Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last spring, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). You can read my trip reports here:
Today (September 13, 2017): Review of Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350 Business Class from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf.
On May 15, 2017, I flew Business Class in a brand-new Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) in China to Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) in Germany. Cathay Pacific is currently in the process of adding more than 40 A350-900 and A350-1000 planes to its fleet, which is exclusively composed of wide body aircraft. The A350 XWB employs innovative technology and design, which improves not only passenger comfort (a more spacious and quieter cabin, panoramic windows, and LED mood lighting), but also the efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance of the aircraft (25% less fuel burn as compared with older generation aircraft). The new Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class cabin and seat is basically a refreshed design of the carrier’s ‘old’ Business Class product onboard its B777 and A330 planes, with the main difference being the addition of extra storage space and onboard WiFi.
Unfortunately, although the flight was fully packed and while the Düsseldorf route was only launched in September 2015, Cathay Pacific announced yesterday that it will no longer operate into Düsseldorf from March of next year. In a statement, Cathay Pacific says that it will suspend the route as part of the airline’s commercial review of its overall aircraft deployment in Europe’. Apparently, the carrier sees this as a suspension rather than a permanent closure and will be keeping the opportunity of serving Düsseldorf in future under review. The cancellation of the Düsseldorf route comes two weeks after Cathay Pacific announced it was expanding in Europe next year by adding three new destinations: Brussels (my home airport), Dublin and Copenhagen.
Cathay Pacific features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the best airlines for longhaul First Class, and the best airlines for in-flight meals.
- Trip: HKG-DUS
- Airline: Cathay Pacific
- Aircraft type: Airbus A350 WXD
- Aircraft registration number: B-LRN
- Flight Number: CX379
- Date: May 15, 2017
- On time departure: yes (0.50 am)
- On time arrival: yes (6.50 am)
- Miles: 5730
- Flight time: 12 hours
- Seat: 14A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of the ticket
- Cathay Pacific’s The Bridge Lounge at Hong Kong airport
- Fact & figures about Cathay Pacific’s A350
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory, WiFi)
- My verdict (score)
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1. COST OF THE TICKET
I booked this one-way Business Class ticket from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf for 82,750 Avios + €112,74 taxes, fees and carrier charges. Avios is the mileage currency of Executive Club, the frequent flyer program of British Airways, which is a One World partner of Cathay Pacific.
2. CATHAY PACIFIC’S THE BRIDGE LOUNGE AT HONG KONG AIRPORT
With its soaring spaces, bathed in natural light, Hong Kong International Airport forms a spectacular gateway to Asia’s most exciting city and represents one of the best airports in the world. The airport is the travel hub of Cathay Pacific, which manages a total of seven lounges at terminal 1 & 2 that rank among the world’s most luxurious and exclusive airline lounges. When it’s your first time in the airport, it might be quite difficult to find out where all the lounges are located and which one is best:
- The Wing lounge complex is located immediately behind the security check point (near gates 1-4) and houses a First Class and Business Class lounge. I have previously reviewed the Wing lounge here.
- The Cabin is an exclusive Business Class lounge located near gate 25.
- The Bridge is also an exclusive Business Class lounge and located one floor below the main concourse near gate 35.
- The Pier, located near gate 65, represents Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge complex and features a separate lounge facility for First and Business Class passengers. If you have enough time, this is the lounge where you want to be while waiting for your flight as it offers the best facilities and food.
- Cathay Pacific also has a small arrival lounge located between terminal 1 and 2.
This is a review of The Bridge lounge, which I visited since the facility was located very close to the departure gate for the Düsseldorf bound flight. Cathay Pacific commissioned world-renowned, UK-based architectural firm Foster + Partners to design The Bridge, which opened in 2013. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put in creating a stylish environment with a relaxed and homey vibe where one can unwind before a flight. A set of escalators takes you down from the main concourse to the lounge’s magnificent reception area, which features a luminous reception wall, made of Venetian glass tiles by Fabbian of Italy. The Bridge is divided into a so-called North and South wing, each extending from a central reception area.
