Trip Report & Review – Cathay Pacific First Class New York (JFK) to Vancouver (YVR)

This trip report and review covers Cathay Pacific First Class from New York (JFK) to Vancouver (YVR) aboard the 777-300. This is part two of a guest trip report series from Enoch, one of the many talented Juicy Miles bookers. See part one here – Trip Report & Review – British Airways First + Galleries Lounges @ JFK.

Cathay Pacific operates a flight from New York JFK to Hong Kong with a stop in Vancouver, and is the only airline that offers nonstop service JFK-Vancouver flight year-round at the moment. (Philippines Airlines is set to begin flying the New York-Vancouver route in March—previously they have flown Las Vegas-Vancouver and back). The only other airline that flies direct between the two cities is Delta, which only offers the flight in the summer months.

Because the flight continues to Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific operates a long-haul 777-300 on this route, configured with four classes of service: First, Business, Premium Economy, and Economy. I was originally booked on a direct JFK-Hong Kong flight, but decided to switch last minute to experience a trans-continental flight in an international first class product.

Cathay Pacific (CX) Flight 889
New York (JFK) – Vancouver (YVR)  |  Boeing 777-300ER
December 2014  |  2110/1210+1  (6 hours)
First Class  |  Seat 2A

From the lounge, it was about a 5-minute walk to this he gate. I arrived at the gate a little less than an hour before departure, and the ground staff was just removing United’s signs and putting up Cathay’s. The crew showed up at around 8:25 pm.

The gate area was a bit chaotic, since there were only two lines in place: Economy and Premium Economy passengers queued on the left, and First and Business class passengers queued on the right. The center area was left empty for those that require assistance to bypass the lines. By the time I got in line, I was in the middle of the pack. Boarding was done through two “doors,” but they merge behind the counter to one jet bridge.

As I boarded through door 2L, a flight attendant greeted me and looked at my boarding pass; they are usually there to help guide passengers to the correct aisle on a twin-aisle aircraft. She looked at my boarding pass, looked at my face filled with excitement, a bit puzzled, and then back at the boarding pass, and uttered, “oh wait. You’re on that side,” and pointed to the first class section to my left. That was quite a strange interaction, but to the left I went.

The First Class cabin has a 1-1-1 configuration, and a permanent divider separates the two “A” seats on the left, which gets its own aisle, from the “D” seats and “K” seats on the right, which share a slightly wider aisle. Theoretically, this means the “A” seats are very private, but on my flight, the left aisle also became the default aisle for any flight attendant who had to walk past First Class to access the galleys, so foot traffic really evened out.

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I settled in and explored the features of my seat. The seat is very spacious. I’m not a big person, and the seat could easily fit 2 and a half of me. There is also an ottoman across the seat, which serves as a second seat if you would like to share a meal or converse with someone in flight. Notice the empty flower holder to the left of my seat on the wall? Flowers will later magically appear sometime during my nap.

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There are no overhead bins in First Class, and the cabin did feel very open. There were plenty of space under the ottoman for my carry-on. I also brought a back pack on, which fit perfectly in the closet in front of the seat.

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There is a removable control that controls the TV, as well as a touch-screen panel for seat adjustment. There is a tremendous amount of surface space, and for storage, there is a small “glove box” by the remote, a literature rack on the right of the seat, and a shelf below the TV.

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There are reading lights directly above the seat, as well as to the left and the right of the seat. And because the seat is so wide (probably not why), there is another set of seat controls to the right of the seat as well. One thing to take note, if you are deciding between seats 1A and 2A: the seatbelt sign and no-smoking sign are directly above seat 2A, so 2A may be oh-so-slightly brighter—not a deal breaker, but certainly noticeable.

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There was a USB and universal power outlet on the side as well.

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Shortly after I took my seat, one of the flight attendants, Reiko, came by to offer a pre-departure beverage and a moist towel. She introduced herself and told me she would “take care of [me] all the way to Vancouver.” Interesting to note, the ISM (in-flight service manager), Wilson, did not come by to say hello, something I found out as rather odd after taking a few more flights in First Class with Cathay. During boarding, the flight deck crew paged him repeatedly, so he was probably busy.

Champagne was my drink of choice for this flight; Cathay Pacific offers the non-vintage Krug in their First Class cabins.

