Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Grand Finale: Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE

2013 Grand Finale lineup

Eva Airlines economy class CTS-TPE-HKG
Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE
Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT
American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

HKG is consistently ranked as one of the busiest and best airports in the world.  As the world's busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic, HKG is a key economic hub, connecting mainland China to the corners of the earth.  So it's no surprise that Cathay Pacific, with HKG as its fortress hub, hauls more cargo than any other airline on the planet.  Aside from cargo, Cathay Pacific (CX) is a 5-star carrier offering arguably the best business class hard product in the world and amongst the best in-flight and ground services.

As a oneworld Emerald member with American Airlines, I am afforded access to oneworld first class lounges whenever flying on a oneworld carrier such as CX.  For a short-haul 1 1/2 hour flight between HKG-TPE, I didn't deem it necessary to book in biz, so I opted for economy class using my British Airways Avios points.  This route is a great value for only 4,500 Avios points each way, and Cathay Pacific offers daily widebody flights by the hour.

The Wing - Cathay Pacific first class lounge

CX's first class lounge, dubbed as The Wing, underwent an overhaul refurbishment that was completed in February 2013 and is now souped out as one of the top lounges in the world.  I arrived at the airport 3 hours before my flight for the sole purpose of seeing if this lounge lives up to its name.  Upon entering the lounge, which is located just left after clearing immigrations, I headed towards the Haven, which is a full-service restaurant staffed by Hong Kong's iconic Peninsula Hotel.  With an a la carte menu offering entrees such as prime rib and sea bass, I opted for the fish, which was to die for.

Within the Haven is also a buffet bar offering salads, hot foods, sushi, and a generous spread of desserts.  While waiting on my sea bass, I collected my fair share of sushi and readied my desserts.

There's always room for this
After a fulfilling meal, I headed to the famed cabanas to rest and clean up.  The cabanas are private individual rooms offering luxurious showers, spa tubs, and sofabeds.  In essence, it's like a hotel room before your flight.

I did everything that I could do: bathe, shower, get online, and nap.  With 45 minutes before my flight, I grabbed a Sapphire and tonic, an ice cream, and a pair chocolates before heading to the gate for some late boarding courtesy of an unbelievable lounge.

Cathay Pacific business class HKG-TPE

Yes, I did use BA Avios miles to book on a partner carrier.  And yes, it was in economy class.  So yes, I was upgraded at the gate while boarding in the priority line for no apparent reason, but I suspect that it had to do with my oneworld Emerald status and a couple of empty seats in biz.  But perhaps the biggest surprise is that this 4-class B777-300 was outfitted with CX's new reverse herringbone biz seats, which is ranked as the top in the world.  Don't know why CX would bother operating their flagship plane on a 1 1/2 hour second-tier route, but I'll take it.

Aside from being essentially a flatbed suite, the seat itself offers forward thrust in non-reclined position, which is unique for flatbed seats.  This is primarily useful when you want to sit with your feet on the footrest, which is difficult with other carriers such as United and Thai Airways flatbed biz seats unless you're Yao Ming.

One of the compromises that carriers often deal with for biz seats is storage space, which is usually sacrificed for seating and AVOD space.  But CX implements no compromise on storage capacity, with unique compartments for your noise-cancelling headset, laptop, smartphone, and even shoes.  This makes a substantial difference particularly for short-haul flights as you can avoid accessing overhead storage entirely.

Rightfully so, the flight attendants were on the run from the get-go 'til landing, taking orders and handing out food offerings.  I opted for the sablefish (aka butterfish).  Though unappetizing from the appearance, the meat itself was cooked to perfection.

Bottom line

As we began our decent into TPE, I couldn't help but hope for this flight to avoid TPE entirely and go all the way back to SFO.  CX offers the best biz product in the world, and it seems like such a waste for a 1 1/2 hour flight, although most transpacific flights do offer the same product.  I still find it unbelievable how CX would upgrade award elite passengers from partner carriers using partner miles as most legacy carriers don't upgrade their own elite award passengers at all, especially for international travel.  As it turns out, one of my shortest flights would be one of my best, and the CX first class lounge is perhaps one of the best lounges in Asia, completely destroying the JAL first class lounge in NRT.  What a homerun for a 500-mile flight.

Next: Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT


  1. CX is great. I'm still trying to find award availability for my next F flight - not easy these days with CX.

    1. Seriously, though their new TPAC biz is near the level of F of other carriers. Good redemption value too with AA miles. Best of luck getting CX on F!