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Q-Suites, Cathay First and... TAP Basic Economy

Q-Suites, Cathay First and... TAP Basic Economy

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Old Feb 19, 19, 1:11 pm
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Q-Suites, Cathay First and... TAP Basic Economy

After having read hundreds of trip reports over the space of the last 7 or so years, I've decided to give one a go myself. Not sure how good my writing is, but hopefully someone finds this useful or entertaining!

PROLOGUE

The story behind this journey began on a surprisingly hangoverless New Years Day, whilst on the Skyliner train to Tokyo Narita. Using the spotty free WiFi, I loaded One Mile at a Time and saw a very appealing headline:

OMG: $1,000 Cathay Pacific Transpacific First Class Tickets
Well, how about that.

Frantically, I tried loading Cathay’s website – which the spotty Skyliner WiFi wouldn’t permit me to do. Thinking the deal would for sure be gone by the time I got to Narita, I submitted myself to defeat after 10 intense minutes of punchingtapping the refresh button. Although frustrating, I consoled myself with the fact these tickets would never be honored.

Fast forward 40min, sitting in the Admirals Club lounge (which was surprisingly nice?), I finally got through to Cathay’s site, and to my surprise found plenty of availability from HAN to JFK in Business for 1324USD - fully flex with no cancellation fees. Sweet!

After debating for a minute or two, I punched in my credit card details and locked in a roundtrip. My first ever mistake airfare booking.

I must admit, I didn’t even look at First Class availability. Those tickets would never be honored, and just maybe business might be. On top of this, I had a few free upgrades to spare, and figured I could sneak myself into First anyway if the deal didn’t fall through.

With one risk-free ticket in the bag, I set out to find something cheaper. Took around 15min, but I found two of what I believe may have been the last available dates with Business for 730USD return. DAD-JFK roundtrip: booked.

With tickets confirmed and mini cabin seats reserved, I jumped on a Finnair A350 back to Scandinavia and proceeded to spend 48 hours constantly checking Flyertalk threads until I was elated to find out that tickets would neverbe honored.

Great! Now how the hell to get to Vietnam on the cheap...and how the hell do I explain to my boss I need another week off?

Turns out both were easier than expected. Leave approved, and positioning flights booked:

- ARN-DOH-DAD (Qatar Economy: 393USD)

- DAD-HKG-JFK (Cathay J/F: 730USD – upgrades confirmed with a return flight later in the year)

- JFK-LIS-ARN (TAP Economy: 119USD)

I cancelled my more expensive fully refundable Biz ticket, and was soon on my merry way...

Last edited by AJ747M; Feb 19, 19 at 1:21 pm
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Old Feb 19, 19, 2:32 pm
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QATAR AIRWAYS A350-900 ECONOMY Q-SUITES, ARN-DOH

The first leg of the trip got off to a rocky start.

Arriving at Arlanda 3 hours before scheduled take-off, I checked-in and made my way to the sub-par Menzies Executive Lounge.

“I’m a moron for arriving this early” were my thoughts.

A boring hour later, I found out my flight was delayed...for 2 hours. This actually got me quite excited. My connection in Doha was only 1hr and 20min, so a sweet 600EUR in EC261 compensation would be coming my way. No other flight would get me into Da Nang anywhere close to my scheduled arrival. I got in touch with QR’s customer service team via Facebook, and was well taken care of. They re-booked me onto an evening flight to Hanoi from Doha, giving me a day in the city – which was something I’d been looking forward to doing for a while. Additionally, I was given a free hotel room, some lunch money & transport to and from the airport. Sounds perfect to me!

Around 2 hours before our flight was expected to take off, QR’s Stockholm airport manager came into the lounge and explained that weather had caused the inbound flight to diver, hence the delay. He also happened to be looking for a “Mr. AJ747M”.

I thought, for sure they have kicked me off the Hanoi flight and delayed my arrival into Da Nang for even longer.

Instead, he slipped me a new boarding pass with the handsome seat number of 4J.

Hell. Yeah.

I played it cool - tried to hide my excitement. Made my way over to the gate an hour or so later, and started to wonder why SeatGuru didn’t show Qatar’s A350-900 as having any “J” seats. 10min later, it clicked in my brain.

Q-Suites.

