Cathay Pacific Flight Review: London to Manila via Hong Kong (77W and 773)

This trip was arranged on relatively short notice.  I was prepared to spend the Christmas and New Year's holiday in Britain.  But I was asked by family if I wanted to return to the Philippines for a few weeks.

Given that it was the Christmas holidays and I was requested to get home last minute, I expected fares to be extremely expensive.  However, I found a Cathay Pacific fare of under £2,350 (or just a little over US$3,000) return.  As carriers like Singapore Airlines were charging the same amount for economy class seats for about the same travel period, I figured a £2,350 business class ticket for a flight commencing in less than 60 hours at the heart of the Christmas holiday was the best Christmas gift a five-star carrier could give us.  

CHECK-IN AND SECURITY
Despite a slightly late coach departure from Bristol (and admittedly I was a few minutes late for the original trip itself), we arrived at Heathrow Central coach station just after 18.00.  Terminal 3 was connected to the coach station via an underground walkway.

Cathay Pacific Check-in Desk at Heathrow
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Upon arrival at CX's designated check-in section, I thought about getting on an earlier flight (departing at about 20.35) so I made some enquiries.  The desk agents were friendly and polite, but they told me that the earlier flights were completely full.  [The flip side of that is I have more time to hop over lounges, but more on that later].  And I wanted to stay at the smaller business class section where there are two rows of business class before the galley.  Unfortunately the section was full too.

I queued at the business class desk but the agent assigned to the first class desk decided to attend to me.  The attendant was very patient as I wanted to transfer stuff between two bags.  Once I was ready, the process was pretty quick.  Just as has been a ritual on most long-haul flights I have taken, staff printed out a new boarding card and it would prove useful toward the end of the trip.

As part of my business class fare, I was entitled to use the fast track security lane.  Despite that, there was a considerable queue.  The security x-ray belt was hardly moving and only one metal detector was shared by two passenger lanes.

Duty free stores at Heathrow Airport
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Airside waiting area at Heathrow Airport
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Once security was cleared, I wondered around for a few minutes to the duty free stores to see if I can buy some chocolates for people back home.  They thought it was too expensive and requested me to wait until I get to Hong Kong.

LOUNGE VISIT 1: QANTAS

Entrance to Qantas Lounge at Heathrow Airport
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With over three hours before departure, it was time for the exciting part of today's airport experience: lounge hopping.  For this leg, I ended up visiting three lounges.  At 18.45, I found myself at the Qantas Lounge.  The receptionist scanned my paper boarding card after a minor hiccup with my mobile boarding card.   Shortly after, I found a seat in the dining area, which was packed.  I chose their roasted chicken option.  I took the liberty of sampling their three cheeses dish.  The food by Qantas was to my liking.  They also had popcorn and biscuits at the bar.


The lounge had a second floor which had more of a relaxing atmosphere though the rear had a buffet bar.  Qantas had a small kiddie section and had a TV screen for news from Australia.

Bar at Qantas Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Roasted chicken meal served at Qantas Lounge
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Cheese dish served at Qantas Lounge
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Snacks at Qantas Lounge
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Upper level of Qantas Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Upper level of Qantas Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Buffet bar at Qantas Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Shortly before it was time to make my way to the next lounge, I took a photo with Qantas' kangaroo mascot.  Other passengers were excited to have a selfie with the mascot as well.

Qantas mascot appearing at Qantas Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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LOUNGE VISIT 2: BA GALLERIES
The second lounge I visited was BA's Galleries lounge.  Unlike the other lounges I would visit on this trip, this was not my first time to enter a BA lounge as I have done so as recently as last summer when I took a Club Europe (BA's Euro business class) trip to Frankfurt.  On this occasion, I stayed there for about 20-ish minutes.  Unlike Qantas, everything was in one floor so I did not have a need to pull my luggage up and down the stairs.  And an attended left-luggage room was provided right at the foyer.  This is where I had some chocolate cake for desert.  I was full to sample all the meals on offer, especially the pasta.  But it was nonetheless a reminder that BA's Galleries lounge had a a lot of treats worth trying.  Another thing I like about this lounge is that given the large floor size that it occupies, passengers don't need to go to the other end of the lounge to pick refreshments up as there are two bars that provide them.  BA's Galleries lounge had also had kiddie area with gaming consoles as well as several computer terminals and printing points for those who need to get some work done.   

