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Opinions - Cathay vs Japan Airlines First Class

Opinions - Cathay vs Japan Airlines First Class

Old Jul 23, 19, 11:56 am
  #1  
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Opinions - Cathay vs Japan Airlines First Class

Hi guys,

I have to decide between CX first HKG-LHR. And JL HND-LHR - Avios booking
I am edging towards JL becuase I am a champagne snob and they seem to load 2-3 different bottles whereas CX seem to only load 1 max.
The JL seat is a bit smaller though.
I am OWE so I don't think Pier/Wing access in HKG would/should affect the decision.

Has anyone tried both? or either? how does it compare to BA F?

(MODS: Please don't delete. This is relevant to BA because I will be doing the purchase with BA Avios and because I want the opinions of those that are BA regulars)
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Old Jul 23, 19, 12:14 pm
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My personal favourite First Class is Japan Airlines, but many here would choose Cathay. Both are exceptional. The Cathay lounges in HK are probably better than JAL's lounges in Tokyo. The service should be excellent either way. Writing as one of, if not the, fattest contributor/s on this forum I can assure you the JAL seat isn't going to be uncomfortably small! Ultimately what I love about the JAL experience is the warmth of the service and the amazing food if you select the Japanese meal - it is a wonderful introduction to Japanese food for anyone who (like me) doesn't try the stuff too often. Any attempt to compare either product with BA F will just lead to loads of negative comments about BA F, but BA's cash fares are often far lower than JAL's or Cathay''s. It is essentially a different product.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 12:35 pm
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I would concur with CCayley’s comments.

I have flown JL F several times and always got excellent service and wonderful food. I found CX also an excellent product but more pedestrian and they had to try three times before my fried eggs were satisfactory.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 12:46 pm
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I've tried both in the last 6 months, and would also opt for JL. I loved the Japanese food on board, which was particularly good ex-Tokyo, as was the caviar as an appetiser. I also slightly preferred the service and beverages on JL. From the champagne to the very interesting wine selections (try the Japanese family-run 'Kusuda' NZ pinot noir that they offer, in particular), I couldn't fault it.

CX F was a small step down for me. The cabins are showing their age (a lot of grey plastic, which is becoming increasingly grimy) though oodles of space. The food and beverage options feel a little past-their-sell-by-date. The main options (almost always a steak, pasta, fish dish or Chinese dish) are perfectly nice, but not particularly memorable. Overall, I felt the menu options on CX were a little stale when compared to other F products, though, again, the caviar is nice. In Champagne terms you'll likely be served either Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (excellent) or Amour de Deutz (very good) as the days of Krug on CX have passed for the time being. In better news, there are still bottles of Lynch Bages floating about, if you get lucky.

I found both seats equally comfortable, but preferred the bedding and cabin temperature on CX. I slept better on CX than JL, but sleeping quality is not high up on my list of criteria when comparing F products. Both JL F and CX F felt a little more special than BA F (which I'm much more familiar with), but there's not that much distance between the quality of all 3 products really.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 1:12 pm
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​​​​I’ve only done the JL F (on HND-LHR) but the service and food was other-worldly. Best 12 hours ever in the air. The lounge at HND is not equally fabulous but so be it. You have two good options! I think BA F is fine but not the same league.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 2:03 pm
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Unless you're a Sumo wrestler, the JAL First seat is big enough. Size of seat is not a problem with JAL, even if a person with a measuring tape would find the Cathay seat to be wider.

JAL service is very good. They do load plenty of Champagne, and plenty of everything else. The main toilet is very nice (there are two toilets up front but one is clearly the principal toilet for the F pax and the other one is a more general-purpose toilet, maybe as nice as the BA F toilet). The entertainment screen is huge, the bed pad is comfortable (it has a firmer and softer side, but they're basically lovely and comfortable or even softer and enveloping). The food is good and you should have the full Japanese meal, especially ex-HND. The ex-LHR F catering doesn't suck either.

The service from the crew is... excellent. There's just no other way to say it. They operate on the invisible-elves principle - you are offered drinks and the main meal sometime after takeoff (you could, of course, choose to eat later) and after that left alone - unless you press the call button, at which point a crew member will appear within seconds and attend to you until you until it's appropriate to leave you alone again. There's no official second meal service time, so you need to summon food whenever you want. There is an extensive menu of small meals, snacks, etc.

JAL all the way for me.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 2:38 pm
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Have done 2 CX F returns and 3 JL F returns in the last 6 months and in my experience the JL food and beverage is significantly better than CX, especially the Japanese option on JL. I also find the JL cabin crew service to be more proactive which I like.

Seat wise CX is bigger, but both are very comfortable and neither have individual air vents which drives me nuts.

I prefer the JL F PJs to the CX F PJs and I think the JL F amenity kit is better too.

