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December for me often signals a family reunion, which means a trip to India. In many ways, December also means flying either Swiss or Cathay business as a means to get to India. My preferred loyalty program for this trip is either Aeroplan for Swiss or Alaska Mileage Plan for Cathay redemption. Last month, I flew to India with Cathay Pacific and my flight from Toronto (YYZ) to Hong Kong (HKG) was on Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-1000, a significant improvement from the 777-300 aircraft that had served this sector for years.
Booking Cathay Pacific Business Class
Alaska Mileage Plan has been my preferred program for booking Cathay Pacific flights. While it costs 60,000 miles to fly from North America to HK, its only 62,500 to India! With recent changes in how Cathay releases award inventory to partner airlines, it has become more frustrating to grab a premium cabin seat on Cathay, using Alaska Mileage Plan. However, close in award availability is still decent and an option for travellers that don’t mind booking two or three days before departure. That is certainly the case in how I book my award tickets, so I was able to snag a business class itinerary for my trip to India. A one-way award on Cathay business class YYZ-HKG-DEL pegged me back 62,500 Alaska miles + ~$120 in taxes.
Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-1000 (A351)
Flight: CX 825 YYZ-HKG
Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000 (A351)
Duration: 15hr 45min
After a brief stay at the recently renovated Plaza Premium lounge, I made my way to the gate. Unsurprisingly, boarding was slow since the number of wheelchair passengers on this flight curled around the gate area. CX ground staff was exceptional in managing the high volumes of pre-boarding checks and balances. Once boarding began, it was smooth sailing with a dedicated door for business class passengers.
A full flight meant a pretty busy cabin as I boarded and settled into 17K. The business class section was a single cabin, 46 seats in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout.
The seat looked fresh and came with pillow and a duvet+mattress topper set. It offered great balance of privacy and direct aisle access, with enough room to work or stretch.
Each seat in the business cabin was equipped with a swanky touch control system (which doubled as a handheld screen), flexible reading lights and one touch seat control. The small cabinet with the headset and vanity mirror was stocked with the amenity kit and a bottle of water. The cabinet was spacious enough to store personal items including phone, wallet and was also equipped with a power outlet and a USB port.
The meshed section in the vanity cabinet was clearly designed to rest the phone while it was charging, neat. I also loved the in-flight menu which was presented in a newspaper format.
The 18.5 inch personal entertainment system was every bit classy and responsive. The handheld control worked without any noticeable lag and was a smooth operation throughout. Notice the nicely tucked away bedding set, in a cloth bag and not in plastic wrap?
The seat also came with slippers and plenty of storage space for items of all shapes and sizes.
The adjustable armrest and the extra width on the seat were a nice welcome as well, the extended armrest offered further privacy, whereas the additional width on the seat offered much needed hip room once the seat converted to a bed.
I settled into the seat, and opted for a glass of champagne as my welcome drink.
The breakfast pre-order card was tucked in sight, and included the important detail of not waking me up for breakfast if I was asleep 🙂 I opted for the continental breakfast.
Shortly after taking off, the in-flight service kicked off (within 20 minutes) with another round of drinks and a bowl of nuts.
Dinner service started off with some salad and a warm pumpkin soup. The soup was delicious, I could have had a few more portions of just the soup as my dinner and been a happy camper.
For my main course, I had requested the vegetarian option of ‘Thai green curry with toasted coconut’. What was brought to me was a sugary green mush of overcooked vegetables heaped with toasted coconut shaves. The main course failed on both, the presentation and taste. I had to return it. Almost two hours into the flight, I requested for my cheese plate and another drink instead.
The cheese plate was hurriedly put together so the presentation was not the best. The cheese selection of Canadian Oka cheese and old cheddar was accompanied by fruit jelly, some grapes and crackers. I wish I had skipped my main course, the soup followed by a the cheese plate would have been a perfect meal.
While my cheese plate was being constructed (thrown together) on the trolley next to me, I was able to snag a picture of the dining service system which identified passenger selections and were being crossed off as they continued serving.
It was finally time for my favourite thing to do on a long haul flight, sleep! I am one of the lucky ones that manages more than decent sleep on long haul flights. I unpacked the bedding set, which included a soft mattress topper and a plush duvet. The lie flat bed coupled with the bedding, made for an extremely cozy and comfortable bed.
After a restful sleep, I was awake and ready for the breakfast service, especially since my dinner was fairly light and I had opted not to order from the Snack menu, which was available upon request (Beef burger and/or Veg noodle soup). The continental breakfast came with a fruit plate, smoothie, granola on yogurt, a croissant and a tea biscuit. Perhaps I was hungry, but this breakfast hit the spot. I cleaned up every single thing presented on that breakfast tray.
Upon completion of breakfast and with a couple of hours to landing, I poked around the entertainment system. The options were not only expansive and reflective of a 16 hour journey, the handheld screen was fun to operate. I loved how responsive the interface was.
The best entertainment however, was the live feed from the front and the tail camera of the flight. There is something magical about watching the surface and curvature of the earth from up above.
Final Thoughts: Cathay Pacific Business Class on A350-1000
I was ecstatic to finally experience the Cathay A351 on this sector. The new interior (compared to the 777 on this route before), comfy bedding and that familiar Cathay service made my ride enjoyable. The crew on board were polite and always attentive to passenger needs. In the past, I had heard anecdotes that Cathay Pacific crew treated mainland Chinese passengers differently than others. However, I have never found this to be true in my travels with Cathay, over all these years. This flight was no different, the crew onboard was equal measures polite, attentive and professional with all passengers. Unfortunately my main course at dinner was not ideal but I have had better meals on Cathay before and happy to brush this off as a one-off issue. Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class to India (via HK), continues to be my preferred routing with Alaska miles – a true sweet spot!