When it came time to purchase a ticket for my trip from Hong Kong to Tokyo, the two Star Alliance carriers that fly non-stop to Tokyo (ANA & United) had no award availability. I had about three months until my departure date, so I set several alerts on Expert Flyer, figuring that ANA or United would release just one seat!
Four weeks prior to my departure, I had not received any alerts from Expert Flyer, so I first checked for revenue tickets on both carriers, and then broadened my search to include oneworld carriers Cathay Pacific & JAL. Prices on all four carriers were close to $1,000 for the one/way flight, and with no AAdvantage miles, this was turning into a bit of a challenge.
Thanks to a friend, I did a trade for some of his Cathay miles, and was able to book a one-way award ticket on Cathay's 747 to Haneda. I had heard many great things about Cathay Pacific first class, and their first class lounge in Hong Kong, so this was looking to be a great flight.
About three hours before my flight departed, I took the Airport Express train back to the HKG. Less than thirty minutes after I left the city, I was being checked-in for the flight to Tokyo. The agent who assisted me was very friendly, and made sure to point out which lounges I could use, as well as indicate their distance from my gate.
first class check-in "counter"
Both passport control and security were so quiet, allowing me to get from the check-in desk to The Wing in less than five minutes.
Inside the Wing, the agent at the front desk detailed the amenities in the lounge, and then escorted me to the private dining area for first class passengers.
The buffet had a nice selection, ranging from sushi and noodles, to lox and sandwiches. For dessert, there were several options and a lot of fresh fruit.
perfectly cooked noodles
The dining area had a team of waiters that were professional and efficient. My drinks never went empty, and the plates were cleared just moments after I finshed my meal.
With an hour remaining until the boarding call, I settled into the library to charge up my electronics, as well as finish some work before I boarded the flight. I was the only person in the library throughout my stay, allowing for a solid hour of work without distractions.
view from the wing
despite the long line, this 747 was boarded in less than twenty-five minutes
nice architecture in the Hong Kong airport
my 747 to Tokyo
Moments after I arrived at the gate, a team of Cathay agents began to walk through the crowd with plastic boarding signs. Their goal was to organize all of the passengers in their respective boarding groups, as well as pulling all of the first class passengers to the front of the line.
Boarding began a few minutes later, although all passengers were subjected to a secondary security screening on the jet-bridge. No liquids greater than 3.4oz are allowed on the aircraft, even if you purchased them in the airport. Some duty free orders were delivered after the screening, though they were sealed in a plastic bag.
The security check took less than thirty seconds, although the agent only looked in my backpack and camera bag. Had I wanted to take additional liquids on the plane, I could have gotten them through by putting them in my pocket. Security theater at it's finest.
On-board the aircraft, I was greeted by Miranda and directed to my first class suite.
As I was settling into my seat, Miranda came over to offer a pre-departure beverage, as well as some almonds.
Thirty minutes later, the boarding doors were closed, and the Captain welcomed us aboard. The flight time was schedule for just a few minutes over four hours, although the Captain expected small tail-wind tonight. In any case, we were scheduled to arrive fifteen minutes early.
turning onto the runway
Less than ten minutes after departure, the two flight attendants in first class, Miranda & Nikai sprang into action. The food and beverage menu's were distributed, and then a hot towel was brought around to each passenger.
Unlike Lufthansa, the towels did not smell like roses.
Although Studio CX had a number of movies and tv-shows available for watching, I was extremely disappointed to see commercials playing before each program began. I saw the same on an Air Canada flight in Executive First, as well as in First Class on Lufthansa and SWISS. Considering the amount some people pay for first class, you would think that Cathay would forego the commercials.. At least you can fast-forward past the commercials.
Now that the sun had set, the flight attendants began to adjust the cabin lighting, first starting with a light blue, and then a mixture of orange and pink. I really enjoyed the LED lighting, and am glad that more carriers have added it to their cabins during aircraft retrofits.
stair case to the upper deck
in-flight snack/bar area
Similar to Air Canada, Cathay had a nice tile pattern on the floors in the first class lavatories
the nicest airplane sink I've ever seen
When I returned to my seat, tray table linens were being delivered, and drinks were being topped-up. Unlike some airlines, the Cathay flight attendants watched each passenger like a hawk. Throughout the flight, my drink never went empty.
card from the flight attendants
Bread Basket - Freshly Baked Garlic Bread
Café Gray Foie Gras Torchon, quince and walnuts, flageolet bean salad
Pan-fried beef rolls stuffed with enoki mushrooms in black pepper sauce
stir-fry pak choy
steamed jasmine rice
Warm rum raisin bread pudding, Madagascar vanilla sauce
For my first meal on Cathay, I was rather disappointed. I have never been a fan of foie gras, so I was only able to enjoy the goulash soup and bread basket. The beef rolls, while tasty, were quite tought, and appeared to have been overcooked.
The break basket, particularly the garlic bread, and the raisin bread pudding were the best parts of the meal. Both flight attendants were more than happy to refill the bread basket throughout the flight, which I very much appreciated.
I am not sure if this was just an anomoly, or if Cathay is underwhelming in the first class meal department. I am flying Cathay First from JFK-HKG in March, so I hope to report a better meal experience.
Once the meal service was completed, the cabin lights dimmed again, although the cabin was much darker, which would have been perfect for sleeping. If we had more than an hour left in the flight, I would have taken a quick nap.
As we began our final descent into Tokyo, the flight attendants brought around surveys for each of the first class passengers. I decided to fill out the survey, noting the terrific service from Miranda & Nikai, and expressing my disappointment with the meal service. I finished my survey shortly before landing, and was then surprised to have a flight supervisor come to my seat to thank me for my remarks about the flight. On one hand, I'm glad to see the airline engaging the passengers, allowing for instant service recovery. However, I have to wonder if a survey with negative remarks about the flight attendants would still be forwarded on, or if it would somehow find it's way into the circular folder.
Ten minutes later, we pulled up to the arrivals terminal at Haneda, and the flight attendants came back through to thank all of the first class passengers for their business. They even held the business class passengers back until all first class passengers has disembarked.
After a ten minute walk, I made it through Customs and Immigration, and then into the arrivals lobby. My plan was to take the Airport Limo Bus into the city, although the only time available was two hours after my arrival to Tokyo. I had enough work and email to catch up on, so I did not mind the wait, nor the money that I saved by not taking a taxi.
There were only five people on the bus, all of whom got off at the Miyako Hotel. For the next thirty minutes, I had a private bus for my ride into town.