Review: Cathay Pacific 777 First Class (ZRH – HKG)

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I was having a pretty relaxing time in the Aspire First Class lounge and enjoying the freedom of the balcony that the lounge opens up on to but, about an hour before my departure time, I decided to head down to the gate.

I’m not normally one to get to the gate particularly early (unless I need to make sure that there will be room for my carry on in the overhead bins) but I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to the gate and I wanted to be one of the first on the aircraft to make taking pictures a lot easier.

We were departing from gate E26 and while there were a lot of people seated, there was no one yet in line to board…..

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-002Cathay Pacific gate at Zurich Airport

…..and the Cathay Pacific 777-300ER was visible outside:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-1Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER at Zurich Airport

I decided to try my luck and I went over to the gate agents to ask if I could be allowed to board a little early to give me time to take a few pictures. I showed my boarding pass which probably gave the agents a bit of confidence that I wasn’t just trying to skip the lines and they said they’d pass the request on to their supervisor and get back to me.

Around 10 minutes later a smiling gate agent came up to me, asked me for my passport and boarding pass, and invited me to board – fantastic!

I knew I would have plenty of time to photograph my First Class seat so my primary reason for wanting to board early was to get a few pictures of the Business Class cabin…which is exactly what I did.

cathay-pacific-777-business-class-004Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Cabin

I didn’t hang around the Business Class cabin for too long and I moved to front where I was greeted by two members of cabin crew. One was the cabin director or equivalent (I didn’t catch her full title) and the other was one of two flight attendants that would be serving in the First Class cabin.

The welcome was fantastic.

There was nothing obsequious or overly defferential about the welcome (that would have made me uneasy), it was just very warm and friendly. The crew had been told that I would be taking pictures and they were very keen to help out and take pictures of me if I so wanted (I didn’t …I hate having my picture taken!).

The Cathay Pacific First Class cabin on the 777-300ER only has 6 seats and I was booked into 1A.3-cathay-pacific-777-first-class-seat-map

A quick look around the cabin suggested that 1A and 2A would probably be the best seats as they are the only two seats that open up on to the aircraft’s left aisle. Seats 1 D/K & 2 D/K all share the right aisle of the aircraft and would therefore, probably, see more traffic.

My seat looked great…..

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…and I have to confess to being quite excited at this point…probably more excited than an adult of my age should be…but I can’t say I really cared 🙂

One of the flight attendants took my jacket and laptop bag and stowed them in the mini-wardrobe that is built into each First Class seat and suggested I stow my carry-on under the ottoman in front of my seat.

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-6Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The ottoman was a very good size and was more comfortable than most Economy Class seats I’ve recently experienced. Definitely not a bad place for a companion to sit if you wanted to have dinner together.

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The Cathay First Class seat comes with a moveable armrest on the aisle-side of the seat.

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Armrest up:

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Armrest down:

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The seat comes with a power outlet, USB port and audio point…..

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…but as they’ve been positioned half-way between the seat and the ottoman they’re not particularly accessible if you have your seatbelt on.

As well as the wardrobe  that I’ve already mentioned the seat comes with a small storage cubicle by the window:

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A magazine/newspaper storage area under the TV screen and another next to the seat:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-7-3Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The storage cubicle was fine for smaller items like a wallet, passport and a power adapter but not much more. The rack under the TV screen would just about hold a laptop (as long as it wasn’t too thick) but the magazine rack next to the seat wasn’t much use for anything than what it was designed to do.

There were two sets of seat controls. One was a basic set of 3 buttons on the aisle-side of the seat:

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And the second was a touch-screen set of controls next to the storage cubicle and remote control:

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cathay-pacific-777-first-class-9-1Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The touchscreen controls the seat…..

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…the in-seat massager…..

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…and the light above the seat and in the foot well:

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As well as the light above the seat….

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…the Cathay Pacific First Class seat comes with two identical lights which sit either side of the seat and give off a pretty good amount of light:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-9-6Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The Cathay 777 was definitely showing its age as the touchscreen seat controls were not particularly responsive and there was a good deal of scuffing on parts of the seat:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-9-22Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

To be perfectly honest neither of those things really bothered but, as I pointed out the ancient nature of the British Airways 747 First Class cabin when I reviewed that product, I though I’d better be even handed and make sure I mention any failings of the Cathay cabin too.

While I was still exploring the seat and while my fellow passengers were still boarding one of the very friendly flight attendants came around with a tasty shrimp cocktail and sundried tomato cracker appetizer….

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….and a very nice glass of Krug Champagne:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-1Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The cabin crew were constantly on the move from the moment I boarded and there didn’t seem to be any let-up in their duties.

The pajamas, amenity kits and headphones were handed out shortly after I’d settled down in my seat:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-2Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

The headphones were Bose:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-6Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

And the amenity kit was by the Australian cosmetics company Aesop:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-3Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-4Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

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An eye mask and slippers were provided with the pajamas.

Next up the flight attendants came around with newspapers, then magazines and warm towels.

Just as it seemed that they might be able to catch their breath and have a quick break they came around to top up everyone’s drinks. I’ve never seen a crew pay such attention to each person in a cabin – it was all done with a smile but also with impressive efficiency.

About 10 minutes before we pushed back from the stand the menus were handed out and the fight attendant explained it’s à la carte dining in Cathay’s First Class cabin so you just ask for what you want when you want.

The Menus (click to expand to full size in a new window):

Introduction:cathay-pacific-first-class-menu-introduction

Lunch:cathay-pacific-first-class-lunch

Snacks & Breakfast:

cathay-pacific-first-class-snacks-breakfast

Champagne & White Wines:cathay-pacific-first-class-champagne-white-wine

Red Wines & Port:cathay-pacific-first-class-red-wine-port

Aperitifs & Cocktails:cathay-pacific-first-class-spirits-cocktails

Non-Alcoholic Drinks:

cathay-pacific-first-class-soft-drinks

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, the airline was also promoting a series of German wines which were also available to try:

Lunch orders were taken as we were taxiing and it was only as we were turning on to the main runway that the cabin crew finally had a chance to sit down…and only because they had to!

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-66Zurich Airport Runway

10 minutes after we took off the crew were back in the cabin to offer more drinks and, realising that I still had over 10 hours of this, I decided to play it safe, turn down any more Krug and hit the water:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-10-77Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

This now seemed as good a time as any to check out the onboard entertainment system.

The remote control for the system was to the left of the seat and is very similar to the remotes found in American’s 777-300s.

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And although the TV screen was a good size…..

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-11Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

….it was more than a little rickety when pulled out :

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-11-1Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

As rickety as it was there was no issue having the TV positioned wherever I wanted it….but I preferred having it to my right and in its housing…that’s just what worked best for me.

The entertainment on offer seemed plentiful and eclectic.

(click the thumbnails to enlarge)

There were 5 pages of “Just Added” movies (around 30 movies):

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There was a good selection of “Western Cinema”:

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And I liked the TV comedies which ranged from some really old British sit-coms (Red Dwarf season 1 and Birds of a Feather) to some very up to date US sit coms (the full season 9 of Big Bang Theory and season 3 of Silicon Valley):

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The TV dramas has the same old-to-modern look with 70’s UK hits like the Sweeny joined by US dramas like Game of Thrones season 6 (5 episodes) and the Walking Dead season 6:

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There was quite a bit of programing for kids…..

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…as well as games…..

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…and one of my favorite features we’re starting to see more of on aircraft….the external cameras:

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I’d just finished playing around with the entertainment system when lunch was served and beautifully presented:

As an appetizer I had the caviar with blinis, chive crème fraiche and chopped egg (I passed on the Krug again!):

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Cathay Pacific First Class Lunch

That was followed by Balik salmon with garden salad and lemon vinaigrette:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-15-1Cathay Pacific First Class Lunch

And for my main course I chose the herb crusted lamb, grilled asparagus and celery potato puree:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-15-2Cathay Pacific First Class Lunch

That was all rounded off with a pot of Jasmine tea and some pralines – there was no way I could handle a full dessert!

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-15-3Cathay Pacific First Class Lunch

The caviar was very nice, the Balik salmon was delicious, the lamb was nice but nothing particularly special, the jasmine tea and pralines were a great way to round off the meal and the service was absolutely sublime.

This lunch was the closest I’ve come to experiencing great restaurant service on board an aircraft – the crew was polished, mindful of when I wanted something and when I just wanted to be left alone and they hit the perfect balance of politeness without going over the top.

After lunch was cleared away I decided to change into the Cathay Pacific pajamas (which are the best quality pajamas I’ve been given so far….but I’ve got Etihad and Qatar First class coming up in the next few months so we’ll see if they’re still the best after those trips).

The First Class bathroom was unremarkable…although I liked the sink…..

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-16Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

…and the Aesop toiletries:

cathay-pacific-777-first-class-16-1Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

By the time I returned to my seat one of the flight attendants had made up my bed (I’d asked for this on the way to the bathroom. The crew were fantastic but not psychic!)

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Definitely the most comfortable bed I’ve had on an aircraft…but then I haven’t done much First Class flying.

The padded mattress that forms the base of the bed was super-soft and the blanket was just the right weight – I didn’t get too hot or too cold at any point in the journey.

Despite the very comfortable bed my body clock didn’t want me to sleep (all the recent traveling was finally catching up) so I dozed on and off and watched most of season 9 of the Big Bang Theory.

At one point one of the flight attendants saw that I was still wide awake while the rest of the cabin was sound asleep and came up to ask if I’d like a chamomile tea to help me sleep.

That may not seem like a big deal but that is the difference between a good fight attendant and a great one.

This FA didn’t just notice that I wasn’t sleeping, she came up with an attempt at a solution too. She could have just asked if there was anything I wanted (chamomile tea wouldn’t have occurred to me) and gone from there but, instead, she took a proactive approach – I really liked that.

This dovetails nicely with a comment Joanna had when we flew BA First Class back in July – she said that the flight attendant in her aisle would occasionally come around and ask if there’s anything she wanted…but never offered any suggestions.

If you don’t fly First Class very often (as we don’t) they you’re not likely to know what you can and cannot have…so a proactive approach from a flight attendant can be very helpful.

Anyway…back to Cathay…..

About two and a quarter hours before we were due to land the flight attendants came around to take breakfast orders and, around two hours before we landed, breakfast was served.

I started with a breakfast basket of croissant, pain au chocolat and roll (no, I didn’t eat them all), some fresh seasonal fruit, a banana smoothie, and a very good cup of illy espresso:

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The smoothie looked a lot like orange juice but it tasted great and. more importantly, tasted fresh.

I followed this up with some natural yoghurt…..

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…and finished it all off with blueberry and greek yoghurt pancakes…which was delicious (especially the yoghurt):

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Time really flew by and as the sun came up over the horizon the flight drew to a close.

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We arrived into Hong Kong a little ahead of schedule and, for the very first time in a while, I actually wished that the flight had been a little bit longer.

Bottom Line

If you’ve read all the way through this review (well done if you have!) you’ll already know that my first experience of Cathay First Class was a very nice one indeed but I think there are a couple of things that I should highlight.

I’ll kick off with the only negative point I have – the aircraft was clearly old and looking a bit tired on the inside. I know that Cathay did a minor refresh of the cabin back in 2013/14 but I think it may be time for a more significant refurbishment.

There’s not much wrong with the seat – I really, really liked it and it was easily the most comfortable bed I’ve had on an aircraft – it’s just the bones of the cabin that are showing their age with scratches and with touchscreens that aren’t as responsive as they probably should be.

Everything else surrounding the First Class experience felt simply fantastic and the key to that was the cabin crew.

Nothing was too much for them and everything they did was polished and done with a smile. They were fun to interact with (I chatted with them a few times in the flight) and they were clearly keen for their First Class passengers to have as good a flight as they (the crew) could make it.

All of this made it feel like a special experience and, while being served Krug and caviar is always going to feel upscale, it was the crew who made it feel special and I made sure I thanked each one of them for that.

I wouldn’t say that I’m now hooked on flying First Class – I think I’ll still prefer to use my points for Business Class and make them last longer – but I’m already planning how I can make sure Joanna gets to try out Cathay First Class too because she’s would absolutely love it.

Next Up: The Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge Hong Kong

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