Review: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Business Class Auckland-Hong Kong

Review: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Business Class Auckland-Hong Kong

This was the second to last leg of an epic journey from Qatar to Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Qatar Airways 777-300ER (77W) Doha-Hong Kong (J)
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Hong Kong-Melbourne (J)
Qantas 737-700 Melbourne-Sydney (J)
Jetstar A320 SYD-Sunshine Coast/Maroochydore (Y)
Qantas 737-800 Bribane-Auckland (Y)
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Auckland-Hong Kong (J)
Qatar Airways 77W Hong Kong-Doha (J)

The only noteworthy aspects of the other flights were that Qatar had rotated in 77Ws to replace the usual 787s on the Hong Kong route during that period (I believe both flights are now operated by A350s), and the flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne was delayed two hours due to an engine issue (despite it being a 2-week old aircraft).

If you’re interested in hearing more about any of the above sectors specifically, drop me a line at info [at] aviationdistillery.com. So, onto the main course!

I arrived early at the airport because I wanted to check out the Air New Zealand Auckland International Lounge, which Cathay passengers get access to thanks to their joint venture with ANZ on the Hong Kong route.

The Cathay check-in desks were already open and I moved quickly through security and immigration and into the lounge the lounge. The airport is undergoing a fair amount of renovation but the signs are easy enough to follow.

Air New Zealand Auckland International Lounge

This is the Kiwi carrier’s flagship lounge so my expectations were high – too high, it would seem. The food and non-alcoholic beverages were limited and served from a small buffet. The lounge was over-crowded and finding a seat was a bit tricky.

That said, the views were excellent and the wines on offer pretty top notch.

Well over an hour after I arrived I suddenly realized that Qantas operates two lounges at Auckland – the International Business Lounge and the International First Lounge. I made my way over there and was directed by the staff to the First Class side (thanks to my oneworld Emerald status). It was also very busy, and had no view whatsoever, but the food and wines were a big step up from ANZ’s.

In retrospect – and I fully recommend this strategy to future travellers at Auckland – I should have ate and had a glass of champagne at the Qantas lounge, then retreated to the ANZ lounge for the views. 

Cathay A359 Business Class AKL-HKG

CX198
AKL-HKG
D: 14.45
A: 21.00
Business, 14A
Airbus A350-900
B-LRK

Boarding began at 14.15, with elites and Business Class passengers being called first. The Captain made his welcome announcement half an hour later, adn advised us of a 10hr28min flight to Hong Kong. He expected a smooth flight (sneak peek: it wasn’t) with good weather to welcome us into the Special Administrative Region.

The crew came around with drinks – water, juice or champagne (Deutz Brut Classic) – served from a tray, and followed-up with menus and hot towels. The In-Flight Services Manager welcomed only one passenger, a gentleman sat behind me.

I have previously reviewed the seat here, I’ll just add that on this flight mine was (thankfully) fully functioning. I planned to stay awake for the entirety, given the afternoon departure and evening-ish arrival time into Hong Kong.

The Departure

We pushed back five minutes early, at 14.40, and had decent views of some heavies (Singapore Airlines Cargo 747-400) and not so heavies (ANZ All Blacks A320) on the way out to Runway 23L. Despite the overcast skies, we had a smooth takeoff at 14.58.

Roughly 40 minutes later – thanks to some rough skies on the way out – the service began.

I requested to taste the Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2006, but she poured a full glass. This proved to be a misfire – it was a bit too sweet for my taste. The crew subsequently opened a bottle of Macon-Villages Joseph Drouhin Burgundy 2015 for me, and I found it to be similar to a very light and airy Chardonnay – easy on the nose and easy on the palate. I then realized the glass had not been thoroughly clean (I suspect a dodgy dish washer) and they endlessly apologized for the oversight. No worries, really.

The Meal

I enjoyed the wine and a ramekin of nuts over episodes of Blackish, one of my favorite American shows. I commend the crew for starting the meal service at just the right time – given it was a long day flight and Cathay had not rolled-out dine on demand on the route yet, they weren’t rushing to feed everyone and hit the lights.

Table cloths were set and trays with the side salad – mesclun with oven roasted Roma tomatoes and balsamic vinegar – were distributed. The crew then served the other starter – cold smoked salmon with wasabi panna cotta, marinated peas and fennel – and brought a large bread basket around. I couldn’t resist a couple large pieces of warm garlic bread.

Throughout the service, the crew were very good about refilling passengers’ beverages, and offering more bread than one could hope to consume.

The main courses on offer this flight were a braised side of pork, lamb shoulder, confit of chicken risotto and paparadelle pasta with roasted capsicum. In typical Cathay style – something I will miss with their dine on demand service – the mains were served from a trolly, allowing passengers to view the dishes before selecting one.

In this case, however, just four seats into the row, the chicken was gone. I asked to see it, and the polite crew member retreated to the galley to bring a dish up. In the meantime, her colleague accidentally spilled water all over the back of the seat in front of me (no harm, no foul). Ten minutes later they came back with the chicken dish, and I gave it a go.

The main was tasty, despite how it looks! For dessert, I asked for the cheese plate, which featured Puhoi Mahurai Brie, Kapiti Awa Blue and Puhoi Aged Cheddar (all top notch). The crew insisted I have a fruit plate as well.

Passengers were offered a beef brisket noodle soup or ice cream as a midflight snack. I skipped the heavy stuff and went with an apple and a Carman’s Muesli bite (product of Australia) which was one of the best granola-type bars I’ve ever had.

At this stage I had abandoned the wine and was drinking lots and lots of Perrier Sparkling Water, as I didn’t want to show up at my friend’s place in Hong Kong.

As we passed over Queensland we hit a very rough patch of turbulence for about 1.5 hours, some of the worst I’ve ever experienced and this in spite of completely clear skies (I could see farms on the ground). Once we were through, I folded like a deck of cards, passing out until we were two hours out of Hong Kong.

The Arrival

I was thankful the crew didn’t flick the lights on suddenly – it was a very gradual wake-up call, complete with hot towels and glasses of water. The crew distributed a white table cloth on my tray table again, and asked me if I’d like anything from the Refreshment menu. The options were snapper, seared lamb rump or penne, and I opted for the fish.

I They brought the tray with a small fruit salad first, then followed it with the main. Again, it was very tasty, not overcooked, and felt relatively healthy as well. Serving the rice on the side is a classic Cathay move, and one that I appreciate a lot (I’d rather fill up on vegetables and snapper than rice).

Typical of Chek Lap Kok, we had a 20 minute hold and had a smooth landing at 20.55.

The Cheatline

Cathay is a great option to travel from New Zealand to Asia and beyond. The crew are attentive, the food is great and their latest in-flight entertainment system is one of the best out there.

Seat: 8.5/10
Service: 9/10
Food: 10/10
Spirits: 10/10
Overall: 9.5/10

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