Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class (NRT-HKG)

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After a really great few days in Tokyo we took the Narita Express train from Shinjuku station to Tokyo’s Narita airport where we were due to catch a Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class flight to Hong Kong from Terminal 2.

Cathay Pacific’s check-in areas are in area D of Narita airport and, as there was no line at all for First Class check-in (courtesy of my oneworld status), getting our boarding passes and lounge invitation didn’t take long at all.

people standing in a line at an airportCathay Pacific Check-in Desks At Tokyo Narita

Tokyo Narita T2 offers a fast track security area which, just like the check-in area, was nice and quiet.

a building with a sign in the middleEntrance to Fast Track Security At Tokyo Narita T2

Security and passport control were taken care of very quickly and we were soon heading to the Cathay Pacific First & Business Class lounge on the 4th floor of Narita T2.

In the lounge I noticed that our flight was delayed to 17:30 (scheduled departure time was 17:05) and the Flightaware app showed that our aircraft wasn’t due in to Narita until 16:32.

As usual I wanted to get some pictures of the Business Class cabin without dozens of passengers mingling in the aisles to we headed to the gate with time to spare.

people sitting in chairs in an airport

Once in the gate area I could see that boarding was scheduled to be called at 17:05….

a screens with text and images on it

…….which looked a little ambitious considering the aircraft would have only arrived in 33 minutes earlier (presumably with a load of passengers).

Still, I should have known better than to doubt Cathay as, somehow, boarding was called 2 minutes earlier than advertised – at 17:03.

There was no First Class cabin on this flight but I still got to use the First Class line to board.

a sign on a pole

a sign on a ladder

We were one of the first onboard and I got my very first view of the inside of a Cathay Pacific A330.

Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Reviewed

As I mentioned in the introduction to this series of posts, I had chosen to book this specific Cathay flight between Tokyo and Hong Kong as it is operated by an aircraft in long-haul configuration (as opposed to the older, regional configurations seen on the other flights).

The Cathay A330 in long haul configuration is set out in a 1-2-1 layout just like the airline’s 777-300ERs and Airbus A350s:

a plane with seats and a person in the backCathay Pacific A330 Business Class Cabin

All seats have direct access to the aisle and, rather that sit in the middle two seats…..

a group of seats in a planeCathay Pacific A330 Business Class Cabin – Center Seats

a seat in a planeCathay Pacific A330 Business Class Cabin – Center Seats

…..Joanna and I had widow seats (one ahead of the other):

a seat in an airplaneCathay Pacific A330 Business Class Cabin – Window Seats

Boarding + 6 mins: The flight attendants came around with a choice of orange juice or champagne as a pre-departure drink.

a glass of champagne on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Boarding + 8 mins: The Captain introduced himself over the announcement system, confirmed our flying time at 4 hours and 15 minutes but mentioned that there may be a delay departing Narita due to traffic.

Boarding + 13 mins: After an incredibly speedy boarding process (the plane wasn’t full but there were still quite as few passengers onboard) passengers were asked to take their seats for departure and the ground personnel we asked to disembark.

Boarding + 14 mins: The flight attendants brought around some hot towels which must have been the hottest I’ve ever had – there are areas of the sun cooler than those towels!

As the cabin was being prepared for departure I took the opportunity to take a look around my seat.

The seats are very similar to American’s 777-300ER Business Class seats and have very similar storage areas.

There’s shoe storage at floor level by the aisle…

a white rectangular object with a red buttonCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….a magazine rack….

a plastic bag in a pocketCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….a compartment at calf height under the window….

a air vent in a seatCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….and a further compartment (filled with Cathay Pacific headphones) at chest height by the window:

a close up of a panelCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

a white object with a black headphones insideCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Just like on American’s 777s the headphone socket is in the same cubicle as the headphones…..

a black cord plugged into a wallCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

…..although unlike on American the headphones are plugged in before boarding begins so passengers new to the aircraft don’t spend half the flight looking for the socket.

Boarding + 21 mins: The flight safety video was played

a screen on a plane

Looking around the aircraft the seating style looked new….but there was something “tired” about the cabin.

There were scratches around the IFE monitor….

a close up of a black cornerCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….and the remote control was showing signs of wear and tear:

a close up of a remote controlCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Things like that, and the fact that the cushion didn’t fit in the ottoman properly….

a close up of a couchCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….strike me as very un-Cathay Pacific….perhaps a sign of the financial pressure the airline is under or just perhaps this aircraft gets a lot of use.

None of them are hugely important but they do add up to give a less than premium impression.

Adding to the less than premium feel was the fact that there was no blanket on the seat when we boarded (there was just a pillow) and there was no amenity kit in sight either.

