I managed to find two first class seats on a Cathay Pacific flight out of Los Angeles two weeks before departure. That’s not too hard — award space is not uncommon as long as you are flexible on your gateway airport — but usually I would have to book even closer to departure. Adding on flights from Seattle and to Singapore was easy, and the entire one-way journey cost 70,000 Alaska miles and $62.50 per person ($50 in taxes and a $12.50 partner award fee). We planned to spend a few days in Singapore before continuing on a separate flight to Bali.
On arrival at LAX international terminal, Megan and I walked to the Cathay Pacific counter at about 7:30 AM and were promptly checked in for our 9:30 flight. They were already expecting a 30-minute delay, leaving plenty of time to stop at the Qantas first class lounge for breakfast.
I’ve already reviewed the Qantas first class lounge and don’t think a new post is necessary, but I will say that we enjoyed our breakfast very much — just as I enjoyed the lunch and cocktails on my first visit. Thus far my opinion is that this lounge has one of the most impressive restaurants even if there isn’t much else to do while waiting. You can get access if you’re traveling in first class on any oneworld Alliance carrier, such as Qantas or Cathay Pacific, or if you’re a oneworld Emerald elite member, such as an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member.
When we walked over to the gate we found that the flight was still delayed, so I took the opportunity to show her the business class lounge, as well. In this department, I think the Star Alliance business class lounge has the upper hand.
Finally we were allowed to board and — small world! — I saw another blogger sitting with us in first class. But one of my favorite things about flying with Cathay Pacific is that the seats, although not fully enclosed suites, are still very private. Cathay Pacific no longer operates the Boeing 747 on flights to the U.S. and will retire all of them later this year. I consider myself fortunate to have flown on it a few times. But this was my first experience on the Boeing 777-300ER, which as just six seats in a 1-1-1 configuration.
The seats are what really sell the cabin, however, because they’re both spacious and comfortable. I have never slept as well on a flight as I have on Cathay Pacific. It looks very similar to the first class on British Airways, but it’s not nearly as narrow.
I also appreciate that there’s plenty of storage around the seat. My suitcase, a Tumi Alpha International Carryon, slid right underneath the ottoman, and my bulky briefcase had no trouble going inside the closet. Noise canceling headphones and other small items can fit inside the compartment near the seat. It’s not the most modern seat — the television is a little small and always looks a bit shaky when it pops out — but it is comfortable.
Megan and I were in 2D and 2K, which are the best seats for traveling as a couple because you’re a little further from the galley and share a common aisle. Single travelers will prefer 1A or 2A because they have their own aisle. Even though Megan and I were directly across from each other, however, I could only catch of a glimpse of her if I tried. You really don’t need to worry about your seat assignments.
The flight attendants and service manager came by to introduce themselves and offer some beverages. We had to settle for still water, however, since the beverage cart couldn’t be opened on the ground. (Not that it mattered. It was still roughly 10:30 AM.) Later they also delivered our Aesop amenity kits and PYE pajamas.
If you ever want to get me a present, PYE pajamas from Cathay Pacific will do the trick. They are easily my favorite airline pajamas and the only ones I wear at home. They fit well, they’re stylish, and they are comfortable without being too heavy. So many airlines issue first class pajamas that feel like oversized smocks (British Airways) or a tailored sweatsuit (Asiana). I also save the eye masks.
The amenity kit I could care less about. The hard shell design doesn’t make it easy to pack and re-use. But it’s good enough with some basic toiletries including toothbrush, mouthwash, hand lotion, eye cream, and a (useless) wooden comb. Usually I just grab my own stuff from my carry on.
Soon enough we were in the air, although I stuck with water for the time being. It was technically a morning departure, and breakfast was being served.
- Orange or apple juice
- Mango and apple smoothie
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Natural or fruit yoghurt
- Assorted cereals
- Free range eggs (scrambled, fried, or boiled), grilled chicken sausage, applewood smoked bacon, grilled tomato, and has brown
- Dim sum (siu mai, chicken glutinous rice, and har gow)
- Sliced see bass congee with steamed shrimp rice roll
I didn’t need nearly that much food and started with just a smoothie. I then ordered the dim sum, pretending it was actually my lunch, and enjoyed it with a pot of jasmine tea. As you can see from the background, I still ate all the breakfast pastries — just not the bagel.
