Hello all and thanks for reading. This is my very first trip report. A little about myself, I'm in my mid to late 20s, born and raised in California, currently working in the SF Bay Area. I've always been a huge avgeek growing up, wanting to be an airplane pilot my entire life, but have found myself working in a more stable industry.
I started accumulating miles and points approximately 2 years ago when I applied for the UA MP card and subsequently earned nearly 1 million miles and points. I started reading by reading blogs, namely One Mile at a Time and View From the Wing initially, and then this trip report forum, particularly the reports of concorde02 and SFO777. With all the miles I accumulated, I decide to finally pull the trigger and redeem the miles accumulated from 2 Citi AA CCs for a trip in CX F to visit family in Taiwan. I booked the trip in July, four months in advance. I've flown international C on United many times, but never in international F. I've also never flown Cathay before, and I was very excited after reading all the reports. In fact, SFO777 took the exact same SFO-HKG flight I did one week before me. As a result, we may have a lot of the same photos.
I've never been to HKG before and thought this would be a good way to spend some time in HKG as well. As AA does not allow free stopovers outside of the North America gateway, I scheduled a 23 hour overnight layover in HKG. CX F was available for SFO-HKG, but the HKG-TPE segment was only on a 2-cabin 777. Moreover, the return TPE-HKG-SFO was only available in J. I had two free suite nights from the Chase Hyatt Visa and decided to use one night on the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. Unfortunately, only a Club King room was available when I booked, no suites.
As my trip approached, I checked every day for suite availability at the GH HK. One day, I noticed that a Grand Executive Harbor Suite had opened up! I immediately called in to Hyatt and got my room reservation changed to it. Sweet! Soon after, I noticed that there was an equipment swap on my HKG-TPE flight, from a 2-cabin 777 to a 3-cabin 747! I called into AA and got moved up into F!
That still left the #firstworldproblem of the return TPE-HKG-SFO in J. I read that CX frequently releases F award seats as the date of departure neared, but until my departure date, I still did not see any F seats open. While in HKG, I checked again and saw that F seats opened up! I called AA via Skype from the GH HK and was moved into F for an additional 12.5K miles. My trip was complete!
Total cost out of pocket: $60 in AA taxes for roundtrip CX F and one night in a suite at the GH HK!
One day, I noticed that a Grand Executive Harbor Suite had opened up! I immediately called in to Hyatt and got my room reservation changed to it. Sweet! Soon after, I noticed that there was an equipment swap on my HKG-TPE flight, from a 2-cabin 777 to a 3-cabin 747! I called into AA and got moved up into F! ... While in HKG, I checked again and saw that F seats opened up!
Good things come in 3s ! Now hurry and write the report and show us the photos !
Programs: UA Gold, TK *G, PC Plat/Amb, Hyatt Plat, Hilton Gold
SFO CX Lounge
I arrived at SFO at 8:30 AM for my 11:50 AM flight. This was probably a bit overkill, but I was incredibly excited about the entire first class experience and wanted to spend some time in the CX F lounge. Moreover, the early NFL games kicked off at 10 AM and I wanted to be settled in to follow my fantasy football team before leaving.
As I approached the CX F counters, there was no one else checking in, unsurprisingly. I was proactively greeted with a smile by the check-in agent and quickly checked in. There was some confusion about my return flight, for some reason they couldn't find it despite the confirmation number, but they told me not to worry, gave me directions to the lounge, and sent me on my way. (there was no issue with the return flight, for those that are wondering). One thing I liked about the check-in process here is that they issued lounge invites to the SFO CX F lounge, HKG Arrivals, and HKG F lounge. Having flown UA premium cabins many times, I've yet to receive a lounge invite.
After getting my nice freedom pat-down, I followed the signs to the CX lounge. As I went up the escalator and looked down the hall, something was there, way off in the distance...
What is that down there?
As I approached, it finally came into view:
I had finally arrived!
With over three hours until departure, I was the first one in the lounge. The same lounge dragon that had greeted SFO777 a week earlier, Lilibeth, was there and welcomed me to the lounge. She apologized that being so early, not all of the food options had been laid out yet. I was surprised that this was the case, having arrived almost an hour after opening time. Nevertheless, the food options they did later put out weren't that impressive. She did check on me every 20-30 minutes to see if I needed anything. A nice touch. After finding the same quiet corner as SFO777, I took some photos of the lounge:
Hey, it's 5 PM somewhere...
One half of the lounge
Second half of the lounge with the computer corner where I settled in the distance.
Supposed buffet menu
But nothing out yet!
