Brisbane - Hong Kong
- Fully-flat beds with direct aisle access, as you'd expect
- Friendly service, espresso coffee
- Some minor tweaks could make for a better sleep
- Enjoy both a full dinner and breakfast on this 8.5-hour flight, if you please
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.
- 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
- 2 bags, 40kg total: standard allowance
- 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.
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.
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.
Across Australia, Cathay Pacific also flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth: all as non-stop flights from Hong Kong.
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.
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.