How to Fly to Asia in Style with Cathay Pacific: Review of Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and the Lounges in Heathrow and Hong Kong Airports
The other day I published my last blog post on our trip to Hong Kong & Bali in May. Somehow an entire month has already passed since Imy and I were in the exotic jungle near Ubud, surrounded by monkeys, palm trees and that wonderful holiday atmosphere. After 17 days of exploring new places and luxury in the 6 hotels we visited, the post-holiday blues set in big time at the thought of our 21-hour journey home to London from Bali Airport. And then airline Cathay Pacific stepped in to the rescue!
But let me start from the beginning. On our initial flight from London Heathrow T3 to Hong Kong (which is Cathay Pacific’s main hub) they kindly upgraded us to let us try out their Premium Economy Class. And not only that, but they also treated us to complimentary entry into their luxurious airport lounge in Heathrow, where we fuelled up on Gin & Tonics, snacks, soft drinks and generally escaped the crowds outside in the main part of the airport. They have free internet spots & Wifi, lots of comfy sofas to relax on, newspapers and magazines, a Signature Noodle Bar and views of the runway to boot. The clientèle inside the lounge were stylish and sophisticated – just the right frame of mind to put us in the mood for travelling.
From there we glided through the terminal to our Hong Kong-bound flight and settled into the 32-seat Premium Economy cabin. Soon after we sat down, air hostesses arrived with a tray of champagne and juices, refreshing and cool scented towels and a cute goody bag containing comfy socks, an eyemask, earplugs, a sachet of hand cream and a toothbrush set. Polishing off the champers in a jot we tucked into yet more Gin & Tonics and whiled away a few hours catching up on everything under the sun. Imy and I have known each other since we were 12 and as I’ve been living in Madrid for the past few months, there was a lot of catching up to do!
The seats in Premium Economy are noticeably bigger than those in normal Economy, and when you’re spending 13 hours sat in one seat, it needs to be a good’un. First of all, the seats are wider, with only 8 seats per row in Premium Economy (as opposed to 10 in Economy), and there are 6 inches more legroom than in Economy. All of which amounts to more room to wriggle around in and get comfy. Also, walls & curtains separate this cabin from the other cabins either side, so you feel like you’re in a private room, unlike the Economy class behind in which you are sat in a large cabin with hundreds of other people. And with a Premium Economy ticket you can take an extra 5 kilos of hold luggage, taking the free limit from 20kg up to a generous 25kg.
As dinner time came around we were invited to order from a menu tucked into the seat pocket, offering us a choice of starters and main courses (I chose the seared beef fillet and Imy went for the Szechuanese prawns – neither were disappointed!) and ice-cream for pudding. As the lights dimmed we put on a film from their wide selection (we chose American Hustle) and settled in for the evening. Several hours later we sleepily awoke to the smell of breakfast and pushed aside our eyemasks. For breakfast we had a choice of an Asian or Western breakfast, which refreshed us and left us feeling ready to start exploring Hong Kong. I’m not normally a fan of long-haul flights by any means, but this time we positively bounced off the plane feeling like VIPs.
After our 4 days in Hong Kong were up, we flew to Bali to begin ‘Part Two’ of the trip! As you might have read in my blog post ‘Exploring Hong Kong through the Eyes of Locals and Expats‘, we turned up to Hong Kong airport with only 2 hours sleep and a pretty shocking hangover from the night before in Lan Kwai Fong… Once again Cathay Pacific saved the day by inviting us to their flagship lounge, The Wing, where we collapsed upon sofas, in need of a restorative breakfast and vitamin-packed smoothies to nourish us back to health! The Wing lounge was recently renovated in 2013 by Foster + Partners and looks brand new with sleek black granite walls, the minimalist white marble Long Bar, pod-shaped Solus chairs and a buffet, a noodle restaurant, the Coffee Loft and ice-cream bar. But most of all it’s peaceful and spacious – the perfect place to rest a weary head and limbs that have partied a little too hard.
Fortunately our flight to Bali was quite empty so we could stretch out with an entire row each…
10 days in Bali later, it was another story altogether. Yoga, tai chi, fresh air, nature, cycling and kayaking had all left us in peak condition, with a healthy tan, renewed energy and relaxed minds. Despite all of this we were glum at the prospect of leaving paradise and returning to our respective metropolises… Who wouldn’t be! To top it off, we had a 21-hour journey (via Hong Kong, but sadly without an actual stopover in the city itself) to deal with as well. During our three hour transfer in Hong Kong airport we headed back to the comfort of The Wing lounge and were delighted to be allowed into the First Class lounge this time (last time we visited the Business Class lounge) which turned out to be yet more luxurious still! We focused our attentions on the help-yourself-to-as-much-as-you-want Champagne Bar – Moët anyone?! Their à la carte restaurant closely resembles one of the cooler London haunts and the monochrome decor is sleek and stylish. In addition to the unlimited food and drink, make sure you pop into one of the Cabanas. These Cabanas are incredibly spacious individual bathrooms for you to freshen up in between flights, complete with a full-sized bath, shower & daybed.
Everything about the two Cathay Pacific lounges screams elegance and indulgence, and made a world of difference to our journey home. Instead of a boring 3-hour wait in between flights, we relaxed and ended up not wanting to leave the lounge! When we eventually had to catch our flight, we again slipped into the Premium Economy cabin (thanks to another upgrade from the lovely people at Cathay Pacific), and settled in to a film. I’d been wanting to see 12 Years a Slave and ended up with tears rolling down my cheeks! It’s probably not a great film to watch somewhere in public, but by this point Imy was fast asleep so she didn’t mind my sobbing. Flying westward is the best for jetlag (on the journey eastward you’re doomed to a confused body clock!) so we woke up flying over Eastern Europe bursting with energy, and landed comfortably at London Heathrow, sad to be returning to reality, but at least having had a decent night’s sleep.
Travelling in Premium Economy was the perfect way to manage the long-haul flights. It has most of the luxuries of Business Class, without the Business Class price tag. On short-haul flights around Europe there is very little difference between cabins, and I never upgrade, but long-haul flights are another kettle of fish altogether and the different cabins make the difference between pleasure and pain! On my mammoth 39-hour journey last October from Cape Town to San Francisco (via Johannesburg and London!) I took sleeping pills to combat the 3 flights in Economy, and still didn’t sleep a wink!! I am not one of those lucky people who can sleep anywhere, so the fact that I managed to sleep in Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy class is proof that it is money well spent! Imy and I were fortunate enough to be upgraded for free, so I’m not sure how much extra it would have cost. If you’ve never tried it then I’d definitely recommend it – it makes a world of difference.
And one of the best bits? Cathay Pacific is part of the One World Alliance with British Airways, and the airmiles I earned on these four flights bumped me up a tier into Bronze Membership!