AirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4512 posts, RR: 53 Posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 11808 times:
Reposting this report here with working pictures
Well well, I wanted to plan a week-long vacation to attend the Paris Air show...and my work would not let me take that week off. Then I decided to push it back a couple of weeks to attend my friend's graduation at Cambridge. Wouldn't allow that either...they wanted me to take advantage of the 4th of July vacation so that my trip would only require me to be gone 3 days instead of 5.
With that, I decided to go to Hong Kong with a friend!
Deciding who to book my ticket with was not easy. Nothing was cheap anymore and the options were as follows:
UA LAX/BUR-SFO-NRT-HKG and return
NW LAX-NRT-HKG-NRT-PDX-(5 hour layover)-LAX
UA was the cheapest but I'm not into Star and anyway I really didn't want to stop in San Francisco and Tokyo.
Northwest was good because of the 742 but on the way back it was 2 stops and I didn't fancy spending 5 hours at Portland, only to get on an AS 734.
JL was appealing, especially considering the free night at the Kansai Airport hotel (allowing me to pick up immigration stamps from Japan and Hong Kong) but the fact that the ticket was not changeable or refundable except in the event of death was a bit too restrictive.
That brings me to the most expensive option, to fly what has been voted the world's most popular airline, get closer to completing my 744 RB211 tour of the world and rack up some oneworld points. Sounded like a good plan to me. I paid $1260 for my return ticket in Economy. Approxtimately $170 more than United, but the hotel would be cheaper as I'd arrive on Sunday morning as opposed to Saturday night, so I decided to go for it.
2nd July 2005
B-HOO del 26-09-88
Well, the day actually started on Thursday at about 2:05 am. I set my alarm for 2:05am in order to check-in online on Cathay's website and get a good seat. I got up, turned on my computer, logged in and then....damnit, realised that I needed my passport number and expiration date, which I didn't have!!!
Went back to bed and woke up again at 6:00am, called my mother to get my passport number etc and then checked-in online and got seat 55K, a bulkhead window, the first aisle of the rear Economy cabin.
I then called my colleague and told him to get seat 55E, the middle seat next to my window. Yes you heard me right....I meant to tell him 55J but instead told him 55E. He went ahead and picked 55E, not realising that it wasn't the middle seat next to the window and so that was the end of our sitting next to each other on the flight.
Cathay's online check-in doesn't get you a boarding pass; rather, it allows you to checkin at the "Online Checkin" desk at the airport, which is what I did approximately 40 hours later, at about 11pm on Friday night, the 1st of July.
Bradley was a mess at that hour, but luckily the Cathay Online Checkin line was empty. The check-in agent was kind enough to inform me that the aircraft operating the route that evening would be B-HOO. B-HOO is Cathay's oldest 744 and I believe the first 744 to be equipped with the RB211, my favourite aero engine. Quite frankly, I was relieved that B-HKD did not make it to Los Angeles that night, as I really wanted to fly on an RB211 744.
Here is a photo of me at the top level of the terminal showing my boarding pass:
Security, customs, blah blah blah...at about 1:15, Cathay started boarding. There were all of 4 empty seats on the flight and unfortunately 55J was not one of them. There was a Vietnamese lady sitting in 55J and an Indian gentleman in 55H, heading to Ho Chi Minh City and Bombay respectively...both on CX.
Row 55 is a bit of an anomaly. On the sides of the airplane, row 55 is the bulkhead but in the middle row 54 is the bulkhead and 55 is behind it. There is not a whole lot of legroom in row 55. You can't slide your feet underneath the seat in front of you like in a regular seat, but on the plus side, you have more than 32" of pitch between you and the wall. You can get up and access the aisle without the people sitting in J and K getting up...but they will have to unstretch their feet.
Anyway, as soon as I sat down, I had a look at the pouch in front of me. Cathay provides each passenger a fresh copy of the in-flight magazine (which I found quite entertaining...though I was upset that they didn't have a fleet information section), the safety card, duty free (sorry...free duty) guide as well as a vomit bag wrapped in a plastic cover which I thought was a nice touch. On a side note, the only Chinese word I picked up during my stay in Hong Kong was the word for vomit. Apparently it is Tooo in Mandarin and Tau in Cantonese. Also means spit?
Here's a shot of the wall in front and the aforementioned plastic bag:
Also in the wall pocket in front of me was a Cathay pouch identical to the pouch that I received on Qantas...only that CX's did not have any eyeshades in it. Rather, there was a piece of paper to say "Eyeshades available upon request." Not sure why they can't bother to put them in to begin with.
