REVIEW: Cathay Pacific Business Class Kuala Lumpur - Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific (CX) Flight 720 - Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Boeing 777-300, Business Class, Seats 12D & 12E
We arrived in KUL on a connecting flight with Malaysia Airlines after a week of fun filled adventure in Bali, Indonesia. Unfortunately a little bit of weather delayed our flight a bit, so there won't be any discussion of the business class lounge facilities used by Cathay Pacific in KUL as I didn't have time to visit at all on this trip. Note that Cathay operates their own business class lounge facility in KUL due to the large number of flights per day they run, though if you have middle or top tier status within the Oneworld alliance you can also access Malaysia Airlines' various lounges throughout the airport due to the alliance's reciprocal benefits.
By the time we had hopped off our delayed Malaysia flight and made our way over to the gate where our Cathay Pacific flight was boarding, they had already called for business class customers to head down the jet bridge so we dutifully queued up and made our way into Cathay's regional business class cabin.
Cathay Pacific has a multitude of Boeing 777 aircraft in their fleet, many of which are configured in a regional layout seeking a high density of seats on a large plane, These birds are designed to move large amounts of passengers between cities within Asia to Hong Kong where most will then connect onward to other regional cities or often times destinations much further abroad. Our plane was originally scheduled to be one of Cathay's long haul layout planes with seating arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. The last minute switch to the regional configuration meant a 2-3-2 layout. This meant that our pair of seats in the center of the plane was suddenly a trio of seats we would be sharing with a stranger. Less ideal but nothing we couldn't handle though!
Cathay Pacific's color scheme inside their planes is very consistent - a lot of green fabric and soft white/beige tones on the visible plastic shells of the seats. Crisp white linen was draped over each headrest. Rusty bronze pillows were placed at each seat. As a hallmark of Cathay's service and consistent professionalism, the seat belt at my (and everyone's) seat was neatly laid into a point.
As I mentioned, boarding as already pretty heavily underway which made it difficult to discreetly take a few more cabin pictures. Instead I settled into my seat and began to explore.
The seat featured a leg rest which, when deployed, reduced the amount of leg room rather substantially. The seat shell contained a cut out area to facilitate additional space when the foot rest was out, but it was still a bit of a tight fit. Still, having a foot rest is better than not having one at all and the space for leg movement is still much larger than you'd have back in economy class.
Above the foot rest cut out was a moderately sized television monitor which featured Cathay Pacific's standard "Studio CX" in-flight entertainment (IFE) options. Music, television shows, movies, games, and a moving map were available to keep you distracted during the flight. Cathay's entertainment system is generally better than most airlines but not in the top tier with carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines. There's plenty to watch while on a short or even very long flight, you just won't be drowning in options like you would on those carriers.
To the left of the IFE is a coat hook, to the right an AV hook up (in case you brought your VCR?) and a USB port for charging. Between my seat and my boyfriend's were two recessed areas with thick security straps for you to place your smart phone. Note that these areas are for use only during flight time - you cannot store your phones here during taxi, take off, and landing.
The tray table was hidden underneath the IFE screen and above the foot rest. It can be deployed by simply grabbing a handhold underneath the tray and lifting upward and outward. The tray table can be kept as is, folded in half, to keep a bit of space for your body while still giving you room to hold a drink and perhaps a snack. If you need more space for the meal, your laptop, or anything larger, you can flip the table into its full length.
The seat belt on this variation is a lap band with an airbag packed into one side, hence the very fat and thick packaging. The safety card, duty free catalog, and in-flight magazine were stored in a small inset area in the console between the seats. The headphone jack for the IFE was inside this inset area.
On the front of the console were universal power outlets for charging electronics that needed a more traditional access port vs. the USB charger on the IFE screen. The console between my seat and my boyfriend's seat had two chargers, so no need to fight over access to electricity.
The seat fully explored, I sat back and began to focus on enjoying the flight. Cathay Pacific's in-flight crew have always impressed me with their friendly service. It's generally genuinely friendly and very precise in terms of making sure everyone gets what they need. The regional business class cabin is relatively large for the number of flight attendants available to provide service, so they're still just as friendly though a bit rushed when interacting with you. It's still tough to beat a Cathy Pacific team of flight attendants in a world full of largely mediocre in-flight service, even when rushed.
Once boarding was complete, the door was shut and we pulled off the stand right on time. KUL always seems to run their ground ops pretty efficiently and before I knew it our big ole Boeing was rocketing down the runway and soaring off into the cloudy skies over Malaysia. After a few minutes of bumpy air the captain turned off the seat belt sign and our flight attendants hopped into action to being the meal service.
