I had been on Cathay Pacific First Class (Review) a few times and also on the New York – Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Business class – but never on that combination – so it was time try again before prices for Cathay Pacific First Class would go ballistic due to American Airlines AAdvantage devaluation.
I had just arrived from the fantastic American Airlines First Class (3 class, A321T) and only had only gotten a few hours of sleep. American uses Terminal 8 (like most Oneworld Airlines) in JFK – Cathay Pacific and British Airways (still) use Terminal 7. It’s likely the worst terminal at JFK (which in itself isn’t the nations best run airport). The check-in area is a dump – it wasn’t crowded but it was cooking with 90+ degrees on this chilly (30 degrees) day. The check-in counters almost reach into the TSA line.
Check-in was friendly but somehow not very informative (or maybe I was too tired to absorb what the agent wanted to tell me). After I got my boarding passes I asked the person manning the security lines for the ‘First Class line’ – she simply replied with ‘one line’. I remembered faintly that there was a secondary security from my flight two years ago – but I did not press it since the line looked just 20 people deep.
Once in line (there is a huge fan that basically blows you over when in line) a TSA agent came out and directed us to the ‘First Class security’ – she simply escorted part if the line to that security check point to shorten the lines. That security check point felt more like a community meet up at Friday night in East Palo Alto than a TSA check point. Words flying back and forth between the TSA employees and the passengers. Not exactly G rated…
I walked to the JFK British Airways Galleries lounge (which I reviewed in 2013) and the attendant recommended to see if I’m eligible for the Concorde Room – you guessed it – the Concorde Room attendant sent me packing – fair enough I was not eligible with my Cathay Pacific First Class ticket.
The galleries lounge is pretty decent and if you fly British Airways you can actually use the spa and the hot dinner service (but not if you are on Cathay Pacific).
The Galleries lounge has a separate First Class section on the left of the entrance.
The first Class section offers almost the same things as the main lounge – there were bits of smoked salmon that seemed missing in the main lounge and berries that came with the yogurt that also seemed missing in the main lounge. Score!
Boarding was rather chaotic but I made my way through finally. No personal greeting was extended.
There are 3 seats in one row in Cathay Pacific First Class and the seat just looks huge – well it is!
The flight attendants seemed more cheerful once everyone was on board and a total of 3 introduced themselves as we started to get ready for de-icing and push back from the gate. We took off about 30 minutes late but would still make it before the scheduled arrival time because of helpful winds on this journey going straight north to the magnetic pole and then dropping south.
Though it was 11.30 AM local time the meal service as titled ‘breakfast service’ with pastries, coffee and a main entree. I chose the Chinese dim-sum which was not my best decision. The dim sim itself was decent (only 3 pieces) but the seafood congee was terrible. I skipped the dessert which maybe was another mistake.
After that disappointing breakfast service I decided to do some writing – I actually got about 4 hours of writing done while we were closing in on the North pole. Turbulence on these polar routes is usually minimal and we did not hit any until Northern Siberia (just before Yakutsk).
Whenever I pressed the flight attendant it would be attendant to in seconds.. The flight attendants were supremely friendly and knowledgeable. For some reason they usually don;t speak a lot of English – much less than the flight attendants on Singapore Airlines First Class who always seem up for a chat. After about 8 hours of flying time I was hungry again and requested to have the dinner service early while watching a movie.
The caviar served was delicious, especially combined with that Krug champagne.
The king crab salad was a true delight – it tasted fresh – had generous crab meat and pieces of fresh avocado.
The main course was even better a lovely piece of fish with mashed potatoes.
This was followed by yet another course of a delicious cheese dessert.
After this delicious feast I wanted to sleep and curled up on the magnificent wide seat/ bed. Just when I fell asleep the heavier shake up started as we approached Siberia and I woke up a lot. So just a few hours of sleep for me.
After a few more episodes of ‘Entourage’ the regular dinner service started and most passenger started to eat. I asked if I could try the same appetizers again (incl. the caviar) and the other dessert and my wish was granted!
After ‘dinner’ many passengers started to open the window shades as it was lunch time over China and we were just an hour off Hong Kong. No more chances to sleep for me! I just about made out of my pajama as we did our final approach with just a few wide turns (take that LAX!) about 30 minutes before our scheduled arrival time.
In conclusion – this flight started out pretty badly with the terminal situation in New York and the less than stellar breakfast.
However as the flight passed Cathay Pacific First Class pros started to shine – the wide seat that allows for easy lounging and sleeping in any position, the fantastic service and was stellar for dinner servings (I got it twice basically).
It’s too bad this redemption has gone from cheap to expensive with the recent American Airlines award chart changes.