I’ve always been a little dismissive about flying at the pointy end of the plane. Probably because I’ve stubbornly convinced myself that paying double for extra legroom and the opportunity to eat prime beef, washed down with premium wine in Business Class, is hardly worth it. After all, you get there just as fast with Economy.
I stand corrected. Forever.
Since flying Business Class with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Seattle, I’m ruined. Completely. I know, for regular readers of The CEO Magazine used to flying Business, or indeed First, Class, this newbie waxing lyrical about her luxury upgrade will probably seem a little ho hum. But indulge me. Hop on board and enjoy the ride. I certainly did.
Business and pleasure direct
Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s only carrier flying non-stop to Seattle, the Emerald City, home to juggernauts Microsoft and Amazon and dotted with Google and Facebook campuses. It’s not only a direct route to facilitate business, it’s also an easy option for tourists to enjoy this jewel of the Pacific Northwest.
Flying from Australia to Seattle via Hong Kong is also more efficient as bags can be checked right through, instead of being collected in LA before changing terminals to transit to Seattle. There are more than 70 Cathay Pacific flights leaving Australian capital cities for Hong Kong every week with Flight CX 858 offering Business, Premium and Economy seating, leaving 11.55pm on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, landing in Seattle at 9pm the same day.
Sure, with plans for a heavily scheduled, brief business trip like mine, departing and arriving at night with 13 hours in between is not conducive to a happy body clock. However, with sensible management of time onboard, combined with the comfort and service of Cathay Pacific’s Business Class, rest assured that you can dodge the jet lag and arrive sleepy in Seattle ready to recharge for business the next day.
A lounge to suit
After checking in at 10pm, head straight to one of Hong Kong airport’s four Cathay Pacific lounges: The Wing, The Pier, The Deck or The Bridge. I chose the latter, simply because it was nearer to my departure at Gate 35 and is directly above the first stop of HKIA’s passenger train.
Entry to The Bridge, on Level 5 on the West Concourse, is via an exclusive escalator stopping at reception, where staff direct you left or right into the north or south wing. This is important. Don’t make the mistake thinking both directions lead you to the same services. While there are plenty of food options on both sides with both offering tarmac views providing lots of natural light, it depends on whether you want to catch up on work, or just relax.
Turn left to the south wing for a shower, IT zone, coffee loft, and bistro offering Asian (think pork buns) and western favourites (pasta and mini wraps). Or, choose right to the north wing for Cathay’s signature long bar, television lounge, and in-house bakery serving fresh bread, pastries, sandwiches and pizzas.
Getting down to business
Pacific’s Airbus A350-900 is one of the most technologically advanced jetliners, featuring extra-wide cabins, larger windows, LED cabin lighting and subdued engine noise, hence its nickname ‘the Hushliner’.
The configuration of the 38 Business Class cubicles is 1/2/1, all set at an angle to ensure maximum privacy, vital for a newbie desperate to explore her new nest with shameless enthusiasm.
The first priority was finding somewhere to store stuff. No problem. Next to the seat is a compartment big enough for a handbag, computer and shoes, while underneath the foot platform is another area that holds a decent-sized duffel bag. A cubby at eye level has a handy pouch to secure your phone, along with a sizeable vanity mirror, noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of water, USB port and a well-appointed amenity kit.
But of course, the first wow-factor for me was the seat controls. This was where privacy was essential as I delighted in reclining from upright to flat and every angle in between. Numerous times. I applied the same enthusiasm to testing the flat bed, tossing myself around like a burger on a barbie to check there was ample room to roll around. And there was. The foot extension was equally adjustable, catering to short or tall, and offering the right support for a dodgy back. Additional touches included a water bottle holder, easily accessed while lying down, and a retractable arm rest allowing access to the aisle.
Going nuts for food
My second wow-moment was triggered by something very ordinary. Nuts. Prime Nuts to be exact – served with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne – a mixture of plump, deliciously fresh cashews and almonds bursting with flavour and crunch. I was so impressed I used the onboard wi-fi to discover that they are handpicked from orchards around the world and processed in the UAE. A small thing, I know, but they were amazing.
Next was determining whether supper was really necessary, particularly having already grazed extensively at The Bridge. It could help with sleep, I argued, as I dithered over the Kung Pao chicken, beef burger, and shrimp and scallop tom yum, finally settling on the lighter option of pumpkin cream soup garnished with crab meat.
After managing some cheese and fruit to finish my meal, I fished out the soft Bamford mattress topper and 100% cotton duvet, and snuggled down to sleep. A power nap was all I needed – just enough rest to revive, not completely recover. What could possibly go wrong?
Swipe right for entertainment
Five hours of uninterrupted sleep! That’s what went wrong! I woke, shocked that I’d slumbered so well and so long. Would it be sleepless in Seattle before my first day of business?
Time to stimulate the senses with some inflight entertainment. Cathay brags that passengers could fly non-stop around the world 45 times without having to watch the same show twice. I only had five hours remaining, half an hour of which was wasted by me wildly swiping right on the 47cm HD touchscreen trying to decide between latest releases, sport, news and TV shows. I eventually and optimistically added seven selections to my favourites, managing to see only three before enjoying a delicious brunch comprising fruit, a forest berry smoothie and an egg soufflé with red bell peppers, bacon, mushrooms and tomato, and landing in Seattle.
Not sleepless in Seattle
Arriving at the Pan Pacific Hotel at around 10.30pm, I was neither exhausted nor stiff, just comfortably weary and ready for a night’s sleep before hitting the ground running in the morning. No sign of jet lag; it felt like a normal night after a normal day. Perfect.
My flight back to Hong Kong left Seattle at 1.05am (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), arriving in Hong Kong the following day at 5.25am. By then, clearly an expert in storage and seat control, I had the flat bed down, the duvet pulled up and the Do Not Disturb alert activated within minutes of the seatbelt sign pinging off. I awoke seven hours later, completely refreshed and hungry. A selection of meals available on request solved that problem along with the galley snacks of popcorn and ice cream. Oh, and more of those delicious nuts.
The writer travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.