BA Galleries Lounge at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Food on offer at BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Play area of BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Hot drinks bar of BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Sitting area of BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Drinks bar of BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Dining hall and food bar, BA's Galleries Lounge, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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LOUNGE VISIT 3: CATHAY PACIFIC
The third and final lounge I visited was CX's.  I stayed here for almost an hour.  The interior was very encouraged us to relax and it showcased the carrier's unique character.  I was astonished to find a separate noodle bar and food hall.  The hot meal options were mainly oriental as evidenced by their noodle bar.  I was still stuffed from the mini dinner I had at the Qantas lounge so I did not bother to get second servings.  Nonetheless, I was able to sit down in one of the lounge chairs and got some work done.  The ones I sat on were not only for those who wanted to relax, but recharge their devices as they had power ports built in each of them.


Cathay Pacific Lounge at Heathrow Airport
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Work station at Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Snack buffet at Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Cathay Pacific Lounge at Heathrow Airport
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Snack buffet at Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Given that this was a long flight, I used the lounge's shower facilities.  However you need to book your place as they can get busy.  The staff will give you a coaster and once a cubicle is ready, the coaster will vibrate.  The staff takes the time to ensure that each cubicle is tidied up for the next user.  I was very impressed it had everything travellers could ask for to refresh themselves.  Once I entered the shower room, there was no need for me to call for staff to ask for supplies.  It left me feeling refreshed enough to ride the next flight.  The presence of shower facilities and their quality seemed to be one of CX's advantages over its oneworld partners at Heathrow, apart from those who want to take oriental dining .

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Heathrow Airport
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Shower facilities at Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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Snack buffet at Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Airport
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TIP: If you are flying business class on any oneworld member carrier, you are free to use the equivalent lounge of any of the other oneworld members provided that they are open at around the time of your flight.  


FIRST LEG: CX254 from LONDON TO HONG KONG

Flight Number: CX254
Gate: 40
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Scheduled Departure Time: 22:05
Aircraft Registration: B-KPJ

Gate 40 at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER parked at Gate 40, Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
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I left the lounge early even when boarding was not yet announced because I found out that a Philippine Airlines A350 flight to Manila was stationed at an adjacent gate to my flight and I wanted to take a photo of the aircraft.  Unfortunately, the gate of the PAL flight obscured the aircraft's view.  I was, however, able to spot that PAL flight from my aircraft window.

Philippine Airlines PR721 departing for Manila: view from my aircraft window
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It was boarding time and I was asked to queue at the first class lane.  I asked one final time if there was still room in the front business class cabin which had only two rows, and the staff said it was fully-booked.  We boarded the plane fairly quickly. 

Once onboard, I felt like in cloud 9 since I couldn't believe I was flying on a legitimate five-star carrier's long-haul business class product for an actual long-haul trip (I had a trip on Cathay's long-haul business class on a short hop from Manila to Hong Kong previously).  The seat was exciting to try.  There was storage tailor-made for everything, including shoes.  The cabinet next to the window was open and featured a noise-cancelling headset, a bottle of water, and amenity bag by Baumford.  The seat had two charging points: a standard AC port and a USB one.  The seat controls were intuitively positioned.

Cathay Pacific Long-Haul Business Class Seat on a 777-300ER
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Cathay Pacific Long-Haul Business Class Seat Controls and Power ports
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Storage on Cathay Pacific Long-Haul Business Class Seat
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IFE monitor and window view of a Cathay Pacific Long-Haul Business Class Seat
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Duffle bag containing duvet and bed sheets
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In this long-haul business class cabin, each seat had direct access to the aisle.  They were of a 'reverse herringbone' configuration which meant passengers were either facing the window (those seated in seat numbers ending in A and K) or another passenger (those seated in seat numbers ending in D or G).     

