Airline Review: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class
Summary: Nick Walton finds premium economy on Cathay Pacific might be best left to long-haul travel.

Nick Walton finds Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class might be best left to long-haul travel. 


The short-haul Hong Kong-Singapore route is one of Asia’s busiest, and also one of its most competitive. It also links the hubs of two major players in the region – Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific and sees a great deal of corporate travel.

Check-in/The Lounge

I checked in using Cathay Pacific’s user-friendly app. I’d already been informed that my bid, submitted at the time of the booking, for an upgrade had been accepted and with only carry on luggage, I quickly passed through security and made a beeline for The Wing, the closest Cathay Pacific lounge to my departing gate, Gate 2.

I’m not really a fan of The Wing – the vibe in there is different from all of Cathay Pacific’s other lounges at Hong Kong International. It always seems too busy, with too many screaming children, sprawling, sleeping passengers and moody staff. Maybe it’s a feng shui thing but I usually avoid it for all those reasons. However, it was very convenient to my gate so I thought I’d give it another try.

The lounge features a main lounge spa bordered on one side with Cathay Pacific’s iconic long bar and on the other with a snacks counter. Beyond is an additional lounge as well as the Cathay noodle bar concept. As expected, the lounge was packed so I took one of the few remaining seats at the long bar and decided not to enter the chaotic fray taking place around the breakfast buffet.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

The Cabin/The Seat

The boarding process onto the A350, the pride of the CX fleet, was painless and I quickly found my window seat, one of 28 in the premium economy cabin. I’ve enjoyed CX’s premium economy class product before, but it was immediately apparent that while the A350 is a lovely new aircraft, the premium economy class product had taken a nosedive.

The 20-inch wide seat is comfortable, but it’s its design that seems flawed. There is virtually no storage save for a tight pouch packed with duty-free catalogues and CX magazines, and a little pull out tray that allows the screen to move an inch or two up and down (leaving things in there all but guarantees they will be left behind). There’s a little drinks tray that hides away in the centre arm rest.

In addition, seat controls, a remote for the monitor, and the headphone jack are all set into the inside of the armrest, which effectively steals from the very space you’ve spent additional money on in the first place. In fact, with the hard armrests of premium economy, you’re actually at a disadvantage over your economy class cousins who have armrests that can lift up when required. An AC port and USB port is located at the front of the armrest (where the headphone jack should be).


No menus were presented for our morning flight but we were essentially offered Cathay’s signature breakfast – an American omelette with sausage or Chinese dim sum. The omelette was good but as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, the passenger in the seat in front reclined and went to sleep, which effectively meant that the meal experience was the same as in economy (where they ask everyone to reset their seats during meals). No such luck in premium economy; the staff didn’t say anything to the sleeping passenger and my less-than-subtle leg bumps were ignored so I was stuck.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy


The CX entertainment system is fairly good, and easy to navigate via the touch screen monitor. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the headphone jack is on the inside of the armrest, right where your hip meets it, so the headphone jack sticks into you through the flight. In the end, I used my own Bose QV35II headphone with the aeroplane adapter, only to find at the end of the flight that I must have inadvertently nudged the adapter with my leg when preparing for landing and that the jack had broken clean off. Very frustrating.

There’s also a little groove in the flap that comes down from below the monitor and I assume that’s for using your own tablet or smartphone. However, as soon as the passenger in front reclines, your tablet or phone will be sent tumbling.

Unfortunately, there’s also not enough room to open my laptop with the seat in front in full recline and it becomes apparent why the monitor is designed to pitch up so much (with the help of the little shelf), otherwise, you’d not even be able to watch it. This makes no sense in my mind.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy


The crew on this southbound flight were friendly but distracted. They missed passengers when offering bottles of water, and also took a very long time to clear breakfast. After the meal service, they weren’t seen again until we were preparing to land. This is a pity as more airlines offer premium economy products and as hardware naturally plateaus, it will be service that becomes a deciding factor.


Premium economy is clearly a great option for economy passengers on long-haul flights looking for a little more comfort. However, for short-haul flights (and with the wrong kind of traveller sitting in front) the differences between PE and economy becomes negligible.

Hong Kong-Singapore on Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class from HK$5,888 (US$751) per person.

Note: The author travelled on a full-fare economy class ticket and paid upgrade, without the airline’s knowledge.

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About the Author

Nick Walton

Nick Walton is Group Managing Editor of Artemis Communications, a leading boutique magazine and content solution company and publisher of The Art of Business Travel. A former travel editor of the South China Morning Post, he heads up the group's travel and lifestyle magazines, which include Alpha Men Asia, The Edition, Mirandus, Ikhlas, The Journal and Explorer Magazine.