Maximizing Miles in the Maldives: Cathay First, Eating in Singapore, and a Park Hyatt Water Villa – Cathay Pacific Business Class, Singapore – Hong Kong

  1. Introduction
  2. Positioning flights to San Francisco, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, and Some Dim Sum for the Day
  3. Cathay’s New San Francisco Lounge
  4. Cathay Pacific First Class, San Francisco – Hong Kong
  5. The Wing and Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Singapore
  6. A Grand Suite at the Grand Hyatt Singapore
  7. Eating in Singapore
  8. Dinner at Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands
  9. Singapore Airlines Business Class: Singapore – Male
  10. Transfer to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives
  11. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part I
  12. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part II
  13. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part III
  14. Maldivian, Kaadehdhoo – Male
  15. Singapore Airlines Business Class, Male – Singapore
  16. Cathay Pacific Business Class, Singapore – Hong Kong
  17. Conrad Hong Kong
  18. Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Chicago
  19. American’s Chicago Flagship Lounge and the Final Journey Home

Off the Singapore flight, a moment’s wait for the train to take us over to Changi Terminal 1 where Cathay operates. Then it was over to the transfer desk, since we didn’t have our boarding passes to fly to Hong Kong yet.

Our bags were checked to Hong Kong, so we didn’t have to collect those. One of the great things – and there are many – about Changi airport is that there’s no transit security to pass through once you get off an aircraft. Security is handled separately at each gate, so you simply walk off the flight no muss, no fuss. The closest I can think of to this is Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi where security is handled for each pier separately. It makes for a far less stressful transit experience, no getting off a long international flight and being faced with 30 minutes standing in line. And of course security isn’t just always quick since it’s done only for one flight at a given time but you never have a worry over missing your flight, you are standing at security and can see the boarding door in most cases (and they can see you!). I also love the variety of shops, amenities (a movie theatre!), and especially food shops each with a single specialty.

The woman manning the transit desk for Cathay did take awhile to handle my other request which was to re-tag my checked baggage. In Male they had routed it to Hong Kong only. But I didn’t want to pick it up in Hong Kong. I’d have a 21 hour connection, but had no need for anything that was in the luggage, and I’d just assume that they keep it overnight. In my ideal world they’d check it on Cathay to Chicago and then on to DC on American. But I’d be just as happy with the bag checked through to Chicago, I’d have to pick it up there and walk it through customs in any case. And even if it wasn’t tagged all the way home, both American and United both have customer service counters just past customs. I could get my bag re-tagged and wouldn’t have to schlepp it with me on the inter-terminal train at O’Hare. Having the agent produce a baggage tag interlining over to American would just save me a couple of minutes on the ground in Chicago.

She didn’t seem too familiar with the procedure, but I was confident it wouldn’t be a problem. I had Cathay re-tag luggage for me in Bangkok back in November, when I had interlined off of Bangkok Airways and they wouldn’t check it overnight in Hong Kong for me. She never disagreed that it was possible — just went meticulously through the procedure,, verifying the number of segments that the bags would be checked in total, verifying that they had the luggage, entering the message in the system to recheck the bags, calling down personally to relay the instruction as well, and suggesting that we ask at the gate for the agents to verify that the bags are both on board and have been re-tagged. Her meticulousness was much appreciated, even if I became more and more desperate for a shower with each passing moment.

With bags re-directed and boarding passes in hand, not just for the flight to Hong Kong but the next day’s boarding passes to Chicago and then DC, it was up to the Cathay Pacific lounge. The lounge situation in terminal 1 isn’t the greatest, but the Cathay lounge is supposed to be the best. It’s light and airy, though not especially large, most of the seats were taken when we arrived. There’s a small buffet, though I didn’t see anything I was interested in eating. But most importantly for my purposes there were showers.

Since the lounge was busy, I had to wait a few minutes for a shower room. The shower room was basic but functional — with one odd omission. There was no toilet. Now, there were toilets next door. And I suppose this truly is a first world problem, considering the toilet room I walked out of at the Kaadehdhoo airport. Still, you walk into the shower room with your bags, you realize you’d like a bathroom. What do you do? Do you leave the shower room with all of your stuff, possibly giving up your spot for the shower? Do you leave your stuff behind? This is a busy lounge, not an especially exclusive lounge. I wasn’t happy with either option.

After a shower and some catching up on e-mail, I headed to the gate for the short flight to Hong Kong.

Typical intra-Asia business class for Cathay, recliner-style seating, I’d take it in a heartbeat over what’s offered domestically in the U.S. on similar-length routes but it also doesn’t come close to comparing to Singapore’s offering. Then again, Cathay’s intra-Asia food is also good but pales in comparison to Singapore both in terms of plating and taste. And the service, while good, isn’t nearly as attentive either. I suspect that I actually prefer Cathay for long-haul, I do like Singapore’s attentiveness but also like to be left along for hours at a time. A matter of personal preference. Overall though I do think of Cathay as being a notch below, and certainly a few notches for their short- and medium-haul products.

