CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS (Hong Kong International to London Heathrow Airport), BOEING 777-300ER, BUSINESS CLASS
Official SKYTRAX World's 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 repainted in her original 1940s livery, and is suspended from the ceiling at the Hong Kong Science Museum.
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 recently launched a new Business Class seat on their Boeing 777-300ER, and I have decided to check it out on the Hong Kong to London Heathrow Airport route. The new business class will eventually be introduced onto the Airbus A330, and the Boeing 747-400 aircraft. 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 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.
The Boeing 777-300ER will form the backbone of Cathay Pacific's long-haul fleet, with 23 being delivered by 2011. This highly efficient aircraft will be used to enhance the airline's services on long haul and ultra-long-haul routes, primarily to North America. The Boeing 777-300 is a stretched version of the 777-200. Cathay Pacific became the first airline to acquire this efficient, high-capacity aircraft in May 1998.
Route: HONG KONG (HKG) to LONDON HEATHROW (LHR)
Departure date and time of flight: November 2012, 15:00
Flight number: CX253 (Cathay 253 heavy)
ATC Callsign: Cathay
Flight duration: 13 Hours 30 minutes
Class: BUSINESS CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 777-367ER (41 aircraft of this type in service- although only 11 of those aircraft have a 4 class configuration as this aircraft.)
Aircraft registration: B-KPC
Aircraft Serial Number: 34432 LN:674
First flight: 25th October 2007
Aircraft delivery date: 30th October 2007
Aircraft engine types: 2 x GE GE90-115BL2
Frequent flyer programme: Marco Polo Club
Marco Polo himself took many months and years to explore the world, but if you fly Cathay Pacific Airways then you can do that in a few hours, and join his exclusive club for frequent flyers at Cathay Pacific! It would be enough to make the great man jealous of those gold and diamond cardholders, were he alive today that is.
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
First Class: 6 suites in a 1-1-1 configuration
Business Class: 53 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration,
Premium Economy Class: 34 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration,
Economy Class: 182 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration
Punctuality of the flight/route taken:
We departed on time from runway 25R at Hong Kong, initially climbing to 6,000 feet before entering Guangzhou control at around 16,000 feet. The plane then headed northwards further into mainland China. The flight path took us over Lanzhou, Xi’an, and onto the trans-Siberian route over Mongolia, and Novosibirsk, before heading towards Europe. After a short 10-minute delay in the holding pattern over Lambourne, we turned 180 degrees at around 4,000 feet to establish localiser to Heathrow’s westerly runway 27R. The landing was quite shaky and it seemed to come across that he was coming in quite fast at just over 180 knots into the wind, perhaps because of the windy weather in London. Nevertheless, the Captain managed it perfectly without problems. The aircraft docked at Terminal 3 at exactly 20:35pm local time (just a bit late).
As always, the funny thing about Heathrow is that it takes 7 minutes for the plane to fly from over south London to Heathrow, and to get back home (similar distance), it took me nearly 2 hours by car!
Any baggage issues:
I had already checked-in my baggage at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport for this flight, so I was carefree at Hong Kong! As a Business Class passenger, the check-in baggage allowance is 30kg for one bag. On flights to, from, or via the US, Canada, and some countries in South America, 2 pieces of baggage may be checked-in with dimensions measuring up to 158cm (62 inches) in total and 32kg in weight for each bag.
For all classes, each passenger (except an infant) can bring a free baggage allowance of one cabin bag not exceeding 56x36x23cm (22x14x9 inch) in size. These dimensions include wheels, handles, and side pockets.
Lounge experience at Hong Kong Airport:
Once the plane landed at Hong Kong, I was whisked away by the waiting VIP security to the transfer security checkpoint, and then was ushered to the Cathay Pacific Airways Lounge near gate 65 known as The Pier. Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair have five lounges at Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok Airport for their First and Business Class passengers. They are:
The Wing & The Pier
The Pier, and The Wing are premium lounges in addition to The Cabin and The Arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport. Located at Level 5 near gates 62-66, The Pier covers over 3900m2, and provides another alternative for the First and Business Class passengers to relax and enjoy. Both lounges have separate facilities available for Business and First Class passengers, and both offer a personalised space in tranquil surroundings. These lounges are for the classy and the chic to while away their time away from the hustle & bustle of the airport. One of the unique features at The Pier is the addition of six Day-Break Rooms. Each offers an undisturbed environment to enjoy a little extra privacy.