Sure enough, I boarded the aircraft and was graced with the presence of sliding doors surrounding my throne.



Suite 4J - home for just over 6 hours


Cabin mood lighting - a little intense


Great privacy even with door open



Heaven.

I settled into my surroundings, vastly content with the fact that my next 6 hours would be spent in luxury. The seat was plenty wide – something I wasn’t sure of from photos – and I found the overall design extremely sleek. The IFE screen was huge; filled with plenty of content I wouldn’t have time to watch. Seat controls were easily accessible and highly adjustable, and there was plenty of storage space to boot.

A few too many minutes after sitting down in the suite, a flight attendant introduced herself and asked if I’d like a drink to begin with. Obviously, there was only one answer.

Which of course was responded to with, “Sorry but I have to ask...”

I didn’t let her finish the sentence. “20”.

The champagne was delivered. And tasted a lot better than the crud in the lounge, although not as good as how it would have tasted had my ego not been bruised by the fact that someone could still think I’m under 18. Sigh.

The ground service continued with a delivery of pyjamas and slippers, which I promptly changed into in the fantastic smelling bathrooms at the front of the plane. Seriously, I was impressed that the bathrooms smelt that good. Not something I’ve experienced on a plane before. The PJs were light and comfy, and probably the second-best pair of airline PJs I’ve had the good fortune to be handed.

Soon after take-off I reclined my seat, chucked on Bad times at the El Royale, and ordered some dinner. My appetizer consisted of bread with a completely dry salad, for which they had run my preferred dressings for. Not very appetizing. I had a few small bites.

I can’t exactly remember what I had for mains, but by memory it was good. Dessert was my all-time favorite – chocolate molten cake – which was better than the main course.

Given the late hour and short flight time, I dozed off soon after eating. The bed was comfortable, although the large protruding headrest forced me to shuffle lower down on the seat. This meant my feet were touching the wall when lying flat, which was something I didn’t expect to happen on the world’s best business class. Nonetheless, I slept well for 3 hours.

I woke up shortly before landing, and was treated to awesome views of Doha and the A350s ever aesthetic wing.




And of course, my own little private sanctuary for a few minutes.




Upon landing, I was greeted by an agent who walked me to the transfer desk to organize my hotel for the day. This took all of five minutes, and I was then directed to immigration. Soon after, I was on a minibus to the Oryx Rotana Hotel.

This first segment of the trip was beyond great. Between the excitement of being upgraded; having my first Qatar J experience; and being in Q-Suites as the cherry on top – this probably ended up being the best flight of the trip.

Last edited by AJ747M; Feb 24, 19 at 7:22 am
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Old Feb 19, 19, 7:28 pm
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what a great start! looking forward to the rest. Q-suites look amazing, bravo on scoring that upgrade.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 3:48 pm
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Originally Posted by benjahman View Post
what a great start! looking forward to the rest. Q-suites look amazing, bravo on scoring that upgrade.
Glad to hear someone found it readable! Should have the next sector up sometime on the weekend.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 9:43 pm
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This is excellent. And great to hear your OpUp. A delay sometimes brings it's own rewards.

Looking forward to the CX First report!
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Old Feb 21, 19, 3:09 am
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What a great start - I always enjoy it when something good comes out of a bad situation. Looks like Qatar really came to the party.
Looking forward to the rest of your TR.
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Old Feb 24, 19, 8:20 am
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QATAR AIRWAYS 787-800 ECONOMY BUSINESS CLASS, DOH-HAN

After a fun day walking around Doha, I hopped on the minibus back to the airport to continue onto Hanoi. En route, I checked the flight loads and was excited to see Y0 J9. My hopes for a double op-up were dangerously high.

Since I had my onwards boarding pass already - with the depressing seat number of something or another in the mid double digits - I couldn’t harass any check-in agent about a possible upgrade. The lounge agent it would be.

Arriving at the lounge, I politely asked if there were any exit row seats available on the flight, with the hope an upgrade would be handed to me instead (wishful thinking, I know). Instead, I was offered a middle seat exit row, which I declined. I’m a window guy.

I walked two steps towards the lounge, then did a 180. No way I wasn’t going go to try harder to get myself upgraded. “Sorry, do you mind also checking the flight load?”

Her response couldn’t have been better.

