Finally Flying First – My Cathay Pacific First Class Experience

Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge Hong Kong

I have long been an accumulator of miles, over the last 20 years or so it’s how I’ve been able to fly to some of the most amazing places on the planet in ease and comfort. I take miles seriously and even though the airlines have made it increasingly difficult to both accrue and use miles, I have still found ways to create dream trips for little or no money. The most recent example of luxury flying happened just recently when I traveled to Thailand and Myanmar on a long overdue and much needed vacation. To get there I cashed out miles I had with American Airlines, a lot of miles to be honest, to fly on Cathay Pacific in Business Class on the way over, but First Class on the way back. In the past I have been fortunate enough to fly Business Class on a variety of airlines around the world and in First Class on short haul flights. Never though, have I flown in a dedicated First Class cabin on an ultra long-haul flight, until just a couple of weeks ago. As I was redeeming my miles I noticed First Class on Cathay on the leg home and since the extra miles required weren’t all that dramatic, I decided to go for it. In this post I want to briefly share what the Business Class experience was like on Cathay but, since I’ve been fortunate enough to fly with them in that class of travel before, I really want to focus on the First Class product.

Cathay Pacific

Why I Chose Cathay Pacific

Since I was redeeming miles with American Airlines, I had my pick of Oneworld partner airlines from which to choose. Ultimately though, I’m a fan of Cathay Pacific. I’ve flown with them a few times in the past, I know and like their product and feel comfortable with them. They also offer one of the best Business Class cabins in the business, at least in my opinion, and I honestly could think of no better way to both start and end my vacation than in their capable care. They don’t fly from Washington, DC though, so I had to redeem more miles for round trip airfare from the departure city, Chicago. This post will not be a blow by blow on how I redeemed the miles, but flexibility was key. Knowing that they fly from several airports around the United States, I searched for availability at all of them and once I found the seats I wanted on the dates I needed, everything else fell into place. Where I flew from didn’t matter as much to me as the seats I wanted on the dates I needed. If availability had popped up from Newark, I would have booked that. With other airlines it would make more of a difference as their aircraft might differ from airport to airport, but currently Cathay Pacific runs Boeing 777-300ERs from its US bases (this will change soon) and so it’s essentially the same flying experience no matter where you leave from.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Business Class

I personally really enjoy flying with Cathay Pacific in their Business Class cabin. The seats are essentially little cocoons, private and large. Unlike many other airlines, it feels like a luxury, like a true perk and for 15 hours of flying, I enjoy having both that comfort and privacy. There are a lot of reasons to fly with Cathay Pacific, but it should be about more than just getting from Point A to Point B. Cathay Pacific is a premium airline, which means guests in all classes of service are well taken care of and enjoy food and service unlike most other airlines. The Cathay Pacific Business Class experience though is something special. Not only is it one of the best I’ve experienced on any airline, but it’s enjoyable. If you stop to think about it, that’s no easy feat transforming a very long flight into an eagerly anticipated experience, but Cathay Pacific has done just that. On the short hop from Hong Kong to Bangkok, I even had the opportunity to fly on one of their new A350s, again in Business Class. It wasn’t a long flight, so I won’t do a full review, but the experience was nearly identical to that on the 777. If anything, the seat is slightly smaller and compact and the retractable armrest is actually an annoying feature. The plane was brand new and already my armrest didn’t work right, not a good start. But, overall, the experience was almost exactly like the long haul flight.

Cathay Pacific First Class

For me, flights are so much more than a simple conveyance. They are an important aspect of any trip and I love flying new airlines and experiencing what makes them special, or not. Flying in the First Class cabin with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Chicago was something I hotly anticipated, the perfect way to end what was a perfect trip. While the flight was what I had hoped it would be, I want to briefly detail what the experience was like and whether or not I’d once again go to such lengths to fly in the Cathay Pacific First Class cabin.