None of which is to say that the food was bad or disappointing, it was perfectly reasonable for a three and a half hour business class affair.


Hot smoked salmon with Mediterranean potato salad

Mesclun salad with Japanese cucumber, radish, tomato and miso dressing

Main Courses
Braised pork in soya sauce with garlic and spring onions, steamed rice, pak choy, and carrots

Roasted chicken breast with capsicum sauce, corn, mushroom and tomato salsa, semolina gratin, spinach and carrots

Prawn and fish cake in noodle soup

Garlic and mushroom ravioli with goat cheese and black pepper cream, tomato and curry leaf

Cheese and Dessert
Cheese selection

Fresh seasonal fruit

Blueberry sour cream cheese cake with cream anglaise

Tea and coffee


Here’s the smoked salmon and the mesclun salad

I was tempted by the braised pork, I always tend towards the Chinese options when flying Cathay. I’d had the pork onboard before (very flavorful), and I also find they do soup especially well, so I went with the noodle soup.

Not especially adventurous, here’s the cheeses and cheese cake, both of which I nibbled just a few bites of.

After lunch I answered a few remaining emails that I had downloaded in the lounge, then pulled out the current issue of the Atlantic, just a bit of reading and I was quickly nodding off, and I faded in and out of a light sleep for the better part of the rest of the flight.

We landed on time, and once off the plane it was time for the long trek through the Hong Kong airport, I always find there’s more walking than I expect when I land in Hong Kong even when I’ll be taking the train in towards immigration.

Immigration took about 15 minutes, since our bags were checked through to DC the next day there was no need to stop for those, once in the arrivals hall we headed over to the cab stand and caught a taxi to our hotel.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I noticed you got the bulkhead seats. I’ll be flying a SIN-HKG next month on CX, but when I booked my flight, those seats were blocked out. Do they open up in advance, or should I wait until check-in to request them? I’d love the extra legroom as I’m quite tall.

  2. Thanks for the extensive trip report Gary. Knowing you enjoy gourmet dining (El Bulli, etc.) doesn’t airplane/lounge food pale in comparison especially as a value proposition? A $50 meal in France or Italy will blow away any meal served in the air, not to mention a 50 cent food stall in Bangkok. Even a 3 star Michelin meal at $250 seems a relative bargain compared to the difference in price between eco and premium class seats. Certainly I also appreciate the extra comfort and relatively better food of premium class travel, but I just find that my money goes much further being spent on the ground for a nice meal or room than in transit. I’ve had some truly horrible business class meals, so would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  3. @Nick of course you can accomplish much more for your dollar in terms of food on the ground than in the air. But the increment for business class over coach, or even first class, is much smaller when using miles than when paying cash for tickets. And one of the many things you get is better food, I do want it to be as good as possible, and I’m happy with what I was given on this flight I was just offering a comparison not to food on the ground but to food served on other flights.

  4. <>
    Many, mostly departing passengers, including myself, find this in fact to be a vice of Changi. If you take a bottle/can or two of water/drinks from the lounge just to keep hydrated during the flight, especially for Star Alliance Golds in Economy (on some airlines, drink runs are non-existent and multiple requests inflight would be probably be met with annoyance from the flight attendants), security staff dispose of them (even if unopened sadly).

    Don’t like this arrangement and prefer the traditional open-gate design.

  5. Above comment referring to your remark of:

    One of the great things – and there are many – about Changi airport is that there’s no transit security to pass through once you get off an aircraft. Security is handled separately at each gate, so you simply walk off the flight no muss, no fuss.

  6. The same individual gate security is present at Amsterdam’s Schipol as well. Or at least it is for people departing from AMS. I do agree with Samuel though, it can cause a bit of a pain in the butt if you want to bring a bottle of water aboard.

  7. Just 2 weeks ago I took CX SIN-HKG around 12 noon and was on their 777ER, so I got their int’l first class seat, which was such a treat for a relatively short flight! Plus I was the only passenger in the F cabin. Right before landing, they brought up my friend who was sitting in C. Don’t ask me why, but he says he prefers quantity over quality…

  8. @Carberrie I had the international first class seat flying the other direction at the beginning of the trip. Sadly on March 1 there were no CX flights between the two cities configured that way 🙁 [though i probably wouldn’t have waited around for a later flight that was – better to get to hong kong and to sleep]

  9. Gary- Do you tax deduct the expenses for these trips with your wife since you blog about them?

  10. @John so I’m not actually going to talk about my tax returns on the blog 🙂 but there’s not a ton of expense when the tickets are on miles, the hotel in the Maldives is on points, as I said I even sprang for the passport escapes award which covered a bunch of dinners, breakfast is free, etc.

  11. Gary–that guy in the blue shirt looks like hes going to stab ya after the flight hehehe..

    great report!

  12. Did those 2 guys sign a release in CX Business? At first I thought they were twins with the same mean look. lol

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