work difficult during the flight. The service, and food and drinks were good but not excellent.

 

FACT FILE

  • Plane type B777-300
  • Configuration 2-3-2
  • Seat width 21in/53cm
  • Seat pitch 47in/119cm
  • Seat recline 36 degrees
  • Price Internet rates for a flexible return flight in the first week of June are listed as HK$17,340 including taxes and surcharges.
  • CONTACT www.cathaypacific.com

Dominic Sebastian Lalk

 
 
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