Reviews

Review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 business class

Carrying Cathay Pacific's latest business class seats, the airline's Airbus A350s are a solid choice for international travel.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, September 24 2019
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 business class
Route

Brisbane - Hong Kong

Aircraft Type

Airbus A350-900

Airline

Cathay Pacific

Flight

CX156

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

21K (window)

Notes
The Good
  • Fully-flat beds with direct aisle access, as you'd expect
  • Friendly service, espresso coffee
The Bad
  • Some minor tweaks could make for a better sleep
X-Factor
  • Enjoy both a full dinner and breakfast on this 8.5-hour flight, if you please
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350-900 business class is a subtle but noticeable step above what's found on the airline's A330s, with better mood lighting and inflight entertainment, and a more premium-feeling seat with refinements by Studio F.A. Porsche.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: The Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles. Qantas Frequent Flyer is one of many Oneworld partner programs.
  • Checked baggage allowance – 32kg limit per bag:
        • 2 bags, 40kg total: standard allowance
        • 2 bags, 50kg total: Marco Polo Club (MPC) Silver members
        • 3 bags, 55kg total: MPC Gold, Oneworld Sapphire
        • 3 bags, 60kg total: MPC Diamond, Oneworld Emerald
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag plus one small item like a laptop bag, briefcase or handbag, at a combined total weight of 10kg, or 15kg for Marco Polo Club Diamond members only.
  • Priority airport services: Business class check-in is efficient, as is Brisbane Airport's departure Express Path at security. Priority boarding is clearly signed and enforced, and priority baggage is delivered first.
  • Arrivals fast-track: Hong Kong's e-Channel service is open to all Australian passport holders as well as other eligible travellers, although enrolment is required. This allows you to skip the queues at passport control and step straight into Hong Kong after a quick fingerprint scan, just like a local.

Lounge

In Brisbane, Cathay Pacific business class passengers have access to the Qantas International Lounge, offering bartender service, shower facilities and WiFi, all of which are appreciated before a 1am departure such as this.

Executive Traveller review: Qantas Brisbane International Lounge

When returning from Hong Kong or flying onward to another destination, a business class boarding pass unlocks a variety of Cathay Pacific lounges, as well as the Qantas Hong Kong lounge.

Flight

Cathay Pacific offers 11 weekly return flights between Brisbane and Hong Kong.

This includes a daily return Airbus A350 service (CX156/157), as well as a four-times-weekly Airbus A330 flight (CX146/147) that currently detours via Cairns, but from October 26 2019 will also run non-stop.

Read: Cathay Pacific axes Cairns, goes non-stop to Brisbane

Across Australia, Cathay Pacific also flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth: all as non-stop flights from Hong Kong.

Seat

Business class on Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350-900s comes in a 1-2-1 layout, assuring direct aisle access for all.

Each seat transforms into a 75-inch (190cm) fully-flat bed at the touch of a button, at a width of 20.2 inches (51cm).

Cathay provides a pillow and blanket, although not pyjamas. In these circumstances, it's best to BYO sleepwear and use the blanket to cushion the seat, given the cabin can be a little warm.

For a more comfortable sleep, the bed can be widened by raising this small side panel – and from October 2019, the airline will also kick things up a notch with a new 'sleeper service', adding a mattress pad and slippers into the mix, although pyjamas will remain BYO.

When sitting upright, there's no shortage of legroom, with a swing-up leg rest and these padded side panels able to keep your feet elevated.

Of course, that side space also makes a great storage area for things you don't need to keep at immediate reach, such as your amenity kit.

When lifting the catch and cover, you'll also find even more storage space underneath, which can be utilised during take-off and landing.

To your side are the main seat and lighting controls, as well as a lockable cupboard.

Inside, you'll find the AC, USB and headphone outlets, as well as water, headphones, and a mirror, which you can close if preferred.

As on most aircraft, the power outlet is international – and having already switched to a Hong Kong/UK-style charger in preparation for arrival, this could be used without issue.

The aisle-side armrest can also be raised and lowered as desired.

Meal

Even with an after-midnight departure from Brisbane and a 7am arrival into Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific offers both a full dinner and a comprehensive breakfast service on this 8.5-hour flight.

The service begins with a nip of Deutz Brut Classic NV Champagne before take-off.

Dinner is then served, with the following choices offered:

  • Braised pork belly with mui choi, Shanghainese pak choy, carrot and steamed jasmine rice
  • Beef burger with Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, pickled onion and zucchini on a toasted brioche bun served with fries
  • Fish ball and fish cake with egg noodle in soup
  • Confit chicken, saffron cannellini beans ragout, green beans with dill and lemon vinaigrette, pangrattato
  • Curried carrot soup

Of course, by this stage it's already 1:30am in Brisbane or 11:30pm in Hong Kong, neither of which is dinnertime, so it was straight to dessert, which gave these options:

  • Cheese plate with Maffra cheddar, camembert, crackers, grapes, walnut and fig roll
  • Chocolate brownie served with strawberry compote and vanilla crème fraiche
  • Selection of ice cream
  • Seasonal fresh fruit

The brownie was delicious and came artfully served in a glass, paired with a dessert wine: Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2013.