The North wing features the bulk of the facilities, among them a large restaurant, with both individual and communal tables, which is called ‘The Bakery’. It offers buffet-style dining, although it’s clearly a step up from the usual mediocre airport buffets. Freshly baked bread and pizzas, as well as delicious sandwiches, Danish pastries, Asian and Western soups, and several fresh salads are on display. In the back of the North wing, you find a stylish bar – offering a wide range of drinks, canapés, and hot and cold tapas – together with a television lounge. There’s plenty of seating inside the lounge with several seat types available, among them the famous Cathay Solus Chair solid – marked by leather upholstery and lacquered shell – which is a designer piece exclusively created for Cathay Pacific by Poltrona Frau in collaboration with Foster + Partners.
The South wing features a dedicated IT zone with computer workstations as well as the so-called ‘The Bistro’ restaurant, a second (albeit smaller) self-service area offering a variety of high-quality Asian and Western hot dishes and cold food selections, including some delicious desserts and light leafy salads. At the Coffee Loft, you can treat yourself to freshly brewed coffee and specialty tea, accompanied by freshly baked muffins, pastries and cookies.
Floor-to-ceiling windows stretch all along the lounge’s entire length, offering great views of the traffic on the tarmac, and bringing the outside in. However, IMHO, the lounge’s most striking feature is not the views nor its excellent facilities, but its residential ambience, aiming (and partly succeeding) at offering a ‘home away from home’. Wood floors and accents of oak and brass form a warm and natural colour palette throughout the interior space that creates a comfortable and cosy atmosphere to make you feel at home. The residential feel is echoed by the inclusion of various pieces of art and culture, just like you would find in the living room of any home. For example, the main seating area in the North wing features two display cabinets that are curated with artifacts and books, in addition to two magnificent (and very expensive) Louis Poulsen PH Artichok lamps as well as works by photographer William Furniss, a specialist in abstract waterscapes.
From the lounge, it was only a 5 minute leisurely stroll to gate 34 where the plane was being prepared for an on-time boarding process.
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT CATHAY PACIFIC’S A350
Here are some facts about the A350 XWB as provided by Airbus and Cathay Pacific:
- The A350 XWB is the world’s most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, competing with both the Boeing 787 and the Boeing 777. For a comparion between the A350 and the B787 (and a revelation of my favorite aircraft type), click here.
- More than 70% of the airframe is made of advanced materials combining composites (53%), titanium and modern aluminum alloys. Composite materials are corrosion and fatigue free resulting in easier maintenance, while titanium is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant substitute for steel.
- The A350 is designed for the wellbeing of passengers; the quiet cabin, panoramic windows, LED mood lighting and huge overhead lockers all contribute to a more comfortable and relaxing journey in all cabin classes.
- The A350’s state-of-the-art design, together with the latest generation of engines and the use of advanced construction materials deliver a 25% improvement in operating costs overall when compared to previous-generation aircraft.
- Powered by the latest technology Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, the A350 is the quietest among the aircraft types in its class and generates 25% lower CO2 emissions when compared to previous-generation aircraft.
- The A350 XWB has been awarded Common Type Rating with the A330, and it takes only one week for a pilot to transit from the A330 to the A350.
- The length of an Airbus A350-900 is close to the width of a rugby field (around 67 meters or 219 feet).
- The wings of the A350 XWB cover more than 2 tennis courts (443 m2 or 4768 square feet) and – inspired by birds – change their shape while airborne to reduce fuel burn.
- The diameter of the A350 XWB Roll-Royce Trent XWB engine is the same as the diameter of the Concorde fuselage!
- As of now, Cathay Pacific has taken delivery of 17 A350-900 aircraft, with an additional six on firm order, and 26 firm orders of the A350-1000.
- Cathay Pacific’s A350 destinations currently include Düsseldorf, Vancouver, San Francisco, London Gatwick, San Francisco, Auckland, Bangkok, Barcelona, Ho Chi Minh, Manchester, Manila, Brisbane, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Kansai and Paris. For an updated list, click here.
