CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS (London Heathrow Airport to Hong Kong International), BOEING 747-400, PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS
Official SKYTRAX 5-star airline
Cathay Pacific Airways is an international award-winning scheduled airline registered and based in Hong Kong, offering passenger and cargo services to 162 destinations in 42 countries and territories around the world. At the time of writing Cathay Pacific is one of only six global airlines that are ranked as a 5-star airline by SKYTRAX (the highest ranking for global airline quality).
The company was founded in Hong Kong in 1946 by two visionaries, Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow, who both paid HK$1 apiece to register the airline. They named the airline, Cathay Pacific Airways. Cathay is the ancient name for China, while Pacific was named because far-sighted Farrell believed that one day the airline might fly across the Pacific Ocean.
The airline initially started services with two US Army surplus Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft: Betsy and Niki. The former aircraft, Betsy, is suspended from the ceiling at the Hong Kong Science Museum, and is repainted in her original 1940s livery.
Cathay Pacific Airways remains deeply committed to its home base, and has in recent years made substantial investments to develop Hong Kong as one of the world’s leading international aviation hubs. In addition to its fleet of 136 aircraft, (includes 26 cargo freight aircraft), these investments include catering and ground-handling companies and the corporate headquarters at Hong Kong International Airport. Cathay Pacific continues to invest heavily in its home city and has another 94 new aircraft due for delivery up to 2019 (including the 48 A350-XWB (Extra Wide Body)). The airline is also building its own cargo terminal in Hong Kong that will begin operations in early 2013. Cathay Pacific is also investing heavily in its freighter aircraft, with six Boeing 747-400ERFs, and 10 new generation Boeing 747-8Fs being scheduled for delivery by the beginning of 2013.
Cathay Pacific owns 19.53% of Air China Limited, the national flag carrier and a leading provider of passenger, cargo and other airline-related services in Mainland China. Cathay Pacific is also the major shareholder in Air Hong Kong, an all-cargo carrier offering scheduled services in the Asian region.
In November 2012, Cathay Pacific Airways was named Best Airline in the World and Best Airline First Class in the 2012 Business Traveller China Awards. The annual awards, now in their eighth year, reflect the highest praise bestowed by China’s frequent travellers on various service providers with connections to the Mainland.
The awards were presented in Shanghai in November 2012 as Business Traveller China celebrated its 10th anniversary. The results of the 2012 awards were based on the magazine’s reader poll which ran from July to September this year.
Commenting on the awards, Cathay Pacific Chief Executive John Slosar said: “It is a great honour for our airline to receive these two awards from Business Traveller China. As Hong Kong’s home carrier, we have worked hard to develop a world-class international network from our home city, offering passengers top-notch products and the best service in the air. We are deeply committed to developing Hong Kong as a premier aviation hub and gateway to Mainland China through building convenient connections for travellers.”
Cathay Pacific and its subsidiaries employ some 29,000 people worldwide (more than 22,000 of them in Hong Kong). Cathay Pacific is listed on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited, as are its substantial shareholders Swire Pacific Limited and Air China.
The airline is a proud founding member of the Oneworld alliance, with its subsidiary, Dragonair, is an affiliate member. The airline celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006; and as of October 2009, its major shareholders are Swire Pacific and Air China. It is reciprocally one of the major shareholders of Air China. Cathay Pacific currently holds the title of the world's third largest airline, measured in terms of market capitalisation, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Cathay Pacific Airways has four flights a day from London Heathrow Airport and Hong Kong (and four flights from Hong Kong and London Heathrow Airport), providing ample opportunities for business and leisure passengers to connect to flights throughout the Asia-Pacific, European, and Australasia regions at both ends. Being two major global economic hubs, both Hong Kong and London are key destinations for the large number of professional that are stationed at either destination.
