a desks with computers in front of a sign

Cathay Pacific First Class is a stunning example of just what exactly the difference between business and first class is, and really, why first class exists in the world at all. If you’re looking for an experience where attention to detail is an art form, comfort is a refined skill and wining and dining in the sky is actually worth missing some sleep for, you’ve come to the right place. We used 40,000 British Airways miles to give it a whirl from Hong Kong to Tokyo, aboard the 747 Queen of The Skies and to put it simply, four and a half hours was nowhere near long enough…

a desks with computers in front of a sign

There’s no better way to fly Cathay Pacific than from their home airport in Hong Kong (HKG). Immediately upon entering the airport, you’ll find well marked signs for Cathay First Class, which is a remarkably simple and efficient check in operation.

CX First Check In #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Without a single other passenger to slow down the process and plenty of luggage porters on hand to quickly whisk check baggage along to the plane, it was mere moments before we were on our way through airport security. Though there’s no “fast track” security for any passengers departing the airport, the process was quick and painless and really, very impressive.

a sign next to an escalator

To maximize the legendary Cathay Pacific ground experience, you’ll want to head to their newest lounge, “The Pier” First Class Lounge. You’ll need to hop on a quick connecting train and take a short walk to reach the lounge, but the journey is worth it in spades…

CX Pier Entrance #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

After taking the escalator down to the Pier First Class Lounge, you’ll instantly feel as if you’ve somehow been transported to a high end design hotel. Something out of a Wes Anderson movie where every last detail has been considered, and accomplished.

a long hallway with a large wooden table

Unlike many loft like, open space lounges, The Pier is compartmentalized in a lovely fashion, with this extensive corridor separating the dedicated (fine) dining room, the main sitting area, the bar, the pantry, the spa and the other features.

CX Pier Hall #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

When entering the hallway, a right will take you to the food hall, whereas a left will take you to the bar. Fortunately the food hall also has a bar, so you really can’t go wrong. Just like a top restaurant, a friendly maitre-d will be on hand, ready to show you to a table and take your first drink order.

a table with a round table and a green cushion

After being shown to our lovely corner table (with a Boeing 777) lurking in the window, I was excited to see a champagne which does not often feature on airport menus, the Rothschild Brut, which I highly recommend.

CX Pier Dining #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Happy customers, hungry customers. The restaurant at the Pier is the first airport lounge where I’ve been truly amazed by the food. Dish after dish came out, ranging from a lightly seared tuna salad, thai yellow beef curry, to authentic Hong Kong noodles in peanut sauce, a signature dish of the chef and each one I would’ve truly been happy to pay for “in the real world”. Fortunately, they were all free…

a bar with a row of chairs and a bar

For those in search of a cocktail, you’ll have to leave the beautifully appointed bar (above) in the dining area, and head to the opposite end of the hallway, where a proper cocktail setup is in plane. If, however, a glass of wine, simple martini or some champagne is in order, it’s hard to beat the restaurant bar, which offers a quieter space to unwind.

CX Pier Seating… #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

After eating for two, guests can pop in to one of the “better than home” cozy living room spaces, which feature ample charging ports (cleverly hidden in the furniture), large sofas, wonderful runway views and quick access across the hall to the pantry, which is just what you’d hope, a snack filled room where you can help yourself to tasty treats.

a room with a table and chairs

One thing that’s hard to get over is what a “non airport vibe” the lounge creates, with soft tones, incredible wood tables, suede, wood, gold and live plants found around every corner. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say it’s like classic Naval officer’s club meets soho loft. It’s stunning.

CX Pier Bar 2 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

At the main Pier First Class Bar you can grab a seat and challenge the bartender to create any number of classics. I opted for a simple yet refreshing option, a Mojito, and to my surprise, much like the food in the restaurant, it was something I’d compliment in any of the overpriced, snobby bars I love to frequent. Needless to say, you’ll get a great drink here.

long shot of a hallway

After what can only be described as a blissful (albeit all too short) stay in the Pier, we had to make one last walk down the hallway to head for our nearby departing gate. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as remorseful to leave an airport, even with a five star hotel awaiting in Tokyo…

The Seat + Bed…

a room with tvs and cabinets in a plane

an airplane with a tv and a couch

First things first, this flight was special. Cathay Pacific is retiring its 747’s for good this week, and we were fortunate to take one of the last 10 flights in their history. The first class seat on board the 747 is virtually identical to that found on Cathay’s more traveled 777’s and it’s every bit as spectacular, perhaps even more so, being that they’re situated in the nose, in front of the pilots!

CX first seat view upright #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The second thing to know is that the seat, which is best described in industry terms as “f***king massive, is f***king awesome. It’s a cavern, it’s a den, it’s the chair I’ve always wanted in my living room and better yet, it also turns into a bed. And to take it one step further, it’s a seat slash bed where a truly lovely Cathay Pacific crew member will cater to your every need. On that front, we were lucky enough to have Carmina.

a seat in a plane

a man and woman sitting in a chair in an airplane

For your viewing pleasure, we are pleased to present super wide seat, champagne and pretty orchid on display as described. Despite staunch airline regulations, we attempted to test the width of the seat together with great result. We could have very easily sat and laid back comfortably in one seat, but since we paid (with miles) for two, and my taste in movies greatly exceeds my dear wife, I opted to make my way back to 2A for the duration of the flight.

