Tried & Tested

Cathay Pacific B777-300ER business class

16 Mar 2013 by Tom Otley

First impressions I arrived at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok at 1300 for the 1505 departure on CX253 to London Heathrow. Cathay’s Check in zone is Zone A-C. There was no queue for check-in, and I had already dropped off my bag at the in-town check-in at Kowloon Station, and had collected my boarding card so I walked to security, which was quick and made my way the Wing lounge. To read a review of the first class lounge I used, click here.

Boarding After using the lounge, I walked down to Gate 31, which is about a five minute stroll and arrived just as boarding was announced. This involved a lot of near-shouting as first and business were called, then directed to form a curving queue which was difficult for us to imagine but they mimed it for us while continuing to call out the classes expected to make up its shape. In their defence, I suppose it was so we did not block the concourse behind us.

I was at the back of a long queue, but when they saw from my boarding pass that I was emerald in Oneworld I then was directed to another, much shorter queue ahead of other business passengers, and perhaps first and so was first on board. There has to be a better way of getting the 50+ premium passengers on board. There are four flights a day to London to practise it, with a fifth one coming later this year.

Once on board I took my seat, had my jacket taken, and was offered a drink, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic (water, juice, champagne or a choice of signature drinks: Oriental Breeze: a sour plum tea and cranberry juice based non-alcoholic drink with honey and fresh lemon juice and a hint of rose water, or Cloud Nine: vodka, Cointreau and Sprite). The captain came on to say there would be a short delay since they were taking on extra fuel which would be necessary because of a flight time of over 13 hours due to strong headwinds.

The seat the business class seats are in two cabins on the B777-300ER. To see a seat plan, click here

The front cabin has only two rows between a galley and first class and for the first time I was in this front cabin. To see a review of the main cabin, click here. Since this was a day flight and I wanted to work I didn’t mind being here, though I think it is noisier than the main cabin being so close to the galley. The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration (A-DG – K) and I was in 12D. The seats are all similar, though 11D and 11G have their IFE screens in the bulkhead in front, while all other IFE screens are in the seat in front and are at an angle, so you have to press a release button to view them once they have swung out.

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. For centre seats I was surprised to see that there didn’t seem to be a privacy screen between the seats, but instead if you keep open the door of the cupboard that has the headphones in, you gain a little privacy by default. One point here though is that when the galley is in darkness, if your neighbour puts his screen back into its take off position but leaves it on, the ambient light shines right through onto the person sitting in the neighbouring centre seat.

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 is really a psychological thing since the seat is so wide would have to be very wide yourself to manage to rest your elbow on it. I was glad it was there, though, because I had a trolley rammed into it a couple of time during the flight.

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 IFE screen, which pops out from the angled back of the seat in front.

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 (UK plug) and iPod usb jacks are here as well. There is a large storage space beneath where the table appears from – though this has to be left empty for take-off and landing, and the table itself is good and firm, and did not move at all as I typed on my laptop. 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 I must have missed before to one side of the seat near the floor with a sliding door – it looks like a perfect place to put something and forget it, so I put my shoes in there.

Which seat to choose? In the last review I gave my thoughts on the main cabin. For this one I’d go for 11A or 11K – window seats, not much footfall since there’s first class in front of you and away from the galley. If you’re sitting together with someone I’d go for the front row as well, though obviously the middle two seats – avoid 12A and 12D since there’s a cupboard next to the washroom behind seat 12A where a trolley is kept and you’ll be disturbed as it is brought out and put back away.

The flight We departed only slightly late and were quickly at cruising height. I waited for the power to turn on so I could start work but to cut a long story short, discovered that my seat alone had no in-seat power. Since I needed it both to work and charge my phone which was low (because there’s only been the one plug in the lounge, and I’d used that for the laptop), I asked if I had any other options, and they offered to charge my phone and then my laptop, in turn, somewhere up in the galley. I thought this was pretty good – it’s not their fault that it was broken, and they found a solution.

We were given the Agnes B amenity bags containing some Murad products including lip salve and moisturiser, as well as eye mask, ear plugs and flight socks.  Drinks and a selection of nuts were brought round and then I decided to watch a film. Unfortunately sound only came out of one of the earphones, so I asked for a new pair. The flight attendant replaced these, and when I couldn’t hear anything pushed them into the socket, which had the unfortunate result of rebooting the system. After about 10 minutes it started again, and everything was working. During that time I learned that on other flights some of the flight crew had noticed that if you push the headphone hard into the socket, then it does in fact reset the system, so you have to be careful. This is good knowledge to have, and I will be careful in future, but I did wonder how robust the system is if this is true.  The staff were very good during all of this, by the way, and certainly gave the impression that they were genuinely upset about the lack of power for the laptop and phone and IFE problems.

The menu follows:

  • Starter butterfly prawn with potato and edamane salad, fava bean and capsicums, mixed salad with Kalamata olives and French vinaigrette. (I thought these were options, but I was given both).
  • Main courses sautéed pork in Chinese black vinegar sauce, steamed jasmine rice, jade melon with red medlar seed and garlic; grilled Australian prime beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce, roasted new potatoes, broccoli and carrots, Chu chee ling fish curry with steamed jasmine rice and stir-friend kalian with garlic; saffron fettucine with spinach, shitake mushrooms and roasted red pepper sauce. I had the fish curry which was tasty.
  • Cheese and dessert Fourme d’Ambert, Arenberger, French Brie with spiced pear paste; Fresh seasonal fruit, raspberry swirl cheese cake with raspberry coulis, tea and coffee, chocolates.

During the flight snacks were also available. I didn’t have them but for the sake of completeness they were: Wild mushroom and ricotta cheese pie with grilled zucchini and salad; shui gaw in noodle soup or Haagen Dasz ice cream.

The wine list was:

  • Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne. 
  • White Buissonnier Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise 2010; Cooper Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011. 
  • Red Chateau Hanteillan Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010; Gemtree Bloodstone McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010.
  • Port Dow’s LBV Port 2007.

I worked until my battery ran low and then fell asleep for a couple of hours. The seat is a very comfortable one – lots of room, and the only times I woke were when the announcements of turbulence were made, but then only for a few moments. The duvet is comfortable, and there are four washrooms at the rear of the cabin, two on either side, with one on the right (starboard) side being larger than the other three, if you’re claustrophobic, or want to get changed.

When I woke I watched a couple more films and then did some more work since the battery had recovered (in the end I asked the crew only to charge my phone rather than the laptop). Before landing we were served dinner, so another menu coming, I’m afraid...

  • Starter fresh seasonal fruit. 
  • Main courses steamed chicken with Chinese ham and bamboo shoot, steamed jasmine rice, Shanghainese pak choy, roasted Pacific cod with coriander butter, roasted kipfler potatoes and braised savoy cabbage (I had that and it was a little dry but again, had some taste); eggplant and garlic agnolotti with eggplant garlic sauce. 
  • Dessert raspberries and mango fruit tart.

Arrival  The flight struggled a little against the headwinds, and as warned we landed 40 minutes late at 2050 after circling around for a bit waiting for our turn at Heathrow.

Verdict Very good. The seat is very comfortable, there’s lot of space, the food and drink and wine selections are excellent (and unending in their choice – you could eat for most of the 13 hour flight). The staff were without exception helpful, friendly and organised. Only minor points – sorting out the boarding, and a few questions about how robust the in-seat power and IFE is.

Contact cathaypacific.com

Tom Otley

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