Here's a shot of the QF and CX pouches as well as a shot of me wearing the QF eyeshades:
The cockpit crew of this flight were English (well, the pilot and copilot were anyway) and they pushed us back around 2am. The RB211 started churning and after a fairly long takeoff roll, we lifted off from Runway 25R and turned to a northwesterly heading and started our journey across the Pacific.
The first order of business was dinner. Fortunately, they chose to come around with the drinks and food only once so that we could get to bed ASAP. Cathay apparently makes it a habit of giving passengers a choice between three dishes and on that night's flight, the options were lamb stew, stir-fried seafood and fusilli carbonara.
Hope this shot of the menu is not too small:
I had the lamb stew and it wasn't too fantastic. Here are a couple shots of the tray and the food:
The F/As on board were almost all women (i think there was one man) and their style of service was certainly professional...but not at all charismatic, nor even friendly.
Dinner was edible but nothing fantastic. As soon as they came around to collect the trays, I tried to go to sleep. It was slightly difficult as I wasn't able to stretch my legs out (at 1.74, I'm not very tall and I think that if I was any taller, I couldn't have survived in those seats). I put my legs on my camera bag and snoozed. I had brought some ear plugs from the manufacturing cell at work but forgot them at home, so I just put on the acoustic headphones that I got from my Concorde flight and that was just fine.
Got up a couple of times and went to the lav. There aren't that many in the economy section. There are 2 at the #3 door (at row 44) and then 4 at the very back, with nothing in the middle. One thing that is nice is that the F/As actually come around every so often and clean the toilets and the counters with some spray, which is certainly appreciated.
Here is a shot of us towards the end of my nap:
Eventually we were about 3 hours out from Hong Kong when they started to serve breakfast. The choice was between a scrambled eggs, pork sausage and potato meal or abalone clam and chicken congee. I had the eggs and they weren't that great. In fact I would have really preferred just a bowl of cereal instead. When I flew Qantas in March, a continental breakfast was an option and I could have used it onboard Cathay.
Here's a shot of the breakfast:
Worth mentioning at this stage is that the Cathay trays are not just random pieces of plastic, they are actually quite nicely designed with imitation bamboo handles etc...quite a nice touch.
Here is a shot of the view from my window (55K) around the time that we were having breakfast:
I entertained myself with CX's Studio CX entertainment system at that point. I thought I remembered that Million Dollar Baby was going to be playing, so I tried to find it. I thought I recognized Hillary Swank, but after about 10 minutes realised that I was watching Miss Congeniality instead. So I changed the channel to something else which I thought could have been it, but actually wasn't. Eventually I settled on the Man Utd vs Newcastle rerun:
There was a fair amount of turbulence during the flight. When we were having breakfast, the F/As told us that they could not serve coffee while the Fas-ten (pronounce the T) seat belt sign was on. Makes sense...but as soon as the sign was switched off they came round with it.
Upon approach to Hong Kong, I began to enjoy my window seat more. As we were landing, we passed over all these little hilly islands in the sea with ships scattered between them all. It was a beautiful sight and I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a picture of it!
Landing was fairly smooth and the thrust reversers came on (although I didn't hear them). I think we arrived on 07L and taxiied to the north side of the complex and parked at the gate. After having been in the air almost 14 hours, we arrived at about 07:00, almost 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
After disembarking, we boarded some sort of tram and went through immigration, etc and then I took the shuttle to my hotel.
Overall, I wasn't particularly impressed with Cathay. Service was definitely good, but the F/As were neither friendly nor charming. The meals were alright, at least for airplane food. I would have liked them to have passed out a little snack pack with water and perhaps a couple of other goodies before we were to sleep, similar to what I received on Qantas.
In addition, the in-flight entertainment (Studio CX), while fairly good in terms of having lots of channels and games, did not have a detachable remote control. So if I wanted to play a game, I'd have to control what I was doing from the armrest!
Lastly, I felt as though the seat did not recline nearly as much as my QF seat did (more on that in my return report).
In summary, I did not experience anything which would lead me to think that Cathay Pacific is indeed the world's best airline. I much preferred my 4 flights on Qantas back in March! Perhaps they're significantly better in F and C.
Perhaps I had set my expectations too high. Cathay has some fantastic ingredients to their product - the entertainment is good, the F/As are efficient, they provide three meal choices, the inflight magazine is always brandnew, there are snacks and sandwiches available between meals.
Anyway, I'm still glad that I flew on CX and I'll hopefully be writing my return report at some point today. At the moment it's 05:37 here and I think the jet lag is taking its effect. Hopefully there aren't too many typos in the report.