The Cabin (for departures) & The Arrival (for arrivals)
In addition to The Wing and The Pier, The Cabin is the airlines newest departure lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, conveniently located near Gate 23 on the central concourse.
Contemporary, refreshing, and dynamic, The Cabin is ultra modern in design and introduces some brand new seating and dining concepts. Similar facilities as the other lounges are present at The Cabin. These include the IT Zone, The Deli (offering various Western and Asian hot and cold dishes), The Health Bar (lovely freshly made smoothies, or Chinese herbal teas anyone?), and the The Arrival lounge is the airlines new premium arrivals lounge at the Hong Kong International Airport. Once passengers on Business and First Class arrive into Hong Kong, before they commence their activities in town, the lounge enables them to get refreshed and revitalised at the arrivals lounge. The Arrival lounge is located past the arrivals hall, at the centre passage connecting Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, right below the Airport Express station.
All of the lounges can be accessed by First and Business Class passengers, Gold tier members or above of The Marco Polo Club and Emerald members of Oneworld™ on Cathay Pacific or Dragonair arriving same day in Hong Kong OR transiting same day with more than 4 hours of transit time are welcomed to visit the arrivals lounge.
Managed by Dragonair staff and for those passengers that are connecting to Dragonair flights to/from Hong Kong airport, the G16 Lounge is located right opposite gate 16. The G16 lounge provides world-class facilities such as wireless and high-speed internet, plenty of high quality 5-star meals and drinks, and washrooms to freshen yourself before or after the flight. On my flight back from London Heathrow (separate report) to Hong Kong, I was advised to use the G16 lounge because my connecting flight was with Dragonair to Guangzhou. Passengers flying with Cathay Pacific Airways can of course, also access the G16 lounge.
From The Pier Lounge to gate 24, where the aircraft was parked took around 15 minutes. Hong Kong Airport was quite busy at this time in the afternoon. Today’s flight was 97% full. Business Class, and Premium Economy Class cabins were 100% full (did someone say there is a global economic crisis?!), while First Class, and Economy Class had a few seats available. On the long haul sector, such as this one, an average Business Class seat can cost anything in the range between US$4,500-US$6,600 depending on the destination, so considering the current economic climate, if the Business Class cabin is full then you can take a guess of how much money companies and people still have!
In-flight magazine: Discovery (published by ACP Magazines Asia Ltd)
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Passengers’ in Business Class are offered hot lemon scented towels prior to departure. This is followed by a drinks service, which consists of some of the world’s finest wines, and champagne. In Business Class, the cabin crew offer five kinds of drinks prior to departure:
Both Cloud Nine, and Oriental Breeze are signature drinks provided by Cathay Pacific Airways, and both drinks are equally impressive in taste, look, and feel. The rose water really gives the Oriental Breeze a very exotic touch. It’s the kind of drink that has the power to make a sad man smile. I mean, hey come on, cheer up- you’re flying!
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Around about 35 minutes after departure, drinks were served from the trolley along with the helping of the huge Macadamia nuts, and salted almonds on bone china plates. I opted for another glass of that fine champagne (Billecart-Salmon Brut). It came to my attention that a few flights back, the Hong Kong singer Andy Lau enjoyed it so much that he drank two whole bottles of the stuff on his flight in first class!
There was also the celebrated Cathay Pacific complimentary bar service for Business Class passengers, including 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.
