Hello from Hong Kong. 2018 flew by so quickly both for Shipra and myself that we never got time to take a break and reflect. So, we decided to take some time off and get going on a vacation. First up, Macau was on our radar for a long time, but after talking to some friends, we figured we could head to Hong Kong and perhaps go to Macau from there rather than stay in Macau for this trip.
Yesterday, we started the trip to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. We flew Cathay Pacific’s 3-class 77W aircraft on this trip, which has been rostered for the entire winter schedule on the Mumbai – Hong Kong rotation. The airline used to fly the A330 earlier on this route, but now being peak travel season to the US, they must have bumped up capacity. The 77W has a bigger Premium Economy cabin, something the airline is trying to promote from India. While a full review will follow, I just thought I’d share my initial thoughts about the trip.
Coming to the flight itself. The trip started with quick check-in at the Mumbai airport in the Pods area, and we were invited to the GVK Lounge Business Class on the 3rd Level. From there, we headed to the gate about 30 minutes before the flight, only to realise it was still not boarding. There was a sizeable serpentine queue even in the Business Class/Emerald counters. Once they started boarding, however, everyone got through quickly since there was no Passport/Boarding Pass matching at the gate.
Cathay has two cabins for the Business Class, the first being the bigger cabin in the forward section, and then a smaller section in the mid-section, just before Premium Economy. I usually prefer this mid-section because it is smaller and cosier.
The cabin is laid out in 1-2-1 in reverse herringbone, with the middle section working better for couples and solo seats for some others. Given Shipra and myself are both window-seat seekers, we went with two windows seats to ourselves.
The seat in itself is excellent, having flown it before so I was assured about that. I love the open cubbies that Cathay Pacific has built in on these seats, which means side sleepers like myself don’t have to struggle to sleep in our usual positions. The seat came along with a nice storage area near the footwell for your laptop, etc., a reason to consider this on the long-haul flights as well. Waiting for me on the seat was a nice blanket, which came handy when it was time to lie down.
The parody of seating yourself in the second section is that you don’t get the crew attention you deserve since economy boards from door 2L which is right in front of this second cabin. For instance, the crew came to offer me a pre-departure beverage and a cold ‘hot towel’. There were no magazine or reading materials on this flight. No one came to collect my jacket to keep in the closet. So I assumed this was one of those Western cabin service concepts where you need to keep your coat in the bin. And I saw Cathay Pacific crew pulling out coats for other passengers on arrival. I waited a good 20 minutes till take-off for them to take my coat.
Menus were distributed before take-off, but no orders were taken by the crew. All I can say is it was pretty sparse. There was nothing on offer for those who would like to grab a bite after takeoff: no snack baskets, no sandwiches, no nibbles. And the best part, it seems Cathay Pacific figured there was no need for a wine list or alcohol list on this flight. So, if you wanted to stay awake on this flight and catch a movie with some nibbles and a glass of champagne, you are in tough luck. I was informed that the breakfast service would start 90 minutes before landing.
Many other airlines who depart at the 4 AM bank from Mumbai, such as Qatar Airways or Turkish Airlines or KLM (from Delhi), offer a full meal right after departure. That is cost cutting on a very rich price because Cathay charges about INR 97,000 ($1300+) for this leg on Business Class.
After take-off, all that the crew could bring to me for a snack was a ramekin of warm nuts. And the ramekin was so small; it would be something we use for serving ketchup in India. Luckily they left me the whole can of Coke Zero on the flight.
I tried to connect with the airshow on these large screens; unfortunately for half the flight, this is the error I got.
I managed to watch Crazy Rich Asians on the flight, which is a movie I had missed to watch before. The headphones were not the best quality, given they were crackling all the time. I managed to catch 30 minutes of sleep after the movie and was awake for the longest time after.
Interestingly, no one came to inquire about breakfast service till about 30 minutes before landing. Entering into Hong Kong, there was turbulence for about 20 minutes, and I can understand that was one part of the delayed service. But when I asked about it to the cabin crew on my aisle, I was told they had started and finished meal service and never asked me before because they thought I was sleeping, and they don’t wake up passengers because passengers get angry.
That was well played by Cathay Pacific, because they assumed everything on behalf of me, and gave me half service of what I’d expect of any airline. The half they did was the seat, but the one they missed was the Asian hospitality they keep targetting me via Facebook advertisements for. Also, I don’t get that they almost always charge more money on this route than their competitor, Jet Airways, yet the hospitality is lacking. There was only one time I was called as Mr Awtaney, which was the time I was handed out the menu.
Anyhow, we landed on time and headed out using the e-Channel for frequent visitors which both Shipra and I have registered for quickly into the city.
If you’ve flown this route, I’d love to hear your views on what you think is Cathay Pacific doing right on this segment? The Business Class cabin was 75-80% full, and I am still foxed if I expected too much from them, or did they deliver too little for the rich price they command?