Cathay Pacific has had a long-standing service to and from South African’s largest city and I was curious to try out the long flight over the Indian Ocean to Hong Kong. The flight does not feature a first class anymore, but is run in a three-cabin configuration (economy, premium economy and business). It now features the new (standard) Cathay Pacific Business Class seat.
I was hoping to find Cathy Pacific working here with Oneworld partner Comair to allow access to the excellent SLOW Lounge, but no dice – Cathay Pacific instead sends you to one of the three Priority Pass lounges at the very end of the terminal (although Cathay boards from a gate at the other end of the terminal).
The Shongololo Lounge is pretty miserable, with no natural light, broken WiFi and smelly food. It has some nice, modern looking chairs, but that’s about it. Johannesburg might not be getting the highest premium yields for Cathay, but there are plenty of better lounges for the airline to negotiate a deal with.
Departure was scheduled for 12.30PM and boarding started promptly at 11.50AM; the ‘Cathay machine’ was on time as always. Boarding took 45 minutes though, as the plane was 100% full (I could not find a single open seat). Some passengers seemed to come from a connecting flight; they boarded just a few minutes before our pushback at 12.50PM (20 minutes late).
We waited another 15 minutes for ATC and finally made it into the hazy skies about 45 minutes late.
The most exciting part of this flight is likely the views over the Mozambique coastline (they proved to be clear and magnificent this trip), over Madagascar (too many thunderstorms to see anything, though) and then the Maldives later on (it was too dark by then).
I had ordered a ‘Hindu meal’ since I like Indian food and I’m often at odds with Cathay Pacific’s catering (though it has gotten much better on US flights lately). The flight attendants were kind enough to show me the meal before it was heated up, so I could switch to another meal (a leftover) if needed. But I thought it looked decent enough to eat.
Lunch came out about 90 minutes after take-off. The Hindu meal appetizer looked better than it tasted – it was almost completely frozen and the salmon was bland.
The regular appetizers did not look any more appealing, though, so I was kinda happy.
The main course was a portion of rice and chicken and vegetable curries all in one rather ugly presentation. It felt more like a premium economy class meal, not a business class meal by any means.
I thought about switching to a regular business class meal, but they looked downright horrible, so I stuck with it. It was edible, but not a feast in any way.
The dessert was fruit and cheese. Both were uninspiring – the fruit was too sweet and the brie was too bland. There was also a cheesecake and a caramel pudding dessert – the latter was edible.
Most items were much like the old Cathay catering which was often horrendous (on par with United) and not the newer catering that is excellent (like on my flight from Hong Kong to Bahrain and also from Los Angeles to Hong Kong).
Breakfast was slightly better than the lunch offered before. I just had a few bites, though – the muesli was the best option for me.
I had trouble sleeping on this flight since the sun sets at just 4PM in the South Africa Time Zone and we would arrive just after midnight in that same time zone (7AM Hong Kong time).
We were not able to make up our initial delay, but I had 17 hours of layover to spare, so I wasn’t worried at all.