This is our review of Cathay Pacific’s business class on a Boeing 777-300ER.
Despite being a founding member of the oneworld alliance, together with British Airways, you may be shocked to hear we have never reviewed a Cathay Pacific flight.
As you can earn and redeem Avios for Cathay Pacific flights, and with Hong Kong now fully reopen, we thought it was time to correct that and showcase everything this iconic airline has to offer.
Cathay Pacific is very well regarded, and my previous experience of the Heathrow lounges reinforced this view, so I was looking forward to my trip.
Whilst the airline has teased a new business class seat called the Aria Suite, due to launch in early 2024, the existing business class seats are likely to continue flying for many years yet as cabin refurbishments can take years.
Cathay Pacific provided my flights for review purposes but HfP paid for all other expenses.
At the airport
Cathay Pacific flies from Heathrow Terminal 3. This is one of the oldest terminal buildings now remaining at Heathrow – much to Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss’ constant chagrin – although it is also the terminal with some of the best airline lounges in the UK (including Cathay’s own).
Terminal 3 is easily accessible via Elizabeth Line, Heathrow Express and the Picadilly Line. The station is shared with Terminal 2. Note that the mainline platforms (Heathrow Express, Elizabeth Line) are slightly closer to T3 whilst the Underground platforms are more of a walk.
Cathay Pacific is located in Zone C of the Terminal and features its own check-in and baggage drop desks. I arrived just under three hours before departure and despite a full flight there were no queues for any of the desks, including economy.
There are a handful of dedicated desks for first and business class passengers (or those with the relevant oneworld status) and I was seen straight away.
As a business class passenger you get access to the Fast Track security channel. Take the escalator upstairs and turn left at the top.
This is a useful benefit to have as I always find Terminal 3 has the worst security queues of any of the Heathrow terminals.
Once through, you can head to the Cathay Pacific lounges. I won’t go into detail here as we have published separate reviews for them:
These are two of my favourite lounges at Heathrow, although they are becoming a victim of their own success and are much busier than they were in the past.
Whilst slightly off topic for this review, remember that:
- you can use the Cathay Pacific business class lounge if you are flying BA business class from Terminal 3, or flying BA economy with an Executive Club Silver card
- you can use the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge if you are flying BA First Class from Terminal 3, or flying BA economy or business class with an Executive Club Gold card
On board Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777
Cathay Pacific operates either the Boeing 777 or A350-1000 (pictured above) on flights to London Heathrow.
Ordinarily, I would prefer to fly on the A350: as a newer aircraft, I find it is much more comfortable, particularly thanks to the lower cabin altitude and higher air humidity. In this instance, however, the Boeing 777 flight timings suited me better.
One benefit of the Boeing 777 is that they also feature Cathay’s First Class cabin. I was able to have a little peek when I was boarding, and they certainly looked impressive with a 1-1-1 configuration:
Following the First Class cabin you’ll find a mini business class cabin of just eight seats (two rows of 1-2-1) whilst after the galley you’ll find another massive business class cabin comprising 11 rows. This is a huge space cabin and rivals BA’s own Club World “dormitory” for sheer size.
The Cathay Pacific business class seat
Cathay Pacific uses the same seat for both its long haul A350 and Boeing 777 fleet so the experience is consistent, although that will change once the Aria Suite rolls out.
The Cathay Pacific business class seat is not the newest product out there. In fact, Cathay has been flying this seat for about 13 years now (since 2010). Despite its age, it remains a comfortable seat albeit the technology is starting to show its age.
There are 53 seats arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout. That means that all seats are facing away from the aisle, with window seats facing towards the window and middle seats facing towards inwards.
That increases the level of privacy you have, although there are no fully closing doors on this product.
I had window seat 24K on my flight, towards the rear of the main business class cabin:
There is a large side console table on one side, plus a storage unit with mirror, headphones and 500ml bottle of water.
Underneath the console table is a fairly substantial open storage area. I used this for my shoes as there is no space underneath the leg rest for them.
