I waited until just a few minutes to boarding before heading over to my gate, which was close to The Pier. Once inside the gate area there was not much to do and no leaving.
That’s because upon entering the gate area for a US-bound flight there are security staff asking questions — about whether I had packed my bags myself, whether they had been outside my possession — that even a former head of TSA said were stupid when the agency eliminated them.
There was a good view of our bird that would be taking me on a 7970 mile journey for the evening.
I was flying Hong Kong – Boston after arriving from Singapore and spending some time in The Pier first class lounge. I really wanted to fly to Los Angeles or Chicago so that I could pick up a non-stop flight home to Austin. I booked my flight about a month out, it was just me on this trip. Shortly after booking a New York JFK flight opened, and I thought about switching, it would get me in a little earlier and get me more sleep. But I decided to keep my longer layover in Hong Kong for lounge research.
Los Angeles and Chicago opened up both the day before and after I needed it. San Francisco opened up for my date of travel. But not exactly what I was looking for so I kept Boston. Six days before departure I still didn’t have a flight home from Boston but I added Boston – Charlotte – Austin the next morning for just the additional taxes to my 110,000 mile itinerary (with no change fee as an Executive Platinum).
We boarded on time and one other passenger came onboard with me at the front of the queue. He was the other first class passenger for the evening, and as we boarded he apologized to me. He said he had just booked the day before, and if he hadn’t I’d have had the cabin to myself. As it is, a load of 2 out of 6 up front is phenomenal.
I had assigned myself seat 1A when I first booked the flight. Seating is two rows of 1-1-1, but the seats on the right side of the cabin open towards each other while the A seats are really more separate and private. The other passenger was in 1K, so he had the side with four seats to himself. I had the 1A/2A side to myself.
Here’s how the cabin divides itself:
The great thing about having a cabin half full or less is that each passenger can have one seat for meals and entertainment, a separate seat for sleeping.
Cathay Pacific doesn’t offer true suites in the sense of seats with doors, but they’re still very private. The 1-1-1 configuration is incredibly spacious, and the seats are angled so you really don’t see other passengers. In fact even the seats that open towards each other are private from each other except when you get out of your seat and actively look.
The Cathay seat has been around for years and has been reapholstered but otherwise it’s just worn incredibly well. Just as Singapore’s current A380 suite is one of the best first class products despite being a decade old, so too remains Cathay Pacific’s — and still to this day offers one of my absolute favorite beds in the sky for sleeping.
Another quirk about the seat is that it’s great for standing, if you’re in the cabin with friends they height is perfect for standing and the front closet of the seat is perfect to lean against while you talk.
Cathay offers caviar and Krug. They’ve cut back the predeparture amuse bouche that they added perhaps four years ago in a bit of cost cutting.
Service is very good, but always worth knowing that it isn’t as proactive as with Singapore Airlines, they tend to stay out of the cabin and leave you alone but they want you to buzz them when you need anything. That can make things a bit challenging for a first time American passenger who is trained by US airlines that you only hit the flight attendant call button in the event of a life threatening emergency, and even then you’ll probably be scolded for it.
I always advise taking the Chinese meal on Cathay, I’ve not normally been impressed with Cathay Pacific’s Western food. I think they do a decent job with midflight snacks, and also with breakfast where there’s always a choice between fresh cooked eggs (wish US airlines could offer that) and dim sum.
Pajamas, amenity kits, and menus were distributed prior to departure. I had just an ice water as my predeparture beverage.
I changed into pajamas before takeoff.
I stored my clothes and my rollaboard in the suite’s closet, which I’ve always managed to squeeze a Briggs & Riley widebody into in the past but on this trip had a much smaller bag. My laptop bag went under the ottoman of my seat. (The ottoman has a seat belt so that you can eat dinner with a travel companion if you wish, they install a table extender and dine across from each other as though in a restaurant.)
We pushed back and I looked over the menu while we waited for our turn to take off.
Once in the air I left a flight attendant know I wouldn’t be taking my meal right away. I wanted to go straight to sleep. It was early morning in Boston already. We’d be landing at night. So I wanted to get rest in early, to be able to sleep on arrival and avoid any jet lag.
So they made up the bed in the seat behind me, 2A:
I slept for about 3 hours and made myself get up, all a part of my jet lag regime which on this trip worked perfectly. I asked to have a bit to eat, though having eaten both in the Centurion Lounge and The Pier I still wasn’t terribly hungry so I had the caviar and… some dessert, because I couldn’t decide whether to have a western or chinese-style soup dessert (although I didn’t come close to finishing either one).
For about 8 hours I watched shows on my laptop and did a little bit of work to keep occupied and mentally alert. Then a few hours before arrival decided to have some breakfast which for local time in Boston would be dinner. So I split the difference on my order. I had the dim sum, and then the burger off of the snacks menu.
Here’s the thing. The fries that went with the burger? Perfect. They were nicely fried, crispy even. Not many airlines will attempt fries in the sky, and Cathay Pacific nailed it on this flight.
We landed about 40 minutes early, which had me excited because I’d have a short overnight at the Hyatt near the airport using a category 4 free night certificate before heading home in the morning. But we sat on the ground on landing waiting for a gate, giving back that entire length of time.
If we’re going to wait 40 minutes on the ground of course doing it in a Cathay Pacific first class seat isn’t bad, I felt for the passengers in economy who had spent over 15 hours in their seat — were ‘this close’ to getting off they could taste it — but were held another 40 minutes.
Cathay Pacific first class is great. I love the width of the seat. They say the number on thing that makes or breaks a flight in economy is having an empty middle seat next to you. Having two Cathay Pacific first class seats certainly made this flight special, but it had been a couple of years since I had flown Cathay first (and for awhile before that I was doing it multiple times a year).
Even knowing how much I enjoy Cathay first I had almost forgotten just how much. I prefer Cathay’s first class seat to the current Emirates suite and to the Etihad suite on their A330s and 777s.
And on this trip I had great stops at the new Cathay Pacific lounge in Singapore and The Pier first class lounge in Hong Kong, too. Combined with domestic saver first class flights home on American at the end it’s a great use of 110,000 miles, though of course I miss the old days before March 22 of last year when I’d book the same flights for just 67,500.