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Kicking Back in Cathay Pacific First Class, Halfway to Hong Kong

November 15, 2012 at 9:06 PM | by | ()

Flying long-haul in First Class is a dream for many, a reality for only a few. Among first class cabins, Cathay Pacific’s suites are widely considered the sine qua non for comfort and service—and as tickets can fetch $15,000 for a return between New York-JFK and Hong Kong, they’d better be.

We’ve previously taken you inside the Economy, Premium Economy, and brand new Business cabins on board Cathay, and now we can tell you first-hand what flying First is like. And no, we did not win the lottery; there are ways to make this work without maxing out your credit cards, even without leaving North America.

Aside from the 16-hour direct flight from JFK to Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific also flies this route with a stop in Vancouver (YVR). It’s one of the great ways of experiencing a true long-haul product, not to mention one of the world’s best carriers, when needing to get from coast to coast (a similar option is flying Qantas JFK-LAX, on its way to and from Sydney). Even better, we only paid about $50 and 37,500 British Airways miles for our ticket, snagging a reward seat. Who said first class flying had to be expensive?

What We Liked

· We’ve got to start with the seat. Excuse us, the suite. It’s enormous. The combination of the seat and the service almost made us feel a little like we were in the wrong place; surely we were not important enough to have all this? There was practically room for someone to sit next us, and the suite stretches 3-4 windows in length

· Next up, the bed. We’ve never been able to stretch out the way we did here, and we’re 6’4”. Combined with a proper pillow and a soft duvet, made up by the attentive cabin crew, it’s the most comfortable we’ve ever been on a plane.

· Privacy. We had suite 1A, and 2A was empty. There are only six suites in total on the Boeing 777, with the divider between rows A and D, making the A-suites the most private; when seated you feel like you’re the only one on the plane

· Each passenger in first class gets a Cathay special edition Shanghai Tang sleeper suit, with your clothes stored in your personal wardrobe when it’s time to get some rest. The pants of the sleeper suit make for perfect lounge wear at home; in fact, we confess to wearing them as we type this.

· Amenity kits for men come in the shape of an Ermenegildo Zegna travel bag filled with Acca Kappa products. For women it’s an Ipa-Nima travel pouch with Aesop products. While the washrooms aren’t the size of what you'd have in first class on the Airbus A380, we found them plenty spacious, with a proper designer sink, towels, and fresh flowers.

· Service. Service, service, service. This is what Cathay Pacific is justifiably famous for; from the handwritten note at dinner thanking you for flying with Cathay, to the wines poured at your table, the crew does a pretty fantastic job of being attentive without being obtrusive.

· At dinner time, a massive table is laid out with white linen and proper silverware. Each course is plated and served separately, and we opted for a butternut squash and apple soup that was the lightest, tastiest thing we had had in a long time, let alone on an airplane. It was so good we ate it up before even thinking to take a picture of it.

· Priority boarding and disembarking. While it wouldn’t seem so difficult, airlines sometimes still fail to get this right. As we walked up to the gate, our boarding pass was recognized and we were immediately waved through. When stepping onto the plane, we were escorted to our seat and shown around. Our plane also sported Cathay’s new business class. We requested a tour and a member of the cabin crew happily obliged, showing us around the new seats.

What We Didn’t Like

· First and Business Class ticket holders on Cathay and eligible OneWorld frequent fliers have access to the BA Galleries lounges at JFK. We were disappointed with Galleries First; it’s an oddly shaped room, which isn’t helped by the incredibly awkward furniture arrangements. It somehow combined no logical traffic flows with limited comfortable seating either for single travelers or groups. We don’t know if it’s always like this, but we had to keep ourselves from starting to schlep furniture around to make a better arrangement.

· Despite the potential astronomical cost of a first class ticket, if you are not on BA metal, you won’t have access to the Elemis Spa in the lounge. Surely something can be done there?

· Flight times are not ideal for doing just the JFK-YVR leg. CX889 departed JFK at 22.40, landing in Vancouver at 1.30am local time. Ouch. Not a complaint for us since we were virtually flying for free, but as a paying first class customer, we’d be less convinced.

Bottom Line

There really is only one answer to the question, would we fly Cathay Pacific First Class again? That answer: in a heartbeat. The worst part about the journey was that it was over so quickly; we would have loved staying on board all the way to Hong Kong. Now that the days of relatively cheap BA redemptions from JFK to Hong Kong in Cathay First are over, we’ll just have to save and save and save those miles to get to the 105,000 needed for that 16-hour flight all the way across the world.

Photos: JasonD/Jaunted

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