Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau and Hong Kong Trip Report: Cathay Pacific First Class New York JFK – Hong Kong


I walked over from the British Airways lounge to the Cathay Pacific gate. Just as there’s nothing special about the first class lounge, there’s even less special about the gate area or even the terminal (though it’s my favorite at JFK due to its size, it’s quick to get out of on arrival). There is a Starbucks, though, and I picked up a coffee on my way onto the plane for the 9:05am departure. Sure, Cathay has coffee, but one last familiar American-style offering before two weeks in Asia felt right to me somehow.

Cathay Pacific offers one of the most consistent first class products in the sky, across the board.

The seats are spacious and private, though they do not have ‘doors’ that open. The service is very good, but it’s not generally fawning (in fact it’s somewhat reserved). The food is good but far from great. You get top notch amenities, good champagne (Krug), and designer pajamas.

But there’s nothing flashy about it in the way that Emirates offers an inflight shower on its A380, or Etihad has an inflight chef.

Instead, it just offers a fantastic product that delivers time and again, and that I consider to be my favorite all around first class.

I think Asiana has the best food (although Singapore has some of the best main courses, especially their pre-order choices and especially for departures from Singapore). I think Thai has the best ground experience in their spa. But Cathay Pacific — which has just 6 seats in their first class cabin on the 777, 2 rows of 3 seats across (rather than the standard 4 seats across) — gives me my best night’s sleep.

This would be my home for the next 16 hours.

I was actually slightly disappointed. Cathay Pacific is in the process of updating their first class cabins, and I was hoping to get one of the 777s with new finishes (although it’s really just new trim, the hardware is the same). I just wanted to try it, but this would be fine — and I’ve got multiple upcoming additional trips on the Cathay 777 in first class to look forward to so hopefully I still will.

Amenity kits, and pajamas were distributed. The male amenity kit was Ermenegildo Zegna.

And pre-departure beverages were served. I began with Krug, thank you very much.

Menus followed.

They were running a ‘wine promotion’ featuring Saint-Émilion.

The cabin was readied for departure and we were shortly on our way.

Brunch was served to start off the flight (although of course you can take your meal whenever you wish). One nice feature is the ability for a dining companion to sit across from you for the meal — the ottoman has a seat belt, and the flight attendants install a table extender, which combines to make the experience not unlike sitting across from each other in a restaurant.

Your first meal is always presented with a personalized welcome note from the crew.

I began with fruit

And then had the dim sum

The eggs, by the way, are freshly cooked to order.

A meal on Cathay Pacific always ends with petit fours — which I tend not to eat right away, but will snack on during the first movie I watch.

Shortly after the meal I went to change into my pajamas, and as I did that I was asked by the crew if I’d like my bed made. It was ready once I returned to my seat.

I settled in with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue, which I would have asked for neat had I thought to specify but was served with ice.

I watched some old episodes of Entourage and fell asleep, dozing in and out for the next three hours. I do like arriving in Hong Kong in the afternoon, and at any final destination ready to go to bed, but a morning departure for Asia means I’m not especially tired yet — and all things equal I would like to sleep as closed to bed time at my destination. That’s tough with this flight.

Once I was sure I wasn’t going to nap anymore I decided to ring for a flight attendant.

Cathay Pacific’s crews are always attentive, once you realize that they aren’t ignoring you, they’re just staying out of your way. Push the flight attendant call button, they are happy to be there to assist immediately. But they aren’t going to disturb your flight. Many Americans view the flight attendant call button as something to be used only in the event of a safety emergency. That’s the wrong way to think about it on Cathay Pacific.

With all the times that I’ve flown Cathay Pacific there are few experiences that stand out from the others, they’re pretty much all the same — except that I know I like it best when breakfast is the second meal, where I begin with some Krug and caviar and end with dim sum — and the snacks change, I like it when there’s a Chinese hot pot option and if I’m lucky egg tarts. In this case, they had the hot pot.

I watched some television shows I had downloaded to my laptop for the next few hours, took another short nap for an hour or so, and got up for lunch prior to arrival.

I began with caviar and salmon, and then switched to the Chinese meal – I’m often fond of the cold plate, and the lobster sounded good (it was), followed by dessert.

After the meal it was about 45 minutes to landing in Hong Kong. I changed out of my pajamas, and when I had returned to my seat the bedding was removed for me. I read a magazine for the remainder of the flight and then we promptly had landed.. about 20 minutes early. It was time to go through transit security and on to the nearest lounge for a shower.