Next to this is the fairly utilitarian seat control panel which includes a reading light, remote control for the in-flight entertainment and charging ports. This is one of the things that, in my opinion, dates this seat, because there are AV inputs including for an iPod. A universal power socket as well as USB-A is available to charge any electronics.
If you need a lot of power I would skip the USB-A socket and plug straight into the mains supply as it is more of a trickle charger. I was able to recharge my iPhone 13 Pro Max to full from about 10%, but it did take almost the entire flight, including some light usage. I wasn’t able to charge my Macbook from the mains socket.
On the other side you’ll find an adjustable arm rest, although I found this a bit too far away to be useful.
Like other older-generation seats, Cathay’s Business class features a bulky seat belt with air bag rather than the more modern three-point seatbelt as you’d find in a car.
As is very common these days, the Cathay Pacific business class seat also features a foot cubby. I had no problems with this during my flight (I tend to find space around my knees more of an issue). If you are concerned (or have big feet!) then you may wish to select the bulkhead row which feature an enlarged foot coffin as you can see here:
A large, bi-fold tray table slides out from under the side console. This is more than large enough for a 13″ laptop. The table itself isn’t adjustable but you can move your seat forward / back should you want more or less space – although admittedly this isn’t super intuitive.
When it comes to toilets, there are ‘just’ four for the entire business class cabin. This is more than many other airlines spec for a cabin of this size and I rarely had to wait for more than one person if I had to wait at all.
In-flight entertainment and wifi on Cathay Pacific
The in-flight entertainment screen is of the flip-out variety, although it is available gate-to-gate and does not need to be stowed during take-off or landing. On the Boeing 777s it is 15″ – I believe it is slightly larger on the A350.
This is one part where the seat shows its age, as the screen is not as high resolution or as bright as more modern seats, whilst the software is also quite slow and laggy. This is to be expected for a product of this age, however.
The good news is that there is a hefty chunk of content to choose from, including a large selection of Western and Chinese films and TV shows. It is really quite extensive – it took me about 5-10 minutes to scroll through the entire catalogue and create a short list of what to watch.
In the end I settled for the new Indiana Jones film. Note that there is a 5-minute advertising reel before each feature which drags on a bit, but once you know how long it runs it’s easy to skip through.
The supplied headphones are surprisingly decent. I normally bring my own but I managed to forget these at home so I was stuck with the supplied ones for the entire flight, and to my surprise I didn’t hate them. As far as I can tell they are noise cancelling.
Wifi is also available on Cathay Pacific’s long haul fleet. Pricing is based on time rather than usage, with two packages available: 1 hour for $9.99 or full-flight for $19.99 (prices are in US dollars).
If you are paying for wifi in the first place I’m not sure if makes sense to opt for the 1 hour package when you can get coverage for the full 12 hour flight for twice as much.
I found the service worked very well throughout most of the flight – I had no problems browsing the web or sending photos and short videos on social media – although it did slow down briefly shortly after dinner. It was certainly more than enough to get some work done.
Amenity kit and bedding on Cathay Pacific
Prior to covid, Cathay Pacific partnered with UK brand Bamford to supply its amenities on board and in the lounges, and this partnership continues.
In business class, you get a stylish rectangular faux-leather case which comes in a number of colours including midnight blue and terracotta. These are slightly larger than the White Company amenity kits that British Airways provides, but feature a similar pebbled texture.
I thought the blue kit was very classy. Inside, you’ll find a comfortable eye mask (one of the better ones I’ve ever received, and a very close second to BA’s White Company mask which I love), mouth wash, toothbrush, substantial tube of toothpaste and earplugs. There is also Bamford-branded facial mist, lip balm and hand cream.
Some excellent bedding is also provided, again Bamford branded. This includes a white pillow – not the biggest I’ve ever had, but a good size nonetheless – as well as sand-coloured mattress protector and duvet set.
The duvet was very good quality with a fairly substantial weight to it, with a duvet cover rather than just a quilt.
