First time on Cathay Pacific: KUL-HKG-SYD

I arrived at KLIA 1 and made my way up to the departure levels.  I found the airport was a bit confusing, with not a great deal of signage.  I didn’t have any luggage to check so I didn’t bother trying to find the check in counter and instead wandered around until I saw a sign that said “International Gates.” Heading down the escalator, I found the passport control at the bottom and was quickly through to the terminal area.

I had booked a ticket in Premium Economy, not looking forward to the long overnight flight being in a tiny seat, but had been notified a few weeks before I left that there had been an aircraft change from KUL to HKG and I had been bumped to business class… Score! This meant I had Lounge access for my trip, which is always a plus! At KUL this got me access to both Malaysian Airlines Golden Lounge, and the Cathay Pacific Lounge.  I found the Golden Lounge just past security and went up the escalator to the entrance.  The lounge staff suggested I should try the satellite lounge since that is where my flight was departing from.  I had a few hours before my flight, and I would have liked to check out both lounges, but didn’t feel like arguing and head off towards the satellite terminal.

A quick train ride and 17 laps of the satellite terminal later (okay, really more like 2) I finally found the lounge on the upper level.  The lounge was huge and almost empty.  I took a seat by the window, which coincidentally had a view of my gate, and got my bearings.  It was still a little early, but there was a hot buffet, noodle bar, cold buffet, and a regular bar.  After being there for a while I discovered there was a whole other side to the hot buffet!  There were also shower facilities you could use if you left your boarding pass… not sure how that would work with a mobile pass (I didn’t ask) but I’m assuming you wouldn’t have to leave your phone with them

the Golden Lounge at the satellite terminal at KUL
After filling up on some fruit, salad, rice, and a few drinks, it was getting close to the time to head to the gate.  I’d seen our plane come in and it was not sitting at the gate, so I hopped up and switched to the Cathay Pacific lounge for a quick stop before the flight.

The Cathay Pacific lounge was much busier, since it was half an hour before boarding, but still not packed.   It’s a much smaller lounge, but even though there were more people, it didn’t feel crowded.  I was able to find a seat and charged my phone a little bit since I wasn’t too sure what would be available on the plane.  There was a self serve bar, a few snacks, and some fruit.  Enough to tide you over for a little while, but it’s not a lounge I would look forward to spending hours in.

We got our announcement that we should head to the gate (very nice, and not inconvenient since everyone in there was supposed to be on that flight) and headed over.  The boarding is a little strange.  They scan your boarding pass as you enter the waiting area, and then they have it broken up in to the economy waiting section (which was jam packed) and then the premium and elite waiting area (much less packed, but still a fair number of people).  Of course, there was a problem when I went to scan my boarding pass.  They didn’t have any record of a visa on file (of course not, since you’re only the 2nd person from CX that I’ve talked to today) but it took a few minutes for them to explain that that’s what they were looking for.  They kept asking me for other pieces of documentation, like my passport or residency card.  When they finally got around to asking if I had a visa, I pulled up what I had on my phone (which had arrived the day before! cutting it close) and that seemed to pacify them enough to let me through.

I’d been sitting for about 2 minutes when the first boarding announcement came, and I was off down the jet bridge.  As I settled into my seat, I did notice that there was a section of premium economy behind me, so I guess they ended up switching the plane back but left me where I was.  Score!

The plane had Cathay’s region business class seats, 2-2-2, and I was in the bulkhead window, with and empty seat beside me as it turns out.  Pre-departure drinks were offered, and of course I took some bubbly 🙂  The crew was efficient and friendly, and made for a pleasant flight.  After everyone was on board, we pushed back and taxied out to the runway for take-off.

view of the rubber tree fields taking off from KUL
The flight was fairly smooth, and I spent some time browsing the entertainment system after we climbed above the clouds.  One thing I always enjoy about having an empty seat beside me is that I can put the other entertainment system on the flight info while watching shows on my own system.  It wasn’t too long before the meals were brought out.  I had ordered my special meal and was a bit surprised that the first course was two salads?  It wasn’t bad, but not a lot of variation.  The main course was a veggie rice dish, which was quite good (as it turns out probably the best meal on either of the flights) and left me pleasantly full.

would you like some salad with your salad?
After a few rounds of entertainment it was time to land in Hong Kong.  Since I’d never landed in this airport before, the approach was very interesting.  I really had no sense of where we were in relation to the airport as we were coming in so I just watched out the window.  The density of the city is fascinating!

Some of my first views of Hong Kong
Soon we were on the ground and packing up to get off the plane.  We had arrived early, which was great since my original layover didn’t give me a whole lot of time, so now I had a bit of breathing room.  I quickly got off the plane and made it through another round of security and was back by the departure gates in just a few minutes.  This was a great relief since I had heard that sometimes it can take forever to get through security!  After a bit of turning around, I finally found one of the Cathay lounges at the airport.  Since I didn’t really want to waste a lot of time, and I wanted to try to grab a shower since I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to check in the next day, I went to the Bridge, since it was closest to my departure gate.

