Cathay Pacific has moved around the inaugural dates a number of times and finally, it has settled on CX 418 from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon. Fortunately, I was able to book an award business class ticket on CX 418/9 same day return through Alaska Airlines, and after I received the receipt from AS, I called CX to get seat assignment and everything seemed to be all set, and guess how wrong I was.
Here is the flight info:
October 3, 2007
CX 418 HKG-ICN Lv1420 Arr1850 Boeing 777-300ER B-KPA
CX 419 ICN-HKG Lv2000 Arr2240 Boeing 777-300ER B-KPA
Both estimated to be three hours, and the actual flight time for CX 418 was two hours and fifty-eight minutes, and the CX 419 was two hours and fifty-six minutes. Flight route on CX 418 took us towards Taichung and W of Taipei, and then into Cheju and Kunsan, and the return flight path is similar except after crossing Taipei, we headed directly towards Makung and then turned W towards Hong Kong. No flight attitude information because the new airshow does not display this information, which is disappointing.
The day started off with much rain in Hong Kong and I headed towards the Airport Express Station. With no hand luggage and a slow Wednesday, the Cathay Pacific first class line was rather deserted, and a kind agent checked me in within five minutes, and then something strange happened. He asked for my ticket receipt and told me that my reservation was cancelled because Alaska Airlines did not input the ticket number into the reservation by the ticketing deadline. I was of course furious and told the agent that I called CX reservation a few days after I got the ticket receipt and got my seat assignment, and why didn’t the reservation agent mention something that Alaska has not input the ticket number into my reservation? Also the CX agent got my HK mobile number and why didn’t CX call me? Of course the main blame is on Alaska Airlines. How can they forget to input my ticket number into the CX reservation? That is one thing that I, as a passenger, should not have to worry about, and could not check and I did not want soon to be expected to chase AS to input ticket number into the CX reservation. That is their internal matter and I really hope that this is just a one-time thing. I have yet to email Alaska Airlines yet but intend to find out why AS commits such a large mistake? And I have issued tickets through Alaska Airlines on CX and never encountered such major problems. I will perhaps call AS customer service and find out about why?
Here is where CX shines or this particular agent is really helpful. He wasted no time and immediately checked on the U class availability. Only Y on CX 418 but there is U in return! He immediately held me a seat in Y and put me on a waitlist for J, and called the control office and found out how to remake my reservation. Of course, Alaska Airlines had to do the reservation, so he called Alaska Airlines Hong Kong agent and asked the agent to redo my booking and input the new ticket number again. He was patient, while reassuring that the problem would be resolved. Then he told me that he could put me on the upgrade waitlist, but could get me a confirmed Y seat. He even called the control office about my upgrade status and told the lounge agent that I was wait listing for J. I decided if I could fly J on the return, the Y in outbound was no problem and I could call AS to return that differentiation back. After a good half an hour, he fixed everything and handed me the boarding pass, and I headed off to the Hong Kong Airport.
Really nothing I could do but waited at the Wing. I first headed off to gate 22 and saw the plane towing into the gate. At least I got something. Then I went back to the Wing and had a quick lunch (as I assumed I might be in Y). I left a bit earlier and in case there was something going on at the gate. Of course, there was nothing going on. That is my first major disappointment because there was no indication of this important flight, and the only sign was I saw the crew taking pictures in front of the plane. Finally at 1:52pm, boarding began and thankfully, my Y boarding pass got the magical beep, and I got a business class boarding pass at 12G. Thank goodness and save some yelling at Alaska Airlines. Thank goodness to my OW Emerald status.
The new Boeing 777-300ER cabin looks very nice in first class, and with only six seats, the cabin looked bright and airy. However, for business class, I actually think the first mini-cabin was just badly designed – very crowded and busy looking with lots of storage and galley equipments. Folks usually preferred the mini cabin up front, but with the herringbone design, this section was simply cramped. I also think the seat was a bit less tilted… more straight-out, because I notice the window seat at Row 12 only have one single window. Row 11 is better with two windows. I recommended against Row 11 & 12, unless no other choices. I don’t know how to describe it but the angle of the seats in both business class cabin is different, sort of like the upper deck of the 74A, which you cannot look out of the windows at all. The second J cabin (as indicated on CX 419 cabin) was much better with a less cramped environment.
