A Surprise Business-Class Takeover on Cathay Pacific

Dec 2, 2017

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While I’ve never lucked out with an entire plane to myself, I have managed to score a couple empty cabins — twice this year alone, in fact.

The first was back in June, when I flew solo in the rear business mini-cabin on Oman Air’s 787-9 Dreamliner. The airline offers a top-notch business-class product on that plane, with the same Apex seat you’ll find on some other airlines, such as Korean Air — plus the empty cabin made the experience even better.

Given that it was a redeye, though, I pretty much just slept. So when I landed my second empty cabin of the year, on a Cathay Pacific A330 from Hong Kong to Colombo this Wednesday night — en-route to Dubai for the inaugural 777 suites flight — I decided to take full advantage.

The crew could tell I was especially excited about having my own cabin. While there were a dozen or so seats occupied in the forward section, I had my very own private space with 10 open seats, in addition to my pre-selected pick of 21K, in the last row of business class.

I asked the purser to take my picture with the empty cabin, which he actually seemed pretty thrilled to do. He even came back a couple minutes later and suggested that he take my picture in a different seat — that’s when the wheels started turning.

I had a couple GoPro cameras in my bag, which I’d planned to use for the Emirates flight, so I asked if it would be okay for me to mount one in the cabin. I sketched out my plan to give him an idea of what I was hoping to do, and he said that was fine, as long as I didn’t get the staff in any of the photos. No problemo.

So, here’s the end result. If you hit “play,” you’ll get an idea of the steps necessary to pull this off, and given that I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the logistics, I’ll run through some of the basics here. Feel free to try something similar on your next “solo” flight!

First of all, as far as I know, there isn’t an app that lets you do something quite like this, though it seems like several folks were hoping for a very straightforward solution. It wasn’t tremendously difficult, but you do need to be an “advanced” Photoshop user to pull it off. Here’s what I did, ordered step-by-step:

  1. I got the permission of the crew — this one’s key, I think.
  2. I drew up a seat map and assigned tasks for each. I’d “sleep” in one, “watch a movie” in another, and so on.
  3. I mounted the GoPro at the front of the cabin — to pull this off, it’s critical that the overall frame remains as static as possible. I also recommend setting white balance and exposure manually. And select a low ISO to minimize noise.
  4. I set the timer to 5 seconds and used my iPhone to trigger the GoPro to capture wide-angle stills, snapping several frames at each seat.
  5. I picked the best frames then layered them onto the base image (the one where I’m eating) using Photoshop.
  6. With each new layer, I erased all but the additional content — me in the seat, and, in one shot, my shoes on the floor.
  7. I exported the completed image with all layers
  8. I also exported frames where I added one layer at a time, then built them into the GIF you see above using an iOS app called ImgPlay.

Finally, I uploaded the GIF to Twitter and a video version (exported at the same time from ImgPlay) to Instagram.

I had actually gotten the idea from the movie Coming to America, in which Eddie Murphy plays a handful of roles, including several characters in the same scene. While this isn’t quite the same thing, I figured it’d be fun to give it a try. It certainly made for a memorable flight, both for me and the crew! And, no, before you ask… I won’t be earning 11 times the miles, unfortunately.

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