Pros: Business and First Class service is excellent, well kept fleet
Cons: Coach seats can be cramped, long flights, marginal food in coach
When contemplating a journey to Asia, bear in mind that flights from the West Coast can often be far less expensive than those from the East Coast. Of the many airlines going over there, the best are usually the Asian carriers. If given a choice between an American airline and an Asian one, the answer is a no-brainer. Go with the Asian airline every time. The service you will receive is far superior to that offered by the American airlines. It is simply a matter of lower labor costs.
We arrived at LAX the day before and stayed overnight, an additional expense to be sure, but well worth the cost as we arrived in good shape for the long flight to Hong Kong.
At the airport, the check-in gates appeared to be mobbed at first. Then I quickly discovered that they are accustomed to creating great order out of chaos. Matters at the desk were accomplished within ten minutes.
At the gate, I happened to ask about an upgrade, thinking that this would never be possible. To my surprise, the agent mentioned that we would be able to upgrade to Business class for $700.00 each, one way. I jumped at the chance, not relishing the thought of twelve hours in the coach cabin. This only seems to work at this end. I tried it at Hong Kong, and it did not work. Of course, both First and Business Class were full on the return flight.
Boarding procedures are followed strictly. Even the flight attendants board in perfect formation, in order of seniority and in varying costumes to reflect said seniority. Hierarchy is still very much in evidence here.
We were on a Boeing 747-400, fairly new and absolutely immaculate airplanes. I have hardly ever seen a plane in better shape. It even smelled clean. Something like flying with the old Swissair.
Our seats were not together, somehow, but the flight attendants eventually upgraded one very lucky person to the gated paradise in the nose of the airplane. We were pleased with what we found in Purgatory, however. The seats were covered in a dark teal fabric, businesslike and fresh looking.
I should not here that this flight was not on one of the recently renovated airplanes. These planes still had the old seats and the older amenities. Wherever possible, I shall try to mention the new amenities they have added since my flight.
The seats were large enough, and reclined almost horizontally. There were acres of legroom. The new seats have all sorts of gizmos like headrests and wings which will do everything but wash your hair for you. The new seats also have the same 10.4" wide PTV or personal television. I gave my TV away years ago, but I was glued to this thing. For 16 hours, (we were delayed four hours, due to headwinds) I was grateful for the distraction.
The blankets and cotton pillows were generous too. I think I still have one of their blankets. They were irresistible.
On our return flight, we were fortunate to get seats in the emergency exit row, so we had lots of legroom there too. The seats in coach are not notably wide, however. There is an enormous difference in amenities, though i found the service almost as attentive, if that seems possible. they really do take care of you on Cathay Pacific, even in the back of the plane.
On the flight over, we were served a four course dinner with a choice of four entrees. I chose to have the Chinese meals, as these looked more interesting. They were no match for the food in Hong Kong, but for airline food, it was much better than the average. Even in coach, the food was better than the usual.
Service in Business Class was not too different from that in First Class (we flew in First on Dragonair, a Cathay subsidiary, to Beijing).
Their wine list was more than adequate and we had decent champagne too. Even in coach, they have some sort of sparkling wine. After three or four glasses, you might not care what it is (you will care the next day though).
As with many airlines today flying internationally, you will get an amenity kit. The ones I have from these flights didn't look too great, but were stuffed with toothbrushes, razors, hand cream, areosol misters and eyeshades. The new kits look much better and are from Biotherm. You will really want to take these off the plane with you.
The attitude of nearly all of the staffers we encountered was one of helpfulness and cheer. They have managed to perform a balancing act between efficiency and care which comes out rather well. If you are in coach, the seats are just as crowded as anyone else's (get the emergency exit row). The food in coach is better than most, as noted above. Overall, the staff exhibit an interest in your welfare not found on many carriers today.
One of the better values around today, Cathay Pacific offered a deal we couldn't refuse. Five nights at Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel and airfare from Los Angeles to Hong Kong for under $2000.00 (USD) each. That's almost like getting the airfare thrown in for free! Do check with Cathay Pacific Vacations as they often have great bargains. Speaking of bargains, they are currently offering one for $999.00 (USD) to Asia from new York, including up to three stopovers. This sounds like a good deal to me.
I am hard pressed to think of another airline, except possibly Singapore Airlines which offers better service in the air. If you get the chance, their little sister, Dragonair offers top flight regional service too.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.
Toll free 800-233-2742