Cathay Pacific First Class: What It’s Really Like

Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong-based airline with a sterling reputation for world-class service.  They serve a wide variety of markets (all of them international, of course) and have long been a stalwart of nonstop flights between Hong Kong and the United States.  Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the “aspirational” First Class cabins, one that people save up their miles to fly, and with good reason.  I’ve been lucky enough to fly them in First Class four separate times so I’m fairly well-qualified to tell you what it’s like.  So many of you enjoyed my review of Singapore Airlines Suites Class, so let’s do it again.  Sit back, pour yourself some Krug champagne, and take a look at the full experience of flying Cathay Pacific First Class!

cathay pacific first class review

Checking In

Hong Kong International Airport is enormous and beautiful, the architecture is just fantastic.  When you walk into the departure hall of Terminal 1, you’ll see massive rows of check-in desks for what seems like every airline in the world and even some airlines for other worlds.  If you’re flying in First Class, head to the far left row and you’ll see the white marble of the Cathay Pacific First Class check-in area.

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Once the check-in agents see you heading their direction they will usually walk up to greet you long before you make it to the desk so they can assist you with your luggage.  Within a few key strokes they will have you checked in and hand you your lounge invitation.

Now, the next part is out of Cathay Pacific’s control, but the annoying thing about HKG is there is no priority security lane for Premium passengers (I know I sound spoiled saying that, but it is annoying).  Once you make it through security, the fun truly begins!

The First Class Lounges

Cathay Pacific has two First Class lounges at HKG from which to choose: The Pier and The Wing.  They are both unique and wonderful in their own way and both are worth a visit if you have the time.  (a note: you can access these lounges if you hold Oneworld Emerald status and are traveling on an international itinerary, regardless of your class of service!)

The Pier

One of Cathay’s newest lounges, I’ve raved about The Pier.  It’s located under gate 65.  The signage is similar to other lounges but what lies at the bottom of the escalator is one of the best airport lounges in the world.

cathay pacific pier review

cathay pacific pier review

Most of the Cathay Pacific lounges have a design theme which emphasizes marble and shiny surfaces.  Your first clue that the Pier will be different is the giant wooden Cathay Pacific logo which greets you at the bottom of the escalator.

cathay pacific pier review

Once you’re welcomed in by the lounge staff you’ll enter the main hallway and feel like you’re in a different world.

cathay pacific pier review

cathay pacific pier review

The design theme is unique and luxurious and so different from almost any other lounge I’ve ever visited.  The amenity list is long and similarly luxurious, from day suites for longer layovers to foot massages.

cathay pacific pier lounge

cathay pacific pier review

The bar area almost resembles a lounge from a country club back in the 70s to me.

cathay pacific pier review

The Dining Room is similarly unique with green leather and ample wooden trim.  The food is catered by The Peninsula hotel and is just superb.  I highly recommend the Dan Dan noodles.

cathay pacific pier review

The Wing

The Wing has been around longer than The Pier but it is wonderfully luxurious and a little more glitzy.  The lounges at HKG are either the floor below the gate level (like The Pier) or the floor above the gate level, like The Wing.  Since the ceiling of the lounge is in fact the ceiling of the terminal it has a very open feeling.  When you walk into the lounge, the first thing you’ll see is the Champagne Bar.

cathay pacific first class

cathay pacific first class

Once you’ve had your fill of a few different varieties of champagne, you can explore the rest of the lounge, which is decorated with lots of black marble.  There’s a nice bar with all manner of premium boozes (beeze?) available.

cathay pacific wing review

The dining area is offset from the main lounge area but features similar entrees as The Pier, since they’re both catered by The Peninsula hotel.

One of the best amenities offered by The Wing is access to Cabanas.  The Cabanas are more than a shower suite, there’s a shower, a bathtub, and a chaise lounge in which to relax before your flight.  They even offer a shirt-pressing service directly from your Cabana.

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The Cabanas make The Wing worth a visit, such a relaxing experience before…well, relaxing on your flight I guess.

Which is better: The Pier or The Wing?

If you’re flying back to the USA aboard Cathay Pacific your flight will typically depart from gates 1-4, which are directly next to The Wing.  If you’re flying elsewhere in the world you could be departing from any number of gates.  I think both lounges are worth a visit but if you’re not a loungenerd like me I’d say go to the one closest to your gate.  They’re both fantastic and luxurious but in completely different ways.

Cathay Pacific First Class

The Cabin

When you board, you’ll be walked to your seat by a cabin attendant, who will immediately offer a beverage (champagne, perhaps?) and offer to take your carry-on luggage.  There are no overhead bins to give the cabin more of an airy feel, but there are areas available for your roll-aboards.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

Since Cathay Pacific recently stopped flying the 747 (which is a shame), the only First Class cabin is aboard their Boeing 777-300ER fleet.  There are six seats in the First Class cabin, each one with aisle access.

The Seat

cathay pacific first class review

Cathay Pacific First Class features an amazing seat, one of the best in the sky in fact.  The product has been around for quite a while now but remains competitive, even though it lacks a separate bed or the fancy gimmicks like showers in the sky.  Plus, each seat comes with its very own orchid!

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

The seat itself is very wide, in fact you could almost fit two people in it side by side.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

You might actually think it’s too wide, but you can fold down an armrest to make it feel a little more comfy (the extra width is to make the seat more comfortable in bed mode).