TIP: Get the seats ending in A or K if you are travelling alone.  If you are travelling as a couple, choose the seats ending in D and G.

The menu came in the form of a newsletter.  And a small card where we would choose which breakfast item to get was provided for us.  We had to hang the completed card on the coat rack and the cabin crew would take it without bothering us later.  I thought this was a nice way of letting the crew know what we wanted to eat if we even wanted to eat at all.  I definitely made a choice of meal.

As the plane was taxiing, I had to finish my last-minute downloading of audio to my phone in case I would get bored with the IFE selection.  But later on as I played with the IFE, I was not disappointed with its selection.  However, it did lack live satellite TV, something that is already featured in Cathay's newer A350 aircraft even though the 77W's interface was updated.  I was surprised to find out that this particular flight had provisions for WiFi.  When I checked, the status said there wasn't going to be.  However I decided to pass since it would cost quite a bit on this leg.  First class passengers however, were entitled to free WiFi.

Once we were at cruising altitude, I decided to watch a classic Christmas film loaded on the IFE: Home Alone.  Apart from the Christmas comedy theme, another one of the notable things about the film was that American Airlines used product placement to promote itself.  From that film, I got a reminder of what passed for first class in the nineties.

Supper was also served less than an hour after takeoff.  Since the cabin crew took my orders before take-off, they just delivered it to my seat without clogging up the aisles.  The beef meal was filling and delicious even if the presentation felt a bit basic apart from the silverware used.  When asked for a recommendation to drink, the crew recommended camomile tea, which I obliged to.  For a quick desert, I was served some chocolates. 

Supper on CX254: beef
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Chocolates served by cabin crew
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After the dinner service, I continued watching Home Alone.  When the film ended, less than nine hours remained in the flight.

I went to the lavatory to freshen up for bedtime.  I am not sure whether there should be any marked differences between a business and economy class toilet but it was functional.  I used the opportunity to look at what was in the amenity bag and it had a dental kit, mouthwash, sleeping mask, lotion, and face mist all by Baumford.  I requested for another cup of camomile tea to help me feel relaxed and settled.  Also, as I was making my way between the toilet and my seat, I noticed Cathay did provide a trolley for in-between meal bites but it seemed like that unlike many years ago (and in economy class), I did not see bags of crisps but there were a few small pieces of chocolates.

Baumford amenity kit served to Cathay Pacific business class passengers
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Rest of Cathay Pacific Business Class cabin on a 777-300ER
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Rest of Cathay Pacific Business Class cabin on a 777-300ER
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The bed was intuitive to set up.  First, the controls had a mode where the seat could become a bed by just pushing one button.  However, the passenger needs to hold the button until the seat fully was a bed.  Once done, we just slipped on the bedsheet and duvet.  The seat remained in bed mode fore more than half the flight.  I found myself awoken briefly with about three and a half hours before landing.  After wondering the cabin for a while, I continued to enjoy the seat in its bed form and tried to continue getting some sleep.

Cathay Pacific long-haul Business Class seat in bed mode
Image by hybridace101 

Less than two hours before landing and the mood lighting changed.  It signalled breakfast time was upon us.  And before I knew it, the cabin crew served me with the breakfast I ordered a couple of hours ago.  Like the supper meal service, it did not feel intrusive and it was served efficiently.  The omelette and salmon option was delicious.  The hot chocolate also tasted lovely.

Business class breakfast on CX254
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Towards the end of the breakfast, I watched another film: The Post.  As the film's length was more than the remaining flight time, I knew the rest of the flight would pass quickly.  That was all I did whilst waiting for the flight to land.  At the same time, I pulled the window shades up to be reminded that we were in the waning hours of daylight.  After arranging all my things, all I had to do was sit back and relax in the final moments sitting in this long-haul business class seat.

