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Following a first-class flight from New York, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig flew Cathay Pacific’s new regional business class from Hong Kong to Bali.
I’ve flown Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (HKG) to Bali (DPS) before in a nearly empty first-class cabin on the airline’s soon-to-be-retired 747. Cathay doesn’t sell first class on this route, but after asking very nicely, I managed to get a lounge agent to move us up front to the business cabin. It was a phenomenal experience — our flight attendants clearly had years of experience working in that cabin, and even though it was technically business-class service, it definitely felt like a first-class flight.
This one, however, did not.
Booking Cathay Pacific Business Class to Bali
This time around, the short four-hour segment was a continuation of our fantastic first-class award flight from New York to Hong Kong, and since we had a connection of less than 24 hours at HKG, we were able to add the additional leg for no additional miles. I booked my mom, sister and me in first class using 67,500 AAdvantage miles each, most of which were earned from the enormous sign-up bonuses offered by my two Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCards. Booked separately, this segment would have required 22,500 AA miles for business, or 15,000 in economy.
When I booked the flight nearly a year ago, there were only two business seats available, and I grabbed those for my mom and sister, with me seated just behind in the first row of economy. However, three days before the flight, several business-class seats opened up and I was able to change cabins without an additional charge by calling American.
Oddly, this flight is extraordinarily expensive if you’re paying cash, requiring $2,340 for the one-way flight to Bali, or $3,893 for a round-trip. If you have British Airways Avios, perhaps earned with the British Airways Visa Signature Card or transferred from Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can book the flight for 12,500 miles in economy or 37,500 miles in business (ouch!).
Check-In and Lounge
Even if you’re flying first class, the premium check-in experience at HKG is nothing to write home about. You need to make your own way through security and immigration (where the lines can sometimes be quite lengthy) before reaching the lounge. We decided to visit The Wing, a business lounge located just past the immigration checkpoint to the left. First-class passengers (and oneworld Emeralds) can enter on the same level, but business passengers need to take the escalator downstairs (and then an elevator back up) to access the lounge.
The Wing is a fantastic lounge, but it can get very crowded. Still, with several rooms to choose from, it’s not hard to find a seat at any hour of the day. My favorite room is the noodle bar, where you can order prepared-to-order items. Once you place an order, you’ll receive a pager, and once that starts to buzz you can pick up your food.
I never leave The Wing without getting a bowl of wonton soup and a BBQ pork bun. The wonton soup is quite possibly the best I’ve had anywhere, including in Hong Kong. There are plenty of other dishes to choose from, too, including Chinese and western items.
Cathay Pacific’s 777-300 Business-Class Cabin
After an hour or so in the lounge, it was time to hit up duty free (alcohol is very expensive in Bali) and take the train over to the satellite area for our gate. Given that Cathay’s regional business class isn’t anything special, you definitely don’t need to rush over to board early.
Seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, with a total of 42 seats packed into a relatively small cabin.
Only center row seats were available within a few weeks of departure, so if you want to sit in one of the pairs (A/C or H/K), be sure to grab a seat as early as possible.
We were seated in the middle section of row 16, which was fine. All of the middle seats are pretty much the same, and with a hard shell, the person seated in front can’t recline into you.
The seat is comfortable enough for the four-hour flight. There’s a footrest that you can extend by pushing a button and the seat reclines quite a bit, though not nearly enough to sleep comfortably.
Each seat has a storage compartment that you can use for eyeglasses, a small camera or a compact cellphone (my iPhone 6+ didn’t fit).
This isn’t a fancy seat, which you can see reflected in the photo above. There are only a couple options to choose from — leg rest up or down, and seat forward or back.
There were plenty of open overhead bins on this flight, and there’s room to store a small bag beneath the seat in front of you. I’d recommend keeping your bag in the bin, however, so you can put your feet in the cubby.
Unlike our other 777 flight the previous day, the premium-cabin seats on Cathay’s regional 777-300 aren’t private at all. Comfort-wise, expect a small step up from domestic first in the US.
I was quite pleased to see that the in-flight entertainment options were identical to those on the long-haul 777, though the screen itself is quite a bit smaller. I actually preferred this interface, however.
You can also choose between several moving map options, as well as a camera feed from the belly of the plane. There was actually quite a bit of activity beneath our aircraft, which I enjoyed watching before departure.
Cathay Pacific gave us Bose noise-canceling headphones to use on the first-class segment, and then this garbage (pictured above) for the business-class flight. They look like they might be decent headphones, but I’ve gotten better sound out of the disposable earbuds on some US airlines.
There’s a standard handheld remote as well, which controls the in-flight entertainment system. Mine was pretty grimy, so I closed the lid and didn’t touch it for the rest of the flight.
Food and Beverage
After settling into my seat, a flight attendant came by with a tray of beverages. I grabbed a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne (about $50 per bottle), which, while no Krug, was perfectly drinkable. Other beverage options included Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (about $10 per bottle) and Clos Bellane, Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas 2013 (about $15 per bottle).
Rather than more alcohol, I decided to stick to sparkling water and an Oriental Breeze, which I had ordered on the previous flight as well. It’s a mix of sour-plum tea, cranberry juice, honey, lemon juice and a hint of rose water. Delicious.
I wasn’t expecting a feast in regional business class, but there ended up being quite a bit of food. To start, I was served prawns with a salad consisting of potato, leek and sour cream — a dish I barely touched. I also had a mixed salad and a couple of pieces of garlic bread.
There were three entrees to choose from, and since I wanted to get pictures of each, I chose the one that neither my mom or sister wanted to have — the duck confit. I was one of the last to be served and there were still plenty of duck plates left (the entrees were served from a cart), so it didn’t seem to be popular with anyone else, either. It tasted fine, but it was quite greasy (as expected).
My second choice (with duck being third) would have been the steamed halibut, which my mom ended up ordering. It was served in a garlic/bean sauce with bok choy and steamed rice.
My sister lucked out and ordered the Indonesian beef, which was definitely the best entree choice. It was greasy, too, but there was a lot of flavor there. (I’m salivating right now just thinking about it.)
I usually skip fruit and cheese, but since I didn’t eat much of my appetizer or entree I decided to give it a whirl this time around. The fruit wasn’t in the best of shape, but the cheese tasted fine.
And then for dessert, I had Haagen-Dazs cookies and chocolate, which tasted great, but I hardly have Cathay Pacific to thank for that.
I was happy to get off the plane, but overall we had a good flight. Cathay Pacific’s new regional business class is a far cry from the airline’s long-haul product, though it’s perfectly fine for a short flight. I’d originally booked us the same product for our flight from Bali to Tokyo (via Hong Kong), including a very short redeye, but fortunately I was able to move us to a nonstop flight on Garuda Indonesia instead, which ended up being a huge step up from CX (review coming soon).
As with any carrier, all business class seats are not created equal, and while Cathay does occasionally fly its long-haul 777 or 747 to Bali, which is a much more comfortable ride, you’ll likely end up traveling in the new regional business cabin instead. Overall, I don’t have any major complaints, though I do wish the difference between Cathay’s long and short-haul flights wasn’t so significant when it comes to service, catering and comfort. We had such a fantastic flight from New York — I only wish the fun had continued on the second leg to Bali. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.