“Oh, I can see you’ve been upgraded already. Here, let me print you a new boarding pass.”

2K.

Hell. Yeah.

I was over the moon, practically shaking. Two flights, two upgrades. I’ve never received any upgrade on a regular paid ticket prior to this day - only the occasional bump out of a preferred seat. I was almost scared this meant bad luck for the rest of the trip. Possible bump down to Business on the way to New York?

Not quite...but I was told I couldn’t go into Al Mourjan. Maybe that evened out the luck.

I stayed in the regular Business Class lounge, which was nice enough. Decent food selection, a least for a basic eater like myself; plenty of spare seats around (of course someone decided to come sit right next to me anyway), and clean washrooms. I spent around 1.5hr sitting on my laptop before heading to the gate.



The Business Class Lounge


Before having spent any time in QR J, I’d always thought I’d prefer the open business cabin compared to enclosed private suites. Aesthetically, I thought the A380/787/A350 Non Q-Suites cabin looked much nicer, and flying economy 80% of the time, I’d never really cared much about privacy.

Walking into this cabin after flying Q-Suites completely changed my mind. Wow, it felt weird to be seated in J with next to no privacy, after having just flown 6hrs and not seeing another person’s face.



787-800



787-800 business class

That being said, this business class was fantastic. I found the seats more or less the same as Q-Suites comfort wise; maybe a bit more comfortable due to the lack of headrest poking out when in lay flat mode. The seat padding was plush, IFE screen nice and big, and more than enough space to lay out my stuff.

Looking around the cabin, it was fairly obvious they’d aggressively oversold economy and upgraded a large amount of pax. The girls in 2E/F were chatting about their upgrade; 1E/F took more selfies than I’ve ever seen anyone take on a plane, and 1A/K were apologized to for being separated from each other. I know for a fact two people had paid for their tickets, since they were on all 3 sectors from Stockholm to Da Nang; and flew HAN > DAD in J whilst I was rebooked into Y; but I wouldn’t be surprised if 70%+ of the cabin were op ups.

Anyway, ground service started with a flight attendant introducing herself and giving me the spiel on today’s 5hr 50min flight time to Hanoi. Following that, I ordered some apple juice and checked the menu for dinner. More PJs were provided, as well as another Nappa Dori amenity kit, which I really liked.


2K - home for 6hrs


Shortly after takeoff I ordered dinner, contrary to the original plan of zonking out and eating before landing. The reason for this being the menu looked bloody fantastic. Plus I’d never had Arabic mezze before, and was super keen to give that a go.

Before the mezze, I was served a little sampling of what I believe was tuna. Not a fan of tuna so can’t comment on the quality, but it felt fancy for a pre-appetizer on a plane. The bread was fantastic – soft and warm, probably the best I’ve had in the air. Probably better than half the restaurants I’ve been to as well.

I’ll highlight here, the plating was very well done and the fake candle was a weirdly classy touch. My first Arabic mezze didn’t disappoint, it was delicious. It was also fairly substantial, and I was feeling a tad full after finishing it.



Arabic Mezze


Complete dinner setup

As per usual, I don’t remember what I had for the main course since I didn’t grab a picture of it. But I believe it was chicken something or another, and I know it was good. I also know I was completely stuffed after it. I also know I still had dessert.



Another view of 2K


"Bar" area and nice mood lighting

Straight after the feast, I went from seat to bed and attempted to sleep. I say attempted, because I had eaten so much I almost felt sick, and couldn’t doze off for a good 45min.

After finally knocking out I slept for about 3hr and yet again skipped breakfast and awoke on descent. As previously said, the bed was very comfy and I slept well for the limited time I could.

There was a nice sunrise as we descended into dusty, rainy Hanoi.


Sunrise on descent into Hanoi


On arrival in Hanoi, I found a shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, where I spent 2hr in transit followed by a 1hr hop over to Da Nang, on a Vietnam Airlines A321. As per any 1hr long domestic flight, it was uneventful and not worth writing about.



Vietnam Airlines A321-200

All in all, this was an unexpectedly awesome journey to Vietnam. The DOH-HAN flight was excellent: great food, great seats and great service. My only wish – as per usual for any journey where I get to sit at the front of the bus – was that the flight was longer.

