Cathay Pacific brings first class back to Beijing, Los Angeles
The popular ‘open suites’ bring more of the world under their wings.
Cathay Pacific is continuing to soar out of the pandemic era and back its highly-regarded first class suites and service back to the skies.
The flagship Boeing 777-300ER jets crowned with six first class suites returned to London in December 2022, followed by Paris in January 2023 and Tokyo in February.
Up next will be Beijing from March 26 (look for flights CX390/CX391) and Los Angeles from March 27 (flights CX880/CX881).
And more destinations will follow as Cathay brings more of its fleet back from hibernation, with the aim of being back to full pre-Covid capacity by the end of 2024.
“We are extremely excited to be bringing back our First class service after an extended absence as the world’s appetite for travel comes roaring back,” notes Vivian Lo, the airline’s General Manager, Customer Experience and Design.
Here’s what you need to know about flying first class with Cathay Pacific.
In this article:
- What is Cathay Pacific first class?
- First class vs. business class on Cathay Pacific: what's the difference?
- Five reasons we love Cathay Pacific first class
- Three tips before you fly first class on Cathay Pacific
- Getting a first class upgrade on Cathay Pacific
- First class on the Cathay Pacific Boeing 777X
- Cathay Pacific first class lounge reviews
- Cathay Pacific first class FAQs
What is Cathay Pacific first class?
As the name implies, first class is Cathay Pacific’s highest level of service, comfortably sitting above (and in front of) business class, premium economy and economy.
First class offers passengers the best airport lounge access on the ground, and in the air, a much wider seat than in business class, with upgraded inflight service and dining.
Indeed, to celebrate the return of its first class service, First passengers are being treated to a celebratory limited edition Krug 2004 Vintage Champagne on board, as well as a special editions of Bordeaux vintages Blanc de Lynch-Bages 2018 and Château Lynch-Bages 2000.
Other creature comforts will include Bamford bedding and amenities, including 600-thread-count sustainably sourced cotton bedlinen, with a pillow menu and lavender-scented Bamford Pillow Mist.
But what about Cathay Pacific first class suite itself?
Most high flyers travellers give rave reviews to Cathay’s first class product, even though the suites are perhaps the most dated in the skies, having debuted in 2007.
Despite revamps in 2013 and 2017 they’re far from cutting edge: yet the spacious open suite design still has many fans, despite more recent first class launches by competing airlines seeing fully-private suites which high walls, sliding doors and in some cases separate armchairs and beds.
An all-new first class suite shaped by feted London-based firm JPA Design for Cathay’s Boeing 777-9 jets remains under wraps, given that these next-gen 777s won’t arrive in the Hong Kong hangars until sometime after 2025.
First class vs. business class on Cathay Pacific: what’s the difference?
In Cathay Pacific first class, where available, your journey begins in a dedicated first class lounge as opposed to the standard business class lounge.
For example, you’ll find two separate first class lounges at Hong Kong Airport (with only one of them, The Wing First, being currently open), another Cathay Pacific first class lounge at London Heathrow, and so on.
On board, you’ll relax in one of just six private suites at the very front of the plane, which are much wider than business class and which transform into a longer bed. Food and beverage is taken up a notch with favourites like vintage Champagne complementing a seasonal fine dining menu.
If you’re connecting from a Cathay Pacific first class flight to a Cathay Pacific business class flight – such as flying from London to Hong Kong in first class, and then from Hong Kong to Sydney in business class – you’ll also be able to enjoy the Cathay Pacific first class lounge in transit, even though your onward flight is in business class.
Five reasons we love Cathay Pacific first class
1. The journey begins in some of the world’s best airport lounges
Flying out of Hong Kong Airport, your Cathay Pacific first class ticket provides access to two Cathay Pacific first class lounges: The Wing First Class, and The Pier First Class. Although the latter remains temporarily closed, it is primed to reopen later this year.
The Wing has long been popular with passengers given its favourable location, Champagne bar and private ‘cabana’ suites...
... but in more recent years, The Pier First Class Lounge has edged out in front, taking that to the next level with an upgraded look and feel, spa services, day suites with airport views, and more.
2. The wide, comfortable seat and bed
Taller travellers, rejoice: Cathay Pacific’s first class suites can transform into a bed measuring 81 inches (205cm) from tip to tail – longer than a king-sized bed on the ground.
The seat is also spaciously wide, whether you’re dozing off or staying awake and getting some work done. It's so wide, in fact, that there’s an extra armrest you can lower if the seat feels too big, or simply for added comfort:
3. You can dine or meet with a companion
Although there’s no onboard bar or lounge area as some airlines offer, your Cathay Pacific first class seat is actually two seats in one: one for you, and another that a companion can use to join you during the flight, such as for a meal or to host an impromptu business meeting.
Just note that each passenger has to be booked into their own seat, so you can't book one first class suite and have two passengers arrive at the airport, hoping to share it from take-off until landing. Of course, to use that companion seat, your guest should also be flying in first class.
4. The inflight dining
Certainly, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounges offer solid pre-flight food and wine, although for first class passengers, the best dining experience can be found in the sky, where vintage Krug Champagne and caviar begin the à la carte meal service.
Ordering a steak? It doesn't just come as-is – you’ll be asked how you like it cooked.
Enjoying some of that caviar? We’ll let you in on a little secret: Cathay Pacific often carries one extra serving on board compared to the number of first class passengers: so if you really enjoyed it, you may be able to repeat the course.
