Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Auckland Review
An all-round solid premium product from the ground to the air, available at bargain prices with Alaska Miles
Aircraft Type: Airbus A350
Route: Hong Kong to Auckland
Class: Business Class
Enoch's Cathay Pacific Rating:★★★★★☆
The A350 is the newest aircraft to join Cathay Pacific's fleet. Since its debut two years ago, Cathay has gradually rolled out this modern, fuel-efficient airliner to destinations such as Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Auckland.
Recently, I took the 11-hour journey from Hong Kong to Auckland in one of Cathay Pacific's sleek A350 aircraft. I was seated in business class, and here are my impressions of the experience.
I redeemed this trip through one of my favourite, yet often overlooked, frequent flyer programs, the Alaska Mileage Plan. The redemption was part of a larger trans-Pacific trip from San Francisco to Auckland, with a three-day stopover in Hong Kong. All up, I paid 60,000 Alaska Miles plus US$121 in taxes (per person) for a business class seat, which would have otherwise cost me more than $7,000.
This redemption booking is fantastic value given that the journey adds up to more than 25 hours of flying, entirely in business class! The Alaska Mileage Plan also offers a complimentary stopover in Hong Kong, even for one-way redemptions. I've written a guide with a few tips to maximise the value of Alaska Miles if you are keen to check this program out.
As the Alaska Mileage Plan doesn't support online redemption for Cathay Pacific, I did some dummy searches using my British Airways Executive Club account to check seat availability. The British Airways search portal is user-friendly and allows searches across multiple dates and airlines simultaneously. After that, I booked the tickets with an Alaska Airlines agent by phone. The whole process was reasonably straightforward.
Redemption availability search using British Airways portal
While I was booking with Alaska, I also requested the corresponding Cathay Pacific booking reference number, so I could pre-select my seats online.
Cathay Pacific A350 Seat Map (courtesy of Cathay Pacific)
When it comes to lounge options in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific passengers are spoiled for choice. I had a choice of the Wing, the Pier, the Bridge or the Cabin. My partner and I chose the Wing since it was closest to the boarding gate for the flight.
This lounge is one of the best business lounges I have ever visited. With high ceilings and open spaces, the lounge never felt cramped – even during peak hour. The dining areas are divided into several sections, including a coffee loft, a noodle bar and a buffet food hall, which serves a wide selection of food and drinks. The lounge also features Solus chairs (circular semi-contained work booths) equipped with power sockets.
The Wing - Solus work booths
The Wing - Lounge seating
At the noodle bar, we enjoyed freshly prepared dumplings and dan dan noodles and then headed off to take a peek at one of the other lounges. We stopped at the Pier and found it was as equally well fitted out as The Wing. I was particularly impressed by the tea house and the relaxation room with flat beds and dimmed lights, perfect for transit passengers who might want to take a power nap before their onward flight.
The Wing - Coffee Loft
The Pier - Tea House
Priority boarding was efficient and easy. The crew members welcomed us as we entered the aircraft and then directed us to our seats. Once we were seated, the crew ran through the main cabin features. They also provided pre-flight drinks and hot towels before take-off.
Business class cabin featuring reverse herringbone seats
Business Class Cabin
Cathay's A350-900 plane features a three-class cabin: business, premium economy and economy. Without a first class cabin, the 38 business class seats are located at the front end of the aircraft, although the last eight seats are in a separate section, behind the galley and toilets.
In business class, the A350s are fitted with reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, which means each seat has direct access to the aisle. Due to the way the seats are angled away from one another, the middle seats did not have much of an advantage over the side seats if you are travelling with a companion.
Middle row business class seats
This particular aircraft was less than a year old at the time of our journey, and it still felt factory fresh. The cabin was decorated with orchids and equipped with Porsche-designed dark green seats. The new cabin design is much better than the design on Cathay's older aircraft, such as the B777 or A330, as it features higher cabin pressure, regulated vents to reduce air drafts and larger windows. It is also quieter.
Multi-purpose storage cabinet with a mirror and a netted pocket
This cabin design also offers a decent amount of storage space. Next to the seat controls is a multi-purpose cabinet with a built-in makeup mirror and power/USB socket. This space is perfect for storing noise-cancelling headsets, personal amenities and devices. There is a second space below the side table that would fit a laptop or handbag. Shoes and bags can be stored under the ottoman.
