Cathay Business Class Review San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) and New Delhi (DEL) B773 and A330, Centurion Lounge SFO/Cathay Pacific Lounge SFO/Centurion Lounge Hong Kong Reviews
I had just flown over the Pacific a few days before this trip and was looking forward to enjoying one of my favorite business class products (especially for sleeping) again. Unfortunately, the inbound flight from Hong Kong had to make an emergency medical stop in Taipei on the way to San Francisco and that would push our departure time from 1 AM to 3 AM – no fun if your body clock already puts you to sleep at 10 PM.
The American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO is one of the world’s best airport places for getting a healthy dinner and some excellent alcohol. So it was this evening. The lounge stops serving hot food at 10 PM and the cold options stop at 10.30 PM, with the bar closing last at 10.45 PM.
This left us a few more hours at the Cathay Pacific Lounge on the opposite side of the SFO International Terminal. The lounge has been going through a renovation and indeed looks refreshed but has rather miserable food options (except the noodle bar) and the same goes for the alcoholic options.
There are some comfortable lounge chairs but there is no way to lie down (though few lounges have that).
We eagerly boarded after 2 AM and we took a shot at the brisk winds at SFO just after 3 AM, heading on a very southerly journey (for a westbound crossing) toward Japan.
I fell asleep during take-off and used a short moment after we got to 10,000 feet to recline to the fully-flat mode and snoozed off. The full cabin was initially rather quiet but was soon filled with a huge amount of families with young children. We suspected those were travelers upgraded from the economy and premium economy sections of the other Cathay Pacific flight, which was used to give passengers with tight connections a better chance of making them.
Cathay Pacific is my favorite business class product for sleeping because of the great enclosure that the reclined seat provides. At 6’4, it also allows me to stretch out and have enough room to turn while sleeping. I also love the thick, warm blanket that the airline provides.
I was hoping to sleep 12 hours just before we would be closing in on Hong Kong. Alas, my hopes were dashed as the business class cabin became a pre-school-like cabin about 7 hours after take-off (10 AM US Pacific Time). The many young children seemingly had decided to wrestle the last nerves out of their over-eager helicopter parents. I have traveled with my twins since they were babies, many times around the planet and I feel I can estimate how hard it can be (some flights are better than others) but on this flight, all the kids decided to go crazy at the same time – easily in my TOP 5 of loudest business class cabins. It was much, much louder than the economy class cabin I just flew a week ago (where you’d expect young children aplenty).
I decided to wait out the noise with the noise-canceling headphones provided by the airline (they aren’t great but they work) and found the same movies that had been provided a week prior (no surprise there).
The flight attendants were happy to serve one of the remaining dinners, which tasted okay; I always feel the catering is Cathay Pacific’s weak spot.
I fell asleep again when the cabin quietened down a bit but woke up when breakfast rolled around, about two hours before arrival. I usually only get the breakfast because I want to get some pictures for this review but it was pretty good (I skipped the main course though). The yogurt, cereal, smoothies, and fruits were all high quality (and I was hungry).
We arrived 2.5 hours after our scheduled arrival time and a few passengers still had to get to their connections – we did not have that issue and used the next eight hours with a quick trip to Central Hong Kong and in the American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong Airport.
There was an approaching typhoon out over the ocean and there was a full ground stop just a few minutes before our scheduled departure to New Delhi. The pilot announced a 45-minute delay (departures had just resumed) but then we also had to offload passengers with a medical emergency (and their bags) which created a 90-minute delay in total before take-off. I was sound asleep through all that but obviously had to put up my flatbed on this A330 before take-off.
There was precious little turbulence during take-off, especially with the typhoon-style weather but then the strangest thing was that we hovered at 5,000 feet and 250 mph for about 20 minutes, slowly zooming out across the ocean. I found that pretty uncomfortable to so silently hover with minimal engine power in the dark and my unpleasant memories from my Korean Air flight from Busan to Hong Kong came back. When we finally ascended, we hit some major turbulence and our flight path over Hainan was marked by some wild gyrations left and right to traverse the typhoon – no fun!
We finally made it out of the hot weather and drinks and food service started about an hour after take-off. I wasn’t very hungry and found the dishes just edible – not great.
However, all I wanted was sleep and so I did, ignoring the rather loud economy class cabin right behind me (the A330 splits the business class cabin into a big forward section and a much smaller section behind the galley).
We hadn’t added to our delay and landed about 90 minutes after schedule in Delhi’s new Terminal T3.
The terminal looks much like Singapore’s and is certainly world-class but suffers from extremely long walkways and an often crazy wait at immigration – but not so this time; we were all done in 20 minutes.
In conclusion, this was a solid business class flight and I retain my judgment that Cathay Pacific is the best business class for sleeping – the (now aging) mini suites are just so damn comfortable. There is also a great entertainment system for insomniacs. I don’t like to be hungry on a Cathay Pacific flight but the quality of dishes is usually lacking. With the new American Express Centurion lounges, the Hong Kong lounge options are immense (Cathay Pacific itself features half a dozen business class lounges, all slightly different).
I liked Cathay Pacific Economy Class more than expected but I find Cathay Pacific First Class too expensive and not as good for sleeping. So more Cathay Pacific Business Class trips are what I want for Christmas!