Eventually the made to order noodle bar was open and I did get myself a tasty bowl of wonton noodles.
This lounge has been covered quite extensively in the past so I didn't take more photos. That, and the Atlanta-New Orleans game had significant fantasy football implications. I also didn't want to stuff myself in the lounge before stuffing myself on board. Eventually the lounge filled up quite a bit and pretty much all the seats were taken up. I noticed that several people were able to enter the lounge when the lounge dragon was busy doing other things, which gave me some ideas for next time I'm in the area... j/k
Knowing that I would be on a plane for the next 14 hours, I decided to leave at T-60 to go for a little walk and explore the gate area. Although the CX lounge itself has no good tarmac views, the top of the escalator leading down from the lounge floor had a great view of my plane.
As I made my way to the gate area, I felt my excitement level slowly growing! Finally I would fly international F for the first time! The gate area was quite packed and boarding for first and business classes was combined against the window. CX agents actually did a fairly good job of patrolling the line to make sure no Y passengers were there, but somehow they never actually ended up checking my BP. Nevertheless, boarding soon commenced and I was the first F passenger in the cabin. I was greeted upon boarding by the purser, Satomi, who walked me to my seat.
A few shots of the seat:
Soon after settling in, another FA, Christine, introduced herself and asked if I would care for a bottle of champagne before departure. Of course I said yes, and she soon returned with a glass and napkins.
Love the attention to detail on napkin and glass orientation with "Cathay Pacific" facing me.
I'd heard great things about the extra large lavatory with a window on the 747 so I decided to check it out for myself. In addition to the nice big lav, I really liked the sink with the button to start/stop water, as opposed to having to hold down a button to wash your hands.
Urinating with a view...
Amenity kits and pajamas were soon distributed. There were no mediums on my flight, so I was given a small with the option to get a large (and keep the smalls) if they were too small. Of course, the smalls were too small and I got a great gift to give to my +1.
We soon pushed back and one thing I love about SFO when departing on the 28s is the great planespotting.
Virgin America A320
United 757 landing
It was soon our turn for take off and we rumbled down 28R. Had some great views along the way:
Programs: UA Gold, TK *G, PC Plat/Amb, Hyatt Plat, Hilton Gold
Popping the cherry: CX F SFO-HKG Part 2
Soon after take-off, menus were distributed, along with a booklet featuring select wines.
While Christine was setting my table, she looked out the window and gasped. Naturally, I was a bit curious as to what could make her gasp, but she said that there was a rainbow outside with our shadow in the center of it. I took a photo of what she saw. Looked much cooler in person.
One thing I liked in particular about this crew, especially Christine, was their personable nature. While serving my meal, Christine asked me what movie I was watching, and when I told her it was Ted, she mentioned how she's been wanting to see it and asked what I thought about it. A small touch, to be sure, but one that made them much more "real" to me than other crews. The fact that she wasn't hard on the eyes didn't hurt either.
It was soon time for food service to begin, and naturally I started with some warm nuts.
Branding always facing me (I already starting eating the nuts prior to the photo.
Soon my tray was set and the appetizer was served, including personalized note. I was worried that I wouldn't get a note since SFO777 didn't get one a week prior. My crew was also SFO based, but was fantastic.
Caviar and fine smoked salmon
It was actually my first time ever eating caviar. Not sure if I ate it the "right way", but I liked it!
I went with a hybrid of the international and Chinese favorites.
Mesclun salad with grilled jumbo shrimp and balsalmic vinegar
Like SFO777, I was disappointed. Too much dressing.
Double boiled ginseng with chicken soup
Due to turbulence, the soup had to be served after the salad, when the air was calmer.
Steamed lobster with ginger scallion and imperial soy sauce, served with steamed jasmien rice, kailan with mushrooms and carrots
The lobster was delicious! Very well-cooked, tasty, similar to what I would have gotten in a good Chinese restaurant.
My tray was promptly cleared upon finishing and then reset with my desserts. I'm a fast eater and I joked with Christine about this. She replied, "That's okay, as long as the food is delicious and you like it." Awwwwww.....
Seasonal fresh berries with cream
Chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with raspberry coulis
After lunch was complete, I was offered a hot towel and pralines.
I went to change into my pajamas and on the way, Christine asked if I would like my bed made. I indicated that I did and after changing, settled in to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (a surprisingly good movie). I slept for a few hours and then decided to have a midflight snack.
Maryland crab cakes with remoulade sauce
Hot pot rice with Chinese pork and liver sausage with cured meat, served with chicken broth
I was surprisingly disappointed by the hot pot rice. The entire meal was rather bland.
