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Cathay's business class seating all faces in to the aisle, so no-one gets 'trapped' in their seat.

A herring-bone layout means all seats have aisle access and all face into the cabin's center.

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Cathay Pacific Business Class review

Part 2 : Boarding, First Impressions, the Business Class Cabins

Cathay's business class seats have high partitions and angle inwards from the outside to the aisle.

Part 2 of 4 parts on Cathay Pacific's Business class.  Please also visit :

1.  General info about Cathay and pre-boarding experience
2.  Boarding and the cabin
3.  The seat and entertainment system
4.  Food, drink, miscellaneous



Cathay Pacific is blessed with excellent cabin crew, who with their attentive service make the long flight as  pleasant as possible.

Cabin interiors already look a bit dated and faded, but this is probably just the color combinations adopted.

Poor climate control and no overhead air vents made for an uncomfortably hot and stuffy travel experience.

This review is based on two business class flights with Cathay Pacific in November 2010, flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong and then from Hong Kong to Vancouver, both times on 747-400 planes.  I have also taken short-haul flights within Asia in coach class on Cathay Pacific.

Welcome Onboard

Boarding procedures were poorly coordinated with the lounges, resulting in us variously being called to board at the very beginning of the boarding process (it is much nicer to be called to board at the end of the boarding process - most of us would prefer to spend more time in a comfortable lounge than in the plane that we'll be in for the next 10+ hours anyway) or being given 'false alarm' boarding calls (ie leaving the lounge, arriving at the gate, only to find that boarding had not yet started and in fact had been delayed another half hour).

Cathay does have dual boarding lanes, and where supported by the airport, dual jetways onto the plane as well, making for fast and easy boarding once boarding gets underway.

As one enters a plane, it is amazing how one's perspective of business class seating varies.  If one is doomed to be traveling in the back of the plane, the business class seats look like they are the last word in comfort and luxury.  But if one actually has a business class reservation, then they look a lot more 'ho hum' and ordinary.

Some airlines these days don't serve champagne prior to take-off, and may offer some sort of outrageous lie as an excuse for not doing so.  Fortunately, Cathay is not one of them, and we were offered a choice of champagne, orange juice, something red, or champagne.  I happily accepted a glass of very nice Deutz Brut Classic, and then spent the next 30 minutes or more prior to getting ready for take-off wishing I'd be offered a refill.  No such luck, alas.

Cabin Crew

Although stingy on the before take-off drinks, the cabin crew were otherwise generally excellent.  Clearly Cathay Pacific recruits its Asian cabin crew partially on the basis of being 'height/weight proportionate' and attractive, and the women crewmembers like to show themselves off in well tailored uniforms.  One of the crew wore three different changes of clothing during the long 14.5 hour flight to Hong Kong, and it seems that instead of all crew being clothed in the same uniform, they were allowed  a range of uniform choices (mid or full length (but with a high slit) skirts, various blouses and jackets and in differing colors).

I was again reminded about how much the quality of the crew - not just appearance, but attitude - can impact on one's flight experience, and am always surprised that airlines don't lavish more attention on crew training, because surely one of the lowest cost items for an airline to offer its passengers are friendly polite attentive and helpful crewmembers.


Whereas Cathay seems to recruit primarily Asian women for cabin crew positions, based on the accents I heard coming from the flight deck, they seem to recruit ex-pats from countries where English is the first language for pilots.  Over various flights - both these two business class experiences and other shorter haul flights within Asia - I heard a range of accents, ranging from US (or possibly Canadian) through Irish, English, South African, and either Australian or New Zealand.

Beyond noting that fact, there is not much more to comment about the flight deck crew, except to say that they too are much more tolerant of a bit of turbulence, and are slow to turn on the 'Fasten Seat Belts' sign and fast to turn it off.  This is so much more sensible and convenient than the policy universally in place with all US airlines, where the pilots will turn the seat belt sign on even before any mild turbulence appears, and leave it on for hours at a time for no apparent reason.

The flight back to Vancouver in particular was quite consistently rough for much of the journey - possibly because the pilots chose to ride a very strong jet stream (with tail wind speeds giving us up to a 160 mph speed boost and allowing us to reclaim some of the time lost due to our late departure from Hong Kong).  Fortunately I had plenty of 'nature's travel sickness remedy' - ginger, and so was not inconvenienced by the buffeting around at all.

However the bumpy ride was right at the point where a person with a weaker stomach might have wished the pilots to sacrifice a bit of speed in the interests of finding a less turbulent route/altitude, and I suspect that passengers further back in the plane, where the motion can be more severe, were definitely less comfortable.

Amenities Kits

We were given disappointing amenities kits - black for men and red for ladies.

These were very generic kits, with nothing special inside them and similar seeming contents for both the male and female kits.  They provided some shaving cream, but no disposable razor, and, rather strangely, a tiny thing of SPF15 lip balm (might we get sunburned inside the airplane cabin?).

There were some other tiny tubes of lotions that had the printing on them so small that I couldn't read what they were, and strangely they did not include a comb (something I definitely needed the next morning).

On the plus side, a shoe horn was a nice and not so common inclusion.

Cabin Interiors

I was seated in row 91 for the flight to Hong Kong.  This sounds a huge way back, but in actuality it was on the upper deck of the 747-400, and Cathay does not number its rows consecutively.  First class is rows 1 - 4; business class downstairs is rows 11 - 17 (with no row 13), then coach class runs rows 30 - 38, 44 - 53, and 55 - 69.  Business class, upstairs, is from row 80 - 92 (omitting row 85 for who knows what reason).

On the return (also on a 747) I started off seated in row 17, downstairs, but due to a malfunctioning power socket, subsequently moved to row 12.

The business class cabins are believed to be reasonably new, but their off-white ivory type colors make them look faded and jaded, even though they're probably nearly new.

Generally I prefer to be in the upstairs cabin - there are fewer people walking through it, and it is slightly quieter.  Measured sound levels showed a sound pressure level of 70 dBA (A weighted) or 86 dB (C weighted) as taken from my seat 91A upstairs, compared to 74/82 dB (A/C weighting) as reported at seat 12D downstairs.  In both cases, readings were taken during the plane's cruise portion of flight, with the meter at tray table level rather than ear level, and my measurements represent an average and approximate value due to both slow and fast semi-random variations in actual values reported.

Upstairs, there were toilets front and rear, but the front one was curtained off and reserved exclusively for the pilots.  That still left two at the rear, a more than sufficient number for the 22 seats on the upper deck.

The toilets were clean and had nice miniature floral arrangements.

The cabin temperature was way too hot and it felt stuffy and unpleasant.  Occasional requests to turn the temperature down may have had a short term effect, but possibly other passengers were simultaneously asking for the temperature to be increased, and so it seemed that within a short period, the temperature would rebound up to an uncomfortably tepid/tropical point once more.

This situation was exacerbated by the lack of individual air vents, and there was no perceptible feeling of fresh air flow at all.  My brief stay in the back-most row of the cabin, with a floor to ceiling bulkhead on one side of me, made this even worse.

Part 2 of 4 parts on Cathay Pacific's Business class.  Please also visit :

1.  General info about Cathay and pre-boarding experience
2.  Boarding and the cabin
3.  The seat and entertainment system
4.  Food, drink, miscellaneous

FTC Mandatory Disclosure : I was not given a free or in any way discounted/upgraded ticket by Cathay Pacific (I used frequent flier miles from my Alaska Airlines account for this ticket). I have not been paid money to write this article.

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Originally published 25 Nov 2010, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


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