I had been on Cathay Pacific Business Class a few times but never on the Vancouver route. As I made my way on. AAdvantage award from Alaska to Rio de Janeiro for 50,000 miles I added the route to my itinerary.
Now Cathay stops in Vancouver and continues to New York and has passenger rights to transport passengers from Canada to New York. That is a bit of a rarity as foreign airlines are not allowed to transport passengers inside the USA. But even if Vancouver looks much like the US it’s not and the cabotage rights exclusion does not apply.
Before the arrivals of the Premium Trans-cons like the American Airlines New York San Francisco First Class , United’s p.s. Service from/to Newark or JetBlue Mint this was THE way to do a trans-con.
While Vancouver airport runs pretty much all US fights through pre-clearance Cathay does not use it and it took me a while to find the proper security check point.
I arrived from Seattle and had to go trough Canadian immigration and trough immigration in New York again. Not a big deal with my US passport but with other passports (especially now that Canada requires an ESTA as well) this can be a surprising hurdle.
Vancouver airport also makes you walk – even if you know your way around it’s a long walk from the Seattle gate through immigration and back up to the international gates.
Cathay Pacific has invested in a dedicated lounge at Vancouver airport. It has a separate Business and First Class section. With my Business Class ticket I naturally could only use the Business Class section. no signature hit noodle bar for Business Class passengers. Instead Cathay serves shrimp dumplings which tuners out to be really good. There is a good selection of drinks available as well.
The free WiFi at Vancouver airport is so fast you can’t beat it with a regular lounge WiFi and you should not even try.
My flight had a bunch of very noisy passengers in the lounge who started being rowdy at some point. To my surprise they would all end up in First Class later.
Boarding is announced by the lounge agent but I made my way to the gate a bit early and boarding was well underway when I arrived. The Business (and likely) First Class cabins were completing full and it took a while for everyone to settle in.
There is no real difference in the service between the US trans-con and the longer flights to Hong Kong. There are pre- departure drinks and nuts and after take off the flight attendants race to complete a meal service. There is no breakfast service though. I liked the entree this time – I chose the Chinese version which was spicy chicken and it was indeed spicy. I nibbled on the cheese dessert but had skipped the salad.
It all went through very quickly – just wasn’t ready for the flight attendants for never cleaning my half finished desert plate.
The flight time eastwards is just 4 hours 30 minutes so there isn’t much time to sleep just after dinner. I was able to fall asleep on the excellent flat seat right away but was awaken by some major bumps. I swear Cathay Pacific delivers the most bumpy rides of any airline for me. Lately I Have pushed up the seat back a few degrees so that it is more like 170 degrees – this seems easier for me to adjust for the airplanes tilt. But I make sure I’m not sliding 🙂
40 minutes before landing the pilot would announce our arrival. That was really early and everyone had plenty of time to prepare even before we reached the outer limits of New York City. On my next flight that day to Brazil things would be very different – more about that soon!
The landing was into a cold and windy day and we could see the pilot adjusting until the last second and he did a great job doing that!
Once landed the doors opened right away and off we were down the jet bridge. However it seems nobody had told the immigration that a plane had landed. The immigration hall was empty besides a lonely officer on the far right side. There was nobody who was able to assist the many Global Entry passengers. There must have been about 30 of us. Eventually we just marched on and showed our receipt to the customs officer (Global Entry has all kids of secondary check at certain airports now). Seconds later I was breathing 20 degrees and 30 mph wind at 6 AM – a rough awakening!