Boarding + 28 mins: We pushed back from the gate just 1 minute later than the revised departure time and we remained perpendicular to our gate for a further 6 minutes (presumably an example of the delays the captain had mentioned)

Just about all the controls a passenger will need are at chest height between the seat and the window (for window seats):

a control panel on an airplaneCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

There’s a remote control for the IFE….

a remote control on a surfaceCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….which doubles as a game controller too:

a remote control with buttonsCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

The seat controls are pretty self-explanatory….

a close up of a buttonCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….and the power port is universal and sits next to various audio inputs and a USB port:

a close up of a plug inCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Lastly, in this area, is a small reading light:

a close up of a door knobCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Seat 14K (my seat for this flight) has use of 2 full windows and a little part of another so there was plenty of light coming in and plenty of viewing space to look out:

a window in an airplaneCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

The seat area is spacious and offers a good amount of legroom while not confining a passenger’s legs too much – there’s space to move:

a seat in a planeCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

The view straight ahead isn’t too bad….

a tv on the wall of an airplaneCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

…and the overall comfort of the seat is very good.

a seat with a pillow and a pillow on itCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Boarding + 49 mins: (21 mins after we pushed back) we turned on to the runway, paused, and then accelerated into the sky.

While we were climbing I took the opportunity to check out the IFE.

The headphones were Cathay Pacific branded and unspectacular….

a pair of headphones on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….the screen was a touchscreen and a reasonable size….

a screen on an airplaneCathay Pacific A330 In-Flight Entertainment

…there were 58 movies under the “western cinema” category….

a screen shot of a deviceCathay Pacific A330 In-Flight Entertainment

….and 18 series of comedies (some new, some old) which offered anything between 3 episodes and full series:

a screen shot of a televisionCathay Pacific A330 In-Flight Entertainment

There was also a choice of 27 western dramas to choose from which offered between 4 episodes and a full season:

a screen shot of a televisionCathay Pacific A330 In-Flight Entertainment

The IFE also offered various music and games but I didn’t get around to checking them out because I suddenly noticed two things:

  1. my iPhone wasn’t charging despite being plugged in to the USB port
  2. The Cathay headphones were playing in mono rather than stereo.

I found that the headphone issue could be rectified by jiggling the cable around….but that was only a temporary fix.

The issue was with the headphones themselves as, after I plugged in my own ear buds (using the adapter I never leave home without) the sound was fine.

a black and silver audio adapterThe cheap headphone adapter I never leave home without (from Amazon)

I was interested to see if the power issue was limited to the USB port or if it was more than that….so I plugged my MacBook into the main port. Nothing.

No power at all….although at least the seat power was fine.

Poorly functioning headphones, no power at the seat and a cabin showing a bit of age….not an overly impressive start to my Cathay Pacific Business Class experience.

On top of that the Cathay A330 doesn’t offer wi-fi so you can forget about getting any work done that involves being online.

I used my call button to get a Flight Attendants attention and let her know of the power issue.

She came back swiftly to tell me that power hadn’t yet been switched on yet (why?!) and that it would be on soon.

Power or no power I decide to get dome work done and I pulled out the tray table which is housed under the window ledge.

a table on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Here it is with an iPhone 6 as a benchmark….

a phone on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

….and with a 15″ MacBook too:

a laptop on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Take off + 31 mins: The cabin services director (I think that was the correct title is) came around to thank me (by name) for flying with Cathay and to wish me a nice flight. I think she was singling out OWE’s for this treatment as Joanna (seated ahead of me) didn’t get a visit 🙂

Take off + 35 mins: The flight attendants handed out menus.

At this point I noticed a blanket being delivered to the passenger across the aisle from me so, apparently, they’re available on request.

Take off + 51 mins: The flight attendants came around with a drinks trolley……

a cart with food and drinks on it

a tray with wine glasses and bottles on it

a tray with a bottle of juice and drinks on it

….and, after addressing me by name, offered me a choice of drinks and a bowl of mixed nuts.

a glass of champagne and a bowl of nuts on a table

a bowl of nuts on a napkin

Take off + 58 mins: I noticed that although there was still no power coming from the USB port there was a green light on the side power port which hadn’t been there before.

a close up of a plug

My 2-pin US plug wouldn’t stay in the socket but, when I held it in place, I could see my MacBook charging….so at least I had some power.

The solution to the US plug not staying in place was simple (or at least it should have been).

While US-style plugs almost always fall out of sockets (they’re dreadfully designed) UK 3-pin plugs will always stay in. That’s why I always carry one of these around:

a white electrical plug with metal tips

What I hadn’t legislated for were the seat control buttons which, because the power outlet is upside down, got in the way of me plugging in my MacBook fully:

a close up of a device

Luckily I was ready for this too and my universal adapter came to the rescue!

a white charger plugged into a car

The solution was far from elegant as the combination of universal adapter and MacBook power adapter stuck out quite a way….but at least I had power 🙂

Take off + 1 hr 18 mins: The flight attendants brought out the white tablecloths in preparation for meal service.

Take off + 1 hr 29 mins: The starters were served.

After looking at the menu I had expected a choice of starters but it turned out that we were served all three:

  • Boiled prawns, tuna, fried baby shrimp, turnip with egg yolk vinegar and wasabi mayonnaise
  • Mixed salad, kalamata olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Japanese yuzu noodle and nameko mushroom

a plate of food on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Starters

a plate of food on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Starters

a bowl of food in a rowCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Starters

I’m not a big fan of small oceanic creatures as my starter (so I passed on the mini-shrimp) and, as a diver, I love octopus dearly (the live variety!) so I passed on that too….but I did try the shrimp and tuna which were both fine but very average.

The noodles would have been very bland had I not noticed the bottle of noodle sauce which made them taste pretty nice….

a small bottle of noodle sauceCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Starters

….and while the salad definitely needed the dressing to give it flavor it was nice and fresh.

Take off + 1 hr 43 mins: My main plate was taken away to make room for the main course.

Take off + 1 hr 44 mins: Drinks were topped up

Take off + 1 hr 57 mins: The main course was served via trolley service.

a person holding a spoon over foodCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Main Course

I like this style of service as you get to see what you’re choosing.

The curry option looked good…..

a tray of food on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Main Course

….and the steak didn’t look too bad either…..

a plate of food on a trayCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Main Course

….but I settled on the chicken, tomato and vinegar sauce, jade melon, garlic and steamed jasmine rice:

a plate with food in itCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Main Course

This was good.

It was hot and flavourful and the sticky rice was a good accompaniment.

Take off + 2 hrs 22 mins: Dessert was served via trolley service (again)….

a person serving food on a trayCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

….and, while I expecting to have to make a choice between fruit and cheese….

a tray of fruit on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

a tray of cheese on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

…..dessert turned out to be both! 🙂

a plate of fruit and crackers on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

The cheese was very nice and, although colder than it should have been (no airline appears to serve cheese at room temperature) it had good texture and a lot of taste.

a plate of cheese and fruitCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

The fruit plate was excellent. It was all very fresh, the pineapple was sweet without being over sweet, the melon pieces were firm without being rock hard and I can’t remember the last time I had kiwi fruit on a plane.

a plate of fruit on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

Take off + 2 hrs 33 mins: Remnants of the desserts were cleared away.

Take off + 2 hrs 53 mins: Just as I thought the meal service was over the crew came around with a choice of teas and coffee as well as a choice of Hagen Das ice cream:

a tray of food on a tableCathay Pacific A330 Business Class – Desserts

  • Bananas & cream
  • Passion fruit
  • Vanilla

I passed on the ice cream as I was full after the meal but I did go for some tea.

a cup of tea on a table

I really wanted to try out the coffee selection on offer to see just how well Cathay makes Lattes but, it was getting late so I ordered jasmine tea instead.

a menu of drinks and beverages

Take off + 2 hrs 59 mins: At this point the cabin lights were changed…and I’m not sure why.

The lights over the windows had been pretty subtle pale blue so far…..but now they were a harsh yellowy-white.

a light on the ceiling of an airplane

That wasn’t really conducive to a night flight and the harshness of the light was a little annoying.

Take off + 3 hrs 5 mins: The flight attendants came around with hot towels (not quite as scorching as before) and removed the remnants of the dinner service.

Take off + 3 hrs 47 mins: Captain announced that we’ve started our decent but that rain showers in Hong Kong are causing delays.

Take off + 3 hrs 49 mins: Cabin lights were brought up fully – no idea why as 10 minutes later…….

Take off + 3 hrs 59 mins: Cabin lights were lowered for landing

Take off + 4 hrs 14 mins: The cabin crew were asked to be seated for landing.

There was quite a bit of turbulence throughout descent and a lot of lateral movement as we neared the runway – that wasn’t much fun but not exactly anyone’s fault.

Take off + 4 hrs 26 mins: We landed in Hong Kong

Thanks to the congestion as a result of the rain that was pounding Hong Kong at the time we taxied to a remote stand and were bussed to the terminal from there.



  • The signs of wear and tear around the seat, the poorly functioning headphones and the non-functioning USB port were poor. Cathay positions itself as a premium carrier and this was all less than premium.
  • You shouldn’t having to ask for blankets in Business Class
  • The lack of an amenity kit seems a little cheap (although Cathay isn’t the only airline to do this on regional flights)
  • The starter(s) were very average and no better than I’d expect on a mid-tier carrier.


  • The seat comfort was very good and, although I didn’t get a change to try it out in bed-mode, I know from other experiences with similar seats that it would be good to sleep on.
  • The crew were friendly and personable – they made every attempt to use passengers’ names and to make the experience personal.
  • I like the trolley service Cathay employs for meals – Joanna isn’t a fan but I like to see what I’m ordering before I oder it if I possibly can.
  • The meal service improved as it progressed. While the starter was average, the main course was good and the desserts were very good.

Bottom Line

The seat on the A330 is very good and definitely one of the more comfortable Business Class seats in the sky. As for the rest of the experience it all balanced out to being an average one.

While some bits of the Cathay Business Class product were good others weren’t all that good at all so I can’t really say I was blown away by what was offered.

Would I fly in this cabin again? Yes, definitely – I’m more about the seat than anything else in a Business Class experience – but I’ll know not to expect anything special.


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