With Hong Kong being the second-largest market in the Asia Pacific region for UK goods exports – and more than half of all Britain’s investment in Asia being pumped into the Chinese special administrative region – the flight path from London to Hong Kong International is a busy one indeed.
If you’ve jetted there and got straight down to business, you’ll know all too well that the days of a travelling businessperson wearily rubbing their eyes in meetings and joking about jet lag to excuse a lack of sharpness are long gone. Your potential new clients expect you to be instantly tuned in to HKT (eight hours ahead of GMT) – that is, after all, what they expect from themselves when they travel to the UK.
If you’re to hit the heaving streets of Hong Kong Island running, then, that previous 12-hour flight – and its potentially tedious pre- and post-amble – is becoming ever more crucial to your preparations. It must be low on stress and irritation, and high on relaxation and the capability to work when required. And, of course, it needs to provide that in both directions – so your employees don’t spot you snoozing on your keyboard when you return.
With that in mind, then, where better to start than with the airline that carries the flag for Hong Kong and has its head office at Hong Kong International airport? Last year, Cathay Pacific increased its number of daily return flights between Heathrow and Hong Kong to five. So Director got its boarding pass ready for inspection and climbed aboard to see what the airline offers. Here’s what we experienced…
Cathay Pacific check-in and lounges
If you need to arrive for the start of a working day in Hong Kong, then catch Cathay flight CX252, which departs 11.25am and arrives at 7am the next day local time. Cathay’s other four daily flights leave from 5.15pm onwards. We made our way to Heathrow for flight CX250 at 6.05pm – due to arrive 1.50pm the next day.
Having already checked in and chosen our seat online, bag drop, two hours before departure, took seconds – the business-class fast track was queue-free and the desk clerk friendly and efficient. Baggage allowance for this seat was 30kg for the checked bag, and 10kg for the cabin bag – plus an extra briefcase, laptop bag or handbag.
Cathay’s lounge at Terminal 3 is located in lounge C on the central concourse. This compact space is smart, clean, and equipped with computer facilities and free WiFi. It’s well-stocked with western and Asian food options and there are plenty of beverage and reading selections.
On our return journey, check-in was equally efficient. The business-class lounge, meanwhile, was much more impressive – ‘The Wing’ is a beautiful, high-ceilinged space of minimalist design and unobstructed views on levels six and seven of the airport, with room to unwind and enjoy a snack from the noodle bar. Our one gripe was that reception desk staff at lounges in both airports were surprisingly chilly (no ‘hello’ at Heathrow, my companion’s lounge pass snatched with curt words at Hong Kong). Score 8/10
Swiftly boarded, we made our way to our seats on this Boeing 777-300ER. Cathay Pacific launched its new business-class cabin for Hong Kong routes last year, and it will take some beating.
The window seat, subtly angled to give a great view, had a wing-backed rest for extra privacy and was very generous on space – like settling into your own comfortable cocoon within the busy aircraft.
In fact, the seat width has been increased by 2.5ins from Cathay’s previous business offering – but you’ll really notice the difference when it reclines into a bed. Long enough that even six-footers can stretch out flat, the bed now also cleverly widens as it reclines, giving extra room for snuggling into that perfect napping position under the soft, comfortable duvet.
Car seat-style touch controls provide superb, intricate adjustment so you can get that position ‘just so’. Score 10/10
Cathay Pacific cabin crew
Dressed in their familiar red uniforms of sleek jackets and standing collared shirts, the on-board crew offered a warm and friendly welcome and were never far away for the full 11hrs 45mins. We liked the time they gave to each passenger to explain all facilities, including the operation of the seat and bed – never assuming that all were seasoned business-class travellers. You’d never have known it was a full flight – service was excellent. Score 10/10
Facilities and entertainment
When you look at what’s around your seat, it’s clear that Cathay has raised the bar. Natural leather, brushed steel and woven fabrics in calming greens and browns have been used – everything feels solid, with a quality finish. A side storage area has room for handbags and laptops while a side cabinet and shoe locker stows valuables and footwear – the cabinet door can also be latched as an extra privacy screen.
Each seat has a universal supply outlet to keep your devices charged, and includes an RCA port, an iPod connector and a USB port. Touch a button and a 15in flat-screen flips forward (6), offering a comprehensive library of movies, TV shows, music and games. Score 9/10
Cathay Pacific food and drink
The menu offered a choice of eastern favourites and international dishes. At dinner, a mixed salad with pumpkin seeds, wasabi and yuzu dressing was followed by pan-roasted pork fillet with calvados cream sauce, potato, leek and bacon hash, and glazed apple. For dessert, we enjoyed chocolate mirror delice, washed down with a glass of Château Hanteillan Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010. Extra drinks and snacks were always available, from a welcoming glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne to fresh juices. Stainless steel cutlery, stemless wine glasses and fresh table linen added to the quality service. Score 9/10
A long-haul service that truly feels like it knows exactly what the business traveller needs – from spacious seating to high-quality food and entertainment. A flag-flyer that Hong Kong can be truly proud of.
Total score 46/50
FLIGHT: Cathay Pacific flight CX250, Heathrow Terminal 3 to Hong Kong International, Business Class. Cathay Pacific flies five times a day between Heathrow and Hong Kong, departing at 11.25am, 5.15pm, 6.05pm, 8.40pm and 10pm, with business-class fares from £3,289.