For the connoisseurs, picking a long haul flight isn’t just about the airline, or the seat – it’s about the actual plane as well. At the top of any aficionados list you’ll find the Boeing 787, or the Airbus A350. The A350, much like its Boeing counterpart, is a flying marvel, part of the new generation of aircraft offering a more desirable cabin experience via more preferable air pressure, all with reduced noise.
The reason you care about these things is that both help to reduce the effects of jet lag. You’re breathing better air, at pressures which more resemble the ground. For most of the destinations that Cathay flies, that’s kind of important.
After quite a few test runs, my opinion of business class on the Cathay Pacific A350 is one without “oohs”, “aah’s” or other major superlatives, but one that’s just so consistently solid across so many disciplines that it culminates into something very high end. It’s not flashy, there’s nothing over the top, yet it’s got to be in the conversation of top 10 business class options.
Here’s where to sit, what to order and how to make the most of your Cathay Pacific A350 business class experience. And yes, it’s great.
Cathay Pacific operates both the Airbus A350-900, and the stretched -1000 version as well. On the shorter -900 version the business class cabin is divided into one much larger cabin, and a smaller “mini cabin”. Unlike the Boeing 777 mini cabin, which provides increased seclusion, I wouldn’t strictly recommend aiming for it on the Airbus A350-900. There’s two reasons for this.
For starters, if the plane boards from the second door, which it often does, the larger cabin turns left and has no foot traffic from other passengers. If however you choose the rear mini cabin, you’ll have everyone making their way past you, in a largely exposed setting. This isn’t a big deal per se, but if privacy and quiet are your game, this is not the way to play it.
The second, it’s really, really exposed The way the shape of the aisles and cabin align, there’s no setting in the business class cabin more exposed to light, noise or the occasional bump from a passing elbow.
As to the cabin itself, part of me wishes that Cathay had done more to liven up the environment on this plane, with big photos or increased mood lighting, as many such as Qatar Airways have done. They did not, but in classic Cathay style, it still exudes elegance. Just a bit understated for such an exciting new plane. After well known issues with seat manufacturing, it will be interesting to see how these cabins age.
Coming directly off a 12 hour long haul on the Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER, I had a perfect reference point from which to judge the newer, more nimble aircraft in the Hong Kong based fleet. In this game of inches, the little things about this new seat really add up.
On virtually any Cathay Pacific flight, entertainment is huge. On the A350, you’re in for a treat. The HD screens are extremely sharp and the system speed is on par with many of the best offerings in the sky. It’s not the very fastest, but it’s much faster to operate, swipe and scroll than the 777 system. I love being able to seamlessly switch from using the controller to swiping on the screen itself.
Big kudos to Cathay Pacific on their in flight entertainment curation. There’s quite literally something for everyone.
Over the 40+ hours I spent over the course of the couple weeks in the sky, I enjoyed everything from The Big Short to Frasier, Somm Into The Bottle, a live Above & Beyond concert, Game Of Thrones, Indiana Jones and much more.
For a more in depth take on Cathay’s current food and beverage, this review of their 777-300ER may be more suitable. In general, the airline is middle of the pack and climbing in this regard. The Deutz champagne being served is lovely, the Islander Shiraz being served is passable, especially with spicy dishes and some very solid white wines do make their way onto the menu sometimes.
Food service was very prompt and always extremely efficient. I tend to avoid meals on planes in favour of eating in airport lounges beforehand, but I thoroughly enjoyed my “taste of Hong Kong” braised short ribs in beef broth with noodles. Very satisfying, bursting with flavour and it left me without the typical “ugh, why did I eat that” feeling you often find on planes.
The real highlight though: Hong Kong style milk tea and lovely chocolate pralines. The crew may have practically rolled their eyes when I asked for a fourth praline, but they did it in the most polite of ways. They were just so good, so get your hands on them while you can, before some a-hole like myself tries to eat them all.
Crew And Service
Over the course of four recent segments, I experienced 3.5 outstanding crews. I find Cathay Pacific to be amongst the most consistently excellent in welcoming guests, making special welcomes for very frequent flyers and going to the utmost effort to customise things to individual likings. I love how the crew collaborate to take orders and get food out promptly, especially on overnight flights.
My only exception to this was a mild issue on my final segment back to London, where the cabin service director of the flight was entirely disinterested in virtually everything, including an issue with my seat. Despite this, her crew offered very proactive service and took the utmost care, so one dud hardly outweighed the overall experience.
You should feel warm, fuzzy and welcome on any Cathay flight. I certainly did. If you don’t, I’d suggest bringing it up to a crew member wearing a black jacket or gold top immediately. They are the senior members on flights and I find they have the most power to rectify and improve any situation.
I came optimistic, I left happy. I’ve now flown quite a bit on the Cathay A350 and giving it a spin on longer routes was good fun. I really think of this experience as nothing that “wows” you, but one that does so many things consistently right that expectations are always met. Crews are professional, the seat is very current and the sleep products are getting better by the day. Throw in a real pillow and this is a top 10 business class experience.