Cathay Pacific Flight Review: Manila to Hong Kong (2011)

Throwback Thursday Trip Report: Cathay Pacific (April 5, 2011)

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

  • Flight Number: CX906
  • Registration: B-HNQ
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
  • Gate: 5
On April 5, 2011, I travelled to Hong Kong for the eighth time.  But what made this trip unique among other trips is that unlike my past five trips, I had the opportunity to fly with Cathay Pacific (CX).  This was my first flight with Hong Kong's flag carrier, which also happens to be one of the few five-star rated carriers by Skytrax. Based on that alone, one would immediately assume that this experience would be much better than my previous trip to Hong Kong aboard Philippine Airlines. However, the results were not as obvious and clear as one would expect.

We try to fly to Hong Kong as often as possible, typically at around the same time of year to celebrate my parent's wedding anniversary. On this particular occasion, we planned to visit Hong Kong Disneyland for the first time.  

My family decided that for "insurance" reasons, four of us would fly on Cathay Pacific, while the remaining two would fly Philippine Airlines, which departs around an hour earlier than Cathay Pacific. I was selected as one of the four that would fly CX. Given the reputation of CX as a relatively expensive carrier, we used Marco Polo miles to book our flight. Booking was a bit challenging as seats that could be redeemed for 20,000 miles per passenger quickly ran out. We were able to get something for April 5-11, but we had to take an earlier flight than what we had originally planned due to limited seat availability at the time. In addition, we were unable to select our seats in advance as that option was not available to green (base level) Marco Polo club members.  

Initially, I was excited that the Boeing 777-300ER was scheduled to operate our flight but I discovered later that the assigned aircraft had changed to an ordinary Boeing 777-300 in regional configuration. A last minute change of aircraft seems to be pretty common for Cathay Pacific's Manila flights.

TIP 1: If you are are redeeming seats using Marco Polo miles, you will need to be a silver Marco Polo member to select your preferred seat in advance.

We waited until online check-in opened 48 hours prior to the flight.  There were seats available in the front-middle section, though we would have preferred to be at the front.  After selecting our seats, we printed our boarding cards.


We arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at about 9:00am.  As the booking was completed online, we needed to queue at the TIEZA tax desk before checking in.  Once we were served, it took around 5 minutes to complete our requests as the staff had to obtain our passport and photocopy it.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
TIP 2: I have to say that booking international flights online is a pain in the Philippines.  That is because not all carriers include TIEZA (travel) tax in the price of a ticket.  TIEZA tax is a travel tax imposed on departing Filipino passengers as well as residents who have been in the Philippines for more than 12 months.  This tax is paid for if you purchased your ticket at a brick-and-mortar ticket office or travel agent in the Philippines.  

We made our way to the check-in desk of Cathay Pacific.  It was relatively smooth as a dedicated lane for those who checked-in online was provided.  The check-in staff printed out a new set of boarding cards for us even after we had already done it ourselves online.

After the departure tax payment, it was time to proceed to passport control.  This morning's time slot was particularly busy.  It took us nearly 25 minutes before we were served.  The security check afterwards was uneventful.  

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
We waited in the departure lounge for around 25 minutes.  I also bought myself a little treat at the Duty Free: Scottish short bread biscuits.  Later on, we proceeded to our gate.


Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
I am aware that Cathay Pacific normally uses gate 7 for its flight but on this occasion, we were directed to gate 5. We got to our seats ahead of time thanks to one of our family members being a child passenger, which normally accords everyone in the travelling party priority boarding.  I was lucky that I managed to sit by the aisle and in front.  The passenger pool was mixed between foreigners and Filipinos.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
One thing I noticed was that the in-flight entertainment (IFE) control in our seat was what you would normally use when the system features audio and video on demand (AVOD).  However, this aircraft did not come equipped with AVOD as it was the regional variant of the 777.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
When announcements were made, it became clear that Cathay Pacific doesn't use Filipino any more.  The last time I flew with them, they used Filipino in addition to English and Cantonese.

The departure was more or less on schedule.  I didn't have much complaints in regards to the timing. The seat was also comfortable. Since it was a 3-3-3 configuration, I felt it was wide enough for all of us.

When in-flight service began, I searched for entertainment options on the IFE. No full-length films were provided as this was a short-haul flight. What I ended up viewing was the airshow channel with some audio. Occasionally, I would switch to channel 1 which featured international news from CNN, domestic Hong Kong News, and a short feature. Other channels were also available, though I don't even recall if games were installed on this system.