Last edited by AJ747M; Feb 24, 19 at 8:56 am
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Old Feb 24, 19, 8:55 am
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Originally Posted by SQTraveller View Post
This is excellent. And great to hear your OpUp. A delay sometimes brings it's own rewards.

Looking forward to the CX First report!
Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
What a great start - I always enjoy it when something good comes out of a bad situation. Looks like Qatar really came to the party.
Looking forward to the rest of your TR.
Thanks for your comments! Yep, Qatar really did come to the party. They're definitely high on the list of my favourite airlines now. CX F report coming up soon.
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Old Feb 24, 19, 10:02 am
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Dang two OP-UP's and GREAT ones at that. Consider me jealous. Curious any One World status? Wondering why the upgrades? That kind of stuff never happens to me
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Old Feb 24, 19, 12:44 pm
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CATHAY DRAGON BUSINESS CLASS, DAD-HKG

With an original three nights in Da Nang shortened to two, I was heading back to the airport in what felt like no time. I arrived at an empty check-in line, feeling a bit smug knowing I was about to get a First Class boarding pass on Cathayís priciest route. I remember looking at Cathayís HKG-JFK First Class prices a few years back, and seeing a casual 240 000HKD appear on the screen. The most expensive price for a return ticket I had ever seen.

Well, shortly I could claim to be a paying F class passenger on Cathay too. Only I was paying peanuts - 2.5% of the usual fare. Life treats you well sometimes.

Sure enough, I was handed an attractive pair of boarding passes Ė 11K & 2A. I was very happy to still have my original seat on the F segment, since 2A is considered the best seat on the plane by many - and I have a track record of being kicked off my assigned seat.

The airport and lounge situation at Da Nang was pleasantly surprising. Both were modern and well-designed, which I definitely wasnít expecting. Cathay uses the Orchid Lounge at Da Nang - the only lounge at the airport. It was fairly sizeable, with many more seats than people, and some nice pods to sit in. The food was average, but there were plenty of drinks and snacks to go around, so I was satisfied.



Orchid Lounge, Da Nang Airport



Orchid Lounge, Da Nang Airport


The gate was right next to the lounge, and I made my way down there 20min before boarding. There were more people in the business class line than the economy line, so it wasnít at all efficient. Two DYKWIA types managed to guilt one of the staff to let them cut through the entire line, though Iím not sure why since they werenít in the business cabin. Probably diamonds; definitely knobs.

I waited at the back before making my way onto the plane. The business class cabin was full, despite being quite sizeable for a relatively small aircraft. Everyone complains about Cathayís regional business class seats, but I find them more than comfortable enough for short regional hops.



Cathay Dragon business class



Cathay Dragon business class



Service as usual started with a refreshment, and the flight attendants addressed me by name. Iím not sure if they did this with everyone, or because of having a Cathay Gold card, but it was nice either way.

Once in the air, I had some chicken noodles as the main course for dinner. As per usual on Cathay, the food was average. Edible, but not particularly tasty. I skipped out on ice cream for dessert, and spent the rest of the 1hr 40min flight reading my Kindle.

This was a short hop, so nothing particularly exciting. Iím more than happy flying economy on flights as short as this (and even flights 4x longer) so I was just happy to be in HK on time, and the comfort of business was a nice bonus. Deplaning was quick, as was immigration due to having a HKID. I was out of the airport in no time, and off to the city to catch up with a friend for the night before the jaunt over to JFK the next morning.
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Old Feb 24, 19, 3:05 pm
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Originally Posted by rkaradi View Post
Dang two OP-UP's and GREAT ones at that. Consider me jealous. Curious any One World status? Wondering why the upgrades? That kind of stuff never happens to me
Yep, think status played its part here - oneworld sapphire (Cathay). This has never happened to me before either! I can't think of anything better in the world than an unexpected upgrade, so I was pretty amazed . Although, I will say I seemed to be getting special service from QR whilst at the airport in ARN. They rang me super quickly after I messaged their Facebook page originally, letting me know the situation. 20min later I messaged the FB page again to ask the reason of the delay, and the same agent almost instantly called me to explain. Another paid business class passenger overheard me on the phone, and asked how I got them to call me - as he was missing a connection as well. They only called him 20min later...

