Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong

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After a few days in New York last month, I took a 16 hour flight in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong. It was the second best flight of my life (behind only Emirate First Class); I can’t recommend Cathay Pacific First Class highly enough.

That said, the ground services in New York were abysmal. (To skip them and get to the flight review, click here.) When I showed up at the Cathay Pacific check in area, I only saw Economy Class counters and this line out the door:

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An agent directed me to the First Class check in area that British Airways operates for Cathay Pacific.

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Check in and security were smooth, and I made my way to the British Airways First Class lounge.

The British Airways First Class Lounge is one of the worst First Class lounges I’ve been in.

It’s a lot better than your basic airport lounge, but it didn’t have the things First Class lounges around the world have:

  • Food to order, awesome buffets, or both
  • Waiters
  • Fantastic seating areas
  • Showers
  • Nap rooms
  • Quiet and seclusion (exclusivity)

Instead, it was a room a room with dozens of people in tight quarters who had access to a lackluster breakfast buffet and a small self-service bar.

The best parts of the morning buffet were the berries and the instant noodles.

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There was a good alcohol selection, but it was 7 AM, so I didn’t test it out.

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Everyone else in the lounge working hard, so I grabbed some fruit and cereal and used the speedy wifi to download a few shows for the flight.

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When it was almost time to board, I headed to the gate and saw the 777 waiting for me.

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Unfortunately boarding continued the theme of atrocious ground service. No queuing was evident as the mob waited. The ground staff was not able to board First Class first, and I was stuck behind 15 people on the way down the jet bridge.

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Finally, I got to the aircraft door though, and that’s where the story changes. If the ground services were worthy of Ryanair, the flight itself was worthy of the hype accorded to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the world’s best commercial flying experiences.

Cathay Pacific 841
New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arrive: 2:20 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014
Duration: 16hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The next 16 hours were spent relaxing, sleeping, eating, and being doted upon by an incredible crew.

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How was the seat, bed, food, entertainment, and service? (with tons of pictures)

At 8:33 AM, I walked onto the 777 and was greeted by a flight attendant who walked me to my seat. Another flight attendant walked over to introduce herself, and offered me a drink.

I went with a glass of champagne, which was poured at my seat.

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And what a seat it was. Of all the First Classes I’ve flown, my favorite two seats are Cathay Pacific’s and Malaysia Airlines’. What they have in common is that they are exceptionally wide and feel like sitting on a throne.

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I took up about half the seat’s width. Too bad you can’t pay half price to split the seat with a buddy!

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In front of the seat is a  plenty-big ottoman. The ottoman has a seat belt on it if a companion wants to join you for a meal.

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The ottoman is quite far away from the seat when it is in the landing position, but it’s fine when you’re in a reclined position.

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Next to the ottoman cutout is the television, which is built into the seat in front of you. The television can be pulled out and you can adjust the angle and location to suit your taste.

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Below the television is a small storage area.

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Next to the television is a larger storage area for your carry ons. This space includes hangers for your jacket.

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To the side of your seat is a flat surface for drinks or anything else you want close at hand.

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A remote control controlled the television system, and noise cancelling headphones were provided.

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Here are some pictures of the suite from above and from the side to give some perspective. It’s a very spacious and comfortable seating area.

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The only thing you could possibly say is missing from the seat is a full privacy door that some carriers like Emirates have in First Class. During the flight, I never once wished there was a door. Just the fact that the 777 has only six First Class seats–and only four were full–made the area seem quiet and private enough for me.

Before takeoff, an amenity kit was distributed that contained the usual suspects in a nice reusable case.

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With the amenity kit, I was given a sleeper suit that I changed into when I was ready to go to bed.

A menu was distributed too. The flight would consist of brunch right after the 9:15 AM take off and lunch before arrival. In between, snacks could be ordered.

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Shortly after takeoff, brunch was served. It began with an amuse bouche. I don’t remember what the flight attendant said it was, but I believe it was lobster.

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The table was elegantly set and included a hand-written note from the flight attendants.

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None of the main courses for brunch looked appealing, so I had requested a few of the starters, fruit and yogurt, and all of the possible sides to the egg dish without the eggs themselves.

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This turned out to be an excellent choice. All of the sides to the eggs made an awesome (and fatty!) breakfast that put me into a food coma to quickly fall asleep after brunch.

One of my favorite things about flying First Class is that you don’t have to stick to a menu option and can choose your own adventure–like asking for all the possible sides–quite easily.

