Whether you’re travelling for work or play, Cathay Pacific offers a world-class product on its flights between Hong Kong and the Maldivian capital, Malé, discovers Nick Walton.
We checked in for our flight using the Cathay Pacific app as we only had carryon luggage for a short trip to the Maldives. This allowed us to quickly pick up a paper boarding pass at the dedicated Cathay Pacific Business Class counter at Hong Kong International Airport (I’m a little old school and still prefer paper than an image on a screen) and make our way through to The Bridge, one of Cathay Pacific’s five business class lounges (including the aptly named The Arrival). I’ve always liked The Bridge – turn left and you’re in a serene lounge with enough supplies to keep you sated a long while; turn right and you have access to a great buffet of cold and hot snacks and the airline’s signature Long Bar, which makes a mean martini. I’m also a fan of the airline’s Solus chairs, found in all their lounges, which offer solo travellers their own little cocoon. The lounge was very busy but we found a corner with great views over the apron. We later boarded from gate 28 onto an A330-300 aircraft.
First impressions go a long way and Cathay Pacific is rather good at them, especially compared to many US or European carriers. There’s always a warm welcome at the aircraft door, and quick, attentive service as soon as you’ve settled into your seat. Once a staple of business class, carriers are increasingly leaving guests to fend for themselves – some travellers love it, others prefer the personal touch. The A330 features 39 business class seats spread across a main cabin and a smaller one to the rear, with seats set in a 1-2-1 configuration.
I’m a big fan of the Cathay Pacific business class seat, mainly because I love privacy and functionality. With its reverse herringbone configuration (CX was the first to release this setup), large accessible tray, iPod, USB and AC outlets, twin personal lamps and large 15-4-inch personal monitor, it’s a great lounge seat, a great work space and a great bed, although on this six-hour afternoon flight there would be little chance for a snooze. There’s leg room galore; the monitor clicks back into the seat-back for easy stowage; and there’s a great shoulder-height compartment for all those little essentials, including headphones, cables and glasses.
Cabin crew offered glasses of juice, water and glasses of chilled Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne, which is always a great way to start a flight. We were also offered newspapers and CX amenity kits as the cabin filled with the usual assortment of miniature Jurlique products (our editorial team actually collects the kits and use them as pencil cases that we donate to schools in Myanmar). After we reached cruising altitude the crew jumped to action – again something that’s amiss on a few other carriers.
An early dinner started off with a well-made gin and tonic and a bowl of nuts, followed by a deliciously light and fragrant marinated and herbed smoked salmon and seared scallop salad with asparagus and pesto crème fraiche, and a seasonal mixed salad with balsamic dressing. Choices for dinner included fried grouper in soy sauce with mixed vegetables and jasmine rice; roasted lamb rack with spinach, mixed vegetable cous cous, and tomato lamb sauce; chicken masala with jalfarezi vegetables and saffron rice; and potato gnocchi with roasted red capsicum, pumpkin, and a truffle cream sauce. I opted for the vegetarian main, which was perfectly cooked and well proportions, leaving enough room for the cheese plate, which Cathay always does well, but not enough for the offered toffee cheesecake.
After dinner, the cabin lights were dimmed and I flicked through the StudioCX entertainment system; I’m not much of a new release guy and tend to go for the classics but Cathay’s selection rarely disappoints and the fact I can use my own Bose noise cancelling headphones is a huge plus.
We arrived on time at Velana International Airport after a very pleasant journey with an airline deserved of its place in the ranks of the world’s best. Business class Hong Kong – Male from US$2,367 per person. www.cathaypacific.com
Note: The author travelled on a fully-paid business class ticket without the airline’s knowledge