Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class, Los Angeles to Hong Kong

We took one of Cathay Pacific’s four daily flights from the City of Angels to Asia’s World City, those being CX883, CX881, CX897 and CX885. These services are all operated by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, usually in a four class configuration.

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Airport experience

Cathay Pacific operate out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal – which is also known as terminal four. Arriving at the airport shortly before midnight and very near to departure, there were no queues to check-in at Cathay Pacific’s check-in counters.

Unfortunately, Los Angeles World Airports (the operator of LAX) had decided to close the priority security lane for business class passengers. Cathay Pacific should engage with Los Angeles World Airports on the subject of ensuring suitable priority security lanes are open at all times.

Non-US airlines don’t participate in TSA Pre✓ so LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal doesn’t offer Pre, and it would be regretful if this airport were to uphold its previous reputation as being all about waiting in line.

Cathay Pacific passengers use the oneworld business lounge (first class and oneworld Emerald passengers use the Qantas First lounge). We’ll review the lounge in another post.

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We left the lounge shortly after our flight was called. By the time we made it to the gate area, nearly everyone had boarded so we can’t report on how this aspect was managed.

There was a separate jet bridge for first and business class, which had a table of newspapers laid out next to the plane door. We flew past this, expecting newspapers to be offered on-board. They weren’t.

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In 2010 Cathay Pacific introduced a ground-breaking reverse herringbone business class seat – the Cirrus seat. Cirrus was developed by James Park Associates and Zodiac Seats, and had been initially introduced in 2009 by US Airways (as it was then).

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Cathay Pacific’s version of this seat features in business class cabins on Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which on four class configured aircraft runs to a whopping 53 business class seats.

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There is a two-row mini-cabin immediately behind first class. The online system seems to hold these seats for top-tier oneworld Emerald members. We’ve always been able to pre-allocate these seats far in advance by calling Cathay Pacific (free call using Skype +1800 233 2742 or call Cathay directly in Hong Kong outside of Californian business hours) even without any frequent flyer number in the booking.

All the lavatories for business class are located between the mini-cabin and the main business class cabin.

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We booked this flight at the last minute and the flight was packed. We settled for a seat in the centre in the last row of business.

The adjacent seat in the middle (accessible from the other aisle) remained empty.

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Controls are all mounted up high on the seat console, with very straightforward controls to adjust the seat much appreciated. The cubby on the right of the controls contains headphones…

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… and also a vanity minor.

Eagle eyed readers will spot that Cathay Pacific decorate the cabins with orchids.

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The Cathay Pacific business class seat feels relatively private when you are sitting down. It goes one better than the herringbone business class seats on airlines like Air New Zealand as you aren’t angled to be looking into at the other passengers in the cabin (who also happen to be angled to look at you).

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That said, it really does feel like the middle seats should have some kind of divider that comes up once in-flight.

The screen in the picture below belongs to the neighbouring seat, yet points directly at the seat next door.

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The tray table pivots out from the centre section and then can be folded out.

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One of the many positives of this reverse herringbone configuration is that you don’t feel like you are sitting near the aisle at all. Indeed, you can’t really see down the aisle from your seat – which can make it hard to judge how far away the crew are with the service.

Every seat has individual direct aisle access, which is great because it means you aren’t going to be disturbed by other passengers getting in and out of their seat.

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The armrest has to be locked down for take-off and landing. We did notice that there were crushed peanuts under ours – something the cleaners had clearly missed.

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A latch releases the 15.4″ touchscreen from the seat in front. These seem to be okay to have out during all stages of the flight, including take-off and landing.

We’d note that we had been in the air for ten minutes before the crew turned on the entertainment system, StudioCX. This is disappointing in these days of gate-to-gate entertainment systems (and indeed usually on other flights we’ve taken with Cathay Pacific the system is switched on after the safety video).

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We do also wish that the screen had a tilting mechanism on it: this would have made it easier to watch the screen while reclined.

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We took one look at the provided headphones and decided to use our own Bose cans instead.

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The Airshow is not interactive, so before landing you get this never-ending listing of connecting gates. It plays on a loop, even though you would probably rather be watching the map.

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Pre-departure beverages were served promptly after passengers took their seats. We took a glass of Champagne Deutz. No refills were forthcoming.

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Shortly after take-off, the flight attendants wheeled a cart around to hand out bottled water and amenity kits.

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The amenity kit is elegant looking…

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… and contains all the essentials.

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When its time to sleep, passengers use their pillow and a doona (that’s a duvet for our international readers). There is no turndown service or mattress pad, but that isn’t really necessary as the seat is well cushioned and makes for a comfortable sleeping surface.

The bed reclines to make an 82″ bed, with plenty of space around your mid-section on either side created by a carve-out in the side storage on one size and an extended flat section on the aisle side.