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An ottoman awaits your feet, under which you can put extra luggage if necessary.  You’ll notice a seatbelt on the ottoman, why’s it there?  So if you’re traveling with a companion they can join you for dinner!  Probably not a better venue for a date than clinking glasses of Krug champagne in your comfy Cathay Pacific First Class pajamas, after all.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

As you’ll see here, when the seat is in bed mode the footrest extends all the way to the ottoman to create a bed long enough for almost any traveler.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

If that looks like it’s not comfortable, don’t worry, it’s very comfortable, particularly because the cabin attendants can put down a mattress pad of sorts along with a very cozy comforter to ensure a good sleep on board.

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The Service

You cabin attendants begin taking care of you from the first second you step aboard the aircraft.  Once you’re comfortably ensconced in your seat, your cabin attendant will offer you a beverage.  Take the champagne, it’s Krug Grand Cuvee and very delicious!

cathay pacific first class

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

I do want to briefly talk about the difference in the service “style” between Cathay Pacific First Class and Singapore Suites Class.  Cathay Pacific cabin attendants do not want to disturb you and generally stay out of the cabin unless they are summoned by a guest.  So Americans, who are typically scolded for using the flight attendant call button when on a US carrier, will need to take note that they actually want you to use the call button.  Indeed on my first Cathay Pacific First Class flight the in-flight manager eventually came by my seat to ensure I was enjoying my flight, since I hadn’t asked them to do anything special for me!  I compare that to the service style of Singapore Airlines, where cabin attendants seemingly appear out of nowhere everywhere you look to ensure you’re having a great experience.

The cabin attendants speak good English and I’ve always had very friendly and professional cabin crew on my flights, the service style is nice without being too over the top or robotic in my opinion.

The Food

The food on Cathay Pacific receives mixed reviews, although I’ve always enjoyed it.  Meal service begins with an amuse bouche, which I’ve enjoyed some times and have had no idea what to do with it other times (like the one below).

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

After figuring out what to do with the amuse bouche they serve an absolutely fantastic caviar appetizer.  The appetizer has changed slightly over the years in terms of presentation but it’s still wonderful any way you look at it.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Review

cathay pacific first class

I was going to post about the salads, but let’s be honest it’s a salad.  They’ve all been fine and vegetable-y.  Let’s show some of the mains.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Review

Cathay Pacific First Class holds a near and dear place in my heart, as they’re one of the few airlines who can seem to cook a decent steak on board.

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Desserts have been fine, but the enormous main entrees usually leave me with little room to enjoy it.  Don’t worry, I still fight through though.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Review Trip Report-11

Taking away the differing opinions about the quality of the dinner service it’s almost universally agreed upon that Cathay Pacific First Class makes the best breakfast in the sky.  The scrambled eggs (scrambled on board) are simply beautiful and taste terrific.

cathay pacific first class

The Experience

I have to be honest.  Even though Qatar Airways is the airline on which I’ve had the most fun in First Class, there’s just something special about Cathay Pacific First Class.  There really aren’t any weaknesses to their First Class service and it’s widely available throughout the world, versus Qatar’s limited First Class network.  The cabin service is wonderful, once you get the hang of using the call button, and I’ve never had a cabin attendant who has been anything less than pleasant.  It’s smooth, consistent, and just about perfect in every way.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

So here’s to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the best ways to fly!

 

Have you flown Cathay Pacific First Class?  What did you think?  Which image is your favorite?  Talk to me in the comments below!

7 Comments

  1. Good, accurate report

    We’ve used their first twice with AA miles

    with the increase of miles needed now, would still consider it.

    best plan ( worked for me) is book in advance if only business class is open, and later ( last few weeks before the trip) upgrade to first.

    only gripe ( minor) is pay for first class rt , but hkg to hkt or bkk is still business class.

    Reply
    • I’ve done the same Mike, fortunately I’ve found Business Class on Cathay for shorter international flights to be a fairly good product, even though some of the seats are quite old.

      Reply
      • Yeh, not a problem for a short 3 hr flight.

        sure beats jal seats ( JL 65,66,707,708)

        Reply
    • Mike,

      Agree about the change to Business on the way to/from HGK-BKK. Although one was in a brand new A350-900 it was certainly a let down after the stellar 1st class to/from JFK-HGK. Last item is that HGK flights seem to always suffer delays nowadays. Most of the time it is made up by the pilot but it is annoying. Pier is the best lounge in HGK imho. Wing is way too crowded nowadays and the afternoon sun beating down on everyone is a bit annoying.

      Reply
  2. Greetings,
    Great report. I just finished a RT KFK-HGK-JFK yesterday on Cathay and can concur. They have the best beds in the sky and I always get a lot of sleep on this 14h+ run. One additional comment is that you are traveling solo, get a A or K window seat. They are amazing. If traveling with a couple get an adjacent aisle seat and one can eat your meals together in either’ suite. A great plus. Service is fantastic but as noted one needs to ask. I had my attendant outbound come to me and state “do you need anything? please put me to work”

    Reply
  3. Have a business class ticket booked but looking to upgrade to first closer to departure with Alaskan miles. How close to departure will they open up first class & how often in the day do you recommend checking for availability? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi M, in my experience they begin opening up availability 14 days from departure but others have seen them wait until a week or even 2-3 days beforehand.

      Reply

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