Flight Review: Cathay Pacific Airways, Boeing 777-300 ER, Hong Kong – San Francisco, Business Class, a First Class Disappointment?

Cathay Pacific Airways is one of several airlines plying the Hong Kong – San Francisco route. It’s business class offers a more comfortable experience in the air. There is also a pre-departure business class lounge. Is it really worth the extra price?

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Gate 45 at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Airlines and Aviation

Thanks to charging everything I possibly can on my VISA Asia Miles credit card, I am able to accumulate 120,000 miles, which is enough to fly business class from Hong Kong, where I live, to California, where I am from.

Because the fares to travel destinations on the West Coast of Canada and the United States are the same, I can book an “open jaw” ticket.

An open jaw ticket means flying into one city and returning through another city.

Since the fares between Hong Kong and Cathay’s three travel destinations on the West Coast are the same, I can fly into and out of any combination of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver.

I decide to book my ticket into San Francisco International Airport and return by way of Los Angeles International Airport three months later.

The Plane …

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Business Class cabin of Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-ER. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Cathay Pacific Airways has two versions of the Boeing 777-300 ER (extended range) aircraft: three class and four class. I fly on the four-class configuration.

First 81 Pitch 36.0 Width 6 open suites
Business 81 21.0 53 flat bed seats
Premium Economy 38 19.5 34 recliner seats
Economy 32 18.5 182 standard seats with 4.0 recline

Often referred to as Triple Seven, the Boeing 777 is a wide-body jet airliner. It was introduced in 1995.

The airliner’s primary users are Air France, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates Airline, and United Airlines.

The world’s largest twin-engine commercial aircraft, the 777 has a range of 5,240 to 8,555 nautical miles (9,704 to 15,844 kilometres).  It has a seating capacity of 314 to 396 passengers.

The version I flew on has 275 seats.

The Stats …

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In-flight entertainment video screen. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
  • Flight Number: CX 872
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (twin-jet)
  • Scheduled Departure: 00.30 (12.30 am)
  • Scheduled Takeoff: 00.40 (12.40 am)
  • Scheduled Arrival: 21.45 (9.45 pm)
  • Actual Arrival: 22.00 (10.00 pm)
  • Scheduled Flight Time: 12 hours, 40 minutes
  • Cruising Altitude:  40,000 feet
  • Distance: 11,121 kilometres (6,923  miles)

The Pre-flight Experience …

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Entrance to Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I should have been able to check in on line, but after two unsuccessful attempts, I give up.

Checking in in person at the airport is no big deal. the lines at the check-in counter at Hong Kong International Airport are short.

The lines at security are short, as well. After passing through security, I head for the one of Cathay’s four departure business class lounges, where I chill out for more than two hours.

The Seat …

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Seat 12G on Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing 777-ER. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I am seated in seat 12G, which is right in front of the toilets and the galley.

There are only two rows, for a total of eight seats, in this part of the cabin, giving it a sense of intimacy.

First Class, with six consoles, is in front. Behind the galley are 12 more rows of business class seats followed by four rows of Premium Economy seats and 21 rows of economy class seats.

The Food and Beverage …

Because of the length of our late, we are served two meals.

Supper is served soon after departure, but I’m not sure when breakfast is served.

I manage to fall asleep and sleep through breakfast service. I am served breakfast just before our arrival in San Francisco.

The Wine …

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California Zinfandel is one of four wines served with dinner. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

We are served Besserat de Bellefon Grand Tradition Brut NV while still parked at the gate.

When dinner is served shortly after takeoff, we are offered a choice of four wines, two whites and two reds:

  • Deloach California Heritage Reserve Chardonnay 2016 (white)
  • Barone Montalto Zibibbo Terre Sicliane IGT 2017 (white)
  • Chateau La Haute Claymore Lussac St. Emilion (red)
  • Lynx Petite Sirah 2016 (red)

We are offered Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012 with dessert.

I start with the Lynx Petite Sirah with dinner and stick with it throughout the flight.

A California Zinfandel, it has red berries and fruits with hints of vanilla and herbs.

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Business class dinner. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

For dinner we start with a blend of freshly prepared dips and grissini, which I don’t find overly pleasing.  I leave most of it untouched.

For the main course, we are offered three choices:

  • Stir-fried chilli prawns with crab meat mixed vegetables, and steamed jasmine rice
  • Seared beef tenderloin, pumpkin, broccoli, grape tomato, parsnip mash, and garlic thyme sauce
  • Smoked halibut, roasted kipler potato, and mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette, which is a “light” option

I opt for the beef, and I am NOT disappointed. It is cooked to perfection! It is every bit as good as I would expect to be served at a fine dining restaurant.

For dessert, we are offered seasonal berries with ginger syrup or a cheese plate. I opt for the berries.

The Breakfast …

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Business Class breakfast. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

For breakfast, we are offered fruit juice, fresh seasonal fruit, natural or fruit yoghurt, assorted cereals, and a selection of breads, preserves, honey, and butter.

This is followed by three choices:

  • Parsley Omelette, Dingley Dell pork sausage, bacon, artichoke parsnip gratin, and tomato comcasse
  • Prawn and scallop congee, stir fried egg noodles, and vegetables
  • Sim sum selection of scallop siu mai, seafood dumpling, chicken and ham bean curd wrap, conpoy vegetable dumpling, and beef ball

I opt for the dim sum selection, and I thoroughly enjoy it. Is this a Cantonese tea house in the air?

The Snacks …

  • Passengers fan order snacks at any point during the flight, and this is what is on offer …
  • Grilled Australian grain fed beef burger, Swiss cheese, and fries
  • Roasted duck in lai fun noodle soup
  • Ice cream

I am VERY tempted by the beef burger, but I resist temptation. I’m already satiated by the supper and the breakfast.

What I Loved …

I would have to say that I enjoy the dinner most, especially the steak. It was cooked medium rare, which is just the way I like it.

The wine is also excellent. However, I don’t particularly like the dips.

What I Hated …

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The left armrest proves uncomfortable. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The left armrest is very intrusive. I simply don’t have any elbow room on the left side of the seat.

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The foot alcove forces my feet into an awkward position. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The foot alcove is positioned in such a way that a six-footer like me can’t stretch his feet straight out.

I have to position them slightly to the right, which forces my upper body to shift slightly to the left, causing my left elbow into an uncomfortable position because of the placement of the left armrest.

I cannot find a comfortable position lying flat or on either side. The position is awkward no matter what I do.

The Verdict …

I am VERY disappointed with the seat. It is far too narrow. It is also far too firm.

I do NOT feel very comfortable sitting in it, and I feel downright uncomfortable trying to lie down on it.

For 72,000 miles I could have flown Premium Economy, and I would have had enough miles left over to fly to Bali on economy class and still have had miles to spare.

I am DEEPLY disappointed with my in-flight experience on Cathay Pacific’s business class.

I would have to give this flight a very reluctant thumb’s down. It was NOT worth wasting 120,000  miles on it.

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