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
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