Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight Number: CX713
Aircraft: Boeing 747-467
Seat: 01K (First Class)
Distance: 876 miles
Duration: 1hrs 58mins
Photo © Lutz Lehmann
Photo © Rainer Albert
We arrived at the airport at around 10am after what can only be described as a heart pounding taxi ride from our hotel. Our cab driver pulled away from our hotel and when taking a detour around some slightly unsavoury neighbourhood said he'd only take us to the airport if he could turn the meter off! Then a few minutes later he was telling us how poor he was and that one night at our hotel would cost the same as his monthly wage etc etc. It really wasn't shaping up to finish off well and I try hard to be a very vigilant and conscious traveller. Most worringly when we were on the expressway to the airport he pulled over onto the side of the road without saying anything and got out of the car and ran behind a bush! I was expecting him to bring round a gaggle of his mates to rough us up or something...fortunately it was something much less sinister. A call of nature After reaching the drop off point with heart rate at about 180 beats per minute I handed over our pre-arranged price and got into the safe haven of the airport as soon as possible!
The premium Cathay check-in desks were quite empty and as the agent brought up our reservations I asked if the flight was showing the new First Class seats. He smiled and said it was After getting the last minute substitution on our LHR-HKG flight I was really looking forward to trying out the new seats. The agent handed our boarding passes and lounge invitations and told us how to reach the Cathay Pacific lounge in concourse D. Outbound immigration was efficient enough but it was a long LHR-like shopping mall hike to get to the stairs down to the rather cosy Cathay lounge, nestled downstairs away from the shops. Despite being small it had a few internet PCs and selection of dim sum and drinks. As we'd skipped breakfast this was required
Cathay Pacific Business & First lounge in Concourse D
I had remembered Airpearl's report on the new CX F seat from a couple of months back which had said that there were two lounges that Cathay had at BKK so looked them up on the internet. It seemed one was in Concourse G which was quite close by...ridiculously close by! You could almost see one lounge from the other! The concourse G lounge was quite a bit bigger but provided the same facilities as the one in D. Neither were busy by any stretch so I presume AOT were doing a 'buy one get one free' deal on lounges...
Cathay's second Business and First lounge in Concourse G
I had a couple of the BBQ pork buns to carry me over until boarding but gave up on the second one due to the extra dressing of hair which had been inadvertently (hopefully!) added to one of them. Delightful
We used the internet to pass the time until 11.20am when we opted to head down to the gate. As we hadn't passed security yet that was the first hurdle to cross although it wasn't much of one, for me at least. There was no line at all (Maybe Economy passengers go through security elsewhere) but this didn't stop my wife getting her bags turned over because of a pair of legal nail scissors.
The gate set up at the new airport is a bit odd. From the level where security is you drop down a couple of ramps and then do the passport/boarding pass checks before being herded into a pen large enough for a 747 load of passengers. We waited near the plexiglass door where we due to board for the simple reason that there were no other seats.
One announcement was made and a line of about 300 people formed in a nanosecond in the hope they'd be able to board the aircraft just outside the window. In my brief experiences of Cathay Pacific I didn't think it was worth joining the line as a First Class passenger so held tight. Before long other passengers who seemed to be attired as one should be in the a premium cabin joined us. Blackberrys in hand, donned in sportsjackets with boarding pass sticking out of an outside pocket somewhere on their bodies
About twenty minutes later a Cathay agent stood near a second plexiglass door into the hallowed jetbridge and holds up a sign for passengers in rows 54-70 to line up there and a large number of the passengers move over to the newly formed line. This is quickly followed up (relatively, compared to geological time) with another person holding a laminated sheet for Business and First Class. That's my call and a group of us head out through the door behind the member of staff. Whilst all this was going on I was watching the comings and goings of the staff between the jetbridge and the gate area and did feel bad for the Cathay staff. At the front of the original line was a girl with her parents who tried to rush through the door EVERY TIME IT WAS OPENED! Good God, what's wrong with some people?? The family were told maybe six times that the flight wasn't boarding yet and within three minutes there were trying to sneak through the door!!
Anyways, down the jetbridge to 1L and as I pick up my rollerbag I can see the one thing I was dreading, an overhead bin above seat 4K. The new Cathay seats don't have overheads so I knew once again we'd had the last minute substitution. Sigh.
