Review: Cathay Pacific - Hospitality from Hong Kong
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Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong SAR. The airline was founded in 1946 after which it has become one of the biggest airlines in Asia. Hong Kong International Airport is Cathay's only hub but the airline has a few other focus cities. Cathay Pacific belongs to the oneworld alliance, just like its Finnish partner Finnair. It operates a large fleet to almost 80 destinations around the world. There have been a few incidents in the past but now, Cathay Pacific is one of the safest airlines in the world.
At the time of writing this article, Cathay Pacific has 76 destinations. The airline flies to China Mainland but also to destinations in Asia, Europe, America and Australia. For Europeans, Cathay Pacific is an excellent choice when flying to Asia. With its oneworld partners, almost the whole world is reachable through this airline.
Hong Kong International Airport is Cathay Pacific's only hub.
Cathay Pacific has a modern fleet consisting of Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Long-haul flights are operated with Boeing 777, Airbus A330 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Shorter flights are typically flown with the Airbus A321 family. The average age of the fleet is only about 10 years so passengers can enjoy aircraft that are still in excellent condition. Especially, the Airbus A350 fleet is young.
Unlike many European Airlines, Cathay Pacific still provides full onboard service regardless of the ticket and flight class. All flights include drinks, snacks and food onboard. Alcoholic drinks are available and the bar selection is surprisingly good. Every passenger can check in at least one bag.
Tickets are divided into 3 booking classes: Light, Flex and Essential. The Light ticket is the cheapest but it still includes the previously mentioned in-flight services. A passenger holding a ticket in the Essential booking class is allowed to take one extra check-in bag. A passenger flying with an Essential Class ticket will also earn more miles and will have a free seat selection. The best Flex class ticket has flexible booking conditions but otherwise, the service level is similar.
The airline has 4 flight classes: First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Because we flew in Economy class, we concentrate mainly on the Economy class services in this review. In Premium Economy, there would have been a little more legroom and more personalised service.
European airlines are transforming gradually to a low-cost model but Cathay Pacific remains to be a traditional airline providing complimentary services.
Cathay Pacific has generous luggage rules. Even people travelling in Economy class with a Light ticket can check in luggage weighing a maximum of 23 kilograms. In addition, it is allowed to take 7 kg into the cabin. Essential and Flex tickets include one more checked bag.
Cathay Pacific has phone, chat and WhatsApp customer service. According to our experience, the airline is very difficult to contact. For instance, in February 2023, we had to reschedule our flight because one leg was cancelled but the rebooking was a long-lasting process. A third-party travel agent made the process slower but we also noticed that Cathay Pacific is not replying to their WhatsApp messages. We only got an automated message from a virtual assistant but the real issue was never addressed by a customer agent. Sending them messages via their webpage didn't work either as we were forever put in the queue and never got connected. Finally, we were able to get connected to a customer agent via an international phone call after many attempts.
Cathay Pacific's loyalty program is called Asia Miles. You will earn miles based on the booking class and the flight distance. The miles can be used to redeem free flights, upgrades or partner's services. The Points Guy has informative articles about Asia Miles program.
You can collect miles to any oneworld program. Be informed that not all booking classes are eligible for earning points.
Our Cathay Pacific Experiences
We travelled from Helsinki to Bali and back with Cathay Pacific. We found a good deal on Skyscanner which was the main reason to choose Cathay Pacific. The route to Bali was long taking more than a day with connections. First, we flew from Helsinki to Frankfurt from where we continued to Hong Kong and finally to Bali. Our flight back to Helsinki was via Hong Kong and London. Because Cathay Pacific does not fly to Helsinki, the flights from and to Helsinki were operated by its partner, Finnair. All other flights were flown by Cathay Pacific itself.
The leg from Frankfurt to Hong Kong was flown with a brand-new Airbus A350-1000. The inbound flight from Hong Kong to London was flown with an older Boeing 777-300ER. The flights between Hong Kong and Bali were operated with Airbus A321neo aircraft which were in excellent condition.
