Talking My Way into Malaysia’s First Class Lounge and Flying Cathay’s Business Class to Hong Kong

Previous trip report installments

I had a hotel car take me the hour’s drive back to the airport, in part because I didn’t have a sim card for internet and I wanted to work on the drive. An early morning in Kuala Lumpur is the end of the business day (and it was Friday still in the States, so end of the business week) and I wanted to get everything as wrapped up as I could before I started traveling home. Only the internet in the car wasn’t working. So much for that, at least I’d have some lounge time – in Kuala Lumpur and in Hong Kong.

Upon arriving at the airport I headed to the check-in counter for Cathay Pacific. Originally I was slated to fly Malaysia Airbus A380 in first class Kuala Lumpur – Hong Kong, but when the schedule changed and the route was going to be serviced by a two-class 777 I switched over to the Cathay Pacific flight an hour later.

There wasn’t anyone waiting in front of me for checkin. I was given a boarding pass and lounge pass and sent on my way through immigration and security.

We took the train out to the departure gates, and upon arriving at the satellite terminal I headed up to the Malaysia Airlines lounge instead of Cathay Pacific’s. Malaysia has a separate first class side. I figured that as a same-day first class passenger or as a top tier American Airlines (and thus oneworld) elite I’d have no problem accessing the lounge. Except…

But I was actually departing Kuala Lumpur in business class, I didn’t have my American AAdvantage elite card with me and my status didn’t print on the boarding pass. So I thought I might have a challenge talking my way in.

As it happened I explained I was connecting to first class and I told them my status, which they didn’t seem to verify, and I was admitted right away. They actually wanted the lounge invitation though.

The lounge seemed to have faced cutbacks. I’ve visited this lounge before, and about a year and a half ago they had both menu service and a full buffet in the lounge proper, and not just in the restaurant.

This time there really wasn’t much food in the lounge proper, not much service in the lounge other than bringing you a drink, and if you wanted food you needed to go to the restaurant.

There was poor internet connectivity in the lounge, I wasn’t having much luck trying to get work done before my flight!

So I retired to the dining room to check that out, and found internet working much faster here.

    (Click to enlarge)

I had a look at the menu, and the buffet, and decided to skip it. But since I had functional internet, I worked from a table in the restaurant until it was time to head over to the departure gate.

As I walked up to the gate they were beginning to board. One interesting feature of Kuala Lumpur is clearing security both right away after immigration, and then again at each gate, though at-gate security is always quick.

I boarded the Cathay 777 and realized I had lucked out again on a Cathay regional flight — their international business class seats! I flew these same seats earlier in the year and I love them.

Gorgeous cabin!

For the morning’s flight to Hong Kong 17 of 26 business seats were taken.

It was a pretty standard Cathay regional flight, friendly flight attendants but pretty business-oriented. We didn’t wait long to push back or taxi, were in the air quickly, and service began.

There’s no pre-order options the way Singapore has, the meals compare favorably to what you get on a similar distance US flight, but the food is only fine — not special, but very edible.

    (Click to enlarge)

For my entrée I had the beef.

And then some ice cream, followed by truffles which were passed around in the box for you to select what you wished.

By the time I had watched some TV, eaten, and read a bit it was time to land in Hong Kong. Not much of a holding pattern we were on the ground quickly and would clear transit security with no wait and head to the Wing first class lounge.

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 that you flew on the new business class for the regional flight on Cathay from KUL to HKG. I usually book these regionals through the BA website, how did you tell which flights feature the new product? Thanks for the help.

  2. Gary,

    Next time have the car drop you at KL Sentral and take the express train- 28 minutes to the airport and free high speed internet.

  3. “I figured that as a same-day first class passenger I’d have no problem accessing the lounge.”

    Is this standard protocol among airlines/alliances when you have a forward/later departing leg in First, but the earlier ones are in Business, either because of two-cabin aircraft or because first class seats not being released to a partner for booking? I will be in a similar situation to you with 2 legs in business before the final one in first and I would like to access the first class lounge for the respective airlines or other partners in the respective airport on leg one and two. Just curious if there are certain limitations. thanks.

  4. How often does CX change planes? I have a flight with them next month in the old business class A330 (regional) from HKG – ICN and wondering how can they switch planes when the seats are already assigned…

  5. @chuck @gary – Though equipment changes can render advance planning useless, I typically start a mock revenue booking on Cathay for my route to see the exact equipment and seat map as a way of determining which business class is scheduled on the route at which time slots.

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