For the sake of reference, here are the two reports that I wrote after my QF journeys in March:
About 4 years ago I flew SFO-HKG-SIN-BOM on CX and QF in Business and I have to say that I was not impressed by QF to say the least. I thought CX was light years ahead of QF.
This may have changed recently with QF's improved business class, but there were other things that made the difference for me. Cabin crew was most certainly one major difference between the two with CX's outshinning QF in every respect. The recent reports coming out about QF though seem to be extremely positive so maybe QF has changed for the better and I look forward to trying them out again.
While I hold CX with the highest regard, I have found that they are losing their foothold, especially after my trans Pacific leg on Malaysian this year. However they still remain my favorite carrier of all time.
AirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4512 posts, RR: 53
Reply 4, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 11399 times:
Quoting SR 103 (Reply 3): This may have changed recently with QF's improved business class, but there were other things that made the difference for me. Cabin crew was most certainly one major difference between the two with CX's outshinning QF in every respect. The recent reports coming out about QF though seem to be extremely positive so maybe QF has changed for the better and I look forward to trying them out again.
In terms of the actual seats, I don't think that I could really tell too much. The CX Business class seat reminded me of the Virgin Upper Class Seat just by virtue of the location of the PTV, but I did like the trimming and decor.
The SkyBeds look alright as well, though I'm not sure how comfortable it looks to sleep on.
To be honest, what really made it for me on QF was the crew. The interplay between the F/As, their sense of humour and their charm. Maybe the fact that I was able to sleep almost all the both ways between LAX and SYD helped
I found the CX crew to be efficient, yes, but nothing more.
What was it about the QF crew that you didn't like and what was it about the CX crew that you did like?
I'm thinking to doing a redemption booking between LHR and SYD in C on oneworld next year and I'm wondering what airline to do it with still.
Quoting SR 103 (Reply 3): We are all guilty of this, remember my Emirates trip report?
LOL, yes I do. I suppose I might be complaining too much. I don't think I could have chosen a better airline to go to HKG.
SR 103 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1740 posts, RR: 38
Reply 6, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 10907 times:
Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 4): What was it about the QF crew that you didn't like and what was it about the CX crew that you did like?
Well this would take a while and I really don't want to hi-jack this well written trip report into a QF vs. CX thread. I can e-mail you the details if you wish, but lets say arrogant cabin crew combined with racist behavior really did not leave a very good impression on passengers.
Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 4): I'm thinking to doing a redemption booking between LHR and SYD in C on oneworld next year and I'm wondering what airline to do it with still.
From personal experience, I would opt for CX. However if you could mix and match that would be the best option. You would get to try out both and decide for yourself which airline you prefer. I find it hard pressed to beat Cathay C and F service, but from what I have read, QF certainly ranks high up there.
Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 4): LOL, yes I do. I suppose I might be complaining too much.
I actually do not think you were complaining too much at all. You were very complementary of CX and we all know airlines are not perfect. You just stated your observations and nothing more which I think is totally fair.
I have found that when I board airlines like NWA or Air Sahara expecting nothing, I get blown away by the service I receive. Its when I board airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Continental and the like where I get disappointed when expecting something special.
Very few airlines actually live up to my expectations such as Cathay Pacific, Malaysian, KLM, and British Airways to name a few.
I suppose it all depends on how you view the airline before you actually step foot on one of their aircraft.
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 743 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 10474 times:
Sorry to hear your flight on CX was less than satisfactory for you.
I have flown them LAX-HKG-LAX on several occasions and I always found that they went above and beyond. It's been a few years since I have flown CX but one thing I will always treasure is that on several occasions, I was privileged to sit in the cockpit jumpseat for take off and landing (on 747-400 and once on a 777-300 NRT-HKG). I had written to CX requesting permission to do this and they were very professional and courteous. Obviously I won't be doing this again after 11 September.
I also found the cabin crews very helpful. On one LAX-HKG flight I was told it would not be possible to visit the cockpit because it was a training flight. However in talking to a flight attendant later, I mentioned Thursday was my birthday and I will be returning to LAX on CX. Imagine my surprise later when I was called to the galley and presented with a makeshift birthday card, signed by the flight attendants and the captain, and a box of chocolates. Later on, a flight attendant came by and said that because it was my birthday, they are going to let me visit the cockpit.
I do hope your future travel with CX is better than this one
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 743 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 10362 times:
If I compare your trip with my previous trips on CX I would say it was a bad day. I read your return trip report before responding.
I might also tell you that my trips with CX were all prior to 11 September, when they extended their courtesies to me..As you can expect there were many changes after that, but still it does not seem like typical CX service you got. My own feelings of their service is that it is comparable to first class service I received on other airlines.
I'll be interested to read your reports when you fly premium class on CX