CX first upright 3 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Back in 2A things couldn’t have been better as the cabin was readied for take off. With Deutz 2006 Blanc De Blanc flowing, I grabbed the remote, which can be found on the left armrest, conveniently close to the seat, to begin planning my film selection. Cathay has an impressive array of TV and Film to choose from, with everything from (mediocre) current releases to (the good old days) of actually great movies from the 90’s and earlier in the 00’s. There are even some Westerns for true movie buffs.

a woman standing in a room

a glass of champagne on a table in an airplane

If this whole time you’ve been sitting there thinking, it sounds nice, but what’s the actual scale? How big is it in actual terms? Take Laura who’s about 5’6” as a reference. In what looks like a photo taken from a game of hide and seek, you can really get a feel for just how large the suite is in every dimension. You can also notice the wood panel to the right of the television, which acts as a storage locker, large enough for any carry on. Clever.

CX sitting #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

With the control panel set for lift off (in flight entertainment and seat), the Deutz as delicious as ever, and the orchid, which is just SUCH a nice touch, leading the way, we taxied to the runway for take off. Carmina, our main crew member for the flight had already made an impression and it was obvious that we were going to be looked after with the utmost detail. The Queen Of The Skies was ready to go. It was time to turn this seat into a bed…

a seat in an airplane

a bed in a plane

As always, it’s all about the bed. The bed is what gets the big bucks and with the addition of the extra laying space, which airline aficionados call side “thingy”, Cathay’s bed feels like a true double bed mattress, a place where the largest of creatures could comfortably doze off on one of Cathay’s endlessly long flights, which never feel long. Headphones neatly hung, bottle (nope, not glass) of champagne neatly perched on the extensive wood grain, first class menu presented on nice wood plank. Heaven is in the air, the photo does the talking…

CX first flat #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Laying in the bed (as you are above) you’ll notice that there are no poorly located charging ports or headphone jacks to hinder your rest. Everything is where it should be. If like me, you’re also paranoid about losing your phone or wallet in a seat, you’ll also enjoy the little storage areas around the seat which create a safe haven for your personal items…

a seat in an airplane

a woman lying in a bed with headphones and a television

Though it’s not the newest, Cathay’s entertainment system is extremely functional. The TV is easy to watch from its latched position (pictured above), but it really shines when it’s popped out and placed directly in front of you. Since everyone sits, turns, twists, sleeps in different positions, it’s reach is particularly impressive and functional for all the above. On a side note, I think this photo of Laura would make for an excellent advertisement, should Cathay Pacific choose to pay the extortionate amount of money I’d like to charge for them to license it. You know where to find me, Cathay…

CX bed 2 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

As this 360° photo illustrates, you’re really in your own world once everyone settles into their seats. The privacy dividers are tall and the angles eliminate the possibility of having to face another person, minus perhaps one. It’s as secluded as it is tranquil. Sure, there’s no door, but with only a few seats and about 15 feet between you and the next person, there’s not much to worry about…

Food + Drinks…

a table with food on it and a television in the background

From the get go, it was obvious that Carina and the rest of the crew cared about my enjoyment of the meal. They were happy to talk wine pairings, share experience with the food and deliver service that went well beyond a (half assed) smile. They genuinely cared and constantly offered opportunities to sample as many dishes as possible. It felt like a show. I loved it, I loved them.

CX first eating #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

With a nice slightly pitched seat, feet up and a lobster starter which was truly special, the meal was off to a wonderful start. I’m sure it’s not hard to picture yourself in that seat and really, you should. At just 40,000 British Airways miles one way from Hong Kong to Tokyo, it was one of my favorite uses of miles to date. To get a sense of the offerings, here’s the Dinner Menu, Japanese Dinner Menu, Red Wine List, White Wine List, Champagne And Cocktails

a plate of food with fork and knife

After the lobster starter I opted for the beef in a demi glace with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and nicely cooked vegetables. One thing that stands out? Grill marks! Though there are no open flames in the air, the steak clearly received a nice pre grill on the ground, giving it the nice char flavor one hopes for from a steak. It was lovely and the demi glace was powerful enough to make an impression in the air. Not an easy task!

a tray with food on it

As luck would have it, we were flying over an actual typhoon for much of the flight. Though I would imagine most airline crews would have relished the opportunity to take a seat and say that the fasten seatbelt sign would limit service, this crew continued to shine, offering a sample from the Japanese menu (which I did not opt for), to sample some local delicacies. It was an awesome experience for my taste buds. Less so for the waistline…

The Experience + “If I Had To Be Picky”….

an airplane parked at an airport

Cathay Pacific made it really hard to fly business class again. Think about that. I love business class. People often ask what the point of first class is, when business is so nice, but Cathay answers the question. It starts with their first rate lounge, which rivals top hotels, it continues with their spacious, meticulously thought out suite, with storage space for the biggest entourage and really shines in the attention and detail with which the crew care for you.

In a new test, we wanted to try out “If I had to be picky”, where I offer any criticism I could possibly think of, even though I don’t believe in complaining whenever I’m not sitting in economy. If, and that is only “if”, I had to be picky, I’d have at least one more seat pair better suited for couples. The 747 had row one but the 777 really doesn’t offer an opportunity for two to face each other for most of the flight. That’s all I got. It’s incredible…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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