Cathay Pacific long-haul business class cabin after landing
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We landed ahead of schedule, which was good news.

RATINGS FOR THE FIRST LEG
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 Business Class.
  • Check-in (10/10): The staff was helpful even if I did not get my request.  The check-in staff at first class was very patient as I tried to transfer items between my bags.  Well done on this count.  
  • Lounge (9*/10): Although I visited three lounges, this one focuses solely on Cathay's.  The atmosphere gave you a feel that it was uniquely Cathay.  However, Cathay's lounge at Heathrow gave you oriental-only light warm meals.  It works well for those who fancy cantonese dishes though someone like me would prefer western dishes.  Hats off to those in charge of the shower facilities.  
  • Boarding Process (9/10): I didn't experience massive bottlenecks at the boarding gate.  It was a bit confusing though to see that business class passengers were permitted to queue at what looked like the first class lane and presumably other passengers at what was the business class lane.  Nonetheless, I think the boarding order was done as expected.
  • Seating area (10/10): I could play with the controls all day,  Seriously though, when Cathay revamped its long-haul business class seats in 2011 (just four years after their previous configuration was launched) to make them 'reverse herringbone', it provided passengers with an excellent window view, reasonable privacy, and functional provisions for storage.  The bed was flat.
  • Food (9/10): The presentation was fairly no-frills but there was proper silverware.  The supper in my opinion lacked the full course though maybe that is the nature of the meal.  But it was not a problem with me since I am usually set with mains.  The breakfast had all courses served at once.  If there was one relatively minor bone to pick, I remember many years ago that during the in-between meals service, a trolley with a lot of bags crisps and peanuts was provided.  I did not see much of them this time around but there were still some treats (perhaps due to cost-cutting measures I have heard Cathay was adopting?). 
  • Cabin Crew (10/10): The crew was very attentive and knew the right moments to come in.  They were not intrusive and the order cards helped.    
  • Punctuality (9/10): The flight departed from the gate a bit late.  However, the plane arrived earlier than scheduled at the gate.  
  • In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (9/10): Cathay's IFE had a decent selection.  To my surprise, there was WiFi given that Cathay's .  However given that it entailed additional costs, I did not bother to use the WiFi on this occasion.  Cathay should also consider adding live satellite TV just like what they have on their A350s.  Emirates managed to do that with 77Ws with older IFE hardware so I wonder why Cathay could not be bothered.  
INTERMISSION: HONG KONG AIRPORT STOPOVER
The arrival gate was at the extreme end of the terminal so it was quite a walk to the next available transfer point.  The gate information was not yet available for my next flight.  I boarded the automated people mover to take me to the front of the departure area.  Only one human metal detector was online but it did not take too long.


Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
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Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
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Transfer Information at Hong Kong International Airport
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Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
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Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
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Automated People Mover Train at Hong Kong International Airport
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Even though I had about two hours of layover, I needed to run errands such as buying some treats and sorting out some important business so lounge hopping was much less of a priority.

It was unfortunate that western fast food outlets such as McDonalds and Popeyes were no longer where they used to be stationed and were instead replaced by oriental outlets.  But I was not there for the food since the lounge and my flight would provide a lot of complimentary bites later.  I managed to buy some treats that people back home have requested.

Eateries at Transit Area, Hong Kong International Airport
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Eateries at Transit Area, Hong Kong International Airport
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With time to spare, I visited The Deck lounge of Cathay Pacific.  Even though it was far from my gate, I was already at the area anyway so it was best to access it first.  It featured a relaxation room and noodle bar.  But I was there primarily to take a shower after a long flight.  And I was impressed that its shower room looked very similar to the one at Cathay's Heathrow lounge, right down to the supplier of the shower equipment, although the placement of the shower cubicle itself was slightly different.  This time, I was lucky that I did not have to wait for one to be available.  It took me 15 minutes to freshen up and the bathing supplies were plentiful.  I did not have to ask for help from staff once inside.

