Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight Number: CX252
Aircraft: Boeing 747-467
Seat: 02K (First Class)
Distance: 5994 miles
Duration: 11hrs 12mins
Photo © Sean Norman
Photo © Sean Norman
The day started a little later than it had done for our previous few flights, around 9am we woke at the Sheraton Skyline finished packing our bags and made our way to the bus stop on the south side of the A4, just across from the hotel. I enjoyed the irony of flying First Class and yet taking the free public bus!
The relatively short distance from the hotel to Heathrow Central bus station took a little longer than expected but was probably not much different to the tour of the faceless hotels the 'Hotel Hoppa' would have offered.
Once inside Terminal 3 the Cathay Pacific desks seemed pretty empty considering it was two hours before the flight was due to depart. There was only one person ahead of us but he seemed to be having some issues with overpacked bags so the agent waved him to the side and called us forward. I handed over our passports and tickets and then noticed it. It being the one thing I was hoping wouldn't appear at check-in...the apology notice that the aircraft wouldn't have the advertised seats as expected. NO!! I had specifically booked this flight to give them a try out and shouldn't have poo-pooed the warnings that Cathay are infamous for aircraft substitution However, all things considered based on what I'd seen in the news if getting a little upset about the type of flat bed seat you get in First Class on a longhaul flight is the worst thing going on at that time then you should be considered lucky
We headed upstairs to security and through the FastTrack entrance which didn't seem very busy, just a couple of minutes to get through. Then there was a slightly bizarre occurrence. Just after the unmanned passport control desks was another form of security which people were heading for however you could just walk around it! I had no idea what it was, my infrequent travels through Terminal 3 not helping me...I took some money out of the ATM, changed it over to Hong Kong Dollars at Travelex (another 16 BA miles in the bag ) who were kind enough to waive the 5p I needed to get a round amount. Then it was off to the rather well hidden Cathay Pacific lounges. These can be found by heading right into the corner of the Terminal 3 shopping area and then up a back staircase. Once there they are quite pleasant; free wired internet, pleasant staff who remember your name when you pop out of the lounge and dim sum. The Kettle Chips help too There was a separate First Class side, not sure what it offered over the Business Class one but it wasn't very busy at all.
Cathay Pacific First Class lounge
As my wife paid bills and took care of other boring things I took advantage of the increasing oneworld presence at Terminal 3 to have a quick look at some of the other lounges. My travels through Terminal 3 always seem to have been on United or some other Star carrier so this was new to me.
First stop was the JAL lounge which didn't open until 1pm so that wasn't going to work. Then it was the AA Flagship Lounge, a quite bizarre place. I'm sure when design consultation was taking place (in America no doubt) that someone said, 'let's make it like a British castle. You know that place where everyone wears bowler hats, carries umbrellas with wooden curved handles, Monty Python and all that'. It really was a stereotypical American view of old Britain, plus it was exceptionally busy too. Pass!
Then it was next door to the Admirals Club who asked to see my lounge membership. I explained that flying a oneworld partner airline in First Class meant I could use this lounge and that the Flagship Lounge had just let me in. Just as they were about to call over a supervisor I grabbed my BA Executive Club card from my wallet and showed them which eased the tension. The Admirals Club was actually much more spacious than the Flagship Lounge with plenty of space. The decor was still a bit odd, not quite so much as next door but it was pretty clear the Cathay lounges are better.
I went back up to the Cathay lounge at around 11.50am and soon after a boarding announcement was made, prompting a rapid emptying of the lounge. On the way down to gate 1 Kirstin told me the lounge agent came to her while I was gone and offered to sit us next to each other. This confirmed my thoughts over the old seats being on this flight since with the new configuration there are no seats next to each other. I had a very small hope that the 'advertised seats' on this flight were the old ones since the airline haven't been guaranteeing the new seats on any particular flight.
On the way down to gate 1 the Singapore Airlines A380 flight was pushing back and a number of people were having their photos taken in front of the windows with it behind them. At gate 1 boarding was almost complete but we still followed the signs for First & Business passengers which took us quickly to the gate, however, there was still a lengthy line on the jetbridge.
Kirstin and I were escorted to our seats from door 2L by one of the flight attendants and I noticed the cabin was really rather hot. The APU was unserviceable and ground power wasn't able to keep up. This was so bad I turned down the offer of a glass of Krug for ice water I familiarised myself with the Cathay seat for a few minutes, it seemed pretty similar to BA's except it was more flush against the fuselage (so less space for menus and assorted garb) and didn't have a buddy seat or footstool which was surprisingly something I missed!
The soon-to-be-replaced Cathay Pacific First Class seat
Top ups were offered for all drinks and I also asked about the sleeper suit. Unlike BA's offering the large isn't too huge and the suit itself was quite nice with orange trim and buttons down the middle. Upon coming back from changing I found my menu and wine list at the seat which provided a little light reading.
Glass of Krug Grand Cuvee and menu + winelist
The flight deck informed us that we were almost ready for pushback but were number fifteen in the queue for takeoff and that we would have to wait on stand for some time as a result. We were told that due to favourable winds we were to make up any delays en-route.
The pile of goodies mounted up as we were handed our washkits. Mine was a brown Victorinox zip up bag which seemed surprisingly empty and poorly put together, unlike my wife's! A neat little zip up bag with all the contents one would expect from someone like Cathay Pacific.
Another fifteen minutes or so passed by, we were still attached to the stand when we were told that another delay had occurred as some sick passengers had to be offloaded and their bags found, and that our projected pushback time was now 1.15pm.
From 2K I could see out to the front of Terminal 2 and the steady stream of Flight Connections and staff busses heading to various spots around the airport, including one for staff going to BA107, the Dubai flight I'd taken the previous week.