No window row – Row 21 and Row 24. However since the window at Row 21 is directly behind the seat so it does not affect that seat at all, but for Row 22, you only have one window to look out, which is closer to you. But at Row 24, the window closest to the seat or your POV has no window, and you can look out at the window in front of you. So if you want a view or look out of window, please avoid Row 24, unless you have a long neck.
12D and 12G don’t have overhead storage bin.
After hearing such a mixed review, I don’t carry much expectation, so the seat turns out to be better, but I rate it below Virgin’s Upper Class though. Virgin’s Upper Class is much better, in terms of the materials used on the seat (leather on VS), wider, and the overall seat comfort level. Flipping the bed may be troublesome but for Virgin, it at least addresses the problem with different requirements for sleeping and sitting. CX’s new J seat is simply caught in between and can’t satisfy both sides. The most important point is that for this battle, SQ’s new Business class seats beat CX by much. I am going to make my final judgment after I fly SQ’s new business class on a long haul flight from SIN to FRA next month.
I highly recommend the bulkhead seats at both sections of the business class cabin.
Flight attendant service:
My first major problem is with the new CX policy with newspapers. They now set up a newspaper cart at the jetway and expect F and J passengers to help themselves with papers too, which I find very un-premium class like. For a world-class airline, this detail differentiates them from other airlines, and CX is just cutting back these little services, which are relatively cost-free. Now, you have to request the newspapers. On both flights, they don’t even bother with rolling out the newspaper and magazines trolley after everyone was boarded. For this inaugural flight, the F/As are very “careless” with such routines, and busy with familiarizing with the galley and various new items. That is why I think CX does not spend enough time with the crew working on this new 77W.
The purser, Denise, definitely tried her best especially in soliciting opinions and working with many problems with the new plane. She said hello to each MPO and OW Emerald members, but seemed rather tense throughout the flight, as well as the rest of the crew. The tone of the overall “inaugural” flights was tense because the staffs were not used to the new galley and various locations of equipments. Those are very understandable problems and I really won’t blame the staff, but CX should have done a better training session. Perhaps a few training flights should be in place before welcoming real passengers on board! The tone of the flight should be celebratory instead of tense and highly alert. There were some CX staffs around monitoring the new flights. Also there should be extra F/As assisting on this first month of operation. The lunch service from HKG to ICN took the whole flight and the final hot towel service was handed out during descent. The return was better, but there should be extra F/As helping out. CX management needs to take the blame in this case because they lack time for F/As to conduct training on the real a/c and this a/c is very different from the regional Boeing 777-300, which looks similar, but everything from galley to the seats is dramatically different. The front galley was half the size of the old galley as F only had six passengers. I also feel that Denise did not follow through some of her promises, which annoyed me… however everything was understandably stressed and CX management should be better prepared.
The most interesting part was that I asked one of the J F/As during the fruit and cheese service, “How did you like the new plane?” She was frightened and gave me these following comments, “So what do you think?” and then she said, “no comment… it is an interesting experience.” I assume that there are some problems with galley and various equipments. I don’t know what she meant… but CX has some work to do for sure. Everyone was simply like frightened birds caught in the worst moment, and was so worried about the feedback. No one was wiling to tell passengers that something was already not working with this new plane on its first day of operation.
However I am more concerned with this trend that CX only wants to hear the nice things, not the bad things. Its customer service is known as poor and irresponsive and arrogant, but this trend is seeping everywhere. Without hearing the negatives, how can the airline improve itself? I honestly think that CX management seems to head towards the wrong way. They only want to hear the positive comments, not the negative comments. The F/As and even the purser were so afraid to say the truth on how they felt about the new plane. If that is the new direction CX is taking, I am very concerned about the future of CX service.