The mattress protector was nice and large although it didn’t add much padding. Not that it needed much – I found the seat to be very comfortable to sleep on, with no discernable gaps in bed mode.
Overall, I slept very well in Cathay’s business class and found it to have a slightly wider width than other business class seats. This was further extended by additional upholstered areas around the seat to increase the overall width wherever possible.
Finally, there are also a pair of disposable hotel-style slippers:
Food and service on Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific has a good reputation for food and service on board. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t blown away by either and would say it is pretty comparable to most other airlines. That said, the service on my return flight was substantially better in my opinion, aided by a particularly friendly crew.
Partly I think this is down to the sheer size of the business class cabin – it’s hard to deliver personalised service when you have so many passengers to look after.
Service starts with a pre-departure drink of champagne (Taittinger), orange juice or one of Cathay’s signature mocktails:
After take-off there is a hot towel service, plus a second round of drinks orders.
Unlike other airlines, which offer roast nuts with a drink after take-off, Cathay Pacific offers a small amuse bouche. This is smart thinking, as it eliminates any potential contamination for those with nut allergies whilst also upgrading the experience to something that feels far more premium.
To be fair to Cathay, there is a sizable choice on the menu: three starters and six main courses. On my flight I had the poached prawns with spiced horseradish tomato sauce and avocado, a sort of deconstructed prawn cocktail:
For the main courses, there was a choice of:
- Thai mixed vegetable curry
- Fish ball and shrimp ball noodle soup
- Grilled parmesan crusted North Atlantic cod
- Wok fried beef tenderloin with Chinese tomato sauce
- Barbecue chicken breast
On flights departing Hong Kong you will also find Cantonese specialites as well as dishes in partnership with Duddell’s, a local HK restaurant. On my return flight this included an abalone starter, a clay pot and local braised chicken dish, as well as Hong Kong milk tea and egg custard tart.
I opted for the wok fried beef tenderloin:
Slightly oddly there is no additional drink offered between courses or with the main course, so I had to ask especially. Once I did it was delivered very quickly.
(Not offering a drink / top-up with the main course seems to be increasingly common, I find. It’s a very odd service pattern.)
For dessert, the cabin crew bring through a trolley laden with cheeses, ice cream, fruit and other bits. The ‘proper’ desserts on offer were strawberry yoghurt pudding and opera cake with raspberry sauce. I wasn’t feeling in a particularly sweet mood so I opted for the cheeseboard. I’m not a fan of blue cheese so I asked if I could have more brie instead and they kindly obliged:
After dinner the crew also pop round to every seat with a tray of pralines:
If you are peckish mid-flight then there are a selection of snacks in the galley:
If you want something more substantial then there is also a snack menu including noodle soup, a beef burger, folded pizza or thai curry. On my return flight I tried the beef burger, which is probably the best burger I’ve had at 36,000 feet:
I couldn’t resist some ice cream, either:
Two hours before landing there is a breakfast service. This is a one-tray service and you can choose from a number of options:
- Wellness breakfast (fruit, pastry, quinoa ‘energy’ bowl)
- Lighter breakfast (fruit, pastry, egg white frittata)
- Chinese breakfast (fruit, prawn & scallop congee, turnip cake)
- Western breakfast (fruit, pastry, omelette, sausage, bacon)
- Express breakfast (pastry)
I went for the Western breakfast:
It was nice to see a fruit salad with more than just melon and grapes, although the kiwi was far too unripe.
Despite its age, Cathay Pacific’s current generation seat still remains a strong product although it is starting to age quite significantly, particularly the screen and in-flight entertainment. The introduction of Cathay’s new Aria Suite, details of which are still thin on the ground, is excellent timing.
For me, Cathay Pacific’s strength lies with its ground experience and, in particular, its lounges at Hong Kong. As you will see in an upcoming review, The Pier First Class Lounge is probably the best lounge I have ever been to, delivering on style, amenities and food.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
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Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
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