For this business-class flight review, Director joined Cathay Pacific’s inaugural flight from Manchester Terminal 2 (MAN) to Hong Kong International (HKG)
It’s common knowledge that China is a burgeoning business hub. But did you know, some 22 million people and 60 per cent of all UK businesses are situated within a two-hour drive time of Manchester, making the city’s airport the global gateway for northern Britain?
Meanwhile, National Statistics’ 2013 International Passenger Survey indicated that Chinese tourists are the greatest in number when it comes to international visitors to Manchester, with 18,987 visiting in 2013.
So it’s no surprise that, last December, Manchester became the only UK airport outside London to offer a non-stop route to Hong Kong. Flying four times per week each way – on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – the UK-bound flights arrive at 6.20am, while arrival in Hong Kong is at 7.55am: great timing, as it leaves the whole business day open.
Director boarded Cathay Pacific’s inaugural flight from Manchester to Hong Kong – effectively a gateway to the whole of China – before moving on to Guangzhou by plane. Here’s how we found the journey…
Details Flight CX358 from Manchester Terminal 2 to Hong Kong International, business class
Check-in The fast-track lanes were painfully slow, but the facility is admittedly still under development. The baggage allowance – 30kg (56x36x23cm) plus 10kg of hand luggage – was many times over what I required for a five-day trip, and the priority luggage scheme was applied with slick aplomb. 8/10
Lounge Terminal 2’s Escape Lounge was a short saunter from security and departure gates. The staff were hospitable – but there was some confusion as to whether I was even allowed entry. The food, at this early hour, was limited to cheese and biscuits, pastries and microwaved bacon rolls. It’s also hard not imagine this ‘compact’ room becoming pretty rammed as this route becomes more popular, unless an alternative is found. 4/10
Boarding Following a five-minute stroll from the Escape Lounge, passengers were greeted with lion dancing (an ancient Chinese folk tradition that is supposed to exorcise bad luck) and champagne. The boarding itself was a little chaotic, but that was part of the carnival atmosphere, and priority boarders were in their seats fairly quickly. 7/10
The seat The business-class compartment in this Boeing 777-300ER has 82in seats in a 1-2-1 formation. Flattened, their width extends by another 6.5in to provide additional hip support. The side storage compartment offers extra knee space for sleeping on your side. The 15.4in screen had an excellent resolution, alongside a responsive remote control for the entertainment system, fully functioning plug sockets and USB ports and distortion-free headphones. Meanwhile the upholstery was modern, immaculate and tasteful, and the linen and pillows were feather-soft and high quality. 10/10
The facilities The amenity packs here featured the usual requisites – lip balm, moisturisers, socks, eye masks, and – always a blessing, given some hotels’ refusal to provide toothpaste to guests – a small tube of Colgate. 9/10
Cabin crew Cathay Pacific’s cabin crew always manage to be attentive yet unintrusive. Affable, presentable, poised and polite throughout, they were a credit to their profession on this flight. 10/10
Food and drink On boarding, we were greeted with regularly refilled glasses of Billecart-Salmon Brut champagne. At dinner time, herb-crusted beef fillet with sweet potato mash was the standout main, and cheese plus chocolate orange truffle rounded off a superb dining experience. Pork pies and noodles were also available. 9/10
VERDICT A testing time at the airport of origin was soon forgotten, thanks to a truly stunning on-board experience. 57/70