When I think of all the places in the world where I feel the happiest, there would be a few. Propped at the windowsill of a light-flooded Melbourne cafe, soy coffee in hand. Happily lost on a backstreet in Europe. Held tightly in my partner’s arms. And, 35000 feet up in the air, barefoot and cross-legged on a plane, bound somewhere (anywhere) for adventure.
And, I don’t just feel happiest on a plane because of where an aircraft is taking me (to a new destination, or returning home) – I actually love the experience of flying itself. The roar of the engine and heart flutters during taking off; the first glimmer of a burnt orange sky from a window seat. The uninterrupted sequence of hours to think and be; the feeling of palpable transition – literally between ‘here’ and ‘there’ – and, the perspective that I gently seem to feel, when I fly above my everyday life.
Cathay Pacific are a travel carrier that fully embrace this idea – believing that travelling well is an important part of living well. As an airline, their work is to enhance the overall travel experience – and let me say, with every detail imaginable, they do this exquisitely. Four weeks into 2018 I found myself Hong Kong bound with my beautiful Mum by my side, and excitingly – a chance to fly up front in the Cathay Pacific Business Cabin.
So, what was it like? Amazing, from end to end. Here’s a rundown of my full experience.
“To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love flying, the sky is home.”
Hong Kong Bound, ex Sydney
As our travel plans were confirmed quite last minute, the direct Melbourne to Hong Kong flights were already booked out, so we first made our way to Sydney, to take the Sydney – Hong Kong route, with a 3:50pm departing flight scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong around midnight.
In Sydney, there is no Cathay Pacific airport lounge, but Business Class customers can access the Qantas Lounge through OneWorld. Flying as a guest of Cathay Pacific, the ticket we were issued came without lounge access, but, gratefully, I could use my One World Sapphire Status for us to access the Qantas Business Lounge.
It’s a simple lounge and I know it well – associating it pre-departure feels with many exciting adventures. After a sparkling wine and a light lunch (knowing we were flying Business, for once, consciously did not want to fill our bellies before the flight itself) it was time to board our 9 hour flight to Hong Kong – cue butterflies!
The Business Class Cabin + Seats
Stepping onto the plane, we didn’t have to walk far – ushered to seats 23D and 23G, the very last middle row of the Business cabin.
Greeted by name by our flight attendants, we were offered hot towels, a glass of champagne and before we knew it, we were airborne!
I was impressed with the cabin seating configuration – known as a reverse herringbone, where each Business seat is forward-facing at an angle. This means two things – no matter which seat you find yourself in, you get a fully flat bed, AND direct aisle access.
While I always vie for a window seat, and never like to miss an opportunity for a sunrise or sunset photo, the middle row seats are the definitely best for sharing a flight experience with a travel partner. Given it was our first Business class flying experience together, they were the perfect seats for us on the flight over, to excitedly glance at each other, toast our drinks and generally keep in check of one another. On the return leg, we took windows and visited each other throughout the flight.
The seat design felt very considered – a beautiful mix of personal space and comfort, and a real sense of privacy. There were a number of personal storage spaces to put handbags and other belongings, without needing to stow everything in the overhead compartment for takeoff.
With just a press of a button, the flatbed extends to its fully flat position (208cm long, so plenty of leg-room for most!)
On the flight over, we were served a lunch shortly after takeoff, followed by a supper before arrival. Meals in the Business cabin are served course by course, which is a lovely step up from economy, where everything is served up on a tray altogether. Starting with an entree (smoked duck breast with apple raisin salad), our plates were cleared and our tables reset before the main was served.
Mains are presented on a trolley with all the options displayed, so you can pick which looks most appealing. I opted for the ricotta ravioli with sundried tomatoes, asparagus and lime caper herb cream sauce – yum! To finish, we were offered a cheese and fruit platter – and also a deconstructed lemon meringue tart, although, by the time I had made my way through the generous cheese serving, I couldn’t manage the dessert, or the refreshment meal served before landing.
On the overnight return flight to Australia, we were served a late supper, followed by breakfast before landing. I was so tired by the time I boarded the flight home (at midnight), that I slept through the entire supper service, and unfortunately also missed out on champagne! By the time it was breakfast, I was starving and ready. Breakfast is also served in courses – starting with a croissant and fruit salad, juice and coffee – followed by a choice of Western breakfast, or Chinese style. And, more coffee!
For both flights, I didn’t capitalise on the amazing entertainment system at my fingertips – instead taking full advantage of the international powerpoint socket by my side, meaning that I could fire up my laptop and catch up on some really pressing work beyond my battery capacity.
According to Mum, I really missed out! The Cathay Pacific StudioCX entertainment system is one of the best out there – with a library of movies to swipe through on the responsive touchscreen, a 15.4” TV and noise-cancelling headphones. The entertainment screen pops out on an angle, but isn’t in the way when you don’t need it.
The Little Details
It was the little touches I really loved about our flight experience with Cathay Pacific. The fresh orchid stems in a bud vase, at the end of our seats. The white tablecloths laid out for dining.
Being called by name, at every moment – the attentive service so personal, yet non-intrusive. An actual quilt to sleep underneath, rather than the thin blankets I am used to in economy.
The Seventy Eight Percent amenities kits given to us were also laden with some beautiful flight essentials – including gripped socks, toothpaste and brush, and Jurlique skin care products (a Rosewater balancing mist, Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum, and a lip balm.)
The Pier Business Lounge
If you’ve been to Hong Kong before, you’ll know the scale of the airport – it feels endless!
As Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific’s travel hub, there are no less than six (six!) lounges scattered throughout the airport – and some of the most beautiful and exclusive lounges, at that. Business lounges welcome Cathay Pacific First and Business Class passengers, Marco Polo Gold and Silver card holders and oneworld Sapphire/Emerald status members.
Hearing that the Pier lounge was the newest and biggest (biggest in the airport – and also, the Cathay Pacific lounge in the world), we made our way there, and were very glad that we did. Located near Gate 65, it is quite a hike to get there – but luckily, our flight boarded at the gate just upstairs.
Taking the elevator down to the lounge entrance, I quickly realised The Pier Lounge is bigger than some entire airports I’ve been to – but feels more like checking into a luxurious hotel.
Immediately, you enter a world of hushed calm. There are a number of areas, each offering a different place to rest, work, eat, drink or relax. There’s a food hall (market style buffet), a dedicated Coffee Cart (with made-to-order barista service), a Noodle Bar (iconic feature of all Cathay lounges), a Teahouse, a relaxation room (with a series of private resting pods within a dimly-lit dedicated rest area) and shower suites (Aesop amenities – check!)
We settled into a quiet corner clustered with couches, with our Wonton noodles, a Moet (or three), power chargers and foot stools to rest up before the flight.
Our experience flying with Cathay Pacific was nothing short of magical. I just wish I could travel this beautifully every time. How to ever go back?!