It took me a minute to figure out I had to go down the escalator to get to the lounge entrance, but eventually my travel fogged brain figured it out.  I approached the desk and showed my boarding pass.  The attendant said that because I was flying premium economy (I wasn’t upgraded for my second flight, only the first leg), I wasn’t able to access the lounge.  I explained that I was connecting from another flight and showed her the lounge invitation for the second flight (found on the info section of the boarding pass), even though it was PE.  After a few clicks in the computer, she had it sorted and I head to the left to grab a shower.

Entrance to the Bridge Lounge
The shower rooms were quite nice and had a lot of items to freshen up with (like deodorant) that were already in the room (unlike many where you have to specifically ask for additional available items). After a super fast shower I found out that I still had enough time to have a snack and relax with a drink.  There was a full sized bar on the other side of the lounge, so I went out back past the entrance desk and to the other half of the lounge, which initially looked like a mirror image, but with different amenities.

Inside the Bridge Lounge
After sipping on one of their signature cocktails, it was time to head off to my gate… Gate 42! (Any H2G2 fans?).  There were separate, well defined boarding lineups for business, premium, and economy, so I wandered over to be at the front of the premium line.  When it was finally time for us to board I walked up and tried to scan my boarding pass.  Of course there was a problem and I had to step aside as they re-entered details of my passport.  As I was waiting for them to return my documents, I overhead a man being informed that he had been upgraded, but without his wife.  He was trying to explain that he didn’t want to be upgraded without his wife (which was confusing the gate agents) as I walked down the jet bridge.

There was a quick security check of carry-on baggage before we were allowed on the plane.  I found my seat, 30A, first row of premium economy and started to get settled.  As they were continuing to board I head one of the flight attendants ask one of the other PE passengers if they’d like to be upgraded to business class, but they also declined due to the fact only 1 seat was available.  At this point my interest was piqued.  I thought that maybe if someone else turned it down I might mention that I’d take it 😉

Then a flight attendant came to our area of the cabin and asked to see the boarding pass of the couple across the aisle from me.  Turns out they were actually supposed to be on each side of the aisle instead.  Then he turned and asked to see my boarding pass.  At this point I was trying to figure out how to politely decline being moved to the middle section (since I was sure that’s what he was going to ask me), but instead I heard “Would you like to sit in Business Class?”  I guess I was lucky person number 3 to be asked, and I definitely took it!  As much as I was looking forward to trying out Cathay’s PE, I am not one to turn down a business class seat!  Even if it means giving up the window 🙂

The Cathay Pacific business class seats are a lie-flat, reverse herringbone product, and feel quite private when you have the seat relined to sleep.  There is no real divider between you and the person sitting next to you in the middle though.  The edges of the pod, around the head rest, do stick out a little, so you get a sense of privacy, but not if you lean forward at all.

Still, this was a pleasant surprised for the red-eye and I took advantage.  The only downside was that due to my special meal request, I’d still have the PE food during meal service… but at least I still got the good wine!

After everyone had taken their seats, we ended up sitting on the ground or a while due to a hold on our flights: we had good winds, which would shorten the flight time (Why does that always happen when you get upgraded?), and SYD has a 6 am curfew.  But eventually we backed out of the gate, rolled down the runway, and were airborne!

Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants were busy fluttering about the cabin.  A first round of drinks was offered, and then the meals came out.  Yes, it was a bit on the unimpressive side, but at least it tasted okay.  I preferred the meal I had for lunch on my first flight.

Premium Economy VGML meal on Cathay Pacific
Afterwards I settled in for some movie watching and a nap.  Movie of choice: Oddball.  All about a dog and penguins, but it seemed like a happy movie, and it was, but there were still portions that made me tear up (I’m a sap!).

After catching a few zzzs somewhere over the ocean it was time for breakfast.  This meal looked (and tasted) pretty much like my dinner… except it was bland.  Overall I really wasn’t impressed with the food on this flight and was surprised that it seemed much worse than my first flight.  Apparently there is a huge difference in food quality between PE and business class.

As we meandered towards Sydney, we were witness to an amazing, vivid sunrise, which I couldn’t get any good pictures of due to my seat, and it wasn’t long before we were preparing the cabin for landing.

Coming in the land on the flight info screen.
The taxi from the runway seemed to take forever!  But we eventually got to the gate and managed to make it off the plane fairly quickly.  With my express customs pass I was through to the front of the line quickly and even though they had to scan my passport a second time (they’re having problems with the scanner for some reason) I made it out of the arrivals hall and was off to explore Oz.

I made it!

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