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Brunch took 57 minutes from when I ordered to when my last plate was cleared. My plates were cleared quickly and my courses came rapid fire because I was eating quickly. Slower eaters were not rushed. Flight attendants kept a close eye on everyone’s progress and let us go at our own pace.

After brunch, I asked the flight attendant to please make my bed as I went to the bathroom to put on the pajamas I’d been given before take off.

I found the pajamas to be very comfortable.

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The bathroom itself was nothing special. It did have a nicer sink and toiletries than in economy, but it wasn’t particularly large.

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When I got back to my seat, it was in bed mode.

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The bed is extremely wide and long. It’s one of the largest and most comfortable I’ve ever flown–again up there with Malaysia Airlines.

The bed has a mattress pad over the fully flat seat, a warm comforter, and a large pillow. Here’s a picture of me just before I fell asleep.

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I had stayed up the night before in hopes of getting some work done and then getting a lot of sleep on my daytime flight. It worked because I fell asleep for about seven-and-a-half hours, waking up at 6:30 PM with about seven hours left in flight.

I can’t say enough good things about the bed and the quality of sleep I got on this flight.

Upon waking, I decided to have the lunch service in bed. The table pulls out of the side of the seat and is quite large.

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Lunch started with caviar–it’s growing on me–and a bread basket.

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I ordered the tenderloin. It deserves the highest compliment I can give airplane food, which is that I would have been satisfied eating it at a restaurant on the ground.

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The green beans and polenta roulade were very nice additions.

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Next came the star of the catering: dessert. I opted for the berries with cream, which were very fresh.

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I also sampled everything on the cheese plate, which was served with crackers and grapes.

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After lunch, I settled back and watched a few movies and TV shows. The selection was extensive, and was way more than enough to keep anyone occupied for 16 hours.

During my waking hours, flight attendants rarely passed my seat, but if I hit the call button, one appeared in moments.

I eventually decided to test out the snack offerings. I ordered the ice cream and hot pot chicken with rice. Both were very satisfying, and I was glad to test out one of the Chinese offerings on the flight.

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We touched down after 15-and-a-half hours of flight, and I caught a ferry from the Sky Pier to Macau without even passing Hong Kong immigration.

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Advice

  • First Class on a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER is two rows of 1-1-1 seating. The middle and right window seats open to the right aisle. The left window seat opens to the left aisle. That means the left window seats have the least foot traffic.
  • Don’t expect to see a lot of the Cathay Pacific flight attendants unless you hit the call button. After the first time you hit it, and they so enthusiastically reply to your request, you’ll feel no guilt hitting the call button again for anything.
  • Similarly, order whatever you want off the menu even if it’s more than one dish or a modification of a dish. They’ll be happy to bring you exactly what you want.
  • Cathay Pacific’s JFK lounge (really BA’s lounge) is weak. If lounges matter to you, try to depart Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class.
  • Cathay Pacific has a ton of departures daily from Newark and JFK. You land about four hours later on the clock than you took off after the 12 hour time difference. Consider which flight time jives with your normal sleep schedule to allow you to balance sleep and enjoyment of the flight with showing up rested.

Overall

Ground Services: Terrible check in for economy. Good, but hidden, check in for First. Below average lounge. Poorly organized boarding.

Seat: Very spacious and comfortable. Tied for my favorite seat on an airplane.

Bed: Long, wide, and comfortable. My favorite bed on an airplane. I easily got seven-and-a-half hours of sleep.

Entertainment: Great mix of new releases and classic movies. Large selection of TV shows with multiple episodes of each.

Food: I thought the food was very good for seven miles up in the air. There was certainly plenty of it, and a great mix of Western and Eastern options.

Service: Service shined. Flight attendants offered personalized greetings, hand-written notes, and cleared plates during meals at a speed that suited your eating speed. Flight attendants responded promptly and cheerfully to the call button.

Overall: This was my second most enjoyable flight ever. I look forward to flying Cathay Pacific First Class again. At only 67,500 American Airlines miles each way between the US and Asia, Cathay Pacific First Class is a steal!

Full Trip Report

  • Introduction and Mistakes
  • Honolulu to Newark in a flat bed in United First
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Cathay Pacific First Class, New York to Hong Kong
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Jetstar from Singapore to Cambodia (Low Cost Carrier Tips in Asia and Europe)
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • How to Do Angkor Wat
  • The Private Room (Singapore Airlines Lounge) in Singapore
  • Singapore First Class, Singapore to London
  • The May Fair Hotel London
  • Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
  • Lufthansa First Class, Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. is it Ferragamo branded?
    i took the same flight a year and a half ago and mine was not… some lesser known italian brand… wasn’t big on the scent.