There were also other snacks for later in the flight, including a cheeseburger, smoked salmon, and noodle soup, but I didn’t get around to ordering any. Eventually it was just time to sit back and watch a couple movies. I did not expect to get much sleep on this daytime flight, but I did get to watch all of the films I’ve been waiting to see on Netflix or iTunes. First up: Captain America.
I finally tried to get some rest, even though I was still not really sleeping. The flight attendant came over to make my bed, which basically involves leaning it all the way back until it’s flat with a mattress pad. I prefer it over the first class bed on Singapore Airlines (which we flew on the return journey) because I end up with more legroom and it is avoids creating any hard ridges (since Singapore flips over the back of the seat to create a bed).
Also, how can you go wrong with a giant pillow like that? 😉
I tried to rest as long as I could, watching more movies until several hours later when I joined Megan for dinner. The ottoman has enough space that another person can comfortably sit there, and the flight attendant will bring over a table extension and extra-long tablecloth if you request it.
- Truffle infused cauliflower soup
- Mesclun salad, grilled jumbo prawns, toasted almonds, and lemon vinaigrette
- Bone marrow crusted USDA choice beef tenderloin, root vegetables, Yukon mashed potatoes, and choice of Bordelaise or Bearnaise sauce
- Salmon trout, crushed peas, heirloom carrots, mustard grain spaetzle, and pineapple sage reduction
- Saffron fettuccine, wild arugula, toasted pine nuts, and wild mushrooms sauce
- Double boil chicken, bamboo pith, and wolfberry soup
- Cold plate – marinated cordycep flowers
- Stir-fried Maine lobster, ginger, spring onion, pak choy, carrots, and steamed jasmine rice
Cheese and Dessert
- Cambozola, goat cheese, Port Salut, Cabernet soaked cheddar
- Seasonal fresh berries and vanilla cream
- Warm pear tart, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce
- Black sesame sweet soup
We each started out with a small amouse bouche before continuing on to caviar and a glass of Krug. I apologize that not all the lighting in these photos is great, but my side was still dim. Megan at least had the spotlight on.
The prawn salad was surprisingly good, with a very bright lemon vinaigrette. I think it may have been on the verge of overdressed, or perhaps it was just cold, but I still enjoyed it either way. Normally salad is the one course I skip in first class because there are so many courses. I’m glad I didn’t.
The cauliflower soup with fried shallot was definitely a winner. No complaints there. Megan would have ordered another bowl if she didn’t have more food coming.
At this point we had each switched to wine. In addition to the Krug Champagne, there was a promotional wine from Germany, two whites, two reds, and a port for dessert. I went with the Central Coast meritage and was a little disappointed, but Megan’s Sauvignon Blanc was excellent.
- Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru 2013
- Chateau Branaire Ducru, 4éme Cru Classe 2007
- Hahn Winery Central Coast Meritage 2011
- Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port
My disappointment extended to the beef. No surprise. Steak is hard to do on an airplane, and I don’t know why I continue to order it when nearly every airline serves essentially the same thing. So I don’t hold it against Cathay Pacific. But I wasn’t too impressed with the small side of root vegetables next to it, either. Megan’s fish was more impressive and actually quite delicious. This is why I’m married: I can always eat and drink someone else’s meal if I don’t like my own!
She ended up finishing with a cheese and fruit plate while I had the berries and cream. But I ate quickly so I order a glass of the Glenmorangie Signet, served with pralines. I general prefer Scotch over fine wine or Champagne and had another glass with my movie before switching back to water for the rest of the flight. I appreciate that Cathay Pacific provides a decent single malt in its first class cabin in addition to the ubiquitous Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
We made up some time in the air and landed close to the originally scheduled arrival time of 3:25 PM. However, I had booked a very long layover of five hours to give Megan the chance to visit Cathay’s two first class lounges: The Wing and The Pier. The only other option was a brief one hour connection.
I know that five hours sounds excessive, especially since Megan isn’t really an avgeek, but she doesn’t get to travel as often as I do. Many of the trips we’ve taken this year have been about showing her places I’ve already been. The Pier is one of my favorite lounges, and now that she’s been there, too, I’m glad we can agree on something. 😉