Tried & Tested

Flight review: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Business Class

27 Dec 2022 by BusinessTraveller
Cathay Pacific A350

Background

Cathay started flying the A350-900 in 2016 and now has 28 of their aircraft in its fleet. At the time of my flight in December 2022, Hong Kong has finally started to open up but there were various Covid hoops to jump through. For this trip it meant a self-administered Lateral Flow/Rapid Antigen Test 24hrs before the flight. Assuming this was negative, then you needed to complete the Health and Quarantine Information Declaration which required details and images of all your vaccinations, plus any infections and the results of your self-administered Covid test. Once submitted and approved you will receive a green QR code. This needs to be saved to your phone and or printed out, since it is required both for check in and also on arrival in Hong Kong.

Check in

I arrived in Madrid on a BA flight from London and already had in my possession the boarding pass. I had to clear transit security where there were only a few people in the queue and then headed through the duty free which you need to pass through to get to the gates.  The Iberia Velazquez lounge is to your left in the middle of Duty Free and is large with lots of seating and a good selection of food and drink available. It was impressive with great views over the runway but its large size did make it feel rather cavernous and not very homely. I was only there for 25 minutes before leaving and heading to the gate.

Boarding

It was a short walk from the lounge to the boarding gate for my 1125 flight (CX372).  Premium boarding started shortly after I arrived at 1045. My boarding pass showed ‘denied boarding’ when it was scanned but this was quickly rectified as Cathay needed to see my green health QR code. As we boarded we were reminded to put on masks for the duration of the flight. As soon as I was at my seat I was offered a drink and my jacket was taken. A member if the team also came round to welcome me onboard as a oneworld emerald member. The aircraft pushed back a couple of minutes late at 1133 and was airborne at 1146.

Cathay-Pacific-business-man

The seat

When I arrived at my seat there was a mattress cover and duvet (by Bamford) covered in 400 thread count cotton in a bag in the footwell and a pillow on the seat. There was also a Banford amenity kit with eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush, lip balm, face mist and hand and body lotion and a Cathay Care Kit with face mask and antiseptic wipes.

Cathay Pacific amenity-kit

The seat on this A350-900 is the Cirrus III seat by Safran Seats, covered with a green woven fabric with green leather armrest. All seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration and have direct aisle access and recline into a fully flat bed.

There is a good size storage area for a laptop and some personal items. There is also storage for a water bottle under the arm rest.  This can be a bit fiddly to raise and lower so people tend not to use this space. The rear of the seat in front contains a space where in the inflight magazine would once have sat.  The metal and wood laminate table is a reasonable size, is sturdy and pulls out from under the shelf to the side of your seat.

Cathay Pacific business class storage

The controls to the side of your seat release raise and lower the footrest, move the seat forward and back as well as recline.  There are buttons to turn it into a bed and return it to the upright position for landing. By the arm rest there is a button where a small flap comes up to widen the seat when lying down.

There is an adjustable and dimmable reading light, and a smart phone like control for the TV with a 4.3 inch screen. It also usefully tells you how much time is left of the flight and controls the do not disturb sign and lets you set a wake-up call either for a meal or just before landing.

You can also look at other content without disturbing what is on the main 18.5 inch touchscreen with the IFE having a very good selection of films, series, games music and reading. The screen pulls out but does not need to be stored for take off or landing so you can watch from gate to gate.

Noise-cancelling headphones are provided and stored in a cupboard at the rear of the seat along with a handset for the IFE. Within the cupboard in a mirror, plus power socket and USB A for phone charging. A bottle of Evian water was also here. The aircraft is equipped with internet connectivity. This can be purchased at US$9.95 for an hour or US$19.95 for the whole flight.

Cathay Pacific IFE Screen

Best Seat

There are 38 seats spread over 2 cabins with rows 11-19 in the first cabin and 20-21 in the second in a 1-2-1 configuration (A-D-G-K). All seats have aisle access. Avoid row 11 where there are 2 seats (D-G) as they are right next to the toilet door and curtain. Unless you are travelling with someone I would go for a window seat.  The second cabin tends to be quieter but is quite small so my preference would be for the first cabin.  12A or K are good choices as you are far enough from the galley and toilets but my view is any window seat in the front cabin is good.

