Fresh from a trip to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, traveler Leroy Tyler (@ablackmanabroad) breaks down everything you expect when flying to Asia on Cathay Pacific Airways. 

If you’re flying to Asia, Cathay Pacific is one of the most expensive carriers to fly with, so when I found a round-trip flight from Chicago to Manila for $550 dollars, I told them to shut up and take my money!

Fast forward to March 4th, 2018, the day before my birthday, and I was ready to go!

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport at around 7 a.m. from St. Louis. Since departure for Hong Kong wasn’t until 2:50 p.m., I had a few hours to kill until my flight. Upon check-in at terminal 5, the agent asked me the purpose of my trip, to which I told her it was for my birthday. As a gift, she gave me an invitation to the lounge (used by British Airways), and a spot on the upgrade list for the business class. The experience with Cathay Pacific was amazing before I even boarded the aircraft!

I entered the lounge and was greeted by an agent who wished me a happy birthday and a pleasant journey. I helped myself to some sandwiches, cookies, and wine since it was all free. The British Airways lounge at O’Hare isn’t the biggest in the world, but it serves its purpose, though I wish they had more outlets. Considering it was a gift, I was still happy to be there.

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After some time in the lounge, I headed back to the gate to wait just in time to see our beautiful triple 7 pull up. While I didn’t get the upgrade to business class, I was glad that boarding commenced 20 mins after the inbound aircraft was cleaned and refueled.

Upon boarding, I approached my seat and noticed the seating arrangement of 3-3-3, which I personally LOVE because it gives roominess to the triple 7. It’s how it was originally designed, but most airlines are making the economy class more crowded these days for higher profit margins. This was a rarity and I had to savor the moment since Cathay Pacific will be following suit within the next few years.

I settled in for the 15-hour journey and was thrilled to learn that I had the entire row to myself which is like hitting the jackpot for flying economy!  Seat contents included a safety card, headphones, pillow, and a blanket. The seat pitch, which is the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you, was surprisingly good. The nine-across seating had a lot to do with it, so even if you’re over 6 ft. tall, you’ll be good. The seat itself is the 2nd most comfortable seat I’ve been on after Emirates. The headrests had wings that adjusted and moved up and down.

Cathay Pacific has a camera beneath the fuselage for your viewing pleasure of the aircraft taking off. It’s great for those with no window seat, and as those beautiful GE90 engines powered up, we rolled down the runway to commence the long flight to Hong Kong.

About an hour after takeoff, lunch was served. Options were barbeque beef with carrots and mashed potatoes, chicken, black beans and steamed Jasmine rice, or a vegetarian option consisting on penne pasta, roasted eggplants, tomato sauce, with parmesan cheese. I choose the barbeque beef. All of the meals came with a choice of drink, a bottled water, bread and butter, a turkey coleslaw-type salad, and a Haagen Daas ice cream bar for dessert. The beef was actually really tasty for airplane beef, but I wasn’t a fan of the carrots. I demolished the ice cream bar. Snacks, such as cup noodles, chocolate, salted caramel popcorn, and peanuts were available throughout the flight in the center and rear galleys.

After lunch, I decided to take full advantage of having the row to myself. I put up the armrests, set my pillows against the window, covered myself with blankets, and was out cold shortly afterwards. Seven hours later I woke up and walked laps around the plane to keep my blood circulating, then returned to my seat to explore the entertain system, called StudioCX. The screen was bright and well calibrated since it was so sensitive, and well stocked with many new releases, foreign movies, games, and TV shows since there was no wifi on board.

A few hours later, dinner was served. Choices were cod with peas, corn, and steamed Jasmine rice, or creamy chicken ragout, broccoli, and carrots. Both dishes came with chocolate mousse and fruit. I chose the fish, but I wasn’t a huge fan since it was bland. After dinner, I looked at the route map and noticed there was an hour until landing. THANK GOD! By then I felt gross, dehydrated, and stir crazy after being stuck in a metal flying tube for more than half day. I opened my window shade and took a photo of the sunset.

Landing announcements were made in English and Chinese, and I watched the landing on the camera. We touched down at 7:19 p.m. local time the next day and landing was extremely smooth. Be advised that taxiing at Hong Kong Airport takes FOREVER, but deplaning in Hong Kong was a surprisingly smooth process.

After deplaning and going through security for the connecting flight to Manila, I walked 30 minutes to the next gate. HKG is a MONSTER of an airport.

Overall, I give Cathay Pacific a solid 9 out of 10. The only thing I didn’t like was that there was no wifi on board. The nine-across seating, amazing entertainment system, food, and friendly crew made the experience worth repeating. So much so, I now will fly them as my airline of choice going to Asia. United flies the same route, but I’d rather spend more for a better experience. It’s a no brainer that I’d fly with them again!