Trip Report & Review – Cathay Pacific First Class Vancouver to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific offers multiple flights between New York and Hong Kong each day and one of these flights operates with a stop at Vancouver. I was on the JFK-Vancouver (YVR) segment and remained on board for the Hong Kong leg (on the New York-bound flight passengers are required to deplane and wait in a secured area). This part three of a trip report from Enoch, a Juicy Miles award booker.

It was pretty interesting staying on board to see what happens between the two flights. The cleaning staff worked very quickly—vacuuming the entire cabin, changing out the sheets and blankets, wiping off the surfaces, tidying up the seatbelts and making a “V” shape, making sure storage compartments are empty, etc. The cabin crew were busy too: “The TVs in 24A and 22A are not working! Do we have two empty ‘A’ seats?” Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp. “Someone left their headphones in 32C!” Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp.

Meanwhile, the two flight attendants working First Class wasted no time in preparing for service. They were folding napkins for the bread baskets, making sure drinks were chilled, etc.

 

Cathay Pacific (CX) Flight 889
New York (JFK) – Vancouver (YVR)  |  Boeing 777-300ER
December 2014  |  0125/0700  (13 hours 35 minutes)
First Class  |  Seat 2A

Since new passengers hadn’t boarded yet, I took the opportunity to explore what the mini-Business Class cabin looked like. It comprises just 8 seats separate from the main Business Class cabin—a cozy little area for sure, and Cathay decorated the cabin with wreaths for the holiday season.

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Before new passengers even boarded, one of the flight attendants, Kerianne, came to introduce herself. She was cheery and super enthusiastic despite the busy commotion in the cabin. She offered me an amuse bouche, and when I asked for water, she followed up with, “what kind?”

The menu didn’t describe what the amuse bouche was, but it tasted (and looked) like a foie gras mousse, and was surprisingly light, refreshing, and needless to say very delicious. I like that Cathay serves a pre-departure amuse bouche, and it’s quite a contrast from airlines that think a pre-departure beverage in a plastic cup in First Class is an if-we-feel-like-it offering. In case you were curious, I went with still water.

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Before takeoff, I was also offered the menu and wine list for this flight. Since they knew I was a connecting passenger, I was not offered a second set of pajamas or amenity kit. The cleaning crew did, however, replace my sheets and duvet, despite my insistence that it was not necessary. The “sheets set” is stored in the closet in front of the seat.

The other flight attendant, Helena, came by to introduce herself and offered me a towel. The very friendly ISM, Jenny, also came by to say hello, and we chatted a bit about spending the New Year with family. Again, the crew on this flight was top-notch. Super friendly, very genuine, and really human.

One thing I noticed as a Chinese passenger (specifically, a Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking passenger) was that I was never asked what language I would like to be addressed in. I only picked up on that because I overheard other passengers being greeted in Cantonese as they boarded, while I was greeted in English. This made me wonder if they determine what language to use based on nationality (or rather, the passport the passenger chose to travel with)? More on that later in the post.

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Shortly after takeoff, the crew brought around warmed cashews which looked a lot better on this flight than the last one. Impressively, they noted my wine preference from my previous flight! So I had another glass of the Louis Jadot Meursault 2011 Chardonnay—I figured it pairs well with nuts.

Additionally, I also ordered a glass of Cathay Delight. This is by far my favorite Cathay Pacific signature drink; it is a non-alcoholic blend of kiwifruit juice, coconut juice, plus a touch of mint. Though it has the consistency of a smoothie, the flavor—especially the mint—makes it very light. On my last flight, no kiwifruit juice was loaded, so I was left disappointed. Luckily, Vancouver catering came to the rescue, and I got to enjoy my Cathay Delight on this flight.

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I do have to say—and I realize some people might get angry at me saying this—but between the two flight attendants, the service was…well it was very Hong Kong, as in they say “thank you” after literally every favor they do for you. Let me illustrate and explain.

Kerianne would pour my glass of water, and say, “thank you.” She would hand me the menus, and say, “thank you.” She would take my empty plate, and say, “thank you.” She would hand me the amuse bouche, and say, “thank you.” She would put down the table cloth, and…you guessed it…say, “thank you.” It was almost a bit comical, and it’s something I never picked up when I lived in Hong Kong, but once I noticed it, it was a bit nostalgic. After years away, I have to be honest, it reminded me of home.

Dinner began with Caviar service. Cathay used to offer its caviar service with balik salmon, but now offers it as a single-serve tin by Calvisius. The Venise is the cheapest caviar from Calvisius—of course, prices of caviar often indicate rarity more than quality, but I found it to be on the overly oily and mushy side. The presentation was nice though, complete with blinis, chive, cream of fruit, and chopped eggs. With caviar, a shot of ice cold vodka glass of Krug was in order.

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 The bread basket had a good variety, and the garlic bread was stellar, once again.

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I selected the double boiled conch with fish maw soup from the Chinese menu. It was only lightly seasoned, which really brought out the fresh flavors of the two Chinese delicacies.

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I also had the mixed salad with poached pear, smoked duck, and pine nuts from the “International Favorites” menu. It was good, but nothing too exciting.

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For the main course, I had the braised abalone with chicken, with steamed jasmine rice, pak choy, mushroom, and carrot. Cathay’s rice cooker onboard really does make a difference: the rice was fresh and fluffy.

