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
Poor climate control and no
overhead air vents made for an uncomfortably hot and stuffy
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Part 2 of 4 parts on
Cathay Pacific's Business class. Please also visit :
General info about Cathay and pre-boarding experience
2. Boarding and the cabin
3. The seat and
4. Food, drink,
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
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25 Nov 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
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