Loug-haul Experience in Economy Class
We flew onboard an Airbus A350-1000 from Frankfurt to Hong Kong. This long leg was perhaps to most comfortable of the Cathay flights we experienced.
As a new aircraft type, Airbus A350 is quieter than older planes. It flies smoothly so the flying experience is fantastic. Cathay's cabin has a white-green colour theme which looks good with led lighting.
The A350 aircraft of Cathay Pacific has four travel classes. We flew in Economy class. In front of us, there were Economy Premium, Business and First Class. The seats in Economy class followed the typical 3+3+3 allocation. There was enough legroom even for tall people but naturally, passengers were quite tightly packed. People had many personal items like laptops, headphones and batteries so the seats become full of small items. In addition, Cathay Pacific provided blankets and pillows for every passenger. Even though the seats may be big enough for passengers, they are not big enough for their belongings. We advise people to take only the most necessary things onto the seat and place other things in overhead bins.
Airbus A350 had enough toilets so basically, no queuing was necessary. The entertainment system included a USB socket for charging but the charging speed was slow. Tables were somehow slippery which made it impossible to keep drinks on them during turbulence. It was nice to notice that head restraints could be adjusted so the same seat is suitable for shorter and taller people.
The flight was fully booked. Still, the service from Frankfurt to Hong Kong was fast, efficient and friendly. A paper menu was provided to all rows before the takeoff. For dinner, Cathay let us choose a warm meal from three options complimented with salad, bread, chocolate and ice cream. Drinks were included. At the night, we ordered some snacks like noodles and juice which were promptly served to us. For the breakfast, two different warm food options were available.
The flight back from Hong Kong to London was flown with a Boeing 777-300ER. The aircraft was a little noisier than Airbus A350. The seats were allocated similarly: 3+3+3 so the feeling of the personal space felt the same as in A350. If we could have chosen, we would have flown on A350 again. Also, the Boeing 777 was fully booked and because we were in the last boarding group, there was not anymore enough overhead bin space near our rows. Luckily we had backpacks that fit well under the seats in front of us. We noticed that another passenger with cabin-sized luggage has to look for a space for his luggage around the aircraft assisted by a Cathay Pacific cabin crew.
On this flight, we could choose a warm dinner from two different options. Again, drinks, salad, bread, and ice cream for dessert were included.
A warm breakfast could be chosen also from two options.
For some reason, the crew were not eager to serve coffee and tea in the same as they were serving the food. Instead, you needed to request hot drinks while a flight attendant was passing with the food cart.
Both A350 and B777 had a paid wifi service and free entertainment systems attached to the seats.
Pilots gave a few friendly announcements at the start of the flights and on arrival. In the middle part of the flight, they let passengers sleep without disturbing them.
Short-haul Experience in Economy Class
Flights between Hong Kong and Bali were operated with new Airbus A321neo aircraft. After the flight in a tightly packed widebody aircraft, a smaller A321 felt even more comfortable. The service level was as good as on the longer flights. These aircraft had paid wifi and free entertainment systems.
We got complimentary warm meals with drinks also on the shorter flights.
Cathay Pacific Entertainment
Cathay Pacific has two ways to provide entertainment during flights: Paid wifi and a free entertainment system.
On the flight between Frankfurt and Hong Kong, we decided to test the in-flight wifi system. It was possible to purchase wifi for 1 hour or the whole duration of the flight. Prices were $9.95 and $19.95 respectively. We chose the latter option.
The 1-hour wifi price does not depend on the flight duration but the price for the whole leg depends on the route. Also, if you have connecting flights, you need to repurchase the wifi service so the connection is tied to an aircraft. It would be more practical if a passenger could buy wifi for 24 hours and continue using it on the next flights. The good thing is that you can use the wifi on multiple devices but not simultaneously.
Wifi activation instructions were available on the entertainment system and also the captive portal displayed them. Paying for the service was possible with a credit card or you could log in by using a purchased wifi pass. We payed with Curve Card.
Cathay does not allow using voice applications over wifi.