5. You can enjoy first class perks year-round
Not every Cathay Pacific flight offers first class service, but when you are flying first class, you can earn Status Points in the airline’s now eponymous frequent flyer scheme at the highest rates, or the highest number of status credits in partner programs like Qantas Frequent Flyer of any passenger on the same flight.
Earn enough of these and reach the top Diamond, Platinum or Oneworld Emerald levels and then every time you fly with Cathay Pacific or a Oneworld partner airline, you’ll have the same experience as a first class passenger on the ground, even if you’re not flying first class.
For example, you’ll be able to use first class priority check-in, visit the first class lounge before your flight, zip through the same priority boarding queue as for first class passengers at the boarding gate, and have your checked bags priority-tagged with “first class” labels for expedited delivery at the other end.
It’s not the ‘full’ first class experience, but it’s still a nice reward for your travels, particularly on flights where there’s simply no option to fly first class.
Three tips before you fly first class on Cathay Pacific
1. You can bring a guest into first class lounges
Flying Cathay Pacific first class, but joined by a companion who’s travelling further back on the same flight – such as in business class – or even taking a different flight from the same airport?
Even if you don’t have any frequent flyer status, your Cathay Pacific first class ticket allows you to bring one guest into the airport lounge before your flight. That guest can be travelling with Cathay Pacific or any other Oneworld alliance airline in any class of service from the same airport.
2. You can sometimes sit in first class on a business class ticket
From time to time, Cathay Pacific flies aircraft equipped with first class seating on routes where first class isn’t actually sold, such as Sydney-Hong Kong.
When this happens, first class seats become an extension of the business class cabin, with the same lounge access, service, dining and amenities as normally offered in business class: but delivered while sitting in what’s otherwise a first class seat.
High-tiered Cathay members are usually offered these seats before non-frequent flyers, but when selecting your business class seat online, if you happen to notice two rows of three seats at the front of your business class cabin (which you likely won't be able to select), there’s no harm in asking at the airport if one might still be available.
3. Getting a first class upgrade on Cathay Pacific is easier than you may think
Where first class is sold as its own cabin, you may be able to upgrade your business class seat for a first class suite using Asia Miles.
The number of miles needed varies from flight to flight, and as with all points-based upgrades, is subject to availability: either before you travel, or when asking about an upgrade at the airport.
For more information on Cathay Pacific first class upgrades, read our Executive Traveller guide.
First class on the Cathay Pacific Boeing 777X
Currently, if you're flying first class, you’re travelling on a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft – but as Cathay Pacific looks to the future of its fleet, and of first class, the airline is currently evaluating what first class might look like on its next batch of Boeing 777s, known as the Boeing 777X.
Speaking with Executive Traveller in mid-2018, former Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg shared that “we’re building models and testing different concepts, but we haven’t finalised it yet,” hinting also that sliding doors or high-walled suites were also under consideration, although no final decision had been made.
Cathay Pacific first class lounge reviews
The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong
Known for its Champagne lounge, private cabanas, open feel and airport views, The Wing First Class lounge isn’t far from check-in and passport control for those beginning their journey in Hong Kong.
That’s convenient for those departing from gates nearby, but reason enough to go exploring down to The Pier, once reopened later this year.
The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong
As the newer of Cathay Pacific's two Hong Kong first class lounges, The Pier First Class Lounge offers many of the same amenities as The Wing – shower suites, restaurant dining and bartender service – but with the airline’s modern ‘home away from home’ design.
Add to that, a day spa with complimentary treatments, and private napping and relaxation suites closed off from the lounge proper, which offer near-ground-level views out across the airport.
Cathay Pacific first class lounge, London Heathrow
Situated in Terminal 3 at London’s Heathrow Airport, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge isn't only a haven for the airline’s own first class passengers (and eligible frequent flyers) – it's also a favourite of passengers flying with other airlines, too.
For example, a first class ticket on the likes of Qantas, American Airlines or British Airways out of Terminal 3 also provides access, as does a Platinum, Diamond or Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer card when travelling with Cathay Pacific, these partners or indeed, any other Oneworld alliance airline from the same terminal.
Cathay Pacific first class FAQs
Is Cathay Pacific first class refundable?
While Cathay Pacific’s first class fare rules may change from one country to another, on itineraries departing Hong Kong (such as to London), the airline sells two types of first class tickets: First Class Standard, and First Class Flex.
First Class Flex is naturally the most flexible, and has no charges when cancelling and refunding the ticket both before and after departure, with ‘no show’ fees also waived if requesting that refund after departure.
First Class Saver is instead lower-priced, but has added fees attached to these and other changes. Expect to pay HKD$1,800 to cancel a flight before departure, or HKD$1,800 plus a no-show charge of HKD$2,200 to cancel a first class flight after departure. These amounts will be deducted from your refund.
Can I upgrade to Cathay Pacific first class?
As above, you may be able to upgrade to Cathay Pacific first class using Asia Miles, when already travelling on an eligible Cathay Pacific business class ticket.
However, upgrades on Cathay Pacific are all one-class, so you won't be able to upgrade from premium economy (or economy) straight to first class: only from business class, and only from an eligible, paid ticket.
How much does Cathay Pacific first class cost?
As you’d expect, fare prices can vary from one flight to the next and may also change when flying into and out of different cities, so there’s no set price for a one-way or return Cathay Pacific first class flight.
However, as a guide and using that same Hong Kong-London as an example, a return first class ticket in mid-November 2023 currently sells for around HKD$93,000 (AUD$17,800, USD$11,850 or GBP£9,800).