I've only flown QR once before, in Y. So this was all pretty surreal.
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Old Feb 24, 19, 3:56 pm
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CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS, HKG-JFK

Spending a night in a city with no place to stay can be annoying. The solution is usually to party all night. However, intense hangovers do not result in great travel experiences, so I took it easy and started heading back to the airport around 3:30am.

The daybeds at the Pier First Class Lounge in HKG are great for spending a few hours and catching up on sleep. Unfortunately, the lounge only opens at 5:30am, so I spent 45min wondering the airport and lowering AMEX’s yearly profits by using my card to enter the Plaza Premium Lounge for free for 15min.

After abusing my card privileges, I took a wrong turn and finally ended up at The Pier 15min later. My first order of business was to find out whether I can switch into my beloved 1A, since the flight loading went from F5 to F3 a few days before. The answer was affirmative, and I was joyed to be sitting at the very front. There’s just nothing better in this world than having a boarding pass with 1A written on it.



The Pier - First Class Lounge


The next order of business was to book a massage session, then take a shower. The shower suites were nice, although I find the ones at The Wing better. Either way, I was happy to be smelling fresh again, and it sure felt nice to put on a new set of clothes after 15 hours.

After this, it was time for breakfast. Food options were plenty, but none really my taste – so I settled for an English Breakfast with no egg. Bacon, sausage and toast. Yum.

With my stomach content again, I headed to a daybed to catch up on some sleep. Ever afraid that I’d somehow sleep through my alarms and miss the cheapest Cathay First ticket anyone will ever get, I set around seven on them and proceeded to nap.



Daybed at The Pier


The buzzer for my massage went off exactly one hour before I scheduled it, which was slightly annoying - 20min isn’t much of a nap. Nonetheless, I went for a nice foot massage, and then returned to the daybed to chill out before my flight.



View from the daybed - Cathay A350-900


The flight was leaving from Gate 4, so I trekked it back to the other side of the airport, quickly stopping by The Wing to get my shirt ironed. When I arrived at the gate, I was a little scared to see the flight was on final call already. Contrary to the usual, I think I was one of the last 5 people to board the plane – but was happy to see only two others in the F cabin once onboard.



First Class cabin


Suite 1A


Settling into my seat, two FAs introduced themselves and welcomed me onboard. Both were super friendly and happy to converse. One (of course) asked about my age. Her reaction:

“Wow, you look so young, I thought you were 18.”

Sigh.

She informed me of today’s flight time: 14hr 48min, which sounded pretty alright to me. 16hr would be better, but I’m definitely not complaining about almost 15 hours in 1A. On the other hand, the man sitting in 2A was happy that the flight time was shorter than usual. He sounded like regular Cathay F flier.

For pre-departure beverages, I had to proactively ask for them to bring the bubbly. Only alternatives were offered. Two minutes later, a nice bottle of Krug 2004 was brought to me, which was illogically satisfying. I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between supermarket prosecco and Dom Perignon 1953 if my life depended on it, so this just tasted like champagne to me. It smelt funky, though. And the price tag made me feel pretentious snob. Life was good.



Krug 2004


After the bubbly delivery, I was handed an amenity kit and offered some pajamas, the latter of which was a fantastically ugly shade of blue. The pajama bag came along with some slippers as well, which are always nice to use on the plane.

Shortly after we taxied and sped off into the clouds, which revealed the cabin’s true age: my IFE flung out of its holder. The Suite had some other scratches and dints, which didn’t feel very first class, but it was perfectly functional otherwise.

Once airborne, I started out by doing the only thing anyone should do in First Class once the seatbelt is off: chuck on some PJs. The blue Chinese prince look definitely wasn’t the most attractive, but I felt grand.

Next up was a peruse of the dinner menu, which was – as expected – pretty average. Qatar’s J menu is far superior. Caviar seems to get everyone overly excited – I tried it once on a previous Cathay F flight and found it no better than a spoon of salt. So, I skipped out on appetizers and ordered a steak and Cathay Delight.

Before the steak, I was given something or another which tasted gross. It looked nice in the picture, though.



Nice looking - poor tasting


Whilst better than the something or another, the steak was sub-par. I’m not one to complain much about food, but this was super chewy and undercooked. When I took my first bite, I also realized the flight attendant didn’t ask me how I would like the steak done. That was probably a bit of a failure...