In all honesty neither is a hardship though and both are excellent ways to travel. I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid CX F over JL F if the routing was better on CX than JL, but if the routings were equal then I would opt for JL.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 3:30 pm
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I am an SFO flyer. 1 BA F, 1 CX F, 3 JL F so far. I am not a drinker so the benefit of better champagne is lost on me.

BA F is forgettable. Nice seat, service and food OK but nothing to write home about.

CX F is nice. Service very good if a bit stiff sometimes. Food pretty good. Lounges in HKG really shine. Better than JL F lounge in HND for sure which has gone downhill in the last couple of years especially in their service. A solid option. Definitely better than BA.

JL F: Service Excellent! I find their bed with the soft mattress pad the most comfortable. Cabins are looking a little dated but still very nice. Food very good. HND F lounge service has been going downhill of late and the lounge food options aren't always that good. Their signature chef cooked dish my last visit was grilled chicken.

JL F is my favorite because:
1) I think they have the best onboard service by far compared to CX (and BA if we must mention them). Their FA's provide stellar service and always seem genuinely happy to do their utmost to make your journey the best it can be. They always smile and are always friendly while providing excellent service. Their attitude is contagious and I find myself smiling a lot when traveling in JL F. The one downside is that their English proficiency tends to be a little on the low side. They all speak English but some better than others.
2) I find their bed with the soft mattress pad to be the most comfortable for sleeping out of any carrier I have tried. This is huge for me.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 3:38 pm
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another vote for JL F over CX F.

better food (both western and Japanese) and champagne on JL

service excellent on both, perhaps a bit more formal on JL

seat slightly better on CX

Better lounges on CX

can't go wrong with either, however. Both in a different league than BA F.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 6:40 pm
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Done both regularly. Quite frankly, in my case, I'd never be confronted with your choice because my hesitation would be predominantly on itinerary and where I need to be over minute differences in levels of service. Despite your note, I'm also a bit struggling to see the relevance to BA (it's the same number of avios you'd buy, and both products are frankly in a completely different league from either of the two so personally, I don't really see how BA regulars will improve the opinions, rather you'll likely get less expert views from us than from CX/JL primary users - or the OW forum would have given you the views of both expert and occasional users). Still, as far as the uneditorialised comparison of service goes...

1) Seat and cabin: CX is better. The width is largely irrelevant to me but the 1x1x1 setting makes for far more private seats
2) Food: much better on JL especially from HND/NRT. The only thing better on CX are the made to order eggs for breakfast
3) Champagne and wine: much better on JL. Couldn't care less about the number of choices but Salon is exceptional IMHO.
4) Non alcoholic drinks: the JL Queen of Tea is fun though quite frankly I'd never pay that price (or even a quarter of it) for that drink, but I do like the CX signature mocktails
5) Lounges: much better on CX. JL F lounges are very underwhelming IMHO
6) Service: typically outstanding on both. I personally tend to prefer JL which is an almost ideal style for me, but others with different personalities will be the other way round
7) Bedding: Better on CX, also JL sometimes has very warm cabins and I'm not one of those people who like highly air-conditioned environments.
8) Amenities: Both are very good. Quality of the main CX Aesop contents vs additional mini Shiseido on JL
9) Pyjamas: Again, both excellent, I personally prefer the JL ones for both colour and style but they are a lot warmer which adds to the cabin temperature issue potentially.
10) If you are transferring from somewhere else, which seems likely if you consider both those places hundreds of miles apart: CX is much, much better for transfers
11) Also to know: JL are very good but also very strict. For instance, technically, you should be refused fast track at HND unless you are specifically a JL FFP member (even travelling F). Also the luggage limit will be enforced strictly, F or no F. CX will be more adaptative and also more 'demonstrative' of how special you are because you are an F customer if you like that sort of thing.
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Last edited by orbitmic; Jul 23, 19 at 10:56 pm
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Old Jul 23, 19, 7:06 pm
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I have flown both and I have to go against the grain to award CX the winner.

First of all, JL (in any class) is extremely hot. The cabins are consistently near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That is uncomfortably warm for me. I typically have to strip down to a short sleeve top and shorts when I fly on JL. I also bring my own misters and portable fans. If you are used to being warm, this might not be an issue for you. It is for me.

Second, I find JL's service very flawed. They are very "by-the-book" and will pester you with their strict regimens and tell you "no" in the nicest way possible and apologizing profusely, but the answer will always be "no" when you ask for something outside the playbook. What do I mean? Well, on a specific flight I recall (which I've posted about), the FA asked me to change out of pajamas about 2 hours before landing. I was comfortable and told her that I didn't want to change yet. She came back every 5 minutes to check if I was ready to change yet until I actually did. In a different instance, I was in F and my family was in J mini cabin directly behind me. I proceeded to check in on them occasionally and the FA asked me (very nicely) to stay in my cabin. My family in J never tried to go into F. It was always me going into J. I asked once if I could have the Japanese starter but the Western main (there were only 3 total people in F, including me) and was told no (very nicely and apologetically). Other than the fact they are always doing everything with a smile, the actual service has much to be desired and is way to rigid for my preferences.

