Tried & Tested

Flight review: Cathay Pacific A350-1000 premium economy Singapore-Hong Kong

11 Feb 2019 by Michael Allen

Background

Cathay Pacific took delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 in June last year. The Hong Kong flag carrier has 20 A350-1000s on order, which are expected to be delivered by 2021.

The A350-1000 debuted on Cathay’s Singapore route on 9 July, according to Routes Online.

Last month, Business Traveller Asia-Pacific’s Jackie Chen reviewed the economy class service on Cathay’s A350-1000 from Singapore to Hong Kong. On Sunday, I was travelling back from Singapore to Hong Kong in the premium economy cabin of this aircraft, so decided to see how this compares to the economy service, as well as how it compares with Cathay’s A330-300 premium economy service, which I reviewed earlier this month.

Check-in

This was an early flight, departing at 6.50am, so I arrived by taxi just before 5.00am at Terminal 4 of Singapore’s Changi Airport. Bleary-eyed, I made my way to the automated check-in counters, where I had to wait in line for a couple of minutes. Using the machines is relatively simple, though I overheard some other passengers complaining that they were not working. A staff member had to assist them.

I managed to complete the process without any issues and proceeded to the automated bag-drop. There was no queue and this process was also seamless for me.

I tried to photograph the automated immigration gates, but an immigration officer stopped me. The gates are easy to use and I was through in no time.

There were no other passengers at all at security. The male security agent took interest in my living in Hong Kong and we had a brief chat, then a female security agent asked me to step into the full body scanner and afterwards gave me a pat down. This seemed a bit unnecessary and I guess it was because there was nothing else for them to do at this hour.

I walked through duty free and towards gate G18, a short and pleasant walk through an uncrowded terminal. Near my gate, I saw a small area where you can play various games to pass the time before your flight.

There was a bit of a boarding queue already when I arrived. Business class, Marco Polo gold and silver members, and Oneworld sapphire members were allowed to board first.

Unfortunately, I did not realise until I had already queued and reached the boarding gate that there is actually a separate queue on this flight for premium economy class passengers, so I missed out on boarding ahead of economy class.

I walked down a carpeted slope, into the airbridge and boarded the plane.

The seat

I was in seat 31K, a window seat. The seat looks immediately fresher and newer than that on the A330-300. The seat width is actually less than on the A330-300, at 18.5 inches compared with 19.3 inches; but the A350-1000’s legroom is better (40 inches compared to 39 inches), and the A350’s nine inch recline is one inch more than the A330’s.

Here are two photos so you can compare (top: A350-1000; bottom: A330-300)…

The A350-1000 seat has some additional storage space that the A330-300 seat is lacking.

There is even a space to rest your tablet.

A cupholder pulls out 180 degrees from the left arm rest.

The remote control feels newer.

And the IFE screen is higher definition, has a more responsive touch screen and a more attractive user interface than that on the A330-300.

Which seat to choose?

You can adjust the recline of the seat using three buttons below the left-side armrest. Bear in mind that, while there is a footrest, unless you are in the front row seats (30A, 30C, 30D, 30E, 30F, 30G, 30H and 30K), the footrest will be restricted by the seat in front and you won’t be able to fully stretch your legs without them getting caught on the seat in front.

The middle seats (31-33 D-G) are the least attractive, especially 31-33 E-F, which box you in on both sides. If you are travelling with a companion, the side seats (30-33 A and C, and 30-33 H and K) would be great to book as a pair, as they give you a significant degree of privacy.

There are also four power sockets (two three-pin sockets and two USB sockets) in between the middle of the seats.

The premium economy cabin itself is small, with four rows of 2-4-2, one more row than on the A330-300. The small number of premium economy seats on the A330-300 was something I found contributed to a pleasant, uncrowded feel, and the addition of an extra row on the A350-1000 did not make the cabin feel noticeably more crowded.

The flight

We pushed back from the gate around 0652 and the captain announced that we were expected to arrive ahead of schedule.

Upon takeoff, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Johor. The engine noise on the A350 is notably less on the A330, which contributes to a more relaxing flight.

Just before 0730, we were served a selection of soft drinks, including orange juice and apple juice. I asked for, and was brought, a cup of water. Breakfast was a choice between an omelette…

…and Chinese congee…

I went for the omelette, which I enjoyed, and my seatmate had congee, with which he seemed satisfied. I thought the muffins were a nice addition to the meal. A stewardess offered me a hot drink after the meal. I chose a coffee.

After the meal, I went to find the bathroom and was pleased to discover that the premium economy cabin has a dedicated bathroom.

The body lotion and foaming cleanser from Australian cosmetics brand Jurlique were a nice touch.

The flight was smooth with almost no turbulence, so I managed to get a bit of sleep.

We landed ahead of schedule at 1018, almost half an hour before our scheduled arrival time of 1045.

Disembarkation was swift, as we were allowed to get off the plane after business class passengers but before economy class passengers. You have to walk through the business class cabin and then turn left to disembark.

At Hong Kong International Airport, the gate we landed at was slightly far away, so I had to take the train one stop to the immigration area. Being a Hong Kong resident, it took mere seconds to get through immigration using my Hong Kong identity card. There was a 10-15 minute wait for luggage, and then I was on the Airport Express home.

Verdict

An improvement on the A330-300’s premium economy product. The seat fixtures are noticeably more sturdy, there is more storage space and the IFE screen is considerably better. Seat comfort is about the same between the A330-300 and the A350-1000, but the latter’s cabin feels newer.

As I mentioned in my review of the A330-300 service on this route, you will want to consider whether it is actually worth the extra expense for a short flight such as this. However, if the difference between an economy class and premium economy class ticket is not too much, you won’t be disappointed. Since the premium economy seat allows you to sleep more easily due to its increased recline and space between you and your seat neighbour, you may want to consider going premium if you are taking an early morning flight or the red eye.

And try to book the A350-1000 over the A330-300 if you can. The experience is definitely slightly better.

Fact file

  • Price A return premium economy class fare in mid-March starts at SG$863.2 (US$636.26), including tax and fees.
  • Configuration 2-3-2
  • Seat width 18.5 inches
  • Seat pitch 40 inches
  • Seat recline 9 inches
  • Departure 0650
  • Flight duration 3 hours 9 minutes
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