Cathay Pacific Airways introduced a new Premium Economy Class product on the 1st of April 2012. I decided to check out the airline’s relatively brand new Premium Economy Class seat from London Heathrow to Hong Kong on the Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Increasingly airline companies around the world are offering a Premium Economy Class product which is somewhere in between an Economy Class seat and a Business Class seat. This new Premium Economy Class will be progressively introduced on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 747-400, selected Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A340-300 aircraft. Aircraft deployment varies and availability is subject to operational requirements. The Premium Economy Class cabin has initially been featured on some of the following selected flights to/from:
Sydney, Australia (CX101/100)
Toronto, Canada (CX826/825/828/829)
Vancouver, Canada (CX888/889)
New York City, United States (CX830/831/840/841/888/889)
London, United Kingdom (CX252/255)
More routes will eventually be added by the airline as the fleets are fitted with this new configuration.
Route: LONDON HEATHROW (LHR) to HONG KONG (HKG)
Departure date and time of flight: November 2012, 11:30
Flight number: CX252 (Cathay 252 heavy)
ATC Callsign: Cathay
Flight duration: 10 Hours 55 minutes
Class: PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 747-467 (17 aircraft in service, though currently only 4 aircraft fitted with the Premium Economy Class cabin)
Aircraft registration: B-HUB
Aircraft serial number: 25873 LN:937
Test Registration: N60665
Engines: 4 x RR RB211-524G/H-T
Delivery Date: 9th October 1992 (as VR-HUB, and then B-HUB on 23rd October 1997*)
*Before 1997, Hong Kong registered aircraft were labelled VR, and after 1997 all Hong Kong aircraft registrations complied with Chinese aircraft registrations, which start with B. So for example, VR-HUB became B-HUB after 1997 and so on.
First flight: 10/09/1992
Frequent flyer programme: Marco Polo Club
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
First Class: 9 suites in a 1-1-1 configuration
Business Class (upper deck): 22 seats in a 1-1 configuration
Business Class (main deck): 24 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration,
Premium Economy Class: 26 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration,
Economy Class: 278 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration
Punctuality of the flight/route taken:
The flight departed around 30 minutes late because of the heavy traffic at Heathrow Airport, however because of the route we took we landed around 15 minutes early than expected at 6.45am local time in Hong Kong (there were no delays or hold-ups around Hong Kong control).
Having push backed from our gate at Terminal 3, we made our way towards the holding point of runway 27R on the outer taxiway (meanwhile runway 27L was being used for landings). We had a few aircraft lined up ahead of us as it was a typical busy morning at Heathrow. These consisted of Thai Airways A340-600 going to BKK, Virgin A330 going to JFK, United B777 off to Newark, Air Canada 767 off to Toronto, Air India B777 off to Delhi, and an American B777 off to Chicago. Therefore, therefore we had a little wait at the holding point of the runway. When I was a kid I used to do aircraft spotting right across the fence at the threshold of runway 27R, so it was a nice feeling to be inside an aircraft and see the view from a different angle- it kind of puts things into perspective.
After take-off we made a straight heading towards Daventry foxtrot at around 6,000 feet before heading towards Clacton control (around 25,000 feet), before making our way across to mainland Europe and Russia (went right over Minsk) onto the famed Trans-Siberian route. Entering China over the Kashgar region (coming in from Novosibirsk), then Urumqi, then Qinghai, and finally making a direct approach into Guangxi, Guangdong, and final decent into Hong Kong from over Macau. Landing was made on runway 25L at exactly 06:45am local time. We were welcomed with a wet and cold Hong Kong.
Like any other major airline, Cathay Pacific does not keep its aircraft on the ground for long. B-HUB was being readied for the return flight to London Heathrow as CX257 in around 90 minutes time. This particular aircraft, a Boeing 747-400, has been flying in service with Cathay Pacific for over 20 years, and has probably another 5 or 6 years left before she is sold, or scrapped off.
Any baggage issues:
Premium Economy Class passengers are allowed to have a little bit more weight allowance than on Economy Class. Before boarding, passengers are provided with dedicated check-in counters and priority boarding at the gate. The amount of baggage allowance in Premium Economy Class is increased from 20kg to 25kg (weight system) or two pieces of baggage from 23 kg to 25kg each (piece system).