Before drifting off to sleep, passengers can pre-order their breakfast via a hotel-style card – ideally, helping to maximise rest and wake when the meal is ready.

It'd be a great idea if that's how it worked, however on this flight, the cabin lights were switched on bright approximately two hours before landing but food wasn't served until 40 minutes later, time that could have been better-spent sleeping on such a short overnight flight.

That breakfast card gave the following choices:

  • Warm pastry and a beverage, served approximately one hour before landing (express breakfast)
  • Chinese breakfast: seasonal fresh fruit, chicken and black mushroom congee, stir-fried egg noodles with mixed vegetables
  • Western breakfast: seasonal fresh fruit, warm pastry, poached egg with Hollandaise sauce, bacon, spinach, roasted vine ripen tomato and English muffin (Eggs Benedict)
  • Continental breakfast: seasonal fresh fruit, warm pastry, Greek-style yoghurt, apple and cinnamon compote, granola

Having ticked the Eggs Benedict option with a latte, it was surprising to be delivered a completely different meal: a frittata with potato, mushroom, tomato and bacon, aside a black coffee:

When raising this with the crew, they appeared not to have the Eggs Benedict on this flight, with this dish having been loaded instead. However, a latte was promptly prepared (and tastes best after stirring):

The crew were apologetic and handled this well, and the meal that did arrive was still tasty and fresh.

Entertainment & Service

Each seat offers an 18.5-inch HD TV screen, which folds out from the panel in front, but can be kept in use during take-off and landing.

Beyond the library of movies, TV shows and other content, there's the 'moving map' as you'd expect, along with screens giving passengers up-to-the-minute stats on their flight.

Joining that, access to the aircraft's external cameras, which is where you most appreciate being able to use the screen on the ground:

The system responds to touch, but there's also a remote control attached to the side panel with its own touchscreen.

From its home screen are two quick and handy shortcuts – one to request a wake-up call when there's food being served, and the other to enable the seat's 'do not disturb' feature, if you're busy working or want to rest without interruption.

Finally, the airline makes good use of the A350's built-in mood lighting features, with the aircraft set to feel nice and relaxing before departure:

All things considered, on a quick overnight flight such as this one, sleep trumps everything else. Having a fully-flat bed goes a long way to enabling that, although turning the cabin lights on bright well before breakfast time cuts into that rest.

It'll be interesting to see how the airline's new business class 'sleeper service' improves the overall experience and rest once introduced, and whether these more noticeable improvements come paired with more subtle enhancements for an even better night's kip.

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 294

Will you manage to revisit this once the new sleeper service is in play? Thanks for the article.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

We certainly hope to.

24 Jun 2017

Total posts 5

Lucky enough to travel on 3 x A350 CX business class flights this year. Overall very good, however as mentioned above, found their cabin very warm (by Australian standards) and no manual vents or fans in the business class cabin, made it difficult to wake up refreshed.

Service was excellent. However found the A350 very bumpy (on all three flights), which I didn't expect. Maybe it was just the flight paths taken. Found the one flight on a Boeing 787 JL to be much smoother (if anything I'm an airbus fan, love the A380), so was surprised by the movement of this plane!

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 137

Lovely review, I wonder how this setup will fare on a longer flight to Europe. Great excuse for another review when the bedding arrives.

I especially like how you highlighted the wake up call function.
I also wish future aircraft will allow ordering items such as drinks and snacks during the flight via the screen. This saves the crew walking back and forth to take orders (which sometimes they forget to bring) and will make service more prompt.

Also will make for less isle noise and movement which I'm sure fellow passengers would appreciate, especially during sleep times.

The cabin temperature on CX flights I am told by senior crew should always be kept at between 21 and 23 degrees C.

I also have found the J cabin to be warmer than this but a word to the ISM or senior crew has alway remedied the situation within ten minutes without issue. The cause of the 'warm' cabins is probably because Chinese tend to find the cabin cold at at Cathays prescribed operating temperature and ask junior crew to make the cabin warmer - which they sometimes do.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

29 May 2019

Total posts 1

Great review!

I did Cathay A350 business HKG-SYD recently. I have similar feedback - the no mattress is annoying, particularly as the seat cushions are not well aligned, so can be a little uncomfortable. I also found it warm. Wish i'd Thought about the blanket idea!