The internet connection worked well but there were some interruptions. These blackout areas were not announced beforehand as Finnair does. The measured download speed was 4.6 Mbit/s and but the ping delay was also 800 ms. These are typical values of in-flight wifi. Even though they do not sound good, they are perfect enough to web browsing, reading emails and using social media. We tested the wifi speed using Chrome, Good Maps, YouTube and Gmail ourselves and they worked without challenges.
Starlink system will make aircraft wifi more reliable when airlines adapt to this technology. It uses satellites in lower orbits which leads to faster speed and lower delays.
We also tried to use Aeromobile's data roaming with a mobile phone but we were not able to connect to the aircraft's mobile network.
In-flight wifi worked also over China.
All Economy class seats had a personal in-flight entertainment system. The screen was big enough, had good colours and its touch sensitivity was user-friendly. You can easily customize the screen brightness and volume right on the screen. The entertainment system of Cathay Pacific is more modern than in many other aircraft.
On the A321 aircraft, the entertainment system supported also Bluetooth headphones but in the widebody aircraft, we had to use the traditional 3.5 jack. Headphones were provided by Cathay Pacific but they were of low quality. We recommend everyone bring noise-cancellation headphones because they offer much better sound quality. They also reduce noise when you are sleeping.
In-flight entertainment system provided information about the flight process in a clear and versatile way. There were different genres of music, TV programs, and movies available. The system had a fresh choice of Asian and western content having the latest movies. In addition to the stream content, there were games which could be played alone or with another passenger.
How to Find Inexpensive Flights?
Follow our simple checklist to find a good deal:
- Compare flight prices on Skyscanner on different dates.
- Choose the most suitable schedule and price.
- Decide whether to book directly from the airline or via an Online Travel Agency (OTA)
- Let Skyscanner to forward you to the chosen booking site.
- Go through the booking process and avoid buying unnecessary extras.
- Double check all the details CAREFULLY before the payment.
Our Cathay Pacific experience was perfect. There were minor delays caused by winds and flight route restrictions. We could have not asked for better service in Economy class. If there is something to complain about, it is the preflight customer service. Contacting Cathay Pacific's customer support is quite difficult. Belonging to the world's largest airlines, Cathay Pacific should allot more resources to provide better customer service.
Hong Kong International Airport is an excellent place to connect. Despite a busy airport, the cleanliness is well-maintained and all services work efficiently. For example, it has many nice airport lounges. Hong Kong is surely one of our favourite places to spend layovers.
- Where does Cathay Pacific come from?
- The airline comes from Hong Kong.
- Where are the hubs of Cathay Pacific?
- The airline has only one hub, Hong Kong International Airport.
- Where does Cathay Pacific fly to?
- It flies almost everywhere. With its partners, you can reach almost any destination in the world.
- Is check-in luggage included in a ticket?
- Yes, at least one check-in bag is included even in the Light booking class.
- Does Cathay Pacific have complimentary services onboard?
- Yes, it does. You will be served delicious warm meals with drinks.
- Does Cathay Pacific have a wifi service?
- Yes, it does but it is a paid service.
- Does Cathay Pacific provide entertainment on board?
- Yes. Everyone has a personal entertainment screen with much content.
- Which aircraft types does Cathay Pacific operate?
- Cathay Pacific operates Airbus A321, A330, A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
- Where to book a ticket to Cathay Pacific flights?
- We recommend comparing ticket prices on Skyscanner which suggests to which website to book tickets with Cathay Pacific flights.
- Is Hong Kong Airport an easy place to connect?
- Yes absolutely. The airport works smoothly.
Booking a Cathay Pacific flight for our long trip to Bali and back was an excellent choice. The price was affordable and we got real value for money. There was no need to starve during the flights but the airline was serving more food and drinks than we could have asked for. Also, the in-flight entertainment system worked well and it had varied and fresh content.
Next time when we fly to Asia, we will surely consider Cathay Pacific again. As it is part of the oneworld alliance like Finnair, we can opt to collect Finnair Plus points when flying with them. The airline has a new and modern fleet which makes it an even better option.
Have you flown with Cathay Pacific? Share with us your experiences.