Cathay Pacific Economy Review Cebu (CEB) to Hong Kong (HKG) A330, Plaza Premium Lounge Cebu Review and Cathay Pacific Economy Review Hong Kong (HKG) to San Francisco (SFO) A359
Cathay Pacific has been my go-to airline to get to Asia for a long time. I love the Cathay Pacific Business Class mini-suites (more so than Cathay Pacific First Class) and the airline goes to almost anywhere I want.
Cathay Pacific Economy Class Cebu (CEB) to Hong Kong (HKG) on the A330, including the Plaza Premium Lounge
This time, I wanted to try their trans-Pacific economy class product to see how it stacked up. Cathay Pacific typically used a Boeing 777 but has downgraded Cebu to an A330 lately. The A330 are definitely a bit older but would it matter for a two-hour economy flight?
Cebu just opened a brand new airport and there is still plenty of construction going on. I checked us in online but you are required to print your boarding pass for any flight departing Cebu.
The check-in desk opened exactly three hours before departure and the local staff (dressed in Cathay Pacific colors) tried their best to be efficient (I always plan at least 5x the time needed for anything in the Philippines).
Once done, we paid the terminal fee (now 850 PHP) and realized the reason why the boarding pass needed to be paper - that's how the staff make sure you actually paid! The good news is that you can now pay with a credit card.
Security and immigration were deserted, as just a few full-service carriers depart from the new terminal; the bulk of traffic to Cebu is on low-cost airlines, which will stay at the old terminal (for now).
There is a brand new Plaza Premium Lounge downstairs, which looks lovely. The lunch spread was great (but had only a few edible items) and there were some soft drinks and alcohol (I did not indulge).
There is a dedicated espresso maker and the coffee is drinkable. The WiFi isn't fast but it works and the view toward the apron is very nice.
Boarding was right on time and very orderly. No pushing and shoving (most passengers were seemingly on their way back to Hong Kong and not the mainland).
While the Cathay Pacific Business Class seats are rather new, the economy section clearly showed wear and tear. It wasn't exactly clean and shiny.
However, there is a display on each seatback with their standard IFE and there is 32 inches of legroom. The 2-4-2 configuration allows for enough shoulder space and while the flight was 98% full, I never felt claustrophobic.
It is just a bit more than 1,000 miles but the flight is scheduled to take three hours. Hong Kong traffic wasn't bad and we got a lot of city views with a rather unusual ATC path but got in 45 minutes before our scheduled arrival time.
Transit security was quick and efficient - something I could say about the whole flight - it just worked like a well-oiled machine.
Cathay Pacific Economy Class Review Hong Kong (HKG) to San Francisco (SFO) on the A359
After a few hours at the American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong, we made our way to the boarding gate just in time.
The flight showed delayed but it was just 15 minutes; most airlines wouldn't have even bothered to count it as a delay.
With the new boarding time (15 minutes later) the typical Cathay Pacific boarding process started. The line seemed huge but 5 minutes later and we were already past the boarding pass scanner.
The airport and airline have done away with the huge cordoned off zone for bag checks - those are now done on the jet bridge. That is certainly easier to manage but also creates quite a crowd in that small area. However, each bag took just 15 seconds of a routine search.
The A350s have just been with Cathay Pacific for less than a year and they still look shiny. That was even true for the economy seats all the way in the back. It comes in a 3-3-3 configuration and slimline seats.
There is plenty of legroom when sitting in a normal position (even I wasn't able to touch the seatback with my knees). The person in front of me didn't try to recline but their seat would not lock in a fully-upright position, so my head/shoulder space was a little cramped but certainly never felt intrusive for the next 12 hours.
Every seat comes equipped with an AC outlet, a USB outlet (low amperage though) and a big LCD screen. The updated entertainment system came with tons of movies and TV shows and gave access to the flight path and the A350 cameras.
To my surprise, we almost immediately got on the runway at the time the last passenger sat down. I feel it was less than two minutes after the doors shut that we took off into the Hong Kong skies.
Our route was more northerly than usual (eastbound trans-Pacific crossings often go straight east) but still featured the typical shakedown due to strong tailwinds for the first 6-7 hours. There was a large number of thunderstorms all around us and the pilot kept swerving around them until we were over Japan.
The turbulence was never strong but constant and the flight attendants had no major trouble serving food.
The pasta dish looked pretty decent but my seat neighbor got the last dish - I got the chicken which looked rather bad and I did not touch it.
The cabin was pretty quiet after dinner and many passengers would try to go to sleep right away. I wasn't sleepy and kept watching a few more movies until I eventually snoozed off just when we entered the airspace south of the Bering Strait.
About 90 minutes before landing, I woke up to all the lights on in the cabin (and the now rather frigid temperatures). Did we lose the upper part of the fuselage? No, it was just so bright with all the window shades open and the AC set to freezing temperatures for the breakfast service.
Breakfast wasn't great (I typically don't enjoy Cathay Pacific breakfasts anyways).
I usually feel quite tired after a long flight in economy but not this time; the more humid air, the higher air pressure, the big windows and the comfortable seats made me feel pretty good, even after 12 hours in economy.
Landing in San Francisco was fast and furious against the strong winds and a British Airways A380, a Finnair and a Virgin Atlantic plane arrived at the exact same time, giving us some extra taxi time and a huge crowd in the immigration hall (though Global Entry saved us plenty of time).
Cathay Pacific Economy Review Conclusion
I feel that these two flights were excellent and met, if not exceeded, my expectations. The airline does care about its passengers and on-time arrivals. The new A350-900 seats are excellent, even in economy. The IFE is exceptional and I felt refreshed after this flight (I'm not making this up!) The flight attendants were busy but friendly.
Cathay Pacific's weak spot is still their below-average catering in economy, business and first class. While other airlines are more comparable, Cathay Pacific is decades ahead of competitors like China Eastern in economy.