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Another flight attendant, Diana, came by with the amenity kit, headphones, and pajamas…in three separate “visits.” The First Class amenity kit was by Ermenegildo Zegna, but I didn’t take a photo of the contents because it was frankly quite underwhelming: a wooden comb that really doesn’t work that well, toothbrush and toothpaste set, mouthwash, a shoehorn, and Aesop skin products. Cathay recently changed up their premium cabin amenity kit—the new First Class case is now designed by Aesop. The headphones were Bose QC15, which I love.

One thing I really like about Cathay Pacific’s crew is that they are very genuine (or at least they act very genuinely), and this is something I remember even as a kid flying in Economy on Cathay. On this flight, service was never over-the-top, but warm and courteous at all times.

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The pajamas are made by PYE, a Chinese fashion brand that specializes in mens dress shirts. The pajamas fit pretty big, but were soft and comfortable. In the cloth bag were also slippers and eye masks, both very nice. I like that these amenities came in a shopping bag of sort, because it definitely made taking them home much easier!

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Shortly before takeoff, Reiko came by again and presented me with the menu and wine list for the flight. I was invited to dine at anytime I wish.

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As we pushed back, five of the six seats in First Class were taken.

After takeoff, I was offered warmed cashews, and I also ordered a Pacific Sunrise, a Cathay Pacific signature drinks that includes champagne and Drambuie. Now, is it just me, or are the cashews pretty sad looking?

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My table was set complete with the Cathay “Bon Appetite” card, where the flight attendants write a little personalized “welcome to the flight” note. Touches like this really make a difference in First Class.

I was brought the starter: seared tuna with cous cous, artichoke mousse, timbale, and yoghurt mint sauce. The tuna was spectacular. There was also an entire bread basket with a decent selection of bread; the garlic bread was fantastic.

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Cathay’s menus are grouped into “International Favorites” and “Chinese Favorites,” each containing an appetizer, a soup, and a main dish, but you are free to pick and choose from the two groups. I selected the mesclun salad with lobster and grilled vegetables from the Western menu.

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I also had the double boiled ginseng with silkie chicken soup from the Chinese menu. Trust me it was delicious.

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For the main course, I had the braised duck with mushroom served with steamed jasmine rice, stir-fried pok choy, and carrot flower. Cathay Pacific has rice cookers on their planes so they could serve freshly steamed rice for first class passengers, and the rice did not disappoint.

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I am not a fan of cheeses—I’ll take pepper jack with my Subway sandwich but that’s about it. So I skipped the cheese course, and had the strawberry and vanilla cream cake with berry compote, which was very good, and just the right level of sweetness.

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Now, I had eaten at the lounge, so I was not particularly hungry. With the amount of food served onboard, it was simply impossible for me to finish every course without my stomach exploding. Every time Reiko or Diana would come by to clear my table, they would have the guiltiest, most worrisome look on their faces, “is everything okay? Did you not like the duck? Is something wrong with it? Is it too hot? Is it cold already? Can we get you something else instead? We can get you something from the snack menu if you’d like?” To which I would respond, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Please, no. Please don’t get me anything else. I’m just full. You see how tiny a person I am?”

Anyway, I decided it was time for a nap, so I changed into pajamas while the crew made my bed. There are two bathrooms in First Class, with the one of the left much larger than the right. I am not sure if it’s protocol, but I have never seen a crew member use the left bathroom—including the pilot; they exclusively used the right, smaller bathroom. The bathrooms are nice, with shiny wood trims, and stocked with Aesop products.

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I was offered pralines, as well as a bottle of water.

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Cathay’s bed in First Class is one of the most comfortable I’ve experienced, and I got a really good 3-hour nap in.

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And when I woke up, what do you know? The flowers magically appeared in the holder.

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We landed in Vancouver on-time. On the Hong Kong-bound flight, passengers continuing to Hong Kong do not deplane. Reiko and Diana bid me farewell, just as a new crew and cleaning staff boarded the flight.

For a six-hour trans-continental flight, Cathay’s product sure is tough to beat.

Coming up…continuing from Vancouver to Hong Kong!

Need helping planning your next award trip? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs, Enoch and the rest of the team stand ready to assist!

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