Monday, August 13, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Cathay Pacific 881 New Business Class (LAX-HKG)

***This post is part 4 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

The gate area was packed by the time I got there. I decided not to scrounge for a seat and just found some space on the floor against the wall. Boarding soon commenced, but it was evident by the slow-moving process that we would end up departing slightly behind schedule. First and business class were eventually called, and I soon entered the aircraft.

Cathay Pacific 881
Boeing 777-300ER (77D)
Los Angeles (LAX) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Thursday March 29, 2012
Departure: 1:30 AM (scheduled) / 1:45 AM (actual)
Arrival: 7:15 AM (scheduled) / 7:43 AM (actual)
Duration: 14h 45m (scheduled) / 14h 58m (actual)
Seat: 11A (Business) 

Upon first look, the new Cathay Pacific Business Class was simply fantastic. I suppose most business class seats these days have gone the way of lie-flats and improved privacy... but even by those standards, they were amazingly well thought out. I had chosen my seat far in advance, and was able to snag 11A in the first row of the mini-cabin up front. With only room for eight in the small cabin and suite-like privacy for each passenger, it almost felt like being in first class!

I quickly noticed how many different storage cabinets there were all around the seat, enough to hold virtually all of your personal items. Small touches like a convenient vanity mirror, headphone hanger, shoe cupboard, and multiple electronics charging plugs really showed the level of attention that was paid to designing the new seats. I also thought the rubbery surface on the side desk was a great solution to prevent items from sliding around during takeoff and landing.

A pre-flight drink was offered, and I decided to go with orange juice first. Take-off was approximately 15 minutes late, and champagne (Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic) along with warm nuts were served soon after. Amenity kits and menus were distributed and orders were taken, with a late supper service immediately following. It was almost 2:30 am local time by then and I wasn't terribly hungry, but I was determined to get the full Cathay Pacific dining experience :)

Mains included a choice between pine nuts crusted ling cod and stir-fried beef - I went with the cod. Now I've read plenty of complaints regarding Cathay Pacific's Business Class food, so I was pleasantly surprised when everything turned out to be delicious. Perhaps they've improved their catering significantly along with the upgraded seats, or maybe I was just lucky. The roasted duck breast on the salad was tender and moist, while the cod was cooked perfectly and well-seasoned. The garlic bread was yummy as always.

Afterwards, the cheese, fruit, and dessert courses were served together, which was fine. I'm typically a fan of crème brûlée, but the toasted sesame crème brûlée tart was just alright... somehow without the burnt crust, it just wasn't the same. A decadent praline and some tea ended the excellent supper service.

I put the seat down fully flat to try to get a few hours of sleep, and while Cathay doesn't provide a mattress pad to smooth out the slight bumps, it was still extremely comfortable for a business class bed. The duvet and pillow were clean and cushy. I got in a good five or six hours of sleep, which is always amazing for me on a plane since I'm a light sleeper. When I got up, I was actually feeling a little hungry, so I put my seat back up and ordered the wonton noodle soup, which was perfect for my craving. Afterward, I also ordered some ice cream to finish off the snack. Not feeling too sleepy, I played around with Studio CX and watched the movie 50/50 (which was actually quite moving) before breakfast service began.

Breakfast started off with fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereal, followed by a delicious mango smoothie. For the main, I decided to go with the lighter option of surf clam and mushroom congee with pork and shrimp bun, which were all outstanding. With the headwinds going strong, we still have a few more hours of flight time left, during which I watched a few interesting documentaries on Studio CX. Arrival was almost half an hour late, but I wasn't in a rush since I had a nearly seven-hour layover in Hong Kong.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Cathay Pacific Business Class. I haven't really discussed the service aspects of this flight, but let's just say I was very surprised at how engaged and proactive each of the flight attendants were. If you read my previous trip report covering Cathay Pacific's First Class, you'll remember how disappointed I was with my experience. That was definitely not the case here as drinks were consistently topped off without having to press the call button and plates were cleared promptly. Not only that, the flight attendants were extremely friendly, helpful, and just exuded an approachable vibe that I really appreciated. In fact, I stayed on the plane for a few minutes after the flight just to fill out a survey complimenting the crew for their hard work. This more than made up for my previous bad experience, and I certainly hope to revisit the new Cathay Pacific Business Class sometime soon!

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