Entrance to The Deck lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Shower room at The Deck lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
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Shower room at The Deck lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
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The Deck lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
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The Deck lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
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After this, I had to go to another end of the terminal to orient myself to the location of my next flight.  I saw a regional 773, just as advertised.  After brief plane spotting, it was time to head to The Bridge lounge, which was close to my departure gate.  I just grabbed a slice of cake, pudding, and cheese and sat down at a pod.  Admittedly at this stage, I was less focused on enjoying the ambiance of the lounge and more concerned about sorting some important last-minute business - particularly setting up my Philippine mobile phone number.  It was a hassle and it took a while to ensure the bills were settled and requests were filed.  Nonetheless, had I had more time and less to worry about, The Bridge would have been worth enjoying.


Entrance to The Bridge lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Sitting area at The Bridge lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Snack bar at The Bridge lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Eating area at The Bridge lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Drinks bar at The Bridge lounge at Hong Kong International Airport
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Pod-style chairs at The Bridge lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
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TIP: Cathay Pacific has four business class lounges at Hong Kong International Airport.  As much as possible, use the lounge closest to your gate to avoid hurrying.  This list shows you the gates closest to each Business class lounge.  

  • The Wing: near gates 1-4; 11
  • The Deck: near gates 6-10 
  • The Bridge: near gate 35-36, 40, 60 
  • The Pier: near gates 64-71


With less than a half hour left before departure, I made my way to the departure gate.  As I was walking on the jet bridge, I made one more follow-up to activate my phone service.  Luckily the staff at my phone provider was gracious to help me with it.

SECOND LEG: CX913 from HONG KONG to MANILA

Flight Number: CX913
Gate: 42
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Scheduled Departure Time: 20:15
Aircraft Registration: B-HNO

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 parked at Gate 42, Hong Kong International Airport
Image by hybridace101

Whilst Cathay's economy flights between Hong Kong and Manila are quite overrated, business class is a different story.

The flight I was on featured a proper regional business class seat.  It meant that each passenger had to sit next to someone else.  Moreover, the seat was not lie-flat and storage was considerably more limited.  At maximum though, a passenger is no more than a seat away from the aisle and it was not difficult to ask passengers to make way if I suppose it is adequate for a one-and-a-half hour flight.  When I boarded the flight, someone was seated in my seat but lucky me because my preferred seating area, the front window seat, became available.  The purser who distributed the menus seemed to recognise that we exchanged seats.  Speaking of menus, unlike during my long-haul flight, the menu for this shorter segment was presented on a traditional booklet.  

Cathay Pacific regional business class seat on Boeing 777-300
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AC power outlets for devices on Cathay Pacific regional business class
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We departed slightly late because of some passengers failing to turn up.  The flight took off more than a half hour after scheduled departure.  The announced flight time was shorter than the actual flight time though, so we were expected to make up the time.

As this was a short flight, I did not bother to watch videos or films even though Cathay stocked this flight with loads of it.  Instead, I created an audio playlist from the in-house collection and play it whilst viewing the moving map.  I was lucky it had dozens of my favourite hits.  The USB port next to the TV screen could be used to connect an iPod content to the IFE unit.  However, I found it weird that the system tried to read my Apple Watch as an iPod but not my iPhone XR.  As for placement, I thought that the USB charging port was located inconveniently as it will require me having to stand a bit.  As always, there was an AC power outlet, which I used for my watch. 

IFE Monitors of Cathay Pacific's Regional Business Class
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Once the seatbelt sign was switched off, it was time to try reclining the seat.  When I first heard about the product, I thought it would be a lie-flat bed.  It was clearly not.  But for a short flight, a lie-flat  seat was not necessary.

Controls and storage on Cathay Pacific regional business class
Image by hybridace101
Also, as I was seated in the front row, my tray table emerged from the side and not from right in front of me.