With or without the meal, the wine list included for this flight would make anyone’s mouth water:
Buissonnier Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise 2012
Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011, New Zealand
Chateau Taffard de Blaignan Medoc 2009, French (Bordeaux)
Gemtree Bloodstone McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010, Australia
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, 2007
Ample choice of whiskies (Chivas Regal 12 Year old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Canadian Club, and Jack Daniel’s), Cognac (Hine, ‘rare and delicate’ fine champagne), and various beers, aperitifs & cocktails, and liqueurs.
Comments regarding the first meal (lunch):
For the first meal, a choice of four entrées were provided– all selected from a superb range of Asian and Western dishes.
Meals are served on a low trolley that gives the passenger an inviting eye-level choice of what's on offer and the airline is also introducing new food service items with a more Asian feel in their business class. All food in the business class cabins in Cathay Pacific is served on elegant bone china tableware specially designed and exclusively produced by Narumi of Japan.
The roasted potatoes may have been slightly hard, but the salmon’s exceptionally awesome taste certainly did the trick in disguising that fact. What I really liked about the salmon were the sprinkled spices and pepper, which were spread right the way across the skin of the meat. A wonderful touch to the touch. The fresh taste of the salmon reminded me of a similar dish I had at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong earlier this year.
There were four options for the main course, including:
The main course came with a large bone china bowl containing a generous amount of fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette (provided by Birch & Waite). There was a generous serving of soft and hard bread rolls from the breadbasket. Oh, and then there are those cute salt and pepper pots- they look like tiny mice (not sure if that would be appealing when you pour your salt and pepper on your delicious meal).
*This dish is a signature Chinese dish provided by Cathay Pacific to showcase the best of Hong Kong’s culinary magic. Authentic Chinese dishes on Cathay Pacific, such as this one, are specially created by the culinary experts at Cathay Pacific city, and selected by the passengers.
I opted for ‘prawn curry’. Delicious chunky king prawns that go fine with steamed white rice, and some boiled white cabbage. The good thing about those prawns was that they did not have the skin on them, so therefore all the hard work hard already been done. All you had to do was eat them, and enjoy them bite by bite.
Passengers in Business and First Class are treated like royalty, and it’s almost as if you are dining at a 5-star restaurant, albeit in the sky. Cathay Pacific Airways is one of the first airlines to have rice cookers, toasters and skillets on board, enabling their flight attendants to prepare freshly cooked rice, toast, and eggs to your liking. First Class passengers can also go à la carte, choose their own meals, and dine anytime they wish.
It’s amazing how much we take flying for granted these days. Call me nuts but I love planes, and as an engineer by background, I could not help to notice a few things on the aircraft. One of the things that I always wonder is the serene feeling of flying at night, and the questions such as: ‘Are we really flying at 670mph?!’, and ‘Is it really -59 Celsius degrees just outside that window?!’. Talking about meals on the go, I finished my meal in about 20 minutes, during that time we had travelled around about 223 miles. Now, which restaurant in the world offers you that experience?!
The weirdest thing that I have experienced on flights was a physical fight between two drunken passengers. It happened on an Aeroflot flight in October 1988 from London Heathrow to Moscow on the IL-62 aircraft, at around 37,000 feet. Now, for someone standing at the ground, it would have looked comical to see a bunch of drunken passengers throwing punches at each other in a metal tube whizzing past at around 600mph!
Cheese & Dessert:
The highlight of the dessert has to be the blueberry and raspberry tarts. Each of these dishes were topped with fresh blueberries or raspberries (which also added a healthy touch to the creamy and heavy dish).
The plate of fresh seasonal fruit was equally well dressed. Generous portions of kiwi fruit, mango, melon, and watermelon were provided. The skin had been taken off, so all the hard work had been done for you (passengers are spoilt on Cathay Pacific).
Most other airlines are going with Godiva or some other luxury chocolates. It’s nice to see that Cathay Pacific Airways does offer something different for their Business and First Class passengers, and Praline Belgium chocolates are just delicious.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
A second round of drinks was offered after the meal. This included coffee and tea (green tea and earl grey tea). I ordered a cup of coffee. Should any passenger want wine or champagne (even if it is the morning!), then these drinks are served in exclusively designed glassware.