The flight

A hot towel was given out and 15 minutes after take-off and the pre-ordered drink arrived another 25 minutes later along with some nuts.  A further 25 minutes later my starter were served quickly followed by my main meal. To start I had chosen Serrano ham with pea puree and roasted little gem lettuce (the alternative was a celeriac and apple soup with basil oil and a leaf salad).

Cathay Dinner-starter

For a main I opted for stuffed portobello mushrooms gratin, forest mushroom duxelles and grilled pumpkin.  I really enjoyed it but could not see any gratin and the mushrooms were rather small.

The other options were pork and water chestnut meatballs in egg noodle soup, poached salmon with white wine sauce, asparagus, linguine pasta and sundried tomatoes, braised beef in Chu Hou sauce, Shanghainese pak choy, carrots and jasmine rice or pesto crusted chicken breast with green peppercorn sauce, artichokes, sweetcorn and barley risotto.

Cathay Pacific Dinner-Main

I did not need any more food but if I had there was a cheese course followed by a choice of puddings that included fresh fruit, mango mousse with crumble and coconut shavings, chocolate ganache shortbread with pistachio and orange and a selection of ice creams.  I did check what the selection was and there was vanilla or mango.  This was followed up a box of pralines being passed round by the crew.

To help wash it down Billecart Salmon Brut is the champagne on offer and there was a choice of two red and two white wines. The reds were Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Reserva, Rioja 2014 or Chris Ringland Shiraz, Barossa Valley, 2017. The whites were Cave d’Aze Macon Village, Burgundy 2017 or Te Mata Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 2019. There is also a port – Graham’s Late Bottle Vintage Port, 2014.

If you are hungry between meals the forward galley has some snacks such as fruit, popcorn, peanuts, granola bars, crisps and ice cream,  You can also request the crew for a hot meal of egg noodle soup, they stuffed portobello mushrooms from the dinner menu or a focaccia sandwich of pastrami and cheese.

As this was a flight during the day from Europe arrivng first thing in the morning into Hong Kong I tried to sleep about 2 hours after the meal service.   Converting the seat to a bed was easy at the push of a button and the mattress protector was a nice touch.  The duvet cover was probably the best I have ever encountered in Business Class and I slept surpringly well, on and off, for about 6 hours.   The bed was comfortable and I did not feel constratined either at the feet or body.

Breakfast was served at 0430, 2 hours before landing. I had pre-ordered my breakfast before sleeping. The menu helpfully included a card to hang on your coat hook with your selections.  I had chosen the western breakfast, zucchini frittata with streaky bacon, lyonnaise potatoes and tomato relish.  This was very tasty and served with fruit, pastries and a strawberry yogurt.  There is also a wellness breakfast (honey and saffron rice pudding), lighter breakfast (egg and spinach crepe with goats cheese), Chinese breakfast (chicken congee and stir fried egg noodles with vegetables). Along with my breakfast I had an orange juice and smoothie.

Cathay Pacific business class Breakfast

Arrival

Christmas Carols were playing as we landed at Hong Kong International Airport about 35 minutes early at 0630 and we were at the gate ten minutes later.  I was quickly off the plane and as I walked into the terminal there was a sign informing me of transfer gates and also the baggage carousel (8). It was one of the distant gates and it was a fair walk to the train to be taken to immigration.

Before getting to the train there was a temperature check and also PCR test.  In order to get the test you need your Passport/ID and also the green QR code from your health declaration. In return I was given a green lanyard with a green card and barcode on it and also a bag containing a PCR test.  I was then ushered into a cubicle where the PCR test was taken.  As I left the testing area a few minutes later, still wearing my green lanyard, I handed over my PCR test and headed to the train and then immigration which was quiet. The baggage belt said that the first bag arrived at 0652 and my bag arrived at 0716.  Results of my PCR test were quick. I received by email at 0845 and by text at 1041.

Verdict

Great service, food, a comfortable seat for sitting and bed for sleeping with good quality cotton duvet.

Fact box

  • Price: Internet rates for a return Business Class flight from Madrid to Hong Kong in Business start from
  • Best for: Service
  • Flight time: 12 hours and 40 minutes
  • Configuration: 1-2-1
  • Seat width 21 inches
  • Bed length 75 inches
  • Seat recline Fully flat

Julian Gregory

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