Seat controls and touchscreen console
You can easily adjust the business class seats to a variety of positions, including a flatbed, by using the one-touch button. Bedding wasn't provided, and the seat width as well as the bed length was slightly smaller than the other A350s that I've flown in, such as Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, but it's still quite comfortable for a person of average build. My only complaint is that the ottoman narrows towards the end, which left my right foot with more space than my left.
Flat bed and inflight entertainment screen
Business travellers receive a grey-coloured amenity kit designed by Seventy Eight Percent, a Hong Kong-based label. Each kit includes an eye mask, a pair of socks and Jurlique-branded facial products. Slippers are provided on request.
Seventy Eight Percent amenity kit and Jurlique skin products
The high-definition 11.1-inch entertainment screen is a great improvement compared to the pixelated screen I experienced on my previous flight in the B777 from San Francisco. Similar to Finnair's IFE screens, Cathay's can be stowed away if you prefer an uninterrupted view from the window seats. The touchscreen and bedside console are user-friendly and easy to navigate, and I found a good selection of Western and Asian films and TV shows.
Air show en route to Auckland
The entire Cathay A350 fleet comes with Wi-Fi, and I love that the Internet packages are charged based on the duration of use, rather than data limit. On this trip, I paid US$19.95 for a package catered for flights above six hours, which gave me Internet use for the entire journey.
Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch and I was left without connection for the second half of the journey. I contacted Panasonic customer service via email and was given a full refund. Considering that I still enjoyed four hours of complimentary Wi-Fi, I can't complain.
Dinner and breakfast were provided on this flight and interestingly, meals were plated and served from the trolley, rather than directly from the galley. This means the dishes were selected from the cart during meal service rather than at the beginning of the flight. As a result, if you were served last, you might end up missing out on your choice of meal or it might be lukewarm. Fortunately, I was served not long after the meal service began.
Meal times are also fixed and the overall experience was less personalised. Having said that, it's worth noting that Cathay has plans to introduce a restaurant-style dining concept on their long-haul routes. This will be progressively rolled out by the middle of next year.
Starter - Smoked halibut with roasted pumpkin, capsicum, pesto and tomato paste
For a starter, I chose the smoked halibut dish with grilled vegetables, and for the main dish, I had stir-fried chilli prawns. Although there was no chilli in the dish itself, the cabin crew offered Guilin chilli sauce in sachets to help spice things up.
Main - Stir-fried chilli prawns with crab meat, served with steamed choy sum and jasmine rice
The dinner progressed at a reasonable pace, with plates being cleared efficiently in between courses. During the meal, I also enjoyed some small portions of camembert and mixed fruit. For dessert, I tried the New York cheesecake and a cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea – both were delicious.
Snacks and breakfast menu
In between meal times, snacks are available on request. About two hours before landing, breakfast was served. The options included Western-style and Hong Kong-style breakfasts. I went for the Hong Kong dim sum selection, with traditional dumplings and glutinous rice, which was pretty good.
Dessert - Hibiscus jelly or New York Cheesecake
Cheese and crackers served from the trolley
Dessert - New York cheesecake and Hong Kong style milk tea
The cabin crew on my flight were good. Cherry, one of the crew members, joked, told stories and even offered to take photos for us. Her service attitude was a breath of fresh air, as Cathay staff are usually a little reserved (though always professional).
After almost 11 hours of flying, we landed in Auckland on time, and by the time we cleared customs, our luggage was ready at the carousel.
Cathay A350 arriving into Auckland Airport
The Points Finder Flight Rating: ★★★★★☆
In my opinion, this Cathay service lived up to the hype that surrounds the new and commercially advanced A350. The level of comfort and enhanced features surpassed predecessors with similar cabin configurations.
Combine this with a friendly staff and outstanding lounges in Hong Kong, and Cathay is offering an all-round solid premium product. I look forward to the upcoming revamp of a "restaurant-style" service in the months to come. Overall, Alaska Miles is a lucrative points currency and well worth considering for Australian-based travellers looking to travel with Cathay Pacific.
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