New Business Class seat:
1. Fully flat when reclined
2. A better Personal television – larger in size
3. Storage for shoes
1. The seat is designed for an average Asian passenger, not a passenger with a larger frame and most Western passengers, which seem to be a major proportion of CX premium passenger crowd.
2. Definitely worst than the first generation of the herringbone design, Virgin Upper Class…
3. The cloth style upholstery is not good enough.
4. You did not expect to move from the seat during meal time or while tray table was out. The tray table can slide forward and backward but not enough space for you to move out of seat if there is a meal tray there. Also you should be able to adjust the height of the table as well. You have to stay upright if you want to use the table comfortably.
5. Tray table design is awful and it does not learn from the Virgin Upper Class problem.
6. The feeling of claustrophobia especially in the first mini cabin, which seems to be appropriate for another row of first class, rather than a small business class cabin.
7. The armrest is almost useless because if the armrest is down, a slightly bigger passenger can’t feel comfortable at all. The armrest has to be raised at all times.
8. The width is definitely less than the current sliding business class seat.
9. At the sitting position, one feel really constrained.
10. There is still lack of rooms to store little things like magazines, and small magazines and menus can easily slip under the seat and create problems.
11. My personal taste – I can’t comfortable look out the window even in a window seat for a long period of time.
Full meal was served on the ICN sector, as both KE and OZ offered a full meal.
Here is the business class menu:
Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic
Paul Sapin Macon Lugny Cuvee Prestige 2005
Watershed Margaret River Unoaked Chardonnay 2005
Kirrihill Companions Clare Valley Shiraz 2004
Vieux Chateau Landon, Cru Bourgeois Medoc 2003
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000
312, 313, 317, 318, 350, 351, 367, 368, 410, 411, 412, 413, 416, 417, 418, 419 1-10-2007
Smoked duck breast with asparagus and marinated roasted peppers
Seasonal Salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Korean mixed vegetables and beef with rice
Braised sea bass fillet with preserved gooseberry sauce
Steamed rice and Chinese mixed vegetables
Roast corn-fed chicken breast with gravy
Kipfler Potatoes, stewed bean ragout and asparagus
Cheese and Dessert
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
Tea and Coffee
Szechuan hot smoked salmon and gravlax with honey mustard dressing
Caesar Salad with hot smoked salmon and lemon pepper dices with Japanese sesame dressing
Braised lamb with rosemary
Parsnip puree, sautéed French green beans and pumpkin
Corn-fed chicken with brown sauce
Steamed potato wedges, French beans with mixed vegetables in cream sauce, carrot, and zucchini
Sauteed sea bass with spring onions
Steamed rice and Chinese mixed vegetables
Cheese and Dessert
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
Tea and Coffee
First, I am extremely disappointed at the lack of celebration in the first revenue flight, and for the F/A team, these flights are more for training, than celebratory. I felt that the F/As should be given more opportunities to train and work on the aircraft before sending them out for real revenue flight. Of course, even with training, the first flight would be rough but at least they did not need to look around for trash bags and finding various items. CX does not provide enough real time training and I am not going to blame the F/As for the initial panic. However, I can’t imagine them finishing up service on shorter flights like HKG to TPE and back.
Second, CX catering is going downhill even though they have increased fares up front. It is not right and SQ and even the Korean airlines are more creative with meals in premium cabin, and the return flight was just not up to the usual standard. I don’t care or mind return catering, but the food should be good. The return flight served much worst food.
Third, CX’s new 77W seems to signal a new start and the new first class cabin is brilliant, but the business class cabin seems to lack some touchups, and if CX thinks that this business class product will bring them towards the front of the premium cabin game, they are so wrong and there are much work to do. The new J seats lack creativity and a certain elegant to it.
Finally, I am sorry to say – this new CX Business Class is a failure, considered it is a second-generation product and can learn so much from first generation operators like Virgin, Air New Zealand, and Air Canada. It is a harsh comment but considered they have at least two to three years to learn from these carriers especially Virgin. Is this the best that CX team can come up with? It does not address the problems with the herringbone design and actually makes the seats worst. Compared to SQ, this battle is a losing one, and now CX wants to charge like SQ 77W, they are dreaming. Sorry to be so harsh but I am really disappointed with these new products. I am not going to say that CX should cease the installation of new seats, but something has to be done.