    • Usually he travels in premium cabins wearing flip-flops and baggie shorts. This is actually a significant step up for him. Classy as always.

  2. Nice report!
    I think F lounge isn’t good because BA has no incentive to provide a good F lounge. BA F pax use CCR so it’s more of OW Emerald lounge.
    Many prefer to skip the F lounge and settle in for J lounge which is IMHO better than F lounge. Probably this is the only airport lounge that J lounge is better than F lounge.

  3. What seats do you recommend to a couple traveling togeter? Middle and R window? Middle and L window? Window front-back?

    • 1A and 2A. The middle and right window are far enough apart that talking to each other would be quite difficult. Of course you can dine together at the same seat with one person on the ottoman.

      • 2a is often reserved for whatever reason – even calls to HK reservations could get that changed for us. SO and I have 3 CX F r/t flights this year and couldn’t get 1a/2a on any flight. Seats are so private that unless you really need a window, you’ll be more than happy wherever you sit – you really can’t have a conversation without getting up and visiting. I’d recommend row 2 as you’re farther away from the galley – and since F is only 6 seats, galley noise can be bothersome at times. I’m 6-4 but couldn’t get more than a few hours sleep as I don’t sleep well on my back. SO knocked out 9 hours of sleep…

  4. I flew Cathay Pacific from JFK on the evening flight in First and there was a great dinner buffet (where you had to show your First Class ticket) to get into. The lounges are confusing and the entrance to the buffet was in a private section of possibly the regular lounge as I do remember on my next flight finding the separate (smaller) first lounge. Also, if you are flying BA First they offer a free massage but not for CX First.

  5. Could you expand a bit upon the ferry to Macau part? Did you have to book that before you flew? And it was right from the airport? So then you went through immigration in Macau?

    • From HKG before passing you can follow the signs straight to the macau ferrys. You buy your ticket and they take you luggage slips and collect your bags and load them on the ferry. You board and collect your bags in Macau and clear immigration there. You never actually enter hong kong. An alternative is to clear immigration at hong kong, take the the airport express which drops you right by the main ferry station and take the ferry there. Those ferrys run more frequently than the airport ferry, but don’t know if that would save any time after immigration and the train. Guess it would depend on your schedule.

  6. Do you find Cathay F award space to open up more as time goes on? I’m looking for two of us from either JFK or ORD to HKG next October, and right now there is zero availability showing. However, I know these flights just got loaded into the system, so I’m wondering if in your experience, that another month or so might loosen things up.
    Finally, I have read that space can open up often within two weeks of the departure date, but unfortunately, we have to plan a little farther out than that!
    Thanks for any thoughts!

  7. Thanks for this report, Scott. I always enjoy comparing other guests’ experiences on a flight I’ve taken.
    So I was wondering during my CX flight in F, do they have each meal selection available for each F passenger in case he/she orders it?
    I can’t imagine Cathay having to tell one of their F passengers one of the menu options isn’t available just because it was popular among the F passengers that requested it first. Then again, I find it even more surprising they would have ~5 meals standing by for each F passenger.

    • I don’t know the answer. If you really want to be assured your choice, though, be proactive, and ask for the menu right away.

  8. I flew Cathay Pacific first from LAX to HKG then and I agree its a GREAT product. I booked with AA miles and because I have a Citi (American) card, I received a 10% refund of the already low price of 67,500 miles.

    I booked within 24 hours of departure and First Class was wide open.

    Thank you Mile Value for the tips on how to book this flight

  9. […] If you want to route your American Airlines award through Hong Kong on the way to the Indian Subcontinent, you can do so flying Cathay Pacific. You’ll need to book either 11 months out, or if you miss that time window (or want to fly as a party of two in First Class) than within a week of departure. The American Airlines flights to Hong Kong have virtually no award space on them on that moment, but I would rather fly Cathay Pacific’s premium cabins than American Airlines’ anyways as they are much superior products–read my trip report when I flew Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong. […]

  10. […] 3. Recently, American added the exception that you can transit Hong Kong (on Cathay Pacific Airlines only) between North American and the Indian Subcontinent, which is great news for those who live on the West Coast since routing via Hong Kong is faster than routing via Europe or the Middle East. Not to mention it’s another routing option for everyone, i.e. more award space, and Cathay Pacific’s premium products are superb.  […]

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