Comments on the check-in staff and any issues:
Cathay Pacific Airways use Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport. I checked-in about 2 hours prior to my flight. On the way to the check-in desks, I happened to bump into the Captain, and the Cabin Crew for the flight. The Captain briefly explained to me about the route that we were expecting to take today. The atmosphere was all positive and fired up for the flight. Everyone was in an upbeat mood. Taking a long haul flight is always an exciting time no matter how many times you have flown. Every pilot will tell you that no flight is ever the same, even if they fly the same route day in day out.
The check-in staff were very professional and polite. There were no issues, and the whole process from check-in to the airline lounge took around 15 minutes.
Lounge experience at London Heathrow Airport:
The Cathay Pacific Airways lounge for First and Business Class passengers is located at area B after security at Terminal 3. The lounge is shared with Finnair. Oneworld Alliance members and Marco Polo Club members (silver, gold, and, diamond members only). The spacious lounge provides a space for relaxing before the flight in tranquil surroundings. Plenty of good and healthy buffet style food, along with various drinks was available. I made full use of the complimentary Wi-Fi to check my e-mails prior to leaving for China. On top of this there are plenty of international and local newspapers and magazines to while away your time with.
Washroom and shower facilities are also tip top, with amenities provided by Murad (same as the in-flight amenities for Business and First Class passengers).
In-flight Magazine: Discovery (published by ACP Magazines Asia Ltd)
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Passengers in Premium Economy Class are welcomed with a glass of champagne (Billecart-salmon Brut champagne), and a choice of either apple juice, orange juice or water. A hot towel is also provided to freshen your face, and those tired hands. A complimentary bottle of water is presented for the flight, as well as the in-flight amenity kit (this part is explained later in the article).
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Around about 35 minutes after departure, drinks were served from the trolley along with the helping of a packet of salted almonds (provided by Blue Diamond- Smokehouse company). I opted for another glass of fresh orange juice. During a long haul flight, it is good to water down as many non-alcoholic drinks as possible as to stop the effects of dehydration hitting you.
There was also a complimentary bar service for Premium Economy Class passengers that included various alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks.
Ground coffee, and decaffeinated coffee or tea (English earl grey, Ceylon, and Chinese green tea) were also available. On top of this, there were a selection of herbal teas including green tea with jasmine, peppermint, and camomile with honey.
The wine list for Premium Economy Class passengers included:
Mosel Riesling Feinherb, 2011 (Germany)
Obikwa Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 (South Africa)- this wine was not available as for some reason they did not load it onto the aircraft.
Dourthe Beau- Mayne Bordeaux, 2010 (French)
Esprit De Serame Canernet Sauvignon, 2009 (French)
Ample choice of whiskies (Chivas Regal 12 Year old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label), Cognac (Hine, ‘rare and delicate’ fine champagne), and various beers, aperitifs & cocktails, and liqueurs.
Comments regarding the first meal:
A larger meal table makes working and dining more of a pleasure, and a cocktail table provides more room during the meal service.
Apple and celery salad
A fusion of green apple cubes mixed with celery and some herbs (thyme I believe). The sweetness of the apples and the slight bland and crunchiness of the celery provided a lovely combination of flavours.
I opted for the fish. This dish was not just good; it was out of this world. It came across as an international dish with a Chinese twist. The codfish was the international part (nice to have on a flight), while the rice and the vegetables that went with the fish was the Chinese twist (fish with rice as opposed to fish & chips….well, since when did you have chips being served at a pressurised altitude!). Another inspiration from the world-class chefs at Cathay Pacific City in Hong Kong.
You can’t go wrong when you are presented with the finest ice-cream that mankind can make. Beechdean is made from fresh thick milk that derives from the healthiest cows around in this world. These cows ought to be very proud themselves that people eat ice-cream made from their milk high up in the air somewhere over exotic locations that only they can dream of flying themselves (that’s IF cows can have wings…unless they do end up as unfortunate cargo, alas maybe on Cathay Pacific Freighter services). The only thing is that cows, unlike humans, of course cannot speak except moo a bit here and there. Nevertheless, the ice-cream was top notch.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
Throughout the flight, Premium Economy Class passengers could help themselves to complimentary hot pot noodles, various drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and a selection of various sandwiches (cute & small sandwiches), crisps (walker’s), biscuits, fruit (apples), and chocolates (provided by Praline or Green & Black’s). Premium Economy Class passengers are pampered and looked after quite well during long haul flights!