CX F class FA's on the other hand ways goes the extra mile to make me feel welcome. I remember very distinctly that they made a bed for me in a spare seat next to mine so that I could use that if I didn't want to move my stuff (as I was working on the flight and had all my papers and laptop sprawled out). One of the FA's also stopped by a lot to ask me if I needed anything (whereas JL doesn't check on you unless you summon them). And there was one time where we flew over the North Pole and you can see the Northern Lights - the FA stopped over (since I was awake) and asked if I wanted to see them. Since I had all my work stuff everywhere, she opened the shade in the empty seat in front of me to show me the lights. They really try to go out of their way make it a special experience, which I appreciate. One time I flew solo (which is rare) in F and I asked if I could take a male amenity kit home for Mr. TravelLawyer who was at home with the kids (as we collect these). She told me of course and grabbed one for me. If it was JL, I would have been told "no" in the nicest way possible.

I think the food is probably equal (I get Western meals on both typically), but CX edges out JL on the caviar. The caviar is soooo good on CX. It's probably my favorite brand and style. I find the ones on JL to lack flavor.

I also think the hard product on CX is better than JL. The seats are bigger, they are more private, and I just like the layout much more. I can sleep much better on CX than JL (and it's hard for me to sleep on planes in general). I am not a huge fan of the JL sliding table mechanism.

And little other things - I think the pajamas are better on CX, I like CX milk tea (not available on JL), and I love the aesop face mist in CX (so much so that I bought my own for home use).
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Old Jul 23, 19, 8:05 pm
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A note to the OP: Unless you have already booked both and wanting to decide which one you would actually use and which one to cancel, you might not get such luxury of choice if you are trying to make an award booking.

In terms of comparisons, I agree with pretty much everything Orbitmic said, except that JL is extremely relaxed about the cabin baggage when in F (I suspect Orbitmic was actually talking about checked baggage though). They'd F-cabin tag them to make sure that you don't have any issues at the gate with anyone trying to take it off you.

Originally Posted by TravelLawyer View Post

Second, I find JL's service very flawed. They are very "by-the-book" and will pester you with their strict regimens and tell you "no" in the nicest way possible and apologizing profusely, but the answer will always be "no" when you ask for something outside the playbook. What do I mean? Well, on a specific flight I recall (which I've posted about), the FA asked me to change out of pajamas about 2 hours before landing. I was comfortable and told her that I didn't want to change yet. She came back every 5 minutes to check if I was ready to change yet until I actually did. In a different instance, I was in F and my family was in J mini cabin directly behind me. I proceeded to check in on them occasionally and the FA asked me (very nicely) to stay in my cabin. My family in J never tried to go into F. It was always me going into J. I asked once if I could have the Japanese starter but the Western main (there were only 3 total people in F, including me) and was told no (very nicely and apologetically). Other than the fact they are always doing everything with a smile, the actual service has much to be desired and is way to rigid for my preferences.
I can't say I've ever encountered the issues reported here on JL, except that I've never tried to enter another cabin. I am not into staying in the pyjamas though, as I only wear them to sleep and not for lounging around, so they probably never felt compelled to ask me to change out of them.

They haven't failed to offer me the option of mixing and matching whatever I wished to have as well. The only gripes I have had in JL F has been that they ran out of the bottled tea

I think people's experiences differ though, so it's not to say your experience wasn't just as valid as mine.
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Last edited by LTN Phobia; Jul 23, 19 at 8:14 pm
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Old Jul 23, 19, 10:18 pm
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If Champagne is important for you, I recommend JAL over CX. It’s a daytime flight, you will have a more elaborated service. CX has multiple flights to LHR but IMO not as good as JL.

CX has better lounge in HKG, the pier F is much better than HND JL F.

I like the spacious seat of JL F but the CX one feels private.

Senior crew works in CX F, any crew can work in JL F, but I’m sure both will deliver a good F service properly.

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Old Jul 23, 19, 10:44 pm
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I find the Japanese meal on JL F absolutely fantastic. It is almost as good as Kaiseki Michelin Star food I have had in Tokyo.
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Old Jul 23, 19, 10:54 pm
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CX F is my favorite seat and bed in the sky. Lots of room, and only 6 seats these days to deal with so a smaller cabin in F.
JL F does an excellent job on making things Japanese. Its a great entry or departure to get in the mood for visiting, or as a last hurrah.

I enjoy the food on both, although there is something special about freshly scrambled eggs with caviar I try to go for the local menu- JL does an excellent job on this. CX is tasty too, but not as much panache.

Agree on the aspects of each lounge- HKG vs HND. HND is underwhelming, but fine for a shorter visit. HKG I could spend hours in, and then move to the next lounge. Sad about the Krug on CX JL could use an extra bottle of Salon or two onboard
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