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In the spirit of my own “first time on Cathay” retro 2002 trip report I reposted last week, I thought it might be nice to hear a fresh perspective on Cathay Pacific. I’m traveling these next two weeks with Rachel, another long-time frequent flyer (and former blogger/editor at The Princess Diaries, also known to some as prncess674 on FlyerTalk.com) who for several years wrote a series of trip reports of her adventures. I asked her to share with my readers her thoughts on her first time in CX First. The photos are mostly mine, but the words are entirely hers… enjoy!
You can continue to follow posts from our Indonesian cruise adventure as I update the main page with new content.
I won’t go into all the pre-planning and such as to why the heck I am on a flight from SFO-HKG because most of the folks are more interested in what happens on the flight, in the lounge and perhaps some have some interest on what you do once we get there. I am pretty much a UA flyer. I have lived in Houston or the DC area for the majority of my working career which means I was pretty much trapped by Star Alliance. I can book tickets on UA with ease and never fear booking them because as a 1K with million miler status I can book and cancel award tickets to my heart’s content with no penalties and my mileage balance is healthy enough that holding multiple awards in order to eventually cobble together the “perfect” award was nice.
As our trip got closer Jen asked if I had any interest in flying CX. I was like “Um, yes!” but told her that my AA balance was only 160K and I had “tin can” status so I was going to need the perfect award before booking as I would be paying change fees for any problems along the way. I kind of left it up to Jen to tell me what the good flights were and figured if it were meant to be then wahoo, otherwise I would stick with my United ticket and see her in SIN. The majority of my AA miles were earned through an AA credit card promotion a few years ago that with some amount of spend you earned a 100K in miles. Now I am not a person super into manufactured spending just to churn miles, but 6 digits seemed worth it and the blogosphere said it was “awesome” and that “you were a fool if you didn’t apply for this one” so I happily signed up and thanks to a never ending travel schedule was easily able to meet the spend requirements needed. The rest of my miles were earned with my BIS over a smattering of work trips in the last 14 years of business travel.
A few days ago, Jen frantically texted and said CX F opened up on the perfect route and that she was going to book it and there was space for me. I was in a meeting so gave her my AA number and told her to hold it. I looked at the itinerary online and had a little debate with myself with all the “what ifs” that could go wrong. After a few hours of pondering I decided to go ahead and book it! Now all I had to do was read up on past trip reports so I wouldn’t look like a total newbie when I got there.
Thursday finally arrived and my current project was in SMF so I went to work and my productivity was practically non-existent. I had the attention span of a gnat. I got one burning piece of work out to the client but as of 1pm I couldn’t stand it anymore. I needed to be in vacation mode. I ditched my work shoes under my desk for a pair of comfy shoes and jumped in my rental car headed for SFO. Traffic and weather was bad which always makes me anxious, but with little fanfare I made it to the Courtyard Hotel at SFO so I could force myself to sleep for a couple of hours. There was no way I was going to sleep through this!
The Courtyard was your typical hotel and was worth the 30K in points to snag a few hours of sleep before the flight, especially since the CX lounge from what I had read was nothing particularly awesome. I know, I know, first world problems in that the lounge isn’t awesome enough for you. 😉
I got a good 3 hour nap in and then changed into my comfy clothes for the flight. I have never really much been into the airline pajamas so I always try travel in something that would be comfy for sleeping. As I was returning my rental car I got a text from Jen that she was in the CX lounge. I rode the terminal train over to the international terminal and managed to find the CX check in desk. I don’t know if I thought it would be more awesome, but it was just like checking in at any other counter. Sure I got to jump the line, but it wasn’t like there were bluebirds singing or people bowing at me left and right. In fact, the guy checking me even answered a phone while checking me in. No worries. My bags were tagged and I made my way through security very quickly.
I made a quick detour through duty free since I worried that I wouldn’t have enough of a certain make up product during my trip. The lounges are just off to the left and I made my way down the boring white corridor and saw the standard cardboard cutout of the CX agent. Am I the only one who finds these cardboard cutout ladies creepy? The lounge was “fine” in that it had seating, drinks and light snacks, but it is definitely not a world class first class lounge, though definitely better than a typical UA club. There was no service at the tables and everything was self-serve except for the noodle bar. I decided to go for the wonton soup and a glass of sparkling wine. The soup was delicious and was perfect since it was nearly 10pm and I had decided to skip lunch knowing there was a cornucopia of food about to be served to me over the next 14 hours.
They hadn’t announced boarding but I wanted to be one of the first ones on so we made our way down to the gate. There were two doors on either side of the podium. One was marked first and business and the other was marked premium economy and economy. Apparently that didn’t mean diddly squat. They announced that pre boarding began and it was a mad rush through both doors. We found our seats quickly and not trying to be too much of a geek I looked over the seat and pretended like I always flew CX first. I snapped a selfie and sent it along to my Facebook friends.
We were served a scallop canapé and of course a glass of Krug on arrival.
Menus, pajamas and amenity kits were passed out. I didn’t hold out hope on liking the pajamas as they were likely cut for some teeny tiny flat chested Asian woman but decided to go ahead and take them anyway figuring I could always donate them.
