We take the Cathay Pacific A330 business class through its paces on a flight from Bali to Hong Kong.
Once the remit of Cathay Dragon, an airline beloved by many business travellers (including yours truly) for its unpretentious attitude and its warm, consistant welcome, remaining sibling Cathay Pacific is now working hard to return to its pre-pandemic regional network despite new work conditions for crew and aircraft that have seen better days.
I’m a big fan of the Cathay Pacific app and find it very user friendly. I checked-in for my flight the night before, and arrived at Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport with just carry on luggage, meaning I could swiftly pass through security and immigration.
I made a beeline for the Premier Lounge, which, located on a mezzanine level above the airport’s retail precinct, is open to all Cathay business and first class passengers as well as Cathay members with silver or higher status.
I don’t mind this lounge despite the fact that it’s always so busy. It’s one of two pay-in lounges at Bali’s airport and the only one that serves alcohol. The staff are always welcoming and accommodating and there’s always slightly curious mix of sandwiches and noodle dishes (on my visit it was curried chicken, pasta and Indonesian Soto ayam on offer). I tend to sit on the ‘balcony’; while it’s a lot hotter than in lounge proper, it’s also a lot quieter.
I was quite relieved when Cathay made all Bali services an A330 service; previously alternate services were operated with the carrier’s new A321neo which, while very modern with touches like Bluetooth headphone connectivity, it’s a little too cramped for an almost five hour service.
We boarded the Cathay Pacific A330 – 300 from gate 2, which is almost directly where the retail precinct meets the gate concourse. Boarding was delayed by 30 minutes (as is every single departing CX flight from Bali, I think due to a very tight turn around) but once it did commence business class was welcomed on quickly and I soon found my seat – 18D. Once everyone was settled in, cabin manager Bonnie personally welcomed each passenger in business class crew offer glasses of champagne and hot towels and cabin attendant Sveta took dinner order, advising that the menu that was at the seat was actually different from what was available.
I’m a window guy through-and-though and it’s been a long time since I’ve sat in the middle of a CX business class cabin, and I’d forgotten just how exposed you are to your fellow passengers. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a middle intoxicated American who sipped from a canned Negroni he’s brought in the terminal and formed miniature mountains with his discarded pistachio shells, which he nosily sucked at before lapsing into a coughing fit that concluded with him turning to me with a deadpan expression and affirming that he didn’t have Covid. He chatted on his phone the entire taxi to the end of the runway and only shut it down when asked for the third time.
Cathay Pacific has a sizeable fleet of Airbus A330-300 aircraft, many of which are pretty old by Asia standards and which the airline inherited from Cathay Dragon. There are three configurations of the A330, and the one serving the Bali-Hong Kong route features 39 flat-bed business class seats in 1-2-1 configuration, 21 in Premium Economy 2-3-2, and 191 in Economy arranged 2-4-2.
The seat is Cathay’s classic Safran Cirrus reverse herringbone which was introduced in 2011 and which I have enjoyed many times before. This configuration sees the middle seats angled towards each other, and without the desired privacy screen, ensure a front row view of whatever your seat mate is up to.
While the reverse herringbone product isn’t Cathay’s newest, it’s certainly still a very comfortable and user-friendly set-up. For me, the seat offers the perfect balance of ergonomics, privacy, and technology; it’s a seat made for travellers, not for accountants looking at loading statistics, and not for designers looking for aesthetics while rarely leave their offices. There’s direct aisle access, and room enough to work, to rest and to relax, thanks to an oversized tray, easy-to-reach AC and USB ports and seat and entertainment controls, and two meters of heavenly bed when required, although for the four-and-a-half hour Bali-Hong Kong service all you need is a decent telly.
Dinner started with a well-made gin and tonic and a bowl of warm nuts, followed by a seasonal mixed salad and poached chilled chicken . The ground crew had loaded the wrong menus so crew took orders from an iPad, with mains choices including Kung pan chicken with chow sum, carrots, and steamed rice; sole fillet with lemon butter, grilled peppers, broccoli and potato gratin; and Indonesian braised beef with samba egg, potatoes and turmeric rice. The chicken was succulent and delicious, as was the Indonesian beef, which was perfumed with exotic spices but which looked like it had been knocked around a little in the galley. I paired the beef with a glass of Château des Demoiselles Cuvée Spėciale Viré-Clessé from Burgundy.
The main was followed by a selection of cheeses – Edam, blue and Bree – accompanied by grapes, dried fruit and apricots, as well as Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
I have admiration for Cathay crew as they’re working hard to meet the needs of post-pandemic travel. CX crew no longer layover in Bali, meaning Bonnie and her team were on their second flight and the second half of a long day by the time we came along. However, throughout the flight the crew – especially Seta who looked after my section – were attentive and welcoming. I try to drink my weight in water on flights and crew were only too happy to bring me refill after refill even after we had begun our decent into Hong Kong.
Cathay’s inflight entertainment, accessed via a rather dated 15-inch touchscreen monitor (there’s also a chorded remote) is pretty good (considering its age) but the only trouble is it’s not updated all that often, which means when you’re regularly travelling with the airline, as I do, you run out of things to watch pretty quickly. That said, I decided to rewatch Guy Richie’s The Covenant, which proved to be as good the second time as it was the first. I also opted to use my own Bose headphones as the airline’s ‘noise-cancelling’ headphones aren’t great. However, I do like where the headphone jack is located, at shoulder level, ensuring no cables draped across your tray table.
While the Cathay Pacific A330 fleet is starting to show its age, crisp service, a comfortable, well-designed seat and a dining experience comparable to any other carrier in the region makes the airline’s business class an enjoyable encounter on relatively short hops like the Bali – Hong Kong service, especially if you book well ahead to get a more competitive rate.
Note: The author was upgraded by the airline from a fully-paid economy class ticket at the boarding gate
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