Comments regarding the second meal (breakfast):
The second meal (breakfast) was served around two hours prior to landing at Hong Kong. Hot towels were handed out to each Premium Economy Class passengers prior to the meal service, and a selection of drinks service offered.
I opted for the English breakfast, which tasted much better than I had anticipated when I glanced upon it. If you look at the photo of the dish, it looks like a mashed curry with a sausage placed over it. Indeed, the ‘mashed curry’ is the creamed spinach along with that ridiculously delicious scrambled egg with the herb potato topping. Each spoonful was enough to want more, and make your mouth water.
The breakfast meal was accompanied by tea, or coffee. Jam was provided by Wilkin & Sons, and the butter by Kerrymaid.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
There is extra storage space for all those personal items you’d like to keep close at hand, and an environmentally friendly amenity kit comes with toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and an eye-shades – which is a perfect complement when it’s time to sleep.
Huge headphones with noise cancellation technology were offered in the Premium Economy Class cabin. When it comes to entertainment, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
For entertainment in Premium Economy Class, you can count on hundreds of selections on your StudioCX in-flight entertainment system. Plus, you can use the multi-port connector to stream audio and video from your personal devices to your new 10.6-inch widescreen Personal TV with a noise-cancelling headset to enhance your enjoyment.
For Economy Class: Cathay Pacific's award-winning StudioCX entertainment system with Audio and Video on Demand looks especially good on the touch-screen monitor of the 9-inch Personal TV. Passengers can connect their iPod, iPhone or iPad* to stream their own music and movies to the screen. There’s a USB port to charge your mobile devices, and a 110V AC power supply for your laptop computer and other electronic devices.
Connections enabling passengers to listen to, or watch on their individual screens, content on their personal iPods or USB devices are available on this aircraft (the Boeing 777-300ER). The music played upon boarding and upon dis-embarking the aircraft changes every month on Cathay Pacific flights. Some of the tunes played include ‘Prelude to Dawn’ by Howard Green, and ‘Feel’, by Robbie Williams.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
The cabin crew appear to have been trained very well, and seem to know how to handle all kinds of situations. The trainers must have had everything thrown at them, ranging from rowdy passengers to those having a nervous breakdown. These guys are amazing. They really do pamper you. To the outsider it may seem that being cabin crew is an easy job, however in fact it’s a very challenging job, and there is more to the job then just handing out the meals. With many months of hard work and training under their belt, cabin crew members are chosen very carefully by the airline. Interestingly on our flight we had a passenger who was very worried and got scared mid-flight. The cabin crew did a fantastic job in calming the situation down.
Like they say in the corporate world, you may have the best brand in the world, but that brand is worth nothing if it not for the people that make great things happen for that brand. Cathay Pacific Airways stand by their words, and truly give a 5-star service. If you are a frustrated passenger (for whatever reason), then let me reassure you that the cabin crew are always trying to go through great trouble to make your flight as comfortable as possible. I am saying this from personal experience. As a frustrated passenger (we have all been in that situation at some point or another in our lives), it can be easy for some of us to lose their cool when things are not going as we expect them to be. It’s because of the professionalism and integrity of the cabin crew that the airline is classed as a truly 5-star airline that endeavors to provide a truly 5-star service to its customers.
Cathay Pacific's current uniforms are designed by renowned Hong Kong designer, Eddie Lau. Ladies wear a red skirt with a white blouse that has the ‘brushwing’ logo in gold and red colours. The ladies also have a bright red blouse jacket which they can wear- matching with the red skirt. The gentlemen wear black starched trousers with a white shirt. Along with that the men wear a red tie with black stripes (junior cabin crew), or a gold tie with black stripes (senior cabin crew).