The crew then served the "meal" which was actually a snack.  Passengers did not have any choice. I believe it was a ham sandwich roll with cheese.  I requested to have Sprite to go along with it.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
From time to time, I would take pictures of the rest of the cabin.  It was a refreshing site to see a Cathay Pacific aircraft first-hand for myself after so many years. Despite the typical stereotypes that Cathay Pacific is expensive and unaffordable being a five-star carrier, the flight still featured a full house of passengers in economy, implying that it is indeed affordable for many in spite of its stature.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
As I was savouring every moment of my flight on this multi-award winning carrier, it was time for a reality check as I realised that the flight was about to descend for landing.  The flight to Hong Kong is usually pretty quick at just an hour and 40 minutes. Given the short nature of the flight, we just sat back and enjoyed being ferried to Hong Kong.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN


As usual, the queues at Hong Kong's passport control were rather long with so many unmanned desks. After that, we got our bags and headed for the arrivals hall.  We re-connected with the rest of our family, who took the earlier Philippine Airlines flight, before eating lunch at an eatery in the arrivals hall. I also got a mobile phone SIM to save on call, text, and data costs.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN
Before leaving the airport, we attempted to rebook our return flight to a later schedule on the date of departure. To do this, we approached the Marco Polo service desk at the check-in hall upstairs.  At that point, we did not have any luck rebooking.

As it was already past 2 pm, we were more than ready to go to our hotel. Unfortunately, we could not find the tour provider that we booked a shuttle with to get to the city. This meant that we had to find another way to get there. We ended up riding on the Airport Express to downtown Hong Kong.

Copyright Photo: hybridace101/PFN


These are rated from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score. This covers aspects of the flight experience that Cathay Pacific and its ground agents are responsible for with a focus on Economy Class.
  • Check-in (9/10): I was glad CX provides a special lane for passengers who checked-in via their website. This helped cut the queue. However, I wonder what the use is of printing boarding passes on our own when they print out another copy for passengers at the airport.  
  • Boarding Process (9/10): It helped that we had my little sister with us as CX allows families with children to board first.  Because of this, we settled in the aircraft relatively easily.
  • Seat Comfort (8/10): I found the seat rather comfortable, though nothing really special about it.
  • Food (5/10): Now this is one area where I have to give the edge to PAL over CX.  PAL serves a full meal, while CX provides passengers with just a sandwich. I got the impression that being in CX's economy class did not leave one with any choice when it comes to meals.
  • Cabin Crew (10/10): The crew was quite polite and friendly. I also found that the attendants in our section had a soft spot for my little sister, and hence built some rapport.
  • In-flight Entertainment (6/10): The selection was more or less adequate for a flight as long as Manila to Hong Kong.  What made the experience disappointing was the lack of Audio and Video On Demand.  
At the time I was on this flight, I had not yet experienced Cathay Pacific for long-haul flights. Therefore, it was easy to believe that Cathay Pacific was somewhat overrated on flights between Manila and Hong Kong given that the short length of the flight did little to showcase the potential of Cathay Pacific's in-flight offerings. Since Manila-Hong Kong flights are considered "shuttle" flights, Cathay Pacific usually deploys any available aircraft. That means that if one is lucky, you could be treated to the best that Hong Kong's flag carrier has to offer aboard a member of its long-haul fleet. But then again, that is by chance and you may end up on an older aircraft as well. Overall, if you want to experience the real Cathay Pacific, it's best to fly long-haul.



  1. Just to let you know, most of CX's aircraft now have AVOD, Aside from the longhaul 77W's, A330's and A340's, its now fitted on the 773 non ER, regional A330 and new seats are currently being installed on the 772's. As far as the gate assignment for CX 906, its usually gate 5 or 6. The 900 flight gets gate 7. As far as food for MNL-HKG, it went down from a hot sandwich to a snack box in Y and Y+.

    1. Are we talking about Y because I know that it is C class of regional aircrafts that are due for upgrade?

  2. The 773 have the new regional business class and shell seats. Regional A330's have the new regional business class with some seats that are the economy shell seats and some with the new economy seats with touchscreen. The 772 are being retrofitted with the new regional business class and all with touchscreen economy.


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