Ronerone From Jordan, joined Aug 2004, 1642 posts, RR: 53 Reply 2, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
Great TR and great pics.
I am sorry that you had such an experience with CX. Interesting enough, i have heard similar things about their management's 'relation' with the crew etc, but on the contrary, all my four flights that i had with them this past year were absolutely fantastic.
Quoting Carfield (Thread starter): They now set up a newspaper cart at the jetway and expect F and J passengers to help themselves with papers too, which I find very un-premium class like.
This could be due to the fact that as you said, the entire service was disorganized due to the crew's lack of familiarization with the 77W. On both my CX flights last week, they rolled the newspaper carts out for us in C
In any case, it is always good to know both faces of an airline, as generally, every airline has two
Thanks for this great TR.
A Stop Away From One-Stop, Is Non-Stop : Airbus A340-500
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8353 posts, RR: 55 Reply 3, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
Great TR as always.
Intresting to note CX introduced the plane into service without any fanfare, that said, it is just another 777.
Quoting Carfield (Thread starter): After a good half an hour, he fixed everything and handed me the boarding pass, and I headed off to the Hong Kong Airport
- Now that is good service, well done!
Quoting Carfield (Thread starter): The most interesting part was that I asked one of the J F/As during the fruit and cheese service, “How did you like the new plane?” She was frightened and gave me these following comments, “So what do you think?” and then she said, “no comment… it is an interesting experience
- Interesting, does show the staff either don't like the set up or have not had sufficient time to learn how it works.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 4, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 23621 times:
great trip report and a good introduction to what CX has decided to out out there to compete. Their revamp on their business class could not come at a better time. I love the new service ware that they use for the meals though.
I agree 100% about the cons. The seats look terribly cramped and I am not sure if I like the herring-bone layout all that much. Such a pity that this flight was not celebratory in nature because I would have looked forward to the freebies and airline memorabilia.
That being said, I recently took a flight on SQ's 77W JCL and a fool would know who is the winner here. Just to give you an idea of what to expect, here are the links..
9MMAR From Malaysia, joined Jul 2006, 2102 posts, RR: 19 Reply 7, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
I think the F cabin in CX looks inferior than SQ's J cabin in B77Ws but the design looks almost similar to SQ's J, just a bit curvy. The personal screen looks smaller than SQ's J. The seat looks narrower than SQ's J. Referring to photo 36/80 on CX 418, (sadly) it looks like a normal size seat being attached (almost appreared glued) together with a 1/2 size seat of the same.
SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Reply 8, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
I wonder why CX went for the herringbone design in their JCL, and would have thought that CX, with the opportunity to give their cabins a brand new look, would want to be ahead of the competition and came up with something innovative, something that they could distinctly call their own . Those JCL seats do look very tight and narrow and worse of all, a waste of window views. Are any of CX's new YCL seats available in the 77W yet? Would certainly like to see how they eventually turn out.
Overall, a nice FCL, but certainly a boring, unimaginative JCL product.
Musapapaya From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1028 posts, RR: 0 Reply 9, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
This seemed quite disappointing to be honest, after having a look at your pictures.
Seats are too narrow and more importantly, the material seems very cheap. I cannot feel, from your pictures, this is a new plane. The food seemed not too nice especially the duck breast on your first flight is full of fat.
Disappointing, even LH's business class looks more classy.
N949WP From Hong Kong, joined Feb 2000, 1437 posts, RR: 1 Reply 10, posted (6 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 23621 times:
Thanks for the report.
I've been having much misgivings about the "new" CX J-class seats ever since seeing the first press release photos, and I believe your report has confirmed my worst fears!! Hard to fathom how CX could've lost the plot and rolled out such a claustrophobic monstrosity. Should it spread unchecked throughout the CX fleet, I don't see why I should continue to send them my travel dollars (or miles) for J-class flights, especially on long-haul.
