Lux-traveller.com reports on Cathay Pacific, now the airline has two A350-900 jets. The aircraft has started flying to Bangkok from Hong Kong, and Lux-Traveller.com brings you this exclusive review and Trip Report from HKG to BKK.
Cathay Pacific A350 aircraft are gradually replacing the A330-300s, and in so doing adds a fair bit of capacity. Each A350-900 has 280 passengers, compared to 235 on the A330. All the extra seats are down the back, but all the seats have had a subtle refresh.
The Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class has 38 seats up the front, based on the airline's current highly-regarded 'Cirrus' business class and in the same 1-2-1 layout. The A350 also comes with a premium economy cabin of 28 seats in a 2-4-2 arrangement, with the new design with a padded swing-up leg-rest, and 2 more inches of legroom over the Boeing 777. The A350 economy class has 214 seats in a 3-3-3 layout.
Cathay Pacific's first commercial A350 service started last month from Hong Kong to Manila, and now there is a second aircraft, the Thai capital Bangkok joins Cathay's A350 routes, ahead of the switch onto longer routes with Cathay flying the A350 to London Gatwick and Dusseldorf.
Today's aircraft was B-LRC.
Hong Kong Lounges
Lux-traveller has written at length about the excellent Cathay Pacific lounges Hong Kong. Since today's flight - with aircraft B-LRC - operated from gate 45, we took the train to the far end of the Pier, and used a BA Gold Card to nip into the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Pier First Class lounge which has excellent facilities, a vast amount of space, and great food. The dining room was empty, as was the bar, and the famous Port and Sherry cart also made an appearance.
Not to miss out on a new lounge, we also went into the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Pier Business Class lounge, which has recently re-opened.
The Business Side follows the design template crafted by London-based StudioIlse which elegantly sports its own unique identity, with residential touches such as plant pots, arm chairs, rich textiles and artworks much in abundance in the new space. The lounge's main corridor, or "high street" starts at a dining area dubbed the Food Hall. There is a decent spread of hot and cold dishes, plus a range of European tapas, bakery, salads and hot and cold dishes. In the morning don't miss the croissant truck and the coffee cart. As it was lunchtime we went right to the far end for the Tea House, a 'first' for Cathay Pacific, created in conjunction with UK-based tea specialist Jing.
All in all the Cathay Pier Business Class lounge was very good indeed, and a welcome rest before we got on board the A350. We stayed here longer than planned, as the boarding time was put back time and again and we eventually boarded an hour and a half late, thanks to what we were told were temporary intercom issues.
Boarding was eventually called, and we went around to gate 45, to see the almightiest scrum at the gate, with a vast queue of economy passengers. There was priority boarding, but the queue for Business was pretty long too. There was one person checking the queue and directing passengers in the cheap seats to the correct queue, but it wasn't a very pleasant experience. Thankfully, our Business Class boarding passes got us on board relatively quickly, and into the Business Class, where the crew warmly welcomed us into the cabin which still had a 'new aircraft' smell.
Alas, the crew had further work to do, as we found our seats already occupied by passengers from economy - these self upgraders - who were right at the front of the business class queue - clearly knew exactly what they were trying to do, and were firmly sent to their correct seats by the crew.
|Cathay Pacfic A350 Seatmap|
|Every seat in the Cathay Pacific A350 photographed and reviewed.|
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Seat
Once we were comfortably aboard it was time to check out the A350 Business Class seat.
Based on the airline's current highly-regarded business class and in the same 1-2-1 layout, it is styled with a slightly more refined feel around the existing 'Cirrus' business class product found on its Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s, but customised by Studio Porsche.
There are two A350 Business Class cabins. From row 12 to 19 in the main cabin, and then a mini cabin with just row 20 and 21.
The seat reclines to a fully-flat 75 inch long bed. Width is however now only 20 inches. A new click and lift-up panel on the aisle side of the sea allows slightly more knee room.
Side panel storage spaces have been improved, with a netted pocket for valuables like passports and mobiles, plus a larger mirror above it, behind a screen. There is now also a proper storage bin with a closing lid near your knees, and space under the ottoman for shoes. There is a small hole for the water bottle beside the seat, unlike on the A330.
Seat controls are the same, but with a dimmable reading light, one press buttons for the seat positions, and a remote with a touchscreen that can show a map. The tray can now also slide towards you, and splits in two - something we found really useful. The meal trays can also sit on the side shelf.
Cathay Pacific A350 Economy Class Seat
Doing a complete review of the Cathay Pacific A350, we also wanted to check out the two rear cabins.
Cathay Pacific A350 Premium Economy is really a step up from the older aircraft, such as the Boeing 777. Screens are large, there is a good cocktail shelf next to the seats (or rather between pairs of seats) and the extra legroom on the A350 is noticeable. Premium Economy seats are in a 2-4-2 layout, like economy on the A330, so the width is clearly under a little strain.
Economy on Cathay Pacific is in a roomy 3-3-3 layout on the A350. Gone is the little shelf from Premium, but it compares well with other A350 carries like Finnair.
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Inflight entertainment
The new A350 Studio CX inflight entertainment system now has an 18.5-inch HD entertainment screen, compared to 17 inches on the older A330s. If you dig around in the menus you'll find the 'wake up call' feature to let the crew know whether you should be woken for the first or second meal.
A real boost for Cathay are the live satellite television channels, with BBC World News, CNN and Euronews.
Cathay Pacific Business Class food service
We've previously raved about the inflight food on Cathay in Business Class. It really is quite good. However, on the new A350 on shorter regional routes we found service really slow.
Pre-flight drinks were served, as were the menus, but then there was nothing for the first hour into the cruise. The crew however seemed to be having problems with the new Galley and getting used to the service so that might have something to do with it.
The flight was almost two-thirds of the way through before the trolley came to us in the middle of the cabin, and then the food was served in economy style food containers that comes off the trolley, rather than table service as you might expect on other airlines.
Firstly, the table was laid, and the starter came out, along with our drinks order straight off the trolley. The wine list was quite extensive in the menu, but alas none of the wine listed in the menu had been loaded.
A curious thing we've noticed about A350 Cathay Pacific flights is that salt and pepper are no longer in the folded napkins with the cutlery.
Then the mains courses arrived, and what the service lacked in finesse was made up by the flavour. The chicken was really good, and couldn't be faulted.
Finally, as if to emphasise that the service was really rushed, just as we started the cruise the crew offered the second 'in flight snack', which was a full high tea, with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and tarts. Again, excellent, but the crew had real problems in serving the cabin in such a short amount of time.
Cathay Pacific A350 Conclusions
The A350 is very much a game changer for Cathay Pacific in terms of the bottom line, and serving smaller thinner routes, such as Gatwick to Hong Kong. The new Premium Economy cabin makes it the plane of choice. However, in Business Class it is only a small step up, with incremental improvements over the Boeing 777.
There's just one other thing to note - lux-traveller noticed that some of the finishes on the seats were not quite up to scratch, in particular with the fake wood laminate on the tables already starting to peel. Hopefully in future versions of the seat, these issues will have been fixed.
Read more, and check out the Cathay Pacific A350 best seats with our exclusive interactive Cathay Pacific A350 Seat Map with pictures of every seats
|Flying on the Cathay Pacific A350|
Lux-traveller paid its own way for this Trip Report from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, and travelled incognito.