Tried & Tested

Flight review: Cathay Pacific B777-300 regional business class

25 Jun 2018 by Craig Bright

Background

This is a review of Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seat product on board its Boeing 777-300 aircraft from Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Hong Kong International Airport.

Cathay Pacific makes this route multiple times a day across seven different flights, with a total of 43 weekly flights. Numerous aircraft in the airline’s fleet get deployed on this route – B777-300, A350-900, A330-300 etc. – with seat products varying depending on the aircraft flown.

Their appearance also is somewhat sporadic, with all of the flights being operated by at least two different aircraft throughout the course of the week. As such, this leaves plenty of room for savvy travellers to select a flight that works for them based on the seat product they’ll be getting and not just the timing of the flight.

And while rival carrier Hong Kong Airlines launched its own flights to Manila earlier this month, these are flown by an all-economy  Airbus A320 aircraft.

The flight is operated by Cathay Pacific, but also bears the codes of its regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon, and codeshare partner, Air Canada.

Check-in

I’d managed to arrive uncharacteristically early at NAIA, just over two hours ahead of my scheduled flight time. Considering on my past visits to Manila I’ve spent the better part of an hour sitting in traffic simply trying to get to the terminal from the nearby Marriott hotel – practically next door – this was a pleasant surprise.

It seemed a few other prescient frequent travellers had made similar judgements themselves. Despite the early arrival, the business class queue was surprisingly long (much more so than the regular check-in queue, so I count this as something of an anomaly), though truth be told I wasn’t in line for much more than seven minutes. The staff were helpful and friendly, and by 1030 – two hours ahead of my 1235 departure – I was checked-in and free to wander the terminal. That being said, there wasn’t a great deal to explore, so after a short trip to the book shop I went through security – also a breeze at this time of morning, though it’s hard to say how the experience would have been had more people been awaiting screening.

The lounge

Straight after getting through the security checks you’re greeted with the lounges, poised overhead on the floor above. My flight was at Gate 113, practically adjacent to the Cathay Pacific lounge.

I’ve already published a separate review of this lounge online, which can be read here.

Lounge review: Cathay Pacific Lounge, Manila Ninoy Aquino

Boarding

The final boarding call went out at 1155 – a surprise as I hadn’t heard an initial announcement in the lounge, and boarding wasn’t scheduled to begin until 1155, let alone be at the final call. Consequently, the lines were plenty long by the time I arrived (presumably others had seen or heard about the earlier boarding time), though it wasn’t long before we were boarding.

Cathay Pacific B777-300 business class (regional)

The seat

Cathay Pacific flies its Boeing 777-300 on this route, an aircraft for which Hong Kong’s flag carrier has half a dozen different configurations. It’s important to note that this was one of its 773Z/773P-configured aircraft, which unfortunately have neither a first class cabin nor the airline’s fully flat herringbone business class seats.

These configurations instead have 42 of Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seats – the same that can be found on Cathay Dragon flights. These, sad to say, are not fully flat (nor are they lie-flat), and are laid out in a 2-3-2 pattern meaning direct aisle access is unavailable to window-seat passengers as well as those in the middle seats in the centre rows.

Given that this is a flight of just about 2.5 hours long, the lack of a fully or lie-flat seat isn’t especially grievous, though I had opted to minimise my disruptions throughout the flight by booking a window seat – 16K. While the cabin was about 70 per cent full, as it turns out the seat adjacent to mine was empty anyway.

For a regional product, these seats are not bad, though recent developments such as rival Singapore Airlines’ new fully flat regional business class seat do make this feel lacklustre by comparison.

Pitch is good, even for me who stands at 1.95 metres tall, and the width was sufficient that I didn’t feel hemmed in. The headrest on these seats is comfortable and adjusts nicely to provide neck support, and the buttons for the seat recline and entertainment system are intuitive to use.

There are, however, some small signs that this seat product is beginning to show its age, such as the phone holder next to the screen and USB socket. This is a nice touch, though it feels as though it hasn’t been designed for more recent generations of smartphones – I use a Samsung Galaxy S6, by no means a cutting-edge phone, and this was too big to fit in the holder.

You can also charge your device using the main power outlet, located below the armrest. Provided your phone is able to fit into the seat-back slot, as a window-seat passenger this creates an awkward cable-based barrier between you and the. In the end, I opted to just keep my phone on the armrest beside me.

In-seat storage is slim on these seats, but it is present. The armrests conceal a central storage space (this is where your headphones and in-flight magazine are held).

Speaking of headphones, these are comfortable and work quite effectively, though the IFE system does make adjusting the volume a bit unintuitive when trying to do so through the touchscreen.

Fortunately you do also have a controller hidden in the armrest to adjust the TV settings, though this too does show its age somewhat particularly compared to the controls on its other business class seats that have mini screens of their own.

Though if you’re looking to stow items any larger than a handheld you’re likely better off putting them under the seat in front of you or in the storage bins.

Which seat to choose?

As these seats recline by sliding the base forward rather than the back of the seat backwards, there’s no issue of intruding upon another passenger’s legroom (or having one’s own intruded upon). As such, your best bet likely would be one of the aisle seats on row 15 or 16, keeping you equidistant from the galleys and lavatories without having to be right by one.

If you’re travelling alone, it may be worth grabbing an aisle seat from the central three adjacent to two taken seats, as the person in the middle is likely to favour disrupting their travel partner to get to the aisle rather than you.

The flight

With my arrival at the airport and boarding of the plane both being surprisingly early, it was odd that take-off ended up being delayed. Boarding was quick so I was in my seat by 1210. Hot towels, Champagne, juice and water were handed out soon after, though we did end up remaining on the tarmac for close to an hour, before eventually taking off at 1303 about 30 minutes later than scheduled.

Cathay Pacific B777-300 business class (regional)

This being a relatively short flight, it wasn’t long until the menus came round (right after the seatbelt signs went off) and our meals were served.

I went for the seafood curry (bold flavours being better at high altitudes, and all), and wasn’t disappointed. There are also nice, subtle touches with the cutlery as well, such as the inclusion of wooden chopsticks.

Cathay Pacific serves a good selection of wines, Champagne and other alcoholic beverages on board as well.

Arrival

After lunch and doing a bit of work it wasn’t long before we were making our descent. The announcement went out at 1400 that we would be landing in about 40 minutes’ time – ahead of schedule, despite the late departure – and we landed at 1445. Ten minutes later, I was off the plane and heading through security and customs.

Verdict

While Cathay Pacific may not offer a lie-flat or fully flat seat on this flight, Hong Kong’s flag carrier still provides a good flying experience compared with the competition on this route, with strong service and an overall comfortable regional seat product.

Fact file

  • Price Fares for a return flight in mid-August start at US$642 (including taxes and surcharges)
  • Configuration 2-3-2
  • Seat width 21 inches
  • Seat pitch 47 inches
  • Seat recline 36 degrees
  • Departure 1235
  • Flight duration 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Contact cathaypacific.com
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