The amenity kit had Aesop branded amenities and was quite nice, though I am not sure how practical of a bag it will be since it opens with the bungee cord. The style is beautiful, but the actual future usefulness is questionable IMHO.
Flyer geeks will be disappointed in the fact that I did not note what direction, runway or approach we took out of SFO. Frankly, I never notice these things since I figure that is why they hire pilots. We were up in the air and the FAs were up and about quickly. I decided to give the pajamas a try and the size L surprisingly fit with room to spare. Who would have thought? They were a super soft knit and I will most likely work the bottoms into my regular pajama rotation when I get home. The shirt is a button up Kim Jung Un style top, which was fine for the flight but will likely be tossed in the Goodwill pile when I get home.
Meal orders were taken and Jen I decided to take advantage of the dine together option.
The only downside it one person has to sit on the ottoman but they can put in a table extension to make it suitable for two persons. The menu was pretty expansive but we opted for the caviar starter option followed by the lobster main dish from the Chinese section of the menu.
The caviar was yummy and I liked the pancakes better than the toast points served by Lufthansa in their first class cabin. I know, I know, first world problems. The lobster main was good, but nothing that I was going to rave about for months to come, perhaps it was because I was getting really sleepy.
While I was dining the FA had made my seat up into a bed and I was all too happy to see it made up, though I did want a bit of dessert before bed. They pulled out the tray table and I sat criss cross legged (I learned from my sister that it no longer appropriate to say Indian style) at the head of the bed while they served me a cheese plate and a glass of port.
I guess I was more tired than I realized. I think I ate one bite of cheese and promptly fell asleep. I woke up a while later still grasping that full glass of port while I was still sitting upright.
Once I finally actually laid in the bed, I was REALLY uncomfortable. I thought WTF; it feels like a giant log is right in the middle of my back. I tossed and turned then realized that because this bed was originally a chair and the chair has one of those blow up lumbar support pillows and that the lumbar was fully inflated. I reached over and deflated the lumbar pillow from the controls and was now much more comfortable. I am pretty sure I slept for a good 5 hours at this point.
We were 7 hours into the 14 hour journey and the F cabin was all asleep. I finally turned on my personal entertainment system to check out the inflight map. It was basically “little plane on blue background” which equates to “we are nowhere near land” and will be flying for a good bit longer. The entertainment selection on CX Studio was extensive, but frankly one of the reasons I love flying is to get away from the constant bombardment of media in my face, so I shut it off and grabbed for my Kindle that was packed with a bunch of new selections.
Seeing as I wasn’t going to sleep anymore for a while I decided to check out the snack menu. This was seriously more than snacks. When I think of snacks I think of chips, fruit, cookies, etc. This instead was basically another meal selection. I really didn’t need anything else, but since CX actually kept the cabin at a nice coolish comfy temperature, which is the antithesis of Lufthansa I decided on the wonton soup. I am quite sure you could fry eggs on the seats of LH planes they keep those planes so hot.
I spent the next several hours lounging about in my ginormous seat and reading books on my Kindle. All the while the cabin was whisper quiet and the curtain remained sealed. I have read enough trip reports to know that CX FAs don’t make rounds of the cabins and they expect you to ring the button if you need service. I however still cringe touching the button as the few times I have touched the button on US flagged carriers I feel like I get the “You know I am here primarily for your safety” glare.
We were 2.5 hours from arrival and the FAs started quietly walking around and asked if I was interested in breakfast. Hey it had been a whole 3 hours since my last meal so of course I said yes. CX makes this big deal about cooked to order eggs on the menu so I decided I need to see what the heck that was all about. I asked for eggs over easy with a side of toast and caviar. Caviar wasn’t on the breakfast menu, but since they served it earlier it couldn’t hurt to ask for it with breakfast. What also goes with caviar but champagne, so I asked for a glass of that to be served with my breakfast. I wasn’t flying the plane, so I figured it was cool if I drank at whatever o’clock it was since my body didn’t really care that it was middle of the night in HKG but the middle of the workday back home. My breakfast tray arrived and I can say without fail that these were the worst eggs I have ever eaten on an airplane. The caviar however made up for the poor over cooked eggs.
We were nearing landing time so I decided it was time to change out of my PJs and when I got up I grabbed for my necklace and realized it was missing. I alerted the FA who was about to make up my bed/seat to be on the lookout for it while I went to the lavatory. I came back out and there were 4 petite FAs on hands and knees scrounging around my seat looking for the missing necklace. I felt bad because while I was changing the necklace fell out of my PJs.
We landed right on time and I was sad to see my time with CX come to an end. The FAs wished well and I gathered my things and coolly walked off like, I totally do this all the time. Overall I thought it was a great flight. The service was excellent and on par with Singapore Airlines. I loved the seat and quiet mini cabin with only 6 seats. There is no comparison to the United flight attendants prison matrons but the luxury is on par with Lufthansa but the German efficiency is a bit different that the wonderful pampering attitude of the CX attendants.
Don’t forget to keep checking the Jetsetter’s Homestead this week for the first of two vintage Cathay First amenity kit giveaways!