On the good side, the food was amazing (as it was in The Pier First Lounge!) Loved the ‘paper' style menu, even took it home. Proper barista coffee and great cocktails, and an amazing lamb dish. Restaurant quality.

I will find your review of the Finnair A350 J if you have one, and respond to that, too. Unfortunately not as good as Cathay, or Qantas' Dreamliner; the latter being my favourite now. Finnair does have slippers, but no overhead bins, which becomes a little squishy if those on the window have a lot of hand luggage!

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

25 Aug 2012

Total posts 20

My only experience of Cathay was that the cabin was so warm I could not get comfortable. Other pax were fanning themselves. Although otherwise excellent, it's put me off flying Cathay again.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2012

Total posts 8

Flew CX A350-1000 in Business a few weeks ago. In my opinion it's a better hard product than the Qantas A330 J offering. It felt much roomier and has better storage.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 8

Just wondering if anyone have heard any update on the new ‘sleeper service'? There are rumors that CX is delaying that as they are focusing on keeping the airline finically viable due to recent incidents in HK.

Flying with them out of MEL in late Oct and returning mid-Nov. I am really looking forward to the improved sleeping environment, if they are still doing it.

Thanks for the review.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Aug 2014

Total posts 5

Flew twice last week on CX J. Agree on the temperature but felt things overall had improved since I travelled in June. Quality of food and wine had improved and service was generally good. I am not a big fan of the angled seat and prefer QF or Emirates set up but slept ok despite lack of pjs and mattress. Had several visits to the Pier which is good but I am not sure why people rave. Definitely prefer QF First lounges.

Regional J is not quite so good but still A350 or A330 with latest seat. Overall service, food and wine drops off and in Seoul no CX lounge so use Asiana which is only average.

Had no problems in transiting in HKG.

17 Oct 2018

Total posts 2

Well I am sorry to say I did not enjoy my flights Melbourne/Paris return and would not fly with Cathay again.

Crew were excellent, food I did not enjoy - mine seemed to be always cold. I found the beds uncomfortable perhaps because I am short and the seat was sticking into my ribs as no extra mattress. Anyway I tried Cathay but never again.

25 Sep 2019

Total posts 1

recently flew Syd -HKG - LGW. the older 777 better experience than the A350. Took a small inflatable mattress after reading an earlier review. The A350 14 hr night flight was very uncomfortable with the 'new'seat,so the mattress came out - much better sleep! very poor entertainment offering especially after 4 long flights

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 109

Well, as a side sleeper and a tall person (195cm) people should be aware that you need to pick the orientation of the seat (ie left sleeper needs a left angled seat)... and, there seems to be quite a number of broken seats (mainly arm rests) so I would rate them 3.5 (same with Finnair and Vietnam) BUT the Cathay service I would give 4.5 ... although I have never had my meal substituted in 20+ trips

I am looking forward to a mattress, too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 109

All of the Zodiac seats are the same, BTW

CX

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 121

"paired with a dessert wine: Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2013" Well, I know I am being old-fashioned (and British) but to me a dessert wine is a sweet white wine, sometimes (but not always, and in fact less commonly) lightly fortified (such as a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise) and intended to be drunk with dessert (hence the name). I do realise that opinions differ on this point. However, port is always a fully-fortified sweet red wine, and should be drunk after dessert or with cheese (in those places where diners have cheese before dessert), but never with dessert, full stop, no arguments!

I agree with Notso Swift that side-sleepers should pick their seats as it does make a significant difference to knee-room particularly for people, like me, who are tall. To simplify his/her explanation, for side-sleepers, always pick the seat that will see your knees facing the aisle.

I would add that the armrest on the aisle-side is not aligned with the seat, it is aligned with the aisle, so if (again, like me, since I have an old shoulder injury) you need arm support on a particular side you should ensure that your weak arm is away from the aisle since on that side there is an armrest aligned with the seat.

The seats are very similar to those on the B777 but - and here's the rub - although the Porsche FA input has resulted in some minor design improvements, the quality of the construction clearly dropped severely. The seats on the B777 seem quite robust and rarely suffer faults (IME) but those on the A350 often have defects, from trim falling off to buttons not working to excessive wear and so forth.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

What is everyone's favourite window seat on the CX A359?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

I'm always shooting for 12A or 12K. Failing that, pretty much any window seat will do me but I avoid rows 19, 20 and 21 (right down the back, too close to lavs and galley and premium economy baby basinets). Some seats have a mis-aligned window (rows 14 and 15) but that's too much of a not a deal-breaker for me.

I had a terrific flight on Cathay's A359 from Melbourne to Hong Kong. Comfy seat and great food and service.

I found their 777 business much better - slower and more relaxed service, and being a wider aircraft - the footwell was also much wider.


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