On the other hand, my first Cathay Delight was fantastic. I might get some flak for this, but I’ll say it was much better than the Krug 2004. Ha.

During lunch, we flew over Taipei and I managed to spot Taipei 101, which I thought was pretty awesome.



Taipei from 30,000ft


With a full stomach and increasingly tired body, I asked the FA to set up my bed. As many will attest to, the bed in Cathay First absolutely rocks. The mattress cover is nice and soft, and the bed is super wide. When you grab 3 spare pillows from the surrounding empty seats, it gets even better.


Cathay First Class bed


Feeling nice and cozy, I watched the start of Beautiful Boy and fell asleep within 30min. Around three hours later, I woke up to heavy turbulence which threw me up and down a little bit. I have no problem with turbulence, but this was bad enough to throw my IFE all around the place, so I had to hold it in order to continue watching my movie.

The turbulence lasted twenty or so minutes, and I sprinted a marathon two metres to the bathroom as soon as the seatbelt sign was off: the biggest downside of turbulence, in my opinion.

A nice sunset followed, which I thoroughly enjoyed with three windows at my disposal.



Wide angle sunset view



Sun setting under the 77W wing


Feeling hungry again, I ordered a burger and another Cathay Delight. The burger was tasty; a lot better than the steak. My second Cathay Delight didn’t taste as fresh as the first, but still not bad.



Burger with fries - the tastiest meal on this flight


Post-dinner, I continued to watch the movie for a while and then dozed off for a few hours again. In the end, I slept approximately 10 hours over three separate periods. A testament to how comfortable the bed was – and maybe my tiredness after an all-nighter in HK. One thing I noted was the crew never fluffed up the bedding when I visited the bathroom. Not a major thing, but it would’ve been a nice touch.



Cathay First Class bed


When I was finally awake for good, the sun had already risen and it was time to find something else to watch. I was very happy to find the third season of Animal Kingdom in the TV section, as I’ve been unable to find it on Netflix ever since moving out of Hong Kong.

For ‘Dinner’, I had some fruit to begin with, followed by a chicken dish. The fruit was nice and fresh, and the chicken alright. Nothing special, but perfectly edible. By look of the photos, a third Cathay Delight was consumed as well.



Fresh fruit



Chicken something or another - not bad, not great


Dessert was some sort of pudding, which was good but not amazing.

Prior to landing, I relaxed with the seat reclined and read my kindle. I also decided it was time to imbibe in a little more Krug, and a new bottle was opened for me. I’m not sure if I feel bad about this, but I only had two glasses and the rest went to waste. I’m fairly sure the two other pax didn’t drink through the whole flight, so chances are two bottles of the good stuff were used up solely for me, despite only three glasses in the end. Whoops.



Relaxing with some champagne


With the flight coming to an end, I switched back into my non-Chinese Prince outfit and snapped some more photos of the cabin.



Nice ambiance - a bit more muted than QR's cabins



Suite 1A



Suite 1A



Suite 1A



Another view of the cabin - note the sleeping panda in 2A.


On descent I was treated to great views of Long Island and Manhattan.



Long Island



Manhattan in the distance



Manhattan in the distance


After 14hr and 58min, we touched down at JFK and taxied to Terminal 8. The crew came by and thanked me for flying with Cathay, then I was off to explore NYC for a few days. Of course, after snapping a final pic of the plane.



B-KPV - Cathay Pacific 777-300ER


This was my second flight in Cathay First, and as per any flight in First, it was excellent. The food wasn’t all that great, and the cabin wasn’t looking all too spick – but the rest of the experience was more than pleasant. And for this journey from Da Nang to New York costing all of $365, I’ll say I got some pretty freaking good value. I’m very much looking forward to the return trip later this year.
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Old Feb 25, 19, 8:44 pm
  #13  
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Great report and photos so far. Cathay Pacific F, as usual, looks amazing!
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Old Feb 26, 19, 4:48 am
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What an upgrade! They really took care of you well.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 5:28 pm
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We just had our first First experience on Cathay and had the exact same thoughts. From London to Kong Hong and it was absolutely amazing. But I brought my partner and in the end told that the food was not better then a Business flight on Singapore. Service was great, same feelings about the Krug haha. Great report to read and looking forward to your return stories
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