Flight Review: Cathay Pacific (A330-300) Business Class From Hong Kong to Shanghai
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While I’ve traveled on Cathay Pacific’s long-haul routes, I wanted to test its regional business class. I was satisfied with how the service and hard product met the high standard that the airline is known for on a relatively short hop between Hong Kong (HKG) and Shanghai (PVG) on an Airbus A330.
Since Cathay Pacific is notorious for relatively expensive business-class fares, I try to use points whenever possible, and this trip was no different. After flying into HKG from Vancouver, Canada, (YVR) on Cathay Pacific’s new A350-900, I’d be heading to Shanghai the next day. I booked my award ticket from New York JFK to HKG via YVR to try out the A350.
There are many partner airlines that you can book with, such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways. As several airlines have devalued their loyalty programs, Alaska is usually the best option for points bookings, as a one-way business-class ticket from the US to Asia will cost you only 50,000 miles. Alaska miles are fairly easy to accumulate, too. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. According to TPG‘s most recent valuations, Alaska miles are worth 1.8 cents/mile, which means my ticket was valued at roughly $540. However, there’s one problem: You have to be very flexible — my award seat opened just a few days prior to departure.
You’re allowed to add an additional flight to your award ticket as long as that next leg is within 24 hours of arriving. You may notice that my flight to PVG was 24 hours and five minutes after my first arrival. Luckily, when booking with Alaska, the agent didn’t mind the extra five minutes, though I’ve been turned down before in similar situations. If I hadn’t gotten lucky, I could’ve taken an earlier Cathay flight to PVG, but I was keen on trying the A330, which only flies the route once per day. Note that the free add-on flight has to be with the same carrier you originally flew (at least this is the case when booking with Alaska). For example, I couldn’t book with Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific’s affiliate.
All Cathay Pacific check-in counters at HKG are in Zone A, which is the first check-in area in the main terminal. If you’re dropped off on the opposite end or take the train, it’s about a five-minute walk. There was no wait for the business-class check-in.
It took about 30 minutes to get through immigration and security. There was no TSA PreCheck equivalent here, even for premium-cabin passengers. And remember to keep track of your departure card — you’ll need to present that to the immigration officer before leaving Hong Kong.
Not even the Centurion Lounges by American Express and the new United Polaris Lounges compare to what Cathay Pacific offers at its hub at HKG. For my particular departure from Gate 1, the most convenient club was The Wing.
The lounge offered ample seating.
At the noodle bar, you could get made-to-order bowls.
Alternatively, there was a buffet with eggs, potatoes and other western dishes as well as croissants and other pastries. On the lower level of the lounge, you’ll find more Asian dishes as well as a quiet area to relax.
What lounge would be complete without full-service facilities? Spa attendants escorted you to your private shower room. The rooms were cleaned after each visit.
Cabin and Seats
This A330-300 featured Cathay Pacific’s original all-aisle-access 1-2-1 business-class cabin. The only aircraft to feature the refreshed business-class cabin is the A350.
The cabin design and the seats themselves are pretty much the same as what you’d find on one of the carrier’s four-cabin 777-300ER aircraft, with flowers throughout the cabin even on the ground. Cathay isn’t allowed to do this on flights originating in the United States, because of regulations.
As with many A330s, the overhead space was much smaller than what we’ve become accustomed to on newer aircraft. A new addition to the overhead compartments was the mirrors placed on the sides, so you could see what shifted during takeoff and landing.
Behind the seven-row main business-class cabin, there was another with three rows.
The lavatory featured Aesop toiletries.
I was in 19A, the first window seat in the small cabin. The seatbelt was of the bulky airbag variety.
The footwell for my seat was different from the others. This seat didn’t allow for my feet to fully extend, so I later switched to 19D.
The footwell had considerably more space. I’d recommend against selecting a bulkhead seat because of the constrained legroom.
While the inside of the aircraft wasn’t nearly as quiet as the Boeing 787 and A350 series, the Rolls-Royce engines weren’t especially noisy.
Each seat was equipped with a cubby with noise-canceling headphones and mirror.
Next to the cubby were a reading light, seat controls, power outlets (including a USB port) and the remote, which could be used to control everything from the lights to the IFE.
Since this was a quick regional flight, the blanket was thin cotton — nothing comparable to the comforter provided on the international premium service routes.
A nice touch was the shoe cubby.
The seat featured a touchscreen in-flight entertainment unit.
Food and Beverage
Shortly after boarding and getting settled in, the crew came around offering champagne.
For dinner, I had a choice of sweet-and-sour fish and shrimp, grilled beef tenderloin, or Thai red-curry chicken. To begin, I was served warm garlic bread and incredible Parma ham and melon.
The fish and shrimp were quite tasty.
The colleague flying with me had the tenderloin, whose presentation could have been better.
Shortly after lunch was cleared, the crew came around with Haagen-Dazs mango and raspberry ice cream.
This was a pleasant flight overall. First, I enjoyed a top-notch lounge, then the flight was staffed by an excellent crew doing the little things that many other airlines neglect, like remembering my name and consistently checking in with me, that make a big difference.
Have you flown business class on this route and aircraft? What did you think?