Tray table on Cathay Pacific regional business class
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Shortly after take-off, I made one trip to the toilet at the rear side.  I was surprised it was untidy.  For one, there was water left on the sink.  Though I was not sure if the ground staff or a previous passenger on the same flight as me was responsible.

The meal service started pretty early.  This time, I felt as if I was served with a complete full-course meal with appetisers coming first.  For my main course, I had the grilled lamb option.  Given that the flight was pretty short, the crew worked efficiently on this.  The food was tasty.  I had tea for for my beverage.  I was slightly surprised the crew here did not have camomile tea, which was offered on the previous leg. 


Full dinner meal of CX913
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For the remainder of the flight, I just spent most of the time in my seat listening to my playlist and waiting for my devices to finish charging.  I also had a quick glance at the economy class to find out that they were still sporting the old 3-3-3 seat configuration.  Even if the seat had limited recline, at least that cabin would not look as crowded and the aisles were not narrow.


Rest of Cathay Pacific's regional business class section on a Boeing 777-300
Image by hybridace101

I made a second toilet trip.  The seat belt sign was switched on as I and someone in front of me was queueing, and the crew was understanding enough to not nudge us to return to our seats.

Before I knew it, I could see the streetlights and building lights making a certain pattern from my window.  Even the street traffic gave an obvious clue that I am in the Philippines.

Cathay Pacific regional business class cabin after landing
Image by hybridace101

ARRIVAL
To be fair to Cathay, we landed almost on time, but what took long was the ground traffic.  It was another reminder that I was back in the Philippines.

Our gate was not so far from passport control.  This time, I decided to try the new automated passport control.  It felt counterintuitive because they needed a printed boarding card to be scanned along with the passport itself.  Sometimes the process can be frustrating as the machine may not read the passport after just one, two, or even three tries.  And once you enter the machine, the biometrics may still be misread.  If the biometrics cannot be fully verified, they will ask me to step back and try the process again or proceed to a manned passport control desk.  Luckily with the help of an attending agent, I was able to manage the process.  Once at the end, the machine issued a sticker which I could affix to my passport to.

At baggage claim, I was surprised that despite business class passengers supposedly getting priority in their baggage, it took some time for me to retrieve my bags, about 10-15 minutes.  With that I made my way to the exit and my holiday began    

RATINGS FOR THE SECOND LEG
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 Business Class.
  • Lounge (9/10): The atmosphere gave you a feel that it was uniquely Cathay.  The shower cubicles were tidy and well-stocked.  There seemed to be a a decent selection of bites especially at the Bridge lounge.  However, they needed to restock the warm meals such as the pizza, though it wasn't an issue with me since I was not keen on eating.  
  • Boarding Process (9/10): The process was fairly orderly.  There were no queues, at least for business class.  
  • Seat Comfort (9/10): Given that this is a regional flight, the seat seemed adequate.  I like that it is designed such that when we recline the seat, we don't disturb the passenger behind us.  However, a lie-flat bed, even if it was angled would make it better.
  • Food (10/10): Delicious bites.  It did have the feeling of a proper full-course meal given that it was a regional flight.  
  • Cabin Crew (9/10): The crew was helpful and efficient.
  • Punctuality (9/10): We departed fairly late thanks to some passengers who didn't turn up.  We landed on time but NAIA was busy.  It took almost 15 minutes to get to our gate from touchdown.  
  • In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (9/10): The interface, moving map were relatively dated, but for some reason the audio selection looked plentiful.  It also had a provision for allowing iPod (or old iPhone) content to be played on the IFE.  This regional aircraft was not equipped with Wifi.  The custom playlist though was a bit tricky to navigate.
In 18 days time, I will also be flying business class on the return trip.  If the outbound trip featured two Boeing 777-300s (a regional and a long-haul one), the inbound or return trip is expected to feature two Airbus A350s (the Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000).  However, Cathay is known for making last-minute equipment changes on flights involving Manila so it is possible that I get a regional 773 or an A330.       

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