I was returning to Asia again this past March and managed to piece together a nice itinerary. I was so excited that I was able to include a Cathay Pacific flight in First Class from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG). The trip was booked last September and there was so much anticipation for this flight. I have read so many trip reports about Cathay Pacific First Class and now I would get the chance to experience it and see if it really lives up to the hype.
I have been a fan of Cathay Pacific since my first Trans-Pacific flight. It was a Cathay Pacific flight, New York – Vancouver – Hong Kong over a decade ago. Each way the flight was 20 hours and I was in economy class, but I was impressed with the flights. I also flew business class from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in 2005. This was still the angled lie-flat business class seat, but again I was really impressed with the flights. Last September, I flew Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda in business class on the new 777-300ER with the latest full flat business class seat and again I was impressed with the service and really liked the new seat.
Check-In at SFO
I arrived at the San Francisco International terminal about 2.5 hours before departure. I like to have extra time before long flights to enjoy the lounge and to walk around a bit. There was a dedicated First Class check-in line with no one in queue, so I walked right up and within 2 minutes I had my boarding pass. Very efficient. There was a short line for security, but it still only took about 5 minutes. I decided to go to the lounge first since I hadn’t had breakfast yet and I figured since I was rather early that the lounge likely wouldn’t be as crowded.
Lounge at SFO
The lounge is on a floor above the departures level, but there were plenty of signs providing directions.
I walked in and the attendant at the front desk welcomed me to the lounge. To be honest, I was waiting for directions on how to access the first class section of the lounge, but after a few seconds I realized that it was just one lounge for all business and first class passengers.
I was right that it was rather empty at this time as there were only a handful of people there. I first sat down at a table in the dining area for breakfast.
There was a small buffet with some dishes and quite a few appetizers/sandwiches. They also had a made-to-order noodle bar where one could order either Dan Dan noodles or Wonton noodle soup. I opted for the Dan Dan noodles, which were very tasty.
I then proceeded to another part of the lounge area with comfortable chairs. Even though there is not a dedicated first class section of the lounge, I was able to find my own space in the back of the lounge.
During the entire time I was at the lounge no one else sat in this row of chairs, so it was a bit like my own private lounge.
I stayed at the lounge for about another 40 minutes and then decided it was time to walk a bit before boarding my flight. I admit I am a an aviation nerd and I was so happy to see a series of posters in the hallway leading out from the lounge and back to the departures area showing old photographs of Cathay Pacific planes. I must have stopped for at least 5 minutes to look at each poster and read the caption. Finally, I was back at the departure gates and I walked the length of the terminal two or three times, then it was time to board.
Cathay Pacific San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) Boeing 747-400 First Class Seat 1A
The gate agents did a great job of managing the different boarding queues and I was quickly walking down the jetway ready for this 13 hour flight. I was greeted at the door and another flight attendant showed me to my seat. I was in seat 1A for this flight. I really enjoy row 1 on the 747-400. I like sitting in the cone for two reasons. It is really private and the curvature of fuselage means that the first and second windows almost allow one to look forward out the window in flight.
I noticed that there were no overhead bins, but instead the First Class suite has its own locker. The locker had a hanger for a coat/jacket, a spot for shoes, and some storage space. I thought this was very clever, but there is one drawback. My larger carry-on bag is a 20 inch Tumi Tech and it did not fit in the locker. There was an easy solution, my backpack went in the locker and the larger carry-on was able to be secured underneath the ottoman of my suite.
There are 9 First Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s 747-400. The suite was spacious and comfortable.
After settling in I was asked if I would like something to drink. It’s always nice to start a flight with a glass of champagne.
I knew this would be a great flight when, after finishing my pre-departure champagne, one of the flight attendants offered me a second glass before departure. There were 3 flight attendants in the First Class cabin and 6 passengers for this flight.
Prior to departure I was given a Shanghai Tang pajamas and an Zegna amenity kit with Acca Kappa products.
It was now time to depart. Lunch would be served after departure and I knew I had a few movies to watch. The first meal service began shortly after takeoff.
Most airlines serve a piece of bread with the meal, but Cathay Pacific provides each passenger a bread basket.
The steak was a perfect medium-rare and was not dry at all. I was impressed that the steak was accompanied with two sauces and then the flight attendant also asked if I wanted dijon mustard with the steak.
After dessert I had some coffee with steamed milk. There was a small dish of awesome pralines. Unfortunately, they are somewhat hidden behind the coffee in the picture below.
The meal was absolutely delicious. The quality and quantity was perfect. When my meal was being served I noticed that there is a small bon appetit card on the table. Inside the card is a brief hand-written note from the cabin crew welcoming me onboard for the flight. This small card and note was a very nice touch and really illustrates great customer service.
One of the things that Cathay Pacific does to get direct customer feedback is to ask random passengers if they would fill out a paper survey during the flight. It is a rather detailed survey that took me about 20 minutes to fill out, but I was happy to participate and provide feedback. I got to keep the Cathay Pacific pen I used to fill out the survey.
I decided to nap and watch movies for a while. The seat converts to a full-flat bed. A mattress pad is placed over the flat seat and then a duvet is used as a blanket. It was very comfortable.
I watched another movie and rested for a few hours, but then I wanted to wake up so I would be able to sleep that night in Hong Kong. I decided to have one of the snack options offered on the menu.
After another movie it was time for dinner.
I have to admit, the Kurobata pork chop was fabulous. This was probably the best main course of any airline meal I have ever had. I finished the meal with some more coffee and pralines.
After the dinner service, there was only about 90 minutes left before landing. Soon enough we were beginning our approach Hong Kong International Airport.
In retrospect, this flight was awesome. Most of the time when one has been the air for 13 hours they are looking forward to arriving at their destination and being back on land. This flight was so good I actually wouldn’t have minded if the flight had been a few hours longer. The seat and entertainment was great. The food and drink was delicious. The cabin crew did a great job providing excellent service. This flight exceeded my expectations and proved to me that Cathay Pacific long-haul First Class does indeed live up to the hype.