Cathay Pacific first class remains a favourite of frequent flyers, even without privacy doors framing the six spacious open suites at the nose of the Boeing 777.
It’s a testament to how well Cathay designed these original suites in 2007, although of course they’ve since received two refreshes ahead of the all-new Cathay 777-9 ‘Halo’ first class suites arriving in 2025 to complement the forthcoming Cathay Aria business class suites.
With Cathay steadily rebuilding its network, the Oneworld member is once again offering its its flagship 777 first class on key routes including London, Paris, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beijing (with delectable meals and Krug 2004 Champagne along for the ride).
And now we can add Sydney and Melbourne to that list – at least in terms of Cathay 777s with first class suites, although not the entire first class experience.
Selected Sydney-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong flights currently feature a four-class Boeing 777 crowned with those elegant open suites, even though Cathay isn’t actually selling first class tickets on those flights.
Instead, selected business class passengers are being upgraded to enjoy the comfort of a first class suite and the calming environment of the first class cabin, albeit with the same business class meals, drinks and service as everyone back behind the curtain.
And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with Cathay’s 777 business class – it’s still the familiar flatbed direct-aisle access pod which created an industry benchmark in 2010 – who wouldn’t prefer to spend those nine hours aloft in one of Cathay’s refined first class suites, especially on an overnight flight?
This is the same ‘first-as-business’ play as being taken by Qantas from late October 2023 to February 2024 when a red-tailed Airbus A380 swings into the summer season.
In the case of Sydney, Cathay’s four-class 777 has been flying almost every day over the past two months as CX100 (and the return leg CX101), and at the time of writing it remains on the schedule across most of October.
Things are a little more muddled for Melbourne, where the 777 with first class has been making sporadic appearances as CX134 and CX178.
If you have access to ExpertFlyer, which is quite the power tool for frequent flyers, you can check if your Cathay flight will be on a four-class 777 and thus has the potential for a free bump up from business class by calling up the business class seatmap for your flight.
Look for the first class cabin showing as part of the business class seating – you’re specifically looking for those six seats spread across rows 1 and 2, ahead of the four-seat rows from 11 onwards.
So how do you snare yourself one of Cathay’s 777 first class suites on your Sydney or Melbourne business class flight?
It’ll generally come down to your frequent flyer status, with Cathay Diamonds and Oneworld Emeralds (such as Qantas Platinums) towards the top of the list, but you can’t choose your first class suite in advance.
Instead, Cathay itself makes the call as to who sits where, and does so on the day of the flight – think of it as a bit of ‘surprise and delight’.
“Cathay Pacific occasionally operates its four-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on routes where we only sell our business, premium economy and economy class products,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson tells Executive Traveller.
“In such instances, our airport teams will allocate the seats in the first class cabin to passengers on the day according to our normal customer priority system.”
With only six first class suites in the offing and as many as 53 business class passengers on these Boeing 777s, there’s not a super-high chance that gold-grade Cathay and Qantas frequent flyers (and other Oneworld Emeralds) might find themselves promoted to first class – but if you ask nicely at the airport’s Cathay Pacific check-in deck or service counter, you never know…
(For what it’s worth, Cathay’s approach to this is quite different to Qantas’ HKG-bound A380s, where top-tier frequent flyers can select one of the superjumbo’s first class suites through the usual seat selection process, withy everyone else having a shot as the suites when the Qantas T-80 rule kicks in.)
As to why these first-equipped 777s are winging their way from Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong, it’s partly driven by the overall availability of aircraft but also because these jets have more high-yielding business class and premium seats than the stalwart Airbus A350s.
Just don’t expect these four-class 777s to remain a fixture for too long. As Cathay continues to bring aircraft out of mothballs as it climbs back towards 100% capacity by the end of 2024, more ‘true’ first class routes will restart, with Sydney and Melbourne seeing more of the modern passenger-pleasing Airbus A350s or the three-class 777s.
If you’re headed to or through Hong Kong, don’t miss our expert guide to Hong’s Kong’s best Oneworld lounges, and also check out how your Australian passport can be used to skip the immigration queues at Hong Kong Airport via the automated e-Channel lanes.