Flight Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class – Airbus A350 San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG)

After the visit to the Cathay Pacific Lounge here at SFO, I arrived at the gate plenty early before boarding would start. I tried to get on as one of the first to get some good pictures of the cabin before it gets to crowded with people stowing their luggage.

After a few minutes, Cathay’s gate agents started the boarding process and I was the first one in line for Business Class. Remember there is no First Class on Cathay Pacific’s A350 fleet.

It might be a bit confusing that the first row in the plane is row number 11. Cathay Pacific’s Business Class always starts with row 11, no matter what plane. This makes it on the other side pretty easy to remember. And 10 rows of first class is a lot, some planes only have one or two as their Business Class product is solid.

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CX 893

SFO to HKG

I went to my seat as quickly as I could and stowed my bags. I took some pictures of the cabin and then my seat as well. During the boarding process, a flight attendant came by and offered pre-departure drinks and newspapers were offered as well. The Business Class aboard this aircraft is in a Reverse Herringbone configuration. The same configuration can be found on American, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, and several other airlines. American Airlines, for example, uses them in their Boeing 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner.

The sheets and blankets were packed in a clear plastic bag and already at my seat. A few minutes later the flight attendant came by again with the amenity kits for the passengers.

The seat has a big fold out touch-screen display with tons of features. You can not only use it to watch movies and TV shows, you can also use it for in-flight shopping, set a wake-up call or set your seat to “Do not Disturb”. Besides that, the display shows you also if in-flight Wi-Fi is available. You can follow the plane on a map or watch one of two cameras on the outside of the aircraft. One is a forward-facing camera at the front and the other one is located on top of the vertical stabilizer (fin) at the aft end of the fuselage.

To my left was a small compartment which had the noise-canceling headphones inside. The door of the compartment had a mirror on the top half, which could be covered, and a net for stowage on the bottom half. The net is great to stow your smartphone as the power outlet is also inside the compartment. In front of the compartment was some room to put stuff like your drinks or other items. Right below it is the fold-out tray-table. The area on the lower side of the seat, which will form your bad in lie-flat configuration, has another compartment you can open and store more stuff. It’s big enough to fit your shoes for example.

To my immediate left were the entertainment system controls. You can take the cable remote out and it comes very handily once you set up your seat in a nice movie watch position. Otherwise, you have to force yourself up all the time to hit the touchscreen, now you just have to use the remote and then put it back on its holder. Next to the remote is a reading light with switch and the seat controls for individual positioning of the different parts or you can use the buttons for two pre-configured positions. (Take-off and Lie-Flat).

Entertainment System and Seat Controls

Just before we pushed back, the flight attendants handed out the dining menu for today’s flight. There was plenty of time to go through the menu before placing your order. As boarding was completed we started to push back from the gate. Unfortunately not much to see in the middle of the night.


At the Gate in San Francisco

Surprisingly Cathay Pacific doesn’t require you to store the monitors for take-off. The flight attendant came by before departure and checked all the seats for seat-belts and upright position but having the display out was ok. This was fine with me as I could already start watching a movie. The signs above every seat for “no smoking” and “fasten seatbelt” are actually no illuminated signs. Its a display showing this sings. This makes it easy to show additional messages or symbols without running out of space.

Overhead Symbols are displayed on a screen.

Overall the in-flight entertainment system was great. The touchscreen is very responsive and I like all the additional features as mentioned above. However, Cathay’s movie selection was not so good. Only a few blockbusters and then a lot of old movies. Which I am fine with but even so, the number of movies and TV-shows was very limited. Compared to other planes, where you have a whole library aboard. Either way, it was enough for me to survive the flight without getting bored. To my surprise, the entertainment system featured one of my favorite TV shows – Firefly.

Firefly

Once we were in the air, I brought my seat in a comfortable position and kept watching movies. Not too long into the flight, the dinner service got started. Their selection was pretty solid and had good choices.

The food itself was pretty good. I was not too hungry as I had a good meal in Cathay’s lounge in San Francisco just before departure but I saved a spot to try their food.

After dinner service, the cabin lights were dimmed so people could sleep. During the flight, the crew handed out the immigration paperwork you have to fill out to get into Hong Kong.

The galley was just a few rows behind me. At the same level is a set of boarding doors through which part of the plane got boarded. The little window on the door has some kind of a “lens” on the lower half so if you look out the window you can actually see the engine on the wing completely. If you would just look out through the top half, which is a regular window, you wouldn’t be able to see the complete engine. This is a safety feature if the crew has to check for any issues regarding the engine.

A short while before landing the breakfast got served. They came by with the cart and you could basically build your own breakfast. This is pretty awesome, as you get exactly what you want. This was also the time that we got to see daylight outside of the windows.

Now I had the chance for the first time to use their two outside cameras and watch the plane. Before I only saw a black screen. As long as you above the clouds, the forward facing camera only shows clouds. It’s a bit more fun to watch the camera in the fin as you can see at least the plane. It gets very interesting once we got through the clouds and actually were approaching the runway.

The taxi time to the gate was pretty short once we touched down. Once I got off the plane I followed the signs to Immigration and tried to get their as quick as possible to be one of the first one in line. There were a few other planes arriving and my line had a few people ahead of me. It took me about 20 minutes to reach the immigration officer. He checked my passport and I was through. No questions asked, like in the US. After immigration, you end up in the baggage claim area. I had to wait only a few minutes before my bag showed up and I was off through customs into the terminal.

From there, I headed to the Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge, as it was too early in the morning for the Hotel to check-in.

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