This flight from New York JFK was like so many others I’ve taken. It’s a long flight, blocked at 16 hours, but between two meals and a snack, the extensive CX World entertainment system, and great bedding to sleep in (and plenty of width to stretch out and not feel closed in), it’s just like a long lazy Sunday. The only thing I would wish for is inflight internet, but I also do still enjoy on such a long flight the forced seclusion and a willingness that follows to succumb to bad television that I wouldn’t otherwise watch.

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. […] Terrible First Class flight to Vegas: I recently flew back from Vegas on US Airways and boy is it a terrible first class product. The head rest protruded out more than usual, forcing my head to look downwards a few degrees more than I would have liked. The additional recline was minimal vs. coach. Can’t wait to try out one of the Holy Grails of Domestic Premium Cabins. For the record, I would not recommend using US Air miles for domestic premium travel. Save up and use miles for international business or first class on OneWorld partners such as Cathay Pacific. […]


  1. Great reporting as always, and consistency from CX indeed.

    Curious – have you flown JAL F? I flew it and CX F, each for the first time, recently and I actually preferred the JL seat across the board. I felt like the CX seat, even though it’s laid out 3 across rather than 4, had wasted space and that the JL setup actually felt more spacious. Since you always say “it’s all about the seat”, I was wondering if you had tried that product and if so what your thoughts were?

  2. I can’t believe they served scotch like that. Was it even enjoyable? That’s not opening it up, that’s ripping it to shreds.

  3. @CW I haven’t tried the *new* JL seat. Interesting observation, I will have to do so…

    @TJ As I said, that’s not how I would have served it..

  4. Definitely worth a try! By taking away the closet and going back to overhead bins (way overhead I should say, I’m 6’2″ and didn’t even come close to them), using a sliding fixed horizontal table instead of one that stows next to the seat, and using a less comically-wide armrest than CX, I feel like the JL layout makes up for what it loses to CX in sheer numbers of seats. Fully rectangular bed and lots of foot-room.

  5. Basically 2 weeks ago wife and I had a similarexperience but in the HKG-JFK route, hence, the order of meals you prefered. After Krug we went for the Saint-Emilion and the Meursault and they were delicious.

    The only difference I can see, is that the pajamas I got were dark grey – yours looked like light brown – and I really liked them.

    After going to the Maldives with Austrian and Turkish and returning with Emirates and Cathay (on F) we are really, really spoiled 😀

  6. Gary – what kind of miles did you use to book this flight?Was difficult to book it, like how many weeks or months ago did you book this flight? Did you pay any fees/taxes, if yes, what the total?

  7. @Metal – I described the costs in the first post for this award. American charges 67.5k first class DCA-JFK-HKG-SGN, fees were very modest.

  8. You traveled like a boss! Any advice on how to book this type of a flight from LAX?

    I’ve done some research and it seems to all fly out of New York. I’m in the process of planning a trip to Hong Kong/Macau area. Thanks!

  9. Gary, thanks for the response. I see that Cathay Pacific (CP) is a oneworld airline participant. What would be the best way to book the CP flights using AA miles? ( I currently have 130K miles.

  10. @Stephen Cathay Pacific (CX) awards can be booked by American Airlines, you cannot see the award space on American’s website, you have to call American to use your AAdvantage miles.

  11. My recent F JFK-HKG flight didn’t give me a note. I also had a scotch that was served in the same glass shown above which I found pretty pathetic.

  12. @Gary – I think mm was refer to reading the comments, in which case you do have to have the whole expanded post open.

    @Mike – same here.

  13. I love that flight. My last time the amenity kit had been opened, with the toothpaste used, and the attendant was mortified. Thanks for reminding me how ideal 16 hours in the sky can be. Like a long lazy Sunday indeed.

  14. Gary,

    A perfect read on this lazy Sunday. CX F is always a nice way to treat oneself every now and again. The consistency and the familiarity of their product is like a warm glove on a cold day.

    Nice to read about the JFK-HKG day flight. I’ve avoided it because I wasn’t sure how the second meal was handled (since the first is breakfast) and as you point out sleep can be elusive for those of us starting on the east coast. It does make for easier same day connections into SE Asia however. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Do you find Cathay F space to open up more as time goes on? I’m looking for two of us from either JFK or ORD to HKG next October, and right now there is zero availability showing. However, I know these flights just got loaded into the system, so I’m wondering if in your experience, that another month or so might loosen things up.
    Finally, I have read that space can open up often within two weeks of the departure date, but unfortunately, we have to plan a little farther out than that!
    Thanks for any thoughts!

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