Seat and Cabin

With just six suites in the First Class cabin, the feeling is much more exclusive than in the Business Class cabin. That is one feature I have always enjoyed about Cathay Pacific, they do an amazing job at keeping each cabin class separate and unique, while also making passengers in those cabins feel equally special. Having now flown in all classes with them, not once have I had a bad experience or even a major complaint. I can’t say that about many airlines and is one reason why I’ve been loyal to Cathay Pacific. The First Class Suites feature an open layout, no doors or screens, which I prefer. The day I flew, there were just three of us in the First Class cabin, but with two dedicated flight attendants to take care of us I knew that the experience would be special.

Settling in, the lead flight attendant immediately helped me with everything, from figuring out how to stow my bags to settling in for the flight. Unlike other cabins on the plane, the stowage area isn’t overhead but is instead built into the suite itself, which ultimately was more convenient for me. The seat is ridiculously large and comfortable, truly a flying oasis in every way. Leather seats, a 17-inch touchscreen TV, additional stowage compartments and even a small art installation created a sense of luxury and privacy, exactly what I wanted for the long trip home. Naturally, the suite converts into a lay-flat bed, which for me happened almost like magic when I walked away to put on my pajamas. Unlike the Business Class product, in First Class there’s a mattress and the duvet and pillow are all incredibly soft, featuring 500-thread count sheets. And it’s comfortable, enabling me to get some sleep after enjoying as many of the onboard amenities as I could.

Food and Service

Airlines take food seriously, and nowhere is that more true than in the Cathay Pacific First Class cabin. I had done a little research, so I sort of knew what to expect but, naturally, nothing prepared me for the real experience. Anything I wanted was available whenever I wanted it. A nearby passenger had an affinity for the Krug champagne, which was free flowing throughout the flight without hesitation. The meal service started with the Cathay Pacific signature First Class flourish of fine caviar served with all the accouterments. I am not someone who normally eats or enjoys caviar, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the decadent experience. Eating my blinis and admiring the views from the window was the ideal start to a delicious food experience. The menu choices were comprehensive and the steak I chose was better and bigger than in most steakhouses I’ve frequented. There was actually so much food, at one point I had to give up. I just couldn’t enjoy any more of it. Just as in the Business Class section, there’s a menu available throughout the flight should guests get hungry, and about midway I once again enjoyed one of the Cathay Pacific cheeseburgers, surely the best at 38,000 feet. There were also nice but small foodie touches throughout the flight. Whenever I asked for a drink, the flight attendant always brought along with it nuts or some other small snack. Also, about midway through the flight, I was presented with a snack basket all of my own. Once the flight attendant saw I clearly enjoyed the potato chips, he made sure I never ran out.

Cathay Pacific knows service, and that’s certainly true in the First Class cabin. The experience was made special not only thanks to the nice sheets and delicious food, but by the amazing people who were on hand to ensure that I enjoyed a flight I’d never forget.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Hong Kong


Flying in the Cathay Pacific First Class cabin comes with a number of perks, including their amazing First Class lounges in Hong Kong. I’d frequented them before, but it was nice to once again return to The Pier lounge prior to my flight, where I relaxed with a snack and drink. With lounges throughout Hong Kong airport, it’s easy to enjoy the luxury and service of the Cathay Pacific lounges and they make the ideal first introduction to the First Class experience.

First Class passengers also receive a dedicated amenity kit, different from those in Business Class. The Aesop bag features all the goodies you’d expect in a nice bag. My favorite perk though is the pajamas. Created by renowned Hong Kong fashion house PYE, the sleep suit is soft, comfortable, stylish and just perfect for the experience. It’s nice not to mess up one’s clothes on a flight and honestly, the PJs were a highlight for me.

Flying with premium airlines such as Cathay Pacific is always a treat, no matter which class of service you’re in. But for a special treat, I’m so glad I decided to spend a few extra miles and splurge on their First Class experience. For such a long flight, the investment really was well worth it and while I’m not sure I’ll have another chance to enjoy the cabin, I do know it was the ideal end to a perfect trip and an experience I’ll never forget.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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