The crew started with a beverage of your choice. If you've read any of my other trip reports you know that I don't drink alcohol, so of course I opted for a rather boring apple juice. My boyfriend opted for some champagne. They also dropped off scented hot towels to cleanse your hands and/or face.
After the towels were collected, menus were passed out. Today's flight would feature a starter, a salad, an entree, a dessert, and would finish with a tea/coffee service.
Though not on the menu, it's common on most airlines in premium cabins to start the meal with hot nuts and Cathay is no exception. Another drink service was performed. This time I opted for a glass of water as well as Cathay's non-alcoholic featured beverage of the month - the Oriental Breeze, a mixture of sour plum tea, cranberry juice, honey, lemon juice, and a dash of rose water.
One of the reasons I really love flying with Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin is that they offer these specialty non-alcoholic beverages on a monthly rotating basis. In addition to the Oriental Breeze, I'm a huge fan of the Cathay Delight which is a mixture of kiwi juice, milk, and coconut milk garnished with mint leaves. Between the two I prefer the Cathay Delight though the Oriental Breeze is a nice option as well. The tartness of the sour plum and lemon is off-set nicely by the pungent sweetness of the rose water.
While the passengers snacked on their drinks and mixed nuts, the flight crew went about setting up each passenger's table with a tablecloth. Once the scene was set, they started to drop off trays with the plated appetizer and salad and then offered passengers a choice of bread. As you can see, I went with the garlic bread, which is almost never a bad choice on the ground or in the air. The salad was pretty small with a vinegar-based dressing in a plastic container on the side. The appetizer plate was much larger.
The smoked chicken was indeed quite smokey, though also very tasty. I'm not the biggest fan of Waldorf salads so left the reminder of the appetizer on the plate.
For my entree I want the rice vermicelli with chicken in tom yum soup but for some reason the dish wasn't catered on the flight. So we were stuck with just beef or fish. Between the two, I went with the beef tenderloin in honey pepper sauce with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli.
When it comes to reviewing airlines I do my best to be honest with people, and that's why I'm always pretty critical of Cathay Pacific's catering despite many folks giving the airline across the board high marks. It's never bad, but it's also never really that good. It's one of the few areas where I think Cathay can do a bit of soul searching and make marked improvements to their service offering. Take this beef dish for example - it reminded me of Panda Express beef and broccoli. Now, on the one hand, Panda Express offers a pretty reasonably tasty dish. On the other hand, when your business class food is comparable with an American fast food chain you can get in a foam container in the terminal, you may want to up your game a little.
That being said, I ate it and it was just fine.
A cheese plate, fresh fruit, or ice cream was offered to end the meal. The current version of me would have declined anything at this point, though the "then" version of me was more than happy to take a mini-pint of creme brulee Haagen-Dazs to sate his sweet tooth. The unique flavor was welcomed as it gets a bit tiresome when you're on a plane as often as I am and the ice cream is always chocolate or vanilla.
I opted for tea when it was offered and specifically requested the Hong Kong-style milk tea that Cathay serves on board. Hong Kong-style milk tea is a sweet concoction of black tea and milk (usually evaporated or condensed to bump the sweetness) that is a phenomenally delicious treat when you're in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacifics's offering on board is made from a powder and isn't anywhere near as good as what's made on the ground, but it still a cozy little tidbit to close out a meal when flying with the airline.
Once the meal was over the FAs came around to slowly clear my tray table. I did a little work myself to free up some space because, as mentioned above, deploying the foot rest reduces a bit of the leg room/overall space available to you. I snapped a quick picture of my leg room area with the foot rest out and the tray table folded to half of its size. Not heart breaking, but a little cozy for a business class seat. If you're a particularly tall individual, you can always take the bulkhead row which has a bit more stretching room as you can see in the second photo.
KUL to HKG isn't a particularly long regional flight, clocking in at just under 4 hours typically. With the meal service running a bit long due to the very full cabin, we only had about an hour left on the plane once the trays were cleared before arriving into HKG. I spent the remainder of my comfortable flight watching episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" on the IFE while sipping on water and Hong Kong milk tea (which an FA provided a refill for when she walked past and noted that I had finished my original).
Overall it was a short, pleasant, and efficient flight with Cathay Pacific. When it comes to regional business class seats in Asia, this isn't my favorite seat but it also is far from a terrible option. The thought that went into the design is evident and the overall seating is very comfortable as long as you are not looking to nap or sleep during the flight. In terms of having room to lounge it is more than adequate. Food is mediocre to good at its best, though the beverage offerings (particularly for those that do not drink alcohol) are particularly nice on this airline. Again, using the foot rest does cut into your space a bit but this is nothing that would stop me from taking a flight with Cathay again in the future.
Cathay Pacific is a quality airline and that showed through on this flight. It remains one of my favorite ways to get around Asia and the globe in general.