As the staff made regular passes around the cabin I asked Eric, one of the pursers about a glass of Krug. As if it was his only task to deal with he rushed to get the bottle, presented it to me, poured me a small amount to taste and followed by filling the entire glass. Nice, I could get used to this With Krug in hand I went over to see Kirstin in 2A and we chatted about the menu, movies etc and then after over an hour on the ground we got the call that we were about to pushback.
At 1.10pm the aircraft powered up and we taxied over to runway 09R, with quite a few aircraft departing (isn't it always busy at LHR!?) it was another twenty minutes before we were up in the air. The takeoff roll was exceptionally long, not surprising for a flight of just short of 6000 miles, but it seemed like we were really rocketing along by the time the front wheel came off the tarmac.
Initially we turned to the north east and headed across the north side of London. I spent the first few minutes of the flight alternating between looking at the capital and a copy of the Sunday Times Travel magazine which was selected from a tray that went around the cabin at boarding, another nice touch
Cathay Pacific First Class cabin
The meal service began over the Dutch coast with the caviar. I don't eat a whole load of caviar and am not an expert by any means but it was rather tasty, and the smoked salmon that came with it was a superb cut. I asked for seconds
Caviar and Balik salmon "Tsar Nicolaj" with Krug Grand Cuvee
As the meal service continued I opted to fire up the CX Studio AVOD system and see what was available on the flight. I noticed 'Office Space' was on the lineup and it fitted right in with my mood. I had trouble trying to get my Bose headphones attached to the headphone socket before conceding defeat and noticing that it was a three pin socket anyway. Thankfully, like any self-respecting airline, Cathay have noise cancelling headphones wired up into the seat so the downgrade from my QC2s wasn't too great.
We tracked across the northern part of continental Europe, across the southern part of Denmark and out over the Baltic Sea. I didn't realise how beautiful that part of the world is!
Flying over the Baltic Sea near Denmark
After the caviar service I chose from the Chinese favourites section of the menu. I started with the pork rib and papaya soup which came with a cold plate of shredded chicken and cucumber with sesame dressing. This was followed up with stir-fried sweet and sour pork which came with stir fried Chinese broccoli with black mushroom steamed rice.
1) Pork rib and papaya soup with a cold plate of shredded chicken and cucumber with sesame dressing
2) Stir-fried sweet and sour pork with stir-fried Chinese broccoli with black mushroom steamed rice
3) Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and marshmallows
4) Hot towel and petit fours
These dishes were pretty tasty although I was a little disappointed with the pork, maybe I'm just too used to the one from my local takeout
After these I reverted back to the western menu for dessert, this time it was listed on the menu as vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce. However, when it arrived it was more like chocolate sauce with marshmallows. Not gourmet but very tasty so once again I got seconds The meal service was ended with a washcloth, toothpick and couple of chocolates to nibble on. Some passengers had enjoyed an abbreviated version of the menu and were already under duvets with shades down when I was on dessert.
Once 'Office Space' was over I filled out the immigration forms and decided to hit the sack. I put the bed into full recline and asked for a duvet. Incidentally this was the only 'delivered' item for bedtime. There was no mattress, no small pillows or sheets etc like one might get on other top airlines. I slept for maybe three or four hours before being woken by a combination of heavy chop and sound from the IFE. The guy behind in me 3K was sound asleep but his music, or movie, were on unbelievably loud, almost like those people on the Tube who are attempting to recreate a Ministry of Sound like experience for them, and everyone within 100ft of them. I had few options but to get my earplugs out of the washkit which was in the overhead locker. Even wearing earplugs I could still hear the sounds and it was keeping me from sleeping. Despite sleeping well for the previous few hours I was struggling a little second time around. Under the duvet I was too warm, on top of the duvet (a technique I often employ on BA) I was too cold. I also found the buttons down the front of the sleeper suit made it a little uncomfortable.
I don't know how I managed it but once again I did fall asleep and was woken by my wife telling me there was twenty minutes of the flight left! I was very surprised, but grateful I'd managed another couple of hours of kip.
I quickly headed for the toilet to change back to my clothes and freshen up. The two occupants were really taking their time and I was still standing by the door as the seatbelt sign went on for landing. As such I worked as quickly as possibly to become human again!
Arriving into Chek Lap Kok
We landed on runway 25R and it was a short taxi to the terminal building and gate N30. From my seat I could see the Oasis 747 fleet parked nose to nose in the distance.
The flight attendants held back the passengers in Business Class as we left from door 1L. At the end of the jetbridge we were met by an airport representative on behalf of our hotel and put on a cart to immigration We talked about our stay in Hong Kong and things to see and do.
Thanks to the speedy work of our driver we arrived at immigration ahead of the other 300 or so people on our flight. The representative met us again on the other side of the immigration point and assisted with our bags before handing us over to someone from the hotel once we'd passed through customs. With pleasantries exchanged we were escorted down to curbside where our green Rolls Royce Phantom was waiting for us for the drive into the city
Verdict: I guess the disappointment of not getting the new seats (which I was very much looking forward to) clouded my view of the flight somewhat. The service was excellent though, in particular from Eric who seemed to be serving me. The food started off great with the caviar course (and no not just because it was caviar!) but the actual Chinese food was a little off the boil IMO. Maybe I'm just too used to westernised Chinese food
The seat itself was alright. I wasn't a great fan of the fact it was flush up against the fuselage so didn't have much room for things like a lot of other First products. Depending upon which seat you get you can have more room. Also the lack of buddy sea/footstool was something I missed since the table was big enough for two to eat from. The one plus was that the side of the seat near the aisle did drop down to create a little more room when sleeping. The good news is that the new First Class seat does remedy a lot of these issues, and I hope to try it out on one of my other Cathay Pacific flights soon.