Throughout dinner service, my drinks were constantly refreshed, and the service was polished but never robotic. The flight attendants walked through the cabin every few minutes to check on everyone, and they didn’t do so in an intrusively way. Rather, they just would wait until you make eye contact with them, and then ask if there’s something they could do for you, which I appreciated.

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I was peeking at the dessert choices on the menu, and flipped to the side with Chinese characters because I was curious what the translations for the cheeses were (as it turns out, it just says “Selected Cheeses” in Chinese). I bet Kerianne saw that, because when she came by to take my dessert order, she did so in Cantonese. I ordered the red bean soup with lotus seeds, and she seemed genuinely excited about my choice, “you’re going to love it. It’s really good.”

Just as she returned to the galley, the seat belt sign came on. Cathay Pacific does not serve hot beverages when the seat belt sign is on for safety reasons (I can’t imagine this policy going very well on U.S. airlines, since in my experience, the seat belt sign never gets turned off on some flights).  The turbulence lasted for quite a while, and 20 minutes later, Kerianne came back with my dessert. And she was right; it was amazing, at just the right level of sweetness.

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Between the six courses, Cathay Pacific serves a tremendous amount of food in First Class. Part of me wish their portions were a little smaller since I absolutely hate wasting food, but at the same time I wanted to sample everything, so I picked out something for every course. I tried my very best, but with just a few grains of rice left in the bowl, I still got the concerned look accompanied by a string of questions: “What’s wrong? It looks like you didn’t eat any of it! Can we get you something else instead? Would you like to take a look at the menu again and pick out something else?”

I wasn’t annoyed particularly, but rather felt really guilty that I didn’t finish everything. It’s almost the same kind of guilty feeling you get if you don’t finish everything you parents made you for dinner. I understand why they may be concerned, and they were definitely taking a proactive approach to make sure passengers are satisfied. But truth be told…I don’t particularly want to feel guilty flying in First Class. Maybe I just need an attitude adjustment on my end.

Look, I don’t know what is up with my metabolism. But I am one of those people who are constantly hungry—I can never eat a lot in one sitting, but I eat constantly. So as much as I would like to stretch out the dinner service to finish everything, I gave up after 2.5 hours.

Anyway, while the flight attendants made my bed and cleared my table, I changed into pajamas. Cathay Pacific has 2 lavatories in First Class for 6 passengers, which is an incredibly generous ratio. Bathrooms were clean, and stocked with Aesop products. I really liked the fact that there was a real sink and the fold-down bench that helps when you are changing.

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I returned to my seat with my bed made, and the flight attendants left pralines and a moist towel on the side console. I ordered another Cathay Delight before bed.

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I can’t stress enough how comfortable Cathay’s bed was. The padding was fantastic, and the blanket was just thick enough to keep you cozy without making it too hot to sleep.

I slept for a good 4 hours, and then decided it was time to order some snacks. Cathay Pacific serves the best snacks in First Class that I know of: they are hot, substantial, and delicious, and there is a huge variety to choose from. (I know, I know, I know. I couldn’t finish dinner but 4 hours later I wanted snacks. Story of my life.)

I started with crab cakes with lemon aioli. They were divine.

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I also had the hot pot rice with pork spare ribs, served with chicken broth. The hot pot rice was fantastic, but I wasn’t a fan of the chicken broth—it tasted like the a plain Swanson chicken broth.

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A short nap later, it’s breakfast time! The breakfast selections were on the light side, which was perfect because finally, I was able to finish everything. I started with fresh fruit and croissants.

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I am a huge fan of Hong Kong-style milk tea, and I think it’s one of those things that Hong Kongers are truly proud of. I am not sure how they make the milk tea on board, but it tasted watery and borderline disgusting. For a Hong Kong-based airline, I really expected better. I’ll give them an A+ for presentation though.

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Cathay Pacific not only has a rice cooker on board, but also a skillet, which allows them to offer freshly scrambled eggs. I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out, so I ordered scrambled eggs with bacon, ham, potato cakes, and mushrooms for my main course.

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And I fully indulged in a moment of Pittsburgh Pride with the Heinz ketchup they served. (I may be born and raised in Hong Kong, but at the end of the day, I’ll also always have Pittsburgh in my heart).

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Shortly after breakfast, we landed in Hong Kong with a beautiful sunrise as a backdrop. As we deplaned, the ISM, Jenny, bid everyone farewell by name—impressive!

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On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed my flight. Helena and Kerianne, who worked First Class on this flight, were friendly and professional, with a fantastic attitude that made the flight go by very quickly. With an awesome bed, great cabin crew, and delicious food, it’s easy to see why Cathay Pacific offer one of the highest rated First Class products out there.

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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Comments

  1. Sounds like you had good crews. I had good crews… and not-so-good crews.

    One time I ordered the tenderloin, and it was awful. The FA came to collect the plate and cocked her head after noticed that I’d only take a bite or two. I said, “It is really not very good.”, to which she replied “So sorry to hear that.” She cleared the plate and walked away.

    During my maiden First Class trip, the FA never provided the mattress or duvet. I didn’t really know you got them, and saw them being collected at the end of the flight. I asked about it, and was told “Yes, we have them. You never said you wanted one!”

    Cathay has a consistency problem.

    I’ve learned to temper my expectations. I know I’ll get the big seat, and the food will be OK. Anything beyond that just makes the flight better! 🙂

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