Better Screens, Worse Seats on the A350: Hong Kong to Seoul/Incheon, Cathay Pacific CX410

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Ticketing

I booked this ticket around four weeks before travel. It was cheaper booking it on CTrip than on the Cathay website so I booked it on CTrip for a total of $1,936.37 (a precise figure!) Cathay regularly has promotional fares to Seoul and there is quite a bit of competition on this route. I had been planning to fly with another airline but went for Cathay as the price was competitive and with Marco Polo membership I have lounge access and may be upgraded. But I was not upgraded on either leg and the lounge on the return leg was unremarkable, so next time I would think twice about opting for Cathay on this route and would go back to giving Korean Air or Asiana a whirl.

At the Airport

As I had booked through CTrip, the ground agent could see the reservation under my Marco Polo account but could not find it on her system. This took several minutes. Cathay has a problem in this regard – for example, bookings which show in Manage My Booking on their website have regularly not had the Marco Polo number attached when I went to check in recently. I wrote to Cathay about this and they responded that I “had “just added” (my) membership number to the booking and did not “link” it to (my) reservation.”. They explained that this needed to be done under the “Frequent Flyer”  tab under the booking. I find this odd but it is worth being aware of for Marco Polo members.

I was allocated an exit row seat, which had a huge amount of legroom.

Equipment

The flight was operated by an