I slept for a little while longer and soon it was time for dinner. I should mention that both meals came with bread baskets (which I am not including photos here for brevity sake). I loved the garlic bread and liked the pretzel bread. Just wish I could have had more garlic bread!
Fresh seasonal fruit
Grilled kurobuta pork chop with red wine jus, baby vegetables with grilled pancetta and gratin potato
I wasn't a huge fan of either dinner entree (this or the sea bass) just by looking at the menu, but I really did like this pork chop. Flavorful and tasty!
Mango with white chocolate cake and raspberry sauce
Where's the mango? Definitely not what I was expecting based on the menu. I thought there would be actual mango fruit!
Sooner than I would have wanted, we began our descent into HKG. Although I got up to use the lavatory prior to landing, my bedding never got cleared. I thought it was a bit strange to be sitting upright with the mattress pad down and the duvet in my lap, but this was my first time in CX F and didn't know if this was usual.
After a nice smooth landing in HKG, my inaugural international F flight was complete. I was blown away by the CX service and really enjoyed the food. The seat was an amazing bed, much wider than the narrow UA C lie flats I had been used to. I don't know how I could ever go back to UA when traveling internationally!
Programs: UA Gold, TK *G, PC Plat/Amb, Hyatt Plat, Hilton Gold
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
After getting through immigration relatively quickly, I followed the signs to the airport express. Staying at the Grand Hyatt, I planned to take the Airport Express to Hong Kong station and transfer to the MTR to Wanchai, then walk to the GH. I had read on the GH HK thread that this was quite do-able.
I had already exchanged USD for HKD prior to leaving the US so I was able to go straight to the Airport Express counter and bought my ticket to Hong Kong. By purchasing a roundtrip pass (not same-day return) for HKD180, I was able to save HKD20 (Note: conversion rate is approximately HKD8:USD1). The Airport Express was clean and modern and definitely the way to go for the single traveler. With additional passengers, taking a shuttle may be more worth it. On arrival to Hong Kong station, I followed the signs to the correct MTR station. I could have taken the free Airport Express hotel shuttle to the convention center (right next to the GH HK), but I had heard some reports of unreliability in the past. It was quite a schlep from the Airport Express station to the MTR station! I'm in my mid-20s and a former distance runner and I was tired doing the walk with a backpack and carry-on bag! Nevertheless, the MTR was just HKD4 and I made it to Wan Chai without too much difficulty. I followed the signs to the convention center and it took another exhausting 10 minute walk to make it to the hotel. There were several stairs that I had to walk up and down to get to the hotel. If I had more luggage or with anyone else, it would have been even worse. I would definitely take the Airport Express hotel shuttle next time.
Finally, the lobby was a welcome sight (taken the next morning):
Check-in was a breeze and the desk agent spoke excellent English. Tried to get 4 PM check-out, but was only offered 2 PM as a platinum. I was given the promised Executive Grand Harbor Suite on the 16th floor.
I opened the door and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw
View from the doorway
One thing I was particularly impressed about was the amount of free food/drink available to me! The welcome card was a nice touch as well.
Free bottle of wine, pistachios, dried fruit
The bathroom was a bit gaudy, with gold trimmed fixtures everywhere. I did like the separate tub and shower, and the showerhead had good water pressure.
View from the bathroom door
Tub and shower
Of all the free gifts, this made me the most excited! Complimentary macarons!
Five(!) free bottles of water! Couldn't even drink them all and couldn't bring them onto my plane. Boo.
Welcome letter from the Grand Club manager
Of course, the best feature of my room was the view. I wanted to watch the Symphony of Lights, but I arrived too late to get across the bay to the Kowloon side to watch. Nevertheless, here's the pretty view:
I went up to the Grand Club lounge at about 8:30 PM that night. I missed the cocktail hour, but read that there were still some food/drink available. I was sorely disappointed. There was a couple bottles of wine available and some stale looking fruit. I made a quick round, looked out the window a bit and then left.
I went back up there in the morning and was incredibly impressed by their breakfast spread. Although it was billed as a continental breakfast, there was tons of hot food including a variety of dim sum, Western options, fresh cut fruit, pastries, more juices than I could count. VERY impressed.
I felt bad taking pictures of the food spread with staff watching, but here's a small sampling of what they offered.
After filling up with some food, it was time to spend a day exploring Hong Kong!
Great trip so far! Your first flight in First Class aboard Cathay Pacific will always be special, but the great thing about Cathay is the likelihood that your 17th or 22nd flights will also be special. Enjoy!