Airline Assessment: Cathay Pacific From Hong Kong To Joburg

In the fourth installment of our monthly flight review series, Richard Holmes checks out Cathay Pacific’s Business Class cabin — one of the best in the sky — from Hong Kong to Johannesburg. If you’re headed to Africa from the west coast of the United States, it’s nearly as quick to head west and connect through Hong Kong as it is to fly east.

Check-in: There’s really no excuse not to use the online check-in facility for Cathay Pacific. It’s streamlined, seamless, intuitive, and unlike most other airlines, opens a full 48 hours before your flight. It took just minutes to select my seat, punch in my Advanced Passenger Information and print out my boarding pass. Cathay Pacific is also a member of the OneWorld alliance, so it was straightforward to claim miles on my British Airways Executive Club membership. Impressive that the self-print boarding pass also includes any lounge invitations that may apply.

Lounge & boarding: Speaking of lounges, First and Business Class passengers flying through Hong Kong International Airport are in for a treat. There are six lounges dotted across the massive terminal, each offering superb facilities for premium travellers. The Wing is the flagship lounge, and was completely revamped in 2013. The Long Bar is a fine place to watch the planes taxiing with a glass of Moet to hand, while The Noodle Bar offers a last taste of Cantonese cuisine with a menu that changes throughout the day. There’s plenty of seating available, including clever ‘pods’ that combine a chair, workspace and power point.

Flights aren’t called here, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the time. For this Johannesburg flight, the gate was a 10-minute walk away, but ‘travelators’ speed up the journey considerably.

Flight: Since late 2014 Cathay Pacific has flown a Boeing 777-300-ER on its daily route to Johannesburg, an aircraft that features the overhauled Business Class cabin in a 1-2-1 layout. The seats are wider and allow for more personal space than before, with improved storage for shoes, computers and toiletries. Happily, every seat has direct aisle access, so there’s no acrobatics to reach the restroom when your travel companion is sleeping.

In-flight dining on Cathay is among the best in the world, with a range of regional Cantonese cuisine alongside more international dishes. Think braised fish with sweet and sour sauce, or hearty udon noodles. Even the dim sum served for breakfast the next morning was delicious. Service is, without fail, superb. There’s an extensive wine list and the plating is restaurant standard.

With six time zones to cross on this leg, you’ll need to schedule in some shut-eye, but if you can’t sleep there’s a great selection of on-demand programming available, and a crisp 15″ screen to enjoy it on. For business travellers, there’s in-seat power and a USB port available.

Arrival: Although our flight landed on time, the early-morning arrival unfortunately puts you in the midst of airport rush hour, as the glut of overnight flights from Europe arrives. This can lead to long queues at passport control, and the terminal is sometimes under-staffed. That said, it’s not a shade on the delays at New York’s JFK, so just smile and be patient. It took me around 45 minutes to clear passport control, by which time my bag was ready and waiting.

Richard’s previous flight reviews for AFKTravel:

Airline Assessment: Air France From Europe To Johannesburg
Airline Assessment: Virgin Atlantic From Cape Town To London Heathrow
Airline Assessment: British Airways From Cape Town To London Heathrow

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