The purser Alex escorts us to our seats and talks with us for several minutes, another crew member brings us a tray of champagne and they finish by telling us we are the only passengers in First Class on this flight It was odd because I'd looked up the flight on Cathay's website the night before and it was showing as full! (There was someone in 4A but we were told he was a CX crew member shuttling down to Singapore and he didn't seem to get any service!) Alex offered to fetch some newspapers and magazines whilst another member of the crew came and introduced themselves and talked to us about a whole manner of things from the new First Class seats, to our trip. Sometimes on empty flights the service goes down the tubes in a 'Since you are the only passenger hit the call bell if you need anything' way. This was certainly not the case on this flight, it was as if we were royalty or something!
A glass of the Cuvee William Deutz Brut 1998 and some H2O
Right up until pushback we were chatting with the staff and they were bringing us drinks and knick knacks. As we headed out to runway 19L menus and wine lists were brought round and due to there being no wait for takeoff we perused them as we headed out over the coast en-route to FL370.
Alex came round and asked about cocktails and I took him up on the offer going for an 'Oriental Breeze' off the menu, 'a sour-plum tea and cranberry juice based non-alcoholic drink with honey and fresh lemon juice and a hint of rose water'. Very refreshing it was too The lead cabin attendant for this flight (she was wearing red ) came and introduced herself and said what a pleasure it was to have us onboard and said she'd heard we were on a round the world trip etc etc. They obviously talk back in the galley
The soon to be replaced First Class cabin on the 747
Alex popped round again asking when we wanted to have lunch and whether we were going for the Thai inspired chicken curry or the veal. Despite being curried out from our stay in Bangkok we decided to carry on with it. We also asked for the meal service to begin as soon as possible, and within about fifteen seconds we had tablecloths and a table layout each!!
We started off with a prawn dish but the best part for me was the bread basket I'd neglected on my previous two flights. The garlic bread was sensational! Now usually I'm the first person to criticise inflight catering but this was as good as any I've had.
Timbale of potatoes prawn pesto and olive
Laura, our most visible member of the team came and spoke to us for some time before our chicken was ready. It was a real pleasure to talk to someone who was so keen to impress and thoroughly enjoyed the passenger facing aspects of their job.
Chicken with coconut lemon grass sauce steamed jasmine rice and sauteed mixed vegetables
The chicken was unremarkable but despite the small amount, rather filling. I really didn't think I'd be able to stomach dessert. Alas Laura had other plans, saying it looked really delicious and she'd bring me a slice of it, if I didn't want it I didn't have to eat it.
Praline vanilla gateau
When it arrived I was glad she talked me into it, it was truly excellent. Starters and desserts are where airlines usually excel in my opinion, not shackled to the cooking methods one is restricted to when airborne. This certainly was an example of that. If I wasn't completely full I'd have had another three pieces Just when I thought I was full Laura rushes back with a box of chocolates leaving my wife and I to pass them between eachother while she excuses herself. Apparently some help is required in the back cabin but we still had Alex on hand to help us out if necessary.
A brief interjection of 'view' heading down east of Malaysia
A couple of minutes later she returns once again to talk some more saying she had found one of the Business Class attendants to cover for her! We talked some more, about our trip, personal lives, Cathay Pacific, our disappointment at missing out on the new seats again
As we prepared for our descent into Singapore Laura and the red suited lady return with a nice bottle of red wine (Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2001, 4eme Cru Classe to be precise!) with compliments of Cathay Pacific. They thanked us for flying with them, wished us good luck for the future and our trip and looked forward to seeing us onboard again soon.
As we descended a bit more became visible, a relatively thin strip of Malaysia off to the right with plenty of islands and secluded beaches, then the dozens and dozens of container ships as far as the eye can see that tell you that you are nearing one of the world's busiest ports. We do a complete 180 southeast of the island, pass through a brief yet heavy rainstorm and then land on runway 02C. From there it was a short taxi to gate 44 and we said our final goodbyes to Laura and her team as they held back all those Business Class passengers to ensure our safe passage into the terminal building.
Verdict: Absolutely couldn't fault the service. If someone wanted to start an airline and see how First Class service should be done with a personal touch then this was it. OK, so this went a little beyond would could be considered service but it was the attitude of the Laura in particular that shone. Nothing seemed too much trouble, I felt she'd had completed my tax return for me if I'd asked nicely!! Without being too subservient she was there to make our flight as best as she possibly could have done, and pulled it off with a beaming smile to boot. Kudos