On this fight, the majority of the crew (including all the pilots) were London based, and were British. The same applies for flights that originate from Canada, USA, and Australia where locally based staff are recruited by the airline to give that personal touch when it comes to customer service.
I would like to give full thanks to the senior cabin crew in charge of the economy and premier economy class cabins. I could not imagine handling the situation with the sheer calmness, and composure with she managed to deal with on this particular flight. It goes without saying that not everyone can do this highly charged and pressurised job. The senior purser, and her fellow crew, deserve a huge golden medal. I am not saying this because I want to impress anyone, but I am writing this because this is the truth, and as a witness to a particular situation on this flight (which I am not going to mention in public).
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
When I entered the new Premium Economy Class cabin, it smelt the same as the interior of a brand new car out of the factory. The Premium Economy Class experience features a quieter, more spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class with between 26 and 34 seats per aircraft (26 seats on the Boeing 747-400). The seat pitch is 38 inches – six inches more than Economy Class – and the seat itself is wider (19.8”) and has a bigger recline (8”).
Passengers in Premium Economy Class receive an environmentally friendly amenity kit with dental kit, socks, eye-shades, and earplugs for use during their journey. The amenity kit bag itself is a little creation that contains some beautiful art work designed by home-grown Hong Kong brand G.O.D. (Goods of Desire). The seat itself looks and feels like the old style Business Class seats that one would have experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. I found the experience to be much more comfortable than business class. Each Premium Economy Class seat comes with a soft pillow stuffed with dove feathers, and a nice cosy blanket. There is plenty of space to place your shoes too.
The Premium Economy Class seat is meant to be somewhere in between an Economy Class seat and a Business Class seat. As more and more global airline companies are transiting to a flat-bed style Business Class seat, so there is a growing demand for seats that are reasonably priced and offer a comfortable experience where you can stretch your legs yet there is no need to pay thousands of pounds for the experience. Some airlines in the process are also eliminating their First Class cabins altogether.
By end of this year, Cathay Pacific will have 48 aircraft installed with the new product comprised of 23 Boeing 777-300ERs, 17 A330-300s and eight Boeing 747-400s. By the end of 2013, 87 aircraft in the airline’s long-haul fleet will feature Premium Economy Class. The good news for those collecting air miles is that Asia Miles accrual for premium economy class will be at 110%.
I found the journey to be very comfortable, and did not experience the back pain and aching muscles that you normally get after flying long haul in Economy Class.
Cathay Pacific Airways logo and livery:
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Cathay Pacific Airways used to support a green and white striped livery. This old livery was replaced with the current "brushwing" livery In 1994 the airline announced that it would establish its new corporate identity, with a 23 million Hong Kong dollar (RM 7.3 million) program to update its image. - Cathay Pacific relaunched its corporate image in the early 1990s. Cathay Pacific commented that after building a reputation over 50 years for technical excellence and high-quality service, Cathay Pacific had no intention of changing its core values. Therefore, the new corporate identity was merely intended to communicate these values more effectively to all current and future customers.
Cathay Pacific worked with Landor Associates, the world’s largest corporate identity management firm, to help create the new identity. The brushwing livery expresses the carrier’s unique character as an Asian with an international outlook. The sophistication of the logo conveys Cathay Pacific’s technical expertise and uncompromising attention to safety and reliability. The brushwing also embodies a sense of energetic flight, and being a “handmade” symbol it acknowledges the company's devotion to high standards of caring, personal service.
For more information check out www.cathaypacific.com/mypremiumeconomy
This website contains a wealth of content based on personal travel experiences of different types of travellers, from those flying on a business trip to those flying for leisure, which may be good references to those who haven’t tried this new cabin before.
About Airline PR
This is a special section on Airline Branding, and Airline Public Relations written by me on all the flights I have been fortunate enough to have been on. These are not records taken from somewhere else, but are actual flights I have been on. Most of the flight trips are officially sponsored by the airline companies in order to promote their certain routes, and aircraft. Airline promotion and PR related work in the aviation industry is one of my expertise.
Watch exclusive videos below taken in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-300ER in-flight over Chinese Airspace.
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B777-300ER Cockpit Video 1
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