We did note that it was necessary to play with the controls to get the seat into the flat position. Putting the legrest down slightly seemed to stop it digging into the footrest, which in turn let the back of the seat go fully flat.

Its pretty common on a range of airlines to need to play around with the seating controls, rather than just press the flat seat button, to get a business class seat to go fully flat.

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We did notice that the flight attendants put out the tray-tables on the spare seats in the cabin. Is this to stop people moving to them? From this signal, we could notice only one other empty business class seat in the whole cabin of 53 seats.

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The menu for the Los Angeles to Hong Kong service was as follows:


The evening meal, Supper, was all served in one go – following post-take-off drinks.

The crew made liberal use of passenger names during the meal service. Supper was served from a trolley (no pre-orders were taken), which meant you could look at the different options and decide which one you want.

We went with the beef tenderloin, sauteed kale, baby carrot and port wine sauce. The tenderloin was a nice piece of meat, far better than the extremely chewy lamb loin we ended up with when we flew Thai Airways International business class.

The dips (to the right of the seasonal berries in the below picture) which go with two tiny bread-sticks (processed and packaged in plastic) weren’t great. That whole aspect of the meal really needs a rethink.

When the bread basket came around, we opted for garlic bread. We took another glass of Champagne Deutz to go with our meal.

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We appreciated the Supper being served on the one tray as it enables a quick meal. With our flight departing at 1am,  it wasn’t long after supper before we were ready for bed.

The only way to go one step further would be to offer dine-on-demand for the main meals in business class like Qatar Airways.

After a solid sleep, we awoke perhaps halfway into the flight. We ordered the burger off the snack menu – which was very tasty – and incidentally was a different burger to that served on our flight in the reverse direction in first class.

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We visited the bathroom and did notice that a range of packaged snacks were set out by the galley during the flight…

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… including a number of Cathay Pacific-branded boxes of pralines.

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After the burger, we went back to sleep.

Next thing we knew it, were awoken by the cabin lights coming on two hours out of Hong Kong. Minutes later this was followed by warm towels.

Half an hour later the crew reached the last row of business class, offering breakfast.

We started breakfast with some fruit. Bread was offered from a basket and we were surprised to find a bagel in there. Taking the bagel was a mistake: it was warm, but not crisp as if it was just toasted. In retrospect, that was obviously always going to be the case.

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This was followed up by yogurt.

We had also requested a smoothie. It did not arrive.

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After we’d finished our yogurt, the container was taken away – but the foil from the lid, used cocktail napkins and other obvious rubbish was left.

The breakfast was nice: in particular the Egg Soufflé. Very tasty. It is not easy to make a good cooked breakfast on an aeroplane, so they’ve done a good job with that. On some airlines catering can be a bit iffy on international flights departing LAX, but there was no evidence of that here at all.

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In terms of the service overall, we found the cabin pursuer to be very polite and polished in her interactions with passengers. By contrast, some of the other crew were rushed and perhaps a bit abrupt in their service.

In contrast to our recent flight in Cathay Pacific First Class, we found ourselves using the call bell less. Perhaps that is just reflective of having adjusted service expectations based on the class of service.

Another thing to note is the approach the crew had to clearing used items. By the end of the breakfast service, we had a massive pile of stuff that we were clearly done with. It was all just sitting there: this approach stands in stark contrast to say Asiana, where flight attendants can’t wait to take away items that you’ve finished with.

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As we approached Hong Kong, the Captain came on the PA and announced that we were expecting a bumpy final approach to Hong Kong.

The crew scurried around to prepare the cabin for landing. A flight attendant spent significant amounts of time trying to get one larger passengers’ seat into to the fully upright position for landing. The little green light located on the side of that passengers seat which would normally indicate that it was in the fully upright position would not stay on. The attendant eventually gave up.

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We’d made good time on this long trip across the top of the Pacific Ocean and landed about twenty minutes ahead of schedule.

Cathay Pacific business class is certainly up there as one of the world’s leading business class products. Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class seat is extremely comfortable and well suited to these types of journeys. At 14 hour 50 minutes in length, this flight was all about sleep and it delivered that in spades.

1 Comment on "Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class, Los Angeles to Hong Kong"

  1. Catering sounds better than normal for CX Business, for that flight, so not bad considering. While CX Business seat has raves from some, I must admit I am not as enthusiastic. I find that I always end up with one arm uncomfortable due to it being restricted in movement/placement by the console – often ending up with one arm higher than the other arm (particularly in recline) which prevents me getting comfortable. I therefore much prefer seats where armrest for both sides can be adjusted (you can raise or lower them to suit your seat position, or they at least lower as the seat position lowers).

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