Review: Cathay Pacific First Class Los Angeles – Hong Kong

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I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class many times. I’ve even called their Hong Kong – New York JFK service my favorite flight in the world.

They don’t offer suites with doors. There’s not really great ground service to speak of. The food is fine but hardly amazing. But they have several things going for them:

  1. The seats. They don’t have doors that close, but they are quite private and very spacious. Instead of four seats across in the cabin, they offer just three seats across, and a cabin with just 6 seats.
  2. Attentive service. You do need to know that they are unobtrusive, they tend not to check on you during the flight, you should call on them if you need anything but they’re eager to assist when you do. They don’t disturb you, but it’s still very good service, and easy to perform with only 6 passengers at most in the cabin.
  3. Good amenities. I like the old Shanghai Tang pajamas better, for sure, but all of the amenities are consistently high quality.
  4. Midflight snacks. I do think ANA does a better job here overall, but the midflight snack options are varied, substantial, and high quality. That’s an area, for instance, that Singapore Airlines could use work.

While fewer seats overall (with the retirement of 9 first class seat cabin 747s, and introduction of long haul flights without a first class cabin) and improving economy mean that Cathay Pacific first class awards aren’t as easy to get as they’ve been over the past five years, they still do exist — often just one seat early in the booking window, though they continue to release unsold seats in the days before departure approaches.

I sleep better flying Cathay first, for the most part, than on any other carrier. Since I like it quite a bit, and it’s been very easy to get, I’ve flown it over and over.

I always look forward to these flights, and I’ve never really had a bad one. They’re just darned consistent.

I headed over from the oneworld lounge to the boarding gate.

And I was in for a pleasant surprise. Each time I flew Cathay earlier in the year I hoped for their new first class product, which isn’t much different than the old one – just a refresh – but I still hand’t seen it. And each time I didn’t get to. But this flight I’d finally see first-hand the (very minor) differences.

The new first class has new seat upholstery, new carpeting in the cabin, new artwork, and new power ports and seat controls.

The seat itself is otherwise the same.

One of the new service elements in first class this year is the pre-departure amuse bouche. The crab was delicious.

Amenity kits, pajamas, and menus were distributed. Here’s the ladies kit:

And the men’s kit:

And the pajamas:

Click on the menu graphics to enlarge:

Shortly after takeoff, nuts were served.

I had already had some Krug champagne on the ground, and more was poured to accompany my caviar starter.

Caviar, of course, is now served in a tin instead of Cathay’s previous signature service alongside balik salmon tsar nikolaj. I admit, I miss the salmon – the old presentation was very unique and specific to Cathay rather than ‘merely’ a caviar service often found on international airlines in first.

Another signature of Cathay’s service is that the first meal is presented with a welcome note from the crew.

I’ll almost always select the Chinese option for my main meal, though in this case since it was after midnight and I wanted to head to bed quickly I skipped the soup.

I changed into my pajamas, and hung my street clothes in my seat’s closet. (There are no overhead bins in the cabin, but you have a small closet and also the space underneath the ottoman in your seat for storage.)

After getting set up for a rest I decided to have dessert ‘in bed’.

I was also given pralines to finish off the meal.

Cathay does a wonderful job with its bed setup.

With this as my bed, and with the late departure which I really love for getting to sleep and aligning myself as quickly as possible to the local time on arrival, I went right to sleep. After five hours I got up and decided to watch a bit of television, and I ordered a midflight snack.

First of all, I made an unlikely selection — the shrimp quesadilla. And it was delicious – big chunks of shrimp, delicious cheese, cooked perfectly. It put quesadilla on my brain for a bit, which wouldn’t serve me well on other airlines.

I find the hot pot is also generally a must to try.

After watching a couple episodes of season 2 of The Newsroom on my laptop, I decided to nap for another bit, and woke up about an hour and 20 minutes prior to arrival. A flight attendant immediately came over and asked if I’d like some coffee and then some breakfast.

My priority is coffee first, one thing about Cathay is that they are not permitted to serve hot beverages while the seat belt sign is on — so I didn’t want to risk turbulence. (You can have the hot beverage, it just cannot be served and at times I’ve had turbulence on approach to Hong Kong. So I need coffee, stat!).

I had a few bites from each course, I didn’t eat it all, but I did want to try several things.

After breakfast I changed out of my pajamas, and I returned to my seat refreshed and upright. We were about 30 minutes from landing, I put my carry on bag together and took out a book to read for the remainder of the flight.

Arriving early morning off a long haul flight to Hong Kong, having slept, puts me in just the right place to adjust to the time. And flying first class, rather than business even, means that I’ve probably slept and never felt uncomfortable or boxed into a confined space. That’s why to me it’s worth the incremental 12,500 miles over business class that AAdvantage currently charges for this route, every time.

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’m trying to book this exact flight next March. What do you think my chances are of snagging 2x FC seats last minute? Should I focus on another carrier to get me to Asia?

  2. We flew them SFO-HKG Feb 2014 in First. Award seats through AA. What amazed us was how hard it was to find award seats – but outbound from SFO there we three passengers in First, and flying home there were two of us. Lots of empty space.

  3. Loose some weight fatty. I only see you judging airline beds and airline food. Ever been on a treadmill in life?

  4. Thanks for the review – I’m flying this exact route next month for the first time ( first intl F and first flight with cathay )

  5. @brian monitor flight availability if the seats remain for sale they’ll release perhaps all but 1 in the days leading up to travel but yes i would focus on something else as a backup

  6. Thanks for posting this terrific review.

    I read the menu, and surprisingly the entrees were not as “delectable” as they were in the past…..but I’m sure if/when I have them, boy they’re probably the best. But the snacks read really juicy, and the B-fast, perfect as always.


    1) Are those PJ’s Shanghai Tang? They look different.

    2) Is the upholstery more comfortable? What’s it made of?

    Thanks. ED

  7. @Ed no more shanghai tang PJs, they’re PYE, I prefer the old ones but opinions vary. The seats look leather but aren’t, I think they’re more comfortable than before but that may just be that they’re refreshed

  8. @Rohan – you get the jerk of the year award. If you have nothing meaningful to say, why even come here and post rude comments? Does it make you feel better or compensate for your pathetic existence?

  9. We’ve had good luck booking cx with aa miles, the last 2 times we booked business class as first was not offered, but both times we were able to upgrade to first closer to the departure date ( I usually book far in advance during the first week booking is offered)

    Imho cx first is great, but last flight ( hkg/lax) they were out of most snacks in the last 4 hours of the flight.

  10. Just bumped up two CX J seats to F this morning when they dumped the inventory at about T-24…thanks for whetting my appetite! Now hurry on to the BKK part; I’m gonna be there in about 30 hours…

  11. Gary

    Thanks for this post. I was in Cambodia looking for award return flights with my UA miles and then looked for Cathay because of this flight.

    I scored BKK-HKG-LAX-DEN all in First on Cathay (AA for Den) using some British Airways points i thought I would never use!!

    I’m stoked to finally try an Non Star Alliance First class.

    I flew here DEN-FRA LH First
    FRA-BKK – TG First

    now return on Cathay!

    Looking forward to your food reports.

    Peninsula was lovely as always.


  12. Trying to book two F seats to HKG for this summer, late July and I can’t find anything. There’s J availability, but I’d like to try CX F b/c I’m worried the point cost will go up now that so many people have tons of AA points. I’ve checked all the airports in North America, but nothing so far. I’m using Qantas to search for availability. I always have terrible luck finding seats.

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