4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
The Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 has 280 seats in a 3 class configuration: 38 lie-flat seats in Business, 28 recliner seats in Premium Economy (with 23 cm or 9 inches of recline), and 214 standard seats in Economy Class (with 15 cm or 6 inches of recline). Contrary to most of Cathay Pacific’s Boeing B777 planes, its A350 aircraft don’t feature a First Class cabin.
The 38 Business Class seats are spread over two cabins: a large cabin behind the cockpit seats 30 passengers in 8 rows, while the remaining 8 seats are located in a smaller and intimate two-row cabin behind the galley (in front of the Premium Economy Class cabin). Both cabins feature a reverse herringbone layout in a 1-2-1 configuration, which – in my humble opinion – is the best Business Class cabin layout in the sky since it offers lots of space, direct aisle access for all passengers, and a great amount of privacy. Seats on the side are angled toward the window, while the seats in the middle are angled towards each other, so you never directly look into the seat across the aisle. Although Cathay Pacific was the launch customer of this type of cabin layout many years ago, several other carrier have since then copied the model, such as American Airlines, Finnair, Air France, Qatar Airways, and Eva Air.
The cabin itself makes a gorgeous impression with its sleek, refined and modern look. It’s all about understated luxury. The neutral white color palette of the cabin and suite shelves is given a subtile touch of vibrancy with green seat cushions and light grey carpets. Small but elegant white floral displays decorate the wall between the center seats, adding to the overall luxurious feel of the cabin.
Click here for a seat map of Cathay Pacific’s A350.
5. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
I was seated in 14A for the 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf. The first row in the plane is designated the number 11 since the A350 doesn’t feature a First Class cabin.
The Business Class seat on Cathay Pacific’s A350 is a so-called Cirrus seat, supplied by Zodiac Aerospace and customized by Studio F.A. Porsche. It represents a refreshed version of the carrier’s award-winning ‘old’ Business Class seat which you find on its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A330 fleet. The main differences is that the seat on the A350 comes with extra storage space and has a more sophisticated feel, in addition to an enhanced entertainment system with onboard WiFi and improved personal service by the addition of ‘do not disturb’ and ‘wake up call’ buttons.
As mentioned above, each seat comes with plenty of room to store all your personal luggage & items in the unlikely case that it would not fit in the large overhead bins. A side cabinet on the window side (for window seats) or towards the center line (for middle seats) holds the BOSE noise canceling headphones (more on that below) and has a mirror on its door panel (handy for fixing your hair or make-up in the morning) in addition to a netted pocket that can be used to store you smart phone, pen, passport and other bits and pieces. This cabinet also holds a universal power outlet on the inside, while it features the seat and entertainment controls and a dimmable reading light on its outside wall at eye level. In front of this side cabinet is a large, triangularly shaped panel alias work surface that can be extended by pulling out the fold-out tray table, allowing you to eat and work at the same time. Beneath this panel is a storage bin with a closing lid, that is sufficiently large to stowe away a laptop or handbag. On the other side of the seat is another storage box with a small hole that fits a bottle of water.
In front of the seat is a large foot rest, which forms part of the fully flat-bed when the seat is reclined. There is enough space underneath the ottoman to stow away your shoes or a backpack. Contrary to the Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s B777 and A330, the ottoman forms one entity with a cushioned, click and lift up side panel that not only give the Business Class suite a more spacious feel but also allows slightly more knee room when in the flat-bed position. Above the ottoman is a large, private screen (15.4-inch or 40 cm) that swings out from the side of the seat suite’s wall. You can tilt it up or down, so that you can enjoy a movie or TV show from the near or fully flat-bed position.
When tired, you can recline the seat into a very comfortable, fully flat-bed (which comes with a thick pillow, a nice blanket, and a duvet). The flat-bed is just over 190 cm (or 75 inches) long, which is slightly less as compared to the B777 although most passengers won’t notice that. A bed extension increases its width by 16.5 cm (6.5 inches), providing additional hip support, while the side panel compartment offers extra knee space for sleeping on your side. For sleeping, you may choose to leave your armrest up for more privacy, or down for more space.
What are the best Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s A350? Click here for a seat map.
- The seats in row 20 and 21 are located in their own little private cabin and are therefore highly recommended.
- Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while travel compagnons are better off in the center seats.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s A350? Click here for a seat map.
- Seats in rows 11, 19 and 20 are located close to the galley and lavatories, which may cause some noise annoyance.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, row 21, which is located in front of the Premium Economy bassinet seats (which are often taken by or appointed to families with young children).
Business Class passengers are provided with a nice blanket and a high-quality pillow, in addition to a duvet to enhance the sleeping comfort. Cathay Pacific underlines its committment to sustainability by providing blankets made from recycled plastic, including salvaged fishing nets and plastic bottles.
The Business Class amenity kit has been created by Seventy Eight Percent, a Hong Kong-based design company that creates high-quality bags for globetrotting professionals. The wash bag contains Jurlique products (natural lip care balm, balancing day care dream, and citrus hand cream), anti-skid socks, eyeshade, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs and monitor-cleaning cloth.
Before takeoff, a welcome drink was offered with a choice of orange juice, water, or a glass of Champagne, in addition to a refreshing hot towel.
The elegantly looking menu read as follows:
- Starter: A tasty blend of savoury dips with grissini
- Main course: choice of
- Pan friend sea bream, capsicum, green beans, carrot, celeriac puree, and lemon parsley butter
- Chou hou beef brisket, turnip, mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice
- Dessert: Fresh berries and ginger syrup
Dinner service started about 20 minutes after take-off, which was well after 1 am local time. All food (starter, main course, and dessert) was served at once on a single tray, which was kind of odd but probably had to do with the late departure time of the plane. Food tasted good although I was not impressed (and especially disappointed by the underwhelming starter).
As a mid-flight snack, I choose the only item available on the menu – Taiwenese pork in noodle soup – which was an excellent platter and the culinary highlight during the journey.
Ninety minutes prior to landing, a continental breakfast was served, with a cold pressed juice (orange, coconut water, pineapple and passionfruit), fresh seasonal fruit, Greek yoghurt, apricot compote and granola. The crew rolled a selection of hot items through the cabin and you could choose what you wanted from the available items. I had the dim sum selection: pork siu mai, yellow fungus pomegrante basket, har grow and glutinous rice dumpling.
It’s worth mentioning that Cathay Pacific offered Betsy Beer on this flight, the world’s first hand-crafted bottled beer specially brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000 feet. Known for its aromatic properties, “Dragon Eye” fruit is a unique characteristic of this beverage and adds to the round, rich, textural properties that make this beer distinctive.
The new A350-900 features a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system. The seat is equipped with the latest high-definition touch screen TV, whose interactive user interface is contemporary and fresh looking. There are tons of TV shows to choose from, including the latest blockbusters, award-winning documentaries and the most popular TV series. The inflight entertainment can be commanded by directly touching the TV screen or by using a handheld remote control which is located on the wall of the side cabinet at eye level and also features its own touchscreen, allowing you to watch a different program (e.g. flight map) from the main screen.
The inflight entertainment system also offers an interactive flight map as well as views from a camera attached on the plane’s belly and a camera located in the plane’s tail.
Cathay Pacific branded, noise reducing headphones are located at each seat, and block most noise from the cabin and aircraft as you watch your favorite programs.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: the cabin crew on this flight was professional albeit not very interactive with the passengers. Nevertheless, they delivered a wonderful service (as you would expect from an airliner known for its excellent Asian hospitality and high standard of crew training).
# LAVATORY: There are 3 lavatories for Business Class passengers: two behind the cockpit and one in the galley between the two Business Class cabins.
# INTERNET: Connectivity is also installed on the Cathay Pacific A350 (currently not available on the carrier’s B777 and A330 fleet), allowing passengers, for a fee, to browse the internet, send and receive emails and connect on social media. Access to the Cathay Pacific website, a number of partner websites and three live TV news channels (BBC, CNN and Euronews) are available free of charge. For regional flights under six hours, unlimited internet costs $13 USD, and $20 USD for flights over six hours. To hop online for a single hour on any A350 flight will cost $10 USD.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 9/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
- Food (quality): 7/10
- Food (quantity): 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: 5/10 (works great but too expensive)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,5/10
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