Have you ever wondered how much better the people in the pointy end of the plane are having it? Or maybe there’s not that much difference after all? We decided to investigate it on our flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.
Same price, different class
We booked our tickets using frequent flyer points. 35 000 Qantas points for my economy flight and 45 000 Asia Miles for Hubby’s business seat (guess who drew the short straw). The airport fees for both tickets were the same – around A$170.
Melbourne to Hong Kong on A350
One of the most exciting things for us about the CX134 flight is that Cathay uses its Airbus A350. We’ve flown on A350 only once before, with Qatar Airways in business class and loved it, so we were hoping it will be the case with the Cathay A350 as well.
The aircraft arrived in Melbourne delayed and our flight retained that delay. The planned 7:35am departure became 8:05am. Landing in Hong Kong was planned for 3:10pm and even though we made up the time during the flight, we were put on holding pattern over Hong Kong due to a storm and landed 3:31pm.
Seat 61G – Economy
Being a reward ticket, neither Qantas nor Cathay would allow me to pick my seat beforehand. I had to pray to the seat gods to not be stuck in a middle seat somewhere. The prayers have been answered and not only was I assigned an aisle seat but also the middle seat was vacant. This meant more room for personal items as well as legs. The overhead storage compartment above the middle row is raised quite high. I’m not small (170cm) and I still had to stand on tiptoes to put my things in there or reach my backpack during the flight. The petit cabin crew ladies had to climb on seats to be able to close the overhead lockers.
One hour after take off we were served breakfast. I went for a frittata with baked beans, bacon & mushrooms with yoghurt and fruit on the side. It was a very good breakfast and I definitely wasn’t feeling too bad about being in economy.
I followed that by a movie session with BYO cheese for snacking and a beer. When I asked for a beer right after breakfast I was told they will start serving alcohol in about two hours, but then just 30 minutes later a lovely attendant brought me a nice cold beer.
Mid-flight we were given a drink (alcoholic drinks were available, I ordered red wine) and a small packet of nuts. That was followed by lunch about 1 hour later. And once again it was a decent meal. My meal consisted of beef goulash with mashed potatoes, bread roll a cold noodle salad and chocolate. I was also given more wine and Movenpick ice cream for dessert (they only had strawberry flavour available). After collecting the trays, the crew walked around offering tea, coffee and water. I was running out of wine so I was given more (glass number 4 already) to keep me going. I said no to the next one when the crew noticed my empty cup and came running with a top up. They definitely don’t hold back on wine in Cathay Pacific.
SEAT & ENTERTAINMENT
The seat is ok but nothing to write home about. It was not as comfortable as Qatar’s economy seats on A380 and didn’t have much room for storage – I was glad we had that spare seat in the middle, which made spreading stuff around that much more convenient.
The screen is smaller than I expected and doesn’t tilt enough. When the person in front of me reclined their seat I couldn’t see anything on the screen. The provided headphones are bad – the sound is very very quiet and you can barely hear the dialogues but when there’s music or loud noises in a movie everyone around you can hear them. I used Hubby’s noise cancelling Bose headphones for most of the flight. Entertainment tip: you can skip all ads. There are about 7 minutes of ads before every movie and you can skip them just by moving the time slider.
The cameras, both top and front view, are fantastic.
It was a very uneventful flight. Comfortable and smooth (just some small turbulence over Indonesia and Philippines as usual). Good food and one of the most attentive crews I’ve ever seen.
The only thing that was inconvenient was that one of the toilets was out of order which created long queues to the remaining two nearest to me.
As far as economy flights go, this was very pleasant and felt like a very good value for money & points.
Meanwhile in seat 17A – Business
Let’s hear from Hubby about his business class experience:
Business class breakfast menu was extensive, with smoothies, yoghurts and fresh fruit on offer as a starter followed by bigger meals. I chose Asian breakfast of stir-fried egg noodles with barbecued pork. It was, as expected on an Asian airline, very good.
I would strongly prefer dine on demand option (which Cathay was rumoured to introduce soon, but later on, they supposedly cancelled it?). Waking up to be literally 10 seconds later greeted by a crew member wanting to make up my table while I’m still in bed… felt a bit invasive.
Nevertheless, the lunch was a hit and miss for me. I enjoyed the entree of whisky cured salmon but grilled lamb chops were tough and chewy. Not really a cut of meat you want to order on a plane.
The wines and champagne were very good though. Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee champagne is a classic, can’t go wrong with this one. To accompany my main I got the Chateau Canon Montsegur Gaspard Castillon 2015 which went down well with the food, especially the cheeses.
SEAT & ENTERTAINMENT
Business seat on Cathay Pacific A350 works well as an office space. While I got a lot of work done, I also managed to squeeze in a one hour nap in a comfort of a fully flat bed which the seat transforms to. The business sections seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration so every passenger has direct aisle access. There is a sense of privacy and a lot of handy storage options.
I did prefer the window blinds on Qatar’s A350 though – they are more elegant than the regular pull-down typical blinds here and nicer to use by just pressing up and down buttons.
Instead of entertainment, I was doing some work on my laptop. The table was big enough to make it comfortable and power point was neatly tucked in a cupboard next to the window.
The crew were friendly enough but firm, and it felt like they were rushing all the time. Overall though they got their job done, were efficient and I can’t fault them for anything.
I really felt like the A350 was more quiet compared to other planes, which is important on long-haul flights.
Economy vs Business – which one would you choose?
Given the price was the same for us, the difference in frequent flyer points small, I would, of course, pick the pointy end any day. But paying the full price of the ticket (which at a random date would be $662 vs $3020) the answer wouldn’t be the same.
The economy class was really comfortable, the food was good (we even got the exact same ice cream as business class, although they had a choice of 2 flavours) and entertainment extensive enough to keep people occupied for over 9 hours. I wouldn’t say the comfort of the lie-flat seat on a day flight was worth the additional ~$2350 (anyone tried premium economy on the same flight? Would love to hear your opinion).
Check out Aga’s economy flight report: