Reviews Trips

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Brisbane to Hong Kong

a row of seats with monitors on the side

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Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Review

Finding this flight was no small fete, and it took watching award space like a hawk to coordinate it. I’d been visualizing my dream routing to Australia for a long time and how to do it with Alaska Miles. In the end, I got exactly more than what I’d been dreaming about and it went exactly like this:

  • Use 70k Points to fly to Australia in Qantas First Class
  • Use 80k points to Fly back from Australia via Hong Kong in a combo of Cathay Business and First

I figured I’d end up on an older Cathay Pacific plane from Australia to Hong Kong, but as our dates firmed up, I realized that they were operating their A350-900 from Brisbane to Hong Kong. PERFECT! Not only had I not reviewed this aircraft, but it also featured Cathay’s updated Cirrus Business Class seat. Win, win.

The flight left a couple of hours late due to an ill pilot and a new one needing to be brought in on call. Ultimately we departed after 2 in the morning and in order to sleep and hit Hong Kong upon landing,  I skipped dinner.

a row of monitors on an airplane

Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Flight Details:

  • When: April 2018
  • Route: Brisbane to Hong Kong ( BNE to HKG )
  • Flight: CX 156
  • Cabin: Business
  • Seat: 20D
  • Loyalty: Alaska Mileage Plan
  • Price: One part of an 80k redemption BNE-HKG-LAX featuring Biz + First

Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Booking:

What I wanted: BNE to HKG in biz ( 2 day stopover ) continue on HKG to LAX in first

What I started with:

  • BNE-SYD-HKG-SFO-LAX all in business

I’ll give you an abridged version, but if you want more details read this article where I get into allllll that good, good nerd stuff. Originally I found award space that would start out of BNE, route via SYD with an overnight, fly SYD to HKG in business, spend 2 days in Hong Kong, and then fly HKG to SFO in CX Biz, and finally home on Alaska SFO to LAX. It was clunky, but the marble was taking shape into a figure I could admire.

Both my girlfriend and I had Alaska Elite status ( MVPG75 for me, and MVPG for her ) which allowed us to change our itineraries as much as we wanted. Starting about 3 weeks ahead of this departure date, things started to shift, and ultimately 10 days ahead of our HKG to LAX flight the first class space freed up and we booked it.

I scour award space everyday, in my free time, cause I’m a mega nerd, but if you’re going to attempt to replicate my trip, just be aware it takes A LOT of time. But then again…this was some dream routing and cabins we landed.

a row of seats with monitors on the side of the plane

The Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Cabin Layout and Seat Map

Seat Guru offers a great look at Cathay’s A350-900 seat map.

Business Class is broken into two cabins featuring reverse herringbone configured Cirrus Seating:

  • The Forward Cabin has 7 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration and one row with just 2 middle seats. 30 in total
  • The minim Cabin has 2 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration

Personally I love mini cabins and even though they have it yellowed out to signify complaints, I didn’t experience any noisy rumblings from the galley during flight. Although, we didn’t depart til 2am and I was out like a light

a row of seats with monitors on the side

Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Seat: 20D

I’d flown Cathay Pacific Business Class roughly a year prior, April 2017, from Boston to Hong Kong on a 777-3ooER in their mini cabin, which sits right behind first class. This is the optimal mini cabin position as you’ll get increased service and decreased noise due to fewer people occupying the surrounding space.

a seat in a plane

This mini cabin sits behind the forward business class and the galley, but in front of Premium Economy.

a row of seats in an airplane

Certainly more foot traffic and possibility of noise. I was so tired that I just passed out once we went airborne so I can’t really comment truthfully as to whether noise was a factor. All I can say is that I slept for a solid 6 hours. Below is 20A, maybe my choice seat if you’re traveling alone.

a tv in the middle of an airplane

Notice in the pics below how well designed and private the seat is. That cupholder is actually under the armrest that goes up when you go into bed mode and separates you from the aisle. Check out the two aerial seat pics at the edging they’ve installed that really expands the bedding surface so you can curl up. Those little things make a big difference. The space was large enough to stow my backpack as well, which I don’t know if you can see this, but I’m fist pumping out of excitement.

The IFE works well and I like the seating controls, but most of all these pics illustrate the numerous ways Cathay has worked storage into their design. It’s just incredible and really appreciated.

The bed was comfortable, but I’d love them to incorporate bedding similar to United’s new Polaris Saks bedding. While this was fine, United is king when it comes to bedding. In fact, I’d say BA is better with their White Company bedding than Cathay. If you look at where that person’s leg is, you’ll see a green armrest. That raises up to create more privacy, and a water bottle holder. Pretty slick.

a teddy bear in a bed

Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-900 Food and Service:

Did I mention I was super tired? Lol. We were offered some bubbles when we first got on the plane which I passed on for this flight. By the time the meal service started I was already asleep, but when 2nd meal came around they were very attentive, courteous, and pleasant. Everything was par of the course in terms of Cathay’s reputation

Here’s a look at the menu. Shockingly, I didn’t even have a glass of the Piper upon boarding because I didn’t want my bladder ringing any alarm bells midflight. I just wanted to sleep, wake up, and hit Hong Kong with my lovely lady.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I woke up for breakfast which was fine, but I don’t eat meat, and all of the main dishes featured meat, so I just had a bit of bread with yogurt and fruit. In all honesty, I’m not a big breakfast eater in general, so this sufficed. If you’re like me, but want more food, request a meal ahead of time. Pretty easy to do really.a tray with food and drinks on it

Overall:

Cathay Pacific is one of the best business classes in the sky. It features my favorite seating configuration, reverse herringbone, and is fit with one of my favorite seats: the Cirrus business class seat from Safran. Team that with attentive service and you’ve got yourself a vacation at 35k feet.

I’d highly recommend flying on the A350 vs their other aircraft not only because the A350 helps with jetlag due to its LED lighting equipment and lower altitude cabin pressurization, but also because the cabins are gorgeous and the seating improved.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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7 Comments

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  • Arrien Schiltkamp April 3, 2019

    Thanks for your detailed explanation. I actually believe we think alike in some instances: the seat is by far the most important part of the flight for me too. I used to fly a lot on Swiss, KLM, BA, and as I stated in the previous email, AF and LH. Almost none of them, except for LH and BA (some planes only) did they actually have flat beds. They were almost flat, but why not just completely flat? One day Swiss bumped me off its flight (I was late and it was oversold) and put me on Delta. What a difference! I much preferred Delta over Swiss and never went back. FLAT Seats for starters! And much friendlier flight attendants then Swiss. Again, it is for me about the seats! So, I tried, AA the next time I flew to Zurich and that too was quite good. Then UA to Geneva which I also much preferred to Swiss, and mostly because of the real flat seats on UA.

    In addition to the seats, I like fast service where I am not constantly interrupted (and even woken up for a glass of water on Cathay and SQ). I like to have my fist glass of ice water and a glass of wine within 20 minutes of take off, weather permitting, of course. No one is as fast as the domestics in my experience.

    Finally, I also like the fact that the liability plays an important role for U.S. carriers. If something goes wrong (God forbid) it is much less likely on a U.S. carrier because of the strict liability laws in the U.S. and that fact that the FAA actually checks airlines most of the time. Foreign carriers can take “forever” to pay the survivors, but U.S. carriers have to do this immediately. Of course, mistakes can always happen, but in my view, the chances are less with a U.S. carrier, anything to avoid liability. A mishap can be the end of the airline in the U.S. Not anywhere else.

    As a former Dutchman (I became a U.S. citizen decades ago), I do not understand why Americans often prefer “things foreign”, and especially airlines. Why would you ever fly KLM if you can fly UA or DL to and from? Even AA is flying to AMS. Last Fall, I took the flight from Dallas to AMS on AA Business which was excellent.

    You asked me about the aircraft I few on the non-U.S. airlines: they were all relatively new because the U.S. government and the U.S. clients demand it. Fly out of Canada, and the last MD-11 was still happily flying by KLM to AMS. Also, the AF 747 out of Montreal were the oldest things you have seen in a while. None of them had flat seats. When you fly into or out of the U.S., it is actually a different aircraft, even though the outside looks the same. Liability is a great thing! Many don’t understand it.

    Love your publication and your detailed and “real world” comments.

  • Arrien Schiltkamp April 2, 2019

    Thank you for always posting interesting articles and useful information. I am a frequent flyer (14.2 million miles) on many “major” airlines, but fly the most on United (to Asia and Pacific), American (to South America), and Delta (to Europe). I also fly regularly on the partners such as Air France, BA, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Brunei Airways, and Qatar.

    I have 2 comments: in this article regarding Cathay Pacific from Brisbane to Hong Kong, I am puzzled as to why you would even post it as you did not have the meal, which is a major part of long-haul air travel, and the route is one most Americans would not take.

    I remember an article you posted a month or so ago about Air France’s Business Class accros the Atlantic. You raved about even stating that it is known to be the best. Ha! I have flown Air France in Business and First, both from Montreal to Paris and NYC to Paris on several occasions, and as recently as last December. I think it is awful. I am angry that I paid for something so poorly done, but I either had not choice, or I had missed the Delta flight (far superior) and was placed on the AF flight. And, what is it with Paris that we almost always deplane far away in a field in a bus, where the privileges of Business Class completely disappear and you get crammed in the bus and then later the terminal with steep staircases and no elevators (I often bring my kids in strollers) with the other 250 people. Common on! I almost always get the feeling that you are very easily impressed with “things foreign” and ignore excellent service on airlines like United and Delta (American is inconsistent, but OK). Lufthansa offers a far superior Business Class experience to Europe compared to AF, in my view. And, LH flies the 747-800!

    Again, thank you for your comments and your information. I always read it with interest!

    • Miles April 2, 2019

      Arrien – thanks for reading and appreciate the questions. I may view business class differently than you do so I’ll start there to clarify. My opinion about Business class that it’s almost entirely about the seat and ability to get work done + sleep and less so about the experience. The experience is what I think differentiates First from Business and is really the only reason to pay extra to fly better than biz – bubbly, caviar, etc because the seat isn’t often THAT much better.

      I hadn’t reviewed a plane fit with the new Cathay biz seat so this served that purpose whereas I have reviewed Cathay Business Class with food twice before from JNB to HKG and BOS to HKG and it isn’t really anything to write home about. The seat is the most important aspect to me and while many may not fly the BNE to HKG route, they will be in the seat, or the plane, and I have readers from all over the world that may benefit from seeing it featured. I do think Cathay has one of the best seat designs in the business, the same seat that AF flies on their retrofit cabins like I experienced on the 77W from CDG to IAD. Which leads me to your next question…

      I haven’t flown AF as many times as you have, but my experience was superb. I’m not sure the planes you’ve flown, but I can’t imagine I would have written the same review had I been on an A380 or an old A330 featuring their old biz because it does look dreadfully inferior. However, comparing what I flew to United, Delta, or AA is fair in theory, but aside from AA the new cabins are on so few routes that it’s a rarity you’d fly a Delta One Suite or UA’s new Polaris regularly to Europe. The new cabins could be great head to head comparisons, but it’s like comparing the needle to the haystack. UA’s typical cabin doesn’t provide all aisle access…I don’t think you can overcome that disadvantage off the starting block. Delta may be a good comparison and I’ll look to do it in the future, although finding the award space on a route featuring a reverse herringbone seat isn’t easy, and I don’t think a 767 would compete.

      AA has a super competitive international fleet except for the 772s with wobbly seats, but even those are pretty good. I even took heat by saying AA beat CX a couple of years ago https://monkeymiles.boardingarea.com/business-class-clash-american-vs-cathay-pacific/ and personally I think it and AF are in tight contention especially if you can get an AA super diamond or cirrus configured cabin. Plus AA has more destinations.

      But here’s the problem: How many routes do you ever see available at Saver rates on DL, UA, or AA? Few and far between and hardly ever on UA or DLs newest cabins, and AA is ridiculous with space. AF releases a ton of space and features a great product. For people earning Amex, Chase, Citi, CAP1, MB they want reliable options and AF, despite the fees, is quite reliable.

      It’s a different situation if you’re consistently buying paid fares. Then loyalty comes into the equation and maybe it’s worth flying an inferior seat to get better domestic status, partners for redemption, lounge access, etc. I certainly wouldn’t align myself with AF for loyalty, and if I were taking long haul paid biz trips frequently, I’d probably look to stay loyal with United out of the big 3 – the best top tier loyalty scheme IMO. Personally I’m with AS.

      Regarding the AF to LH comparison…I don’t like being pinned in, and I’ve reviewed their 747-8 upstairs, which is very cool, but if you don’t know the person next to you and you’re on the window…it’s awkward. I wouldn’t ever prefer or recommend a seating configuration that doesn’t give all aisle access to one that does. That could be said for KLM’s diamond configuration, but not their Super Diamond which I’d like to review and could be a great head to head with AF, SQ’s seats don’t recline fully and there are only 2 routes, Qatar is outstanding and flies across the atlantic, but not to Europe so not a fair comparison, and BA will probably be the best if you can fly their new Club Suite otherwise it’s one of the worst.

      In the end it almost always comes down to the physical seat and configuration. What provides me the most comfort, privacy, storage, work space and bedding options. It also helps if it can actually be booked with points as most of the content of the blog is geared towards showing readers how they can book these crazy cabins for pennies on the dollar. Personally, I think Cathay is one of the best and checks a lot of boxes, and so does Air France IF you fly the right planes.

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