It was the coldest day in Chicago for decades and I was booked in a paid economy class ticket on United’s flight to Hong Kong. In the lounge I received a message from United saying that there would be a fueling stop in San Francisco. No new arrival time was given but I had been on the same flight the previous week and ended up arriving in Hong Kong in the wee hours, seven hours late. Google gave a new arrival time for this flight around four hours late so again I would get home late at night.
I asked the lounge staff whether there was any way to put me on the Cathay flight due to leave at a similar time. To my surprise, the agent tapped away at her computer and issued me with a ticket for the Cathay flight without charge. Credit to United for that. Incidentally, the mileage for this flight credited to my Marco Polo account the day after landing.
Like many big American infrastructure hubs, Chicago is an embarrassment. I had to change terminals, and the airport train is down, so I had to wait for a shuttle bus which stopped outside at minus twenty five before windchill. At the Cathay checkin there was no queue and I soon had my boarding pass in hand, plus an invitation to the British Airways First lounge. The chap at the front desk was in a Cathay uniform, and he came around to announce the flight boarding.
The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER (tail number B-KPD). The seat had a blanket and decent sized pillow placed at it, along with headphones in the seatback pocket. There was a power point plus a seatback screen and USB outlet, with a wide range of entertainment options.
The flight boarded from gate 15, close to the lounge. As the crew was still lined up when I got there I was a bit annoyed that the lounge staff had told us that the flight was boarding as I ended up hanging around needlessly at the gate for another twenty minutes.
The flight was only about two thirds full in economy. After delayed boarding, we sat on the tarmac for some reason likely connected to the weather. We pushed back about an hour and a half behind schedule and had a smooth flight over the polar route to land at gate 34 in Hong Kong around one and a quarter hours late. Meanwhile, my original United flight did not arrive for a further four hours.
This was an efficient but not especially warm crew. They were noticeably absent from the cabin for most of the parts of the flight when I was awake.
Shortly after takeoff they distributed menus. There was a quick drinks service and then immediately they launched into lunch.
Annoyingly as some (not all) of Cathay’s ex-U.S. flights do, dinner was served halfway through the flight. So I was woken from a deep sleep by the noise and smell, had dinner, but then did not get back into as good a sleep and there was no more substantive food in the eight hours prior to landing.
Food and Drink
The menu was as follows.
I had the chicken dish for the first meal, which was good.
I was pleased that the second meal was a substantial meal and not the egg-based breakfast which is often proferred as the pre-landing meal regardless of time of day. I had the beef dish and again the beef was tasty and well-cooked. Orzo I find an odd choice, why not go with rice or potatoes?
I was thrilled to get home in the late evening and not the middle of the night and kudos to United for re-accommodating me on the Cathay flight so painlessly. The flight was a bog standard Cathay long-haul albeit with an unremarkable crew.