CX flyboy From Hong Kong, joined Dec 1999, 6449 posts, RR: 56 Reply 12, posted (6 years 2 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 23400 times:
I am sorry to hear that you did not enjoy the new business class. I have personally tried it and found it to be pretty good actually. Sure it isn't perfect and a few of the things you address are valid.
Service standards aside (You can't blame crew for being unfamiliar with a plane they are well.....unfamiliar with!), I found the seats to be extremely comfortable and a vast improvement on the old business class which was pretty average to say the least, but seemed to have many fans. I am 6ft and of average build and sat and lay down very comfortably in it. The IFE system is great and the PTV is very nice indeed.
I do not think the try table is very sturdy and I do agree that looking out of the window is now harder. The airline knows that but thats what you get with the herringbone design. The entire cabin was designed with privacy and sleeping in mind, and quite frankly if you look around the average business class, no-one ever looks out of the window. People are too engrossed in their newspapers to care what is happening outside.
As for the small section of the business class, I LOVE it. I think it is extremely cozy, like you are sharing an exclusive small cabin with a few of your lucky friends. Quite frankly I think it is the best thing about the 77W cabin. Still, each to their own I guess and whats why I have heard some people who do not like the new J cabin, and others who will not stop going on about how wonderful it was.
CX flyboy From Hong Kong, joined Dec 1999, 6449 posts, RR: 56 Reply 15, posted (6 years 1 month 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 20894 times:
I flew the new J class on a 744 recently and can't say that I can completely share your assessment Carfield. granted it is not perfect (What seat is?) and that I have not tried a lot of business classes on other airlines I think it is a huge huge improvement over the current longhaul J seat. Perhaps not having tried other airlines seats allows me to be more neutral although of course I am biased at the same time.
The seat itself I think is very comfortable. I am not a big fan of leather seats as they feel cold when it is cool and when it is hot your skin gets hot and sticky against it, and we can sometimes have hot cabins especially in the 744 which has particularly weak APU cooling in the peak of the Hong Kong summer. The choice of upholstery I did not even notice to be honest. Could not have been that bad if I did not even give it a second thought. I tried the seat in both sitting and fully flat positions and found it quite comfortable. The memory foam they use moulds itself to your body shape and although the massage function cannot compare to a proper massage chair available on the market, it is still better than not having it.
The width I found fine. I am just under 6ft and of average build and at no time did I feel it was narrow. In fact the seat it wider than the old J class seat. The walls either side are high enough to provide a good level of privacy and with the seat even slightly reclined your eyes are below the level of the wall meaning the only way someone can look in is it they pull themselves up to and look over from their side of the wall to yours, or if someone is standing directly in front of you. The privacy is one of my favorite things about the new seats. I do admit that if you are claustrophobic, or if you are a large person then you might not like the seats however one thing I always disliked with the old seats or any 'normal' seat is how large people take more than their fair share of space if I have the misfortune to sit next to one. Not their fault of course, but this new seat ensures that I get the space I paid for.
The PTV is great and good choice of AVOD is nice too. The meal tray is one thing which feels a bit cheap and when pulling it would it feels you need to be gentle with it. Once out, as already noted, you cannot get out of your seat so make sure you do not need the toilet during your meal! Also with the PTV already out, the tray table could not be pulled out so I had to restow my PTV and then pull the table out and redeploy the PTV which was a little annoying.
Another annoying thing was the inability to look out of the window. The seat level is much higher than the window so even if you do manage to twist yourself nearly 180 degrees, you are not looking directly out but looking down. Not all that great for when you are taxying, but in the cruise there is more than enough IFE to keep you entertained. I like how you can even change the background of your IFE menu screen to one of 3 choices!!
So overall, if you are travelling with a partner, large or claustrophibic I can understand not liking it. For an averagely built person (Possibly not average by US standards), I must say that it was very comfortable. The build quality of the table could be improved but I liked the privacy and the comfort of the seat. Sitting watching a movie with my feet on the seat and my knees up, leaning against the sidewall was very comfortable. Definately a huge improvement over the old one and a seat I will definately try to book on by future travels in J class.