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This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul already and had a similar (great) experience on my flight from Istanbul to Tokyo also in Turkish Business, so I am skipping to the next segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was in Tokyo, and I wanted to add a quick side trip onto my main award, and Hong Kong seemed like the logical spot. I had British Avios to burn, there were several nonstops on JAL and Cathay Pacific from convenient Tokyo-Haneda, and one of Cathay’s was flown by their double-decker Boeing 747-400.

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As many of you noticed in my Lufthansa trip report, I’m obsessed with being on the top deck of planes (perhaps this translates directly from my bunk bed preferences as a child). The fact that Cathay Pacific is slowly retiring this plane from service provided added incentive to book.

Image from cathaypacific.com
Image from cathaypacific.com

How was the seat? Was the service up to Cathay Pacific’s high standards? Was this redemption a good use of Avios?

After a quick one-stop transfer from the Shimbashi metro station (directly under the Conrad Tokyo), we arrived at Haneda airport. The pace was leisurely and check-in was a breeze. After our friendly desk agent printed boarding passes, we were handed access cards to the JAL Sakura Lounge and sent on our way.

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After clearing security, the Sakura lounge is just past some rather ritzy shops in the main terminal. We took the elevator up to the check-in area and were directed to the left (Sakura) lounge.  To the right was the first class area that was closed off to us.

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The Sakura Lounge was very busy with business travelers, but never seemed overly crowded or too bustling. We easily found two seats together and I began to scope out the layout.

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The lounge had an ample selection of hard liquor, wine, and sake. All were untouched this early in the morning.

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There were also some Western and Japanese breakfast options that I nibbled on.

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In the middle of the room was a small eponymously named Sakura Bar that featured a self-pouring draft beer machine. At this early hour I would normally abstain, but so many other businessmen were partaking that I couldn’t pass it up for sheer novelty’s sake.

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After an hour of checking email (the Wi-Fi connection was very strong), we noticed our plane taxiing to the gate.

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After waiting a few minutes, we headed straight to our gate. Coincidentally, a Hello Kitty EVA Air Airbus A330-300 was parked at the next gate. I had not realized Haneda to Taipei is a route featuring their (in)famous Hello Kitty service, so I was surprised to see it.

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After chuckling over the livery, boarding for our flight commenced. A separate premium cabin line got us through in no time.

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I was able to snap a quick photo of our massive plane before boarding.

Cathay Pacific 543
Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 10:45 AM on November 14, 2013
Arrive: 3:05 PM same day
Duration: 5hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seats: 82A & 82K (Business Class)

Upper Deck of Cathay Pacific's Boeing 747-400. Image from Seat Guru
Upper Deck configuration of Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 747-400. Image from Seat Guru

Unlike my Lufthansa flight, I was able to scamper upstairs before the crush of economy passengers boarding at the door adjacent to the stairwell made it impossible. We made our way towards the nose of the plane to find our seats.

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Finding multiple pillows at the seat was a pleasant discovery, as I sleep with two at home! Also within this narrow compartment was a power port, seat controls, and the remote control.

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As I settled in, a very friendly flight attendant made her way through the cabin distributing headphones and offering pre-departure champagne, water, and OJ. I went with champagne.

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Upon first impression, the seats are very narrow though extremely private.

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I could not see anything but outstretched feet of my fellow passengers and had to crane my neck to even speak across the aisle to my partner. To reveal the unique layout and privacy of upper deck seating, I attempted to snap a picture before departure.

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Unfortunately, when I sat back down the in the narrow seat, I lightly grazed the champagne glass, spilling most of its contents into the small compartment at my feet. [Scott: It was probably that self-serve draft beer at the lounge. ;)] I snagged a flight attendant who apologized (!?) and helped me clean it up with towels. She was as kind as could be.

Minor snafu aside, we pushed back a few minutes early and were in the air in no time. My travel partner was even able to snap a clear picture of Mt. Fuji from her window!

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After leveling off, a flight attendant came around with hot towels and another glass of champagne after my earlier mishap.

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Menus were also distributed, though there weren’t a lot of places to store them when not in use.

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After making my selection, I was brought out a mixture of nuts. The flight attendant asked if I wanted another beverage. Clearly not cut out for alcohol, I chose the much-hyped Hong Kong milk tea which was sweet and delicious.

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For the appetizer, I went with the roast duck and mushroom panna cotta. It was unremarkable. The garlic bread that accompanied it was fantastic, however.

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For the main course I went with the chicken. Though the potatoes weren’t appetizing at all, the chicken was cooked well.

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To cap off the meal, I nibbled on some fruit.

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The flight attendant insisted I have some Haagen-Dazs ice cream as a second dessert. Who was I to argue? The Cookies & Chocolate flavor paired well with another mug of Hong Kong milk tea!

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After the large meal, I tested out the seat to ensure it went fully flat. It did, though was narrow for my average frame. I put the seat back up into Lounge position and caught up on some movies. The in-flight entertainment selection was extensive, with tons of new releases and classics.

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A Woody Allen movie up in the sky. Who can guess which one?

Before we knew it, we had started our descent. We arrived at the gate a whopping 45 minutes early, a nice welcome surprise for this short side trip!

How I Did It

I booked this Cathay Pacific flight as a side trip to my main award (a three segment US Airways award to Tokyo, connecting in Turkey as a stopover for only 90k miles in Business Class).

I used 20k Avios/person. Total out of pocket came to about $48/person, of which about $28 was a fuel surcharge. That might sound like a lot of Avios for such a short flight, but United and American would charge 30k miles for the same oneway itinerary (Asia Zone 1 -> Asia Zone 2) in business.

HND-HKG taxes & fees

It was easy to book online using the BA.com tool which is much improved as of late. I was initially assigned the lower deck when I booked this flight last January. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific wouldn’t let me switch seats until six months before departure, so I set a calendar reminder and called in to choose without issue.

Overall

Seat: Narrow though very private, especially on the upper deck. The foot rest is a bit small, especially for taller folks. I had no issue with it. It’s a great seat for lounging but very awkward getting in and out of if the chair is reclined at all (as my accident showed). It’s very difficult to see your fellow passengers, so that could be a positive or negative depending on your travel style.

Food: Decent. I enjoyed the desserts, but the appetizer and entree were just fine. I’m not complaining, though!

Service: Very warm and friendly. I believe only two flight attendants were working the nearly full upper deck, and both really went out of their way to make me feel welcome. This was the highlight of the flight.

Bed: Having two pillows is a huge benefit, and the chair does indeed go fully flat. Note that claustrophobic flyers might take issue with how little wiggle room there is while in bed mode.

In Flight Entertainment: The television screen pivoted out of the side and was plenty big given how close it was. The selection of movies was fantastic, so any and all tastes could find something they liked.

Recommendation: It was a neat experience being in the upper deck of Cathay’s aging 747-400. The privacy was incredible for a business class seat, though a bit awkward in some aspects of the design. The service lived up to my expectations, as well. For a daytime flight like this, I would probably just book economy for 10k Avios in the future, but if sleep was paramount, business class would be the easy choice.



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