After that first meal, my stomach was full like a sack of potatoes so I had no space for any in-flight snacks. Nevertheless, I did happen to witness the creation of a fine bowl of soya duck soup! It was very impressive to know that Cathay Pacific’s night time snacks would easily look like a normal meal on a not so plush airline (maybe some unmentionable 3-star airline?!). The soup is served with Cathay Pacific branded chopsticks, and a sauce provided by Lee Kum Kee. In true Cantonese style, Cathay Pacific Airways feed you like there is no tomorrow.
Comments regarding the second meal (dinner):
The dinner service started around two hours prior to landing at Heathrow.
Fresh seasonal fruit
Generous and colourful portions of pineapple, strawberry, melon, watermelon, and kiwi- all well placed on a banana leaf, which gives it that exotic look. Of course, the banana leaf is placed on a bone china plate.
There were three options for the main course, including:
I opted for very colourful ‘spinach and ricotta’ dish, which could easily make it for the ‘meal of your life’ title. Dashing cherry tomatoes dance in with the ricotta that is as chewy as Rome’s best pizza Bianca. There are certain elements of the deliciously contrasts between the creamy tomato and the green peas. There is no rush with a dish like this, and it’s best that you take your time to enjoy every bite.
Cheese & Dessert:
Fruit gateau with passion fruit cream and raspberry coulis.
This dish is such a great finale for the meal service, and indeed the flight too. There is a fusion of kiwi, dragon fruit, mango, strawberry, and a single blueberry neatly decorated on top of the cake. A generous pouring of raspberry coulis provides a perfect ending for such a lovely flight. Every mouthful is a journey, and every mouthful brought us closer to our destination!
All meal trays in all classes come complimentary with a disposable toothpick and dental floss.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
The new Business Class seat has a 15.4” personal television screen (PTV) that can be pulled out of the front bay with a click of a button. If you are seated in the middle aisle seat then during take-off, landing, and taxi, you end up looking at your neighbours PTV. Each PTV comes with Audio and Video on Demand (AVOD), offering a choice of over 100 movies, over 500 TV shows, 888 music CDs, 22 radio channels, and over 70 games – and with 10 languages represented, you’re sure to find something you enjoy. Huge headphones with noise cancellation technology are presented to every passenger in First, Business, and Premier Economy Class cabins. When it comes to entertainment, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
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 PTV screens are slight bigger in the First Class cabin (17”), while the rest of the entertainment facilities are the same as Business and Premier Economy Class cabins.
The music played upon boarding and upon dis-embarking the aircraft changes every month on Cathay Pacific flights. Some of the tunes played include ‘Faith’ by Medwyn Goodall, 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 people 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. God forbid, if anything happens on a flight (could be anything ranging from ill passengers, fights, drunken passengers, hijackings, and even pregnancies!), then it is the cabin crew who have to handle with such situations in a calm and cool manner. It certainly takes a certain personality to do such a job, and with a constant smile on their face too ( a genuine one).
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'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).
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 endeavours to provide a truly 5-star service to its customers.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The new Business Class cabin is fitted with the spanking new fully flat bed, which is just over 2 metres (82 inches) long. All the Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific aircraft were designed by James Park Associates, and Recaro Aircraft Seating. All First Class seats were designed by Zodiac UK, and Economy and Premier Economy Class seats were designed James Park Associates and Zodiac USA.
A bed extension increases its width by 16.5 cm (6.5 inches) to provide additional hip support, while the side storage compartment offers extra knee space for sleeping on one’s side. In addition, if you need more space during your sleep, then the armrest may be moved up for more privacy, or down for more space. The Business Class seat can recline 180 degrees into a comfortable full-length, fully flat bed that ensures one experience a comfortable sleep. It’s this kind of legacy that would have made both Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow proud of the hard work put in by the senior management at Cathay Pacific city. Indeed, it was their profound vision to make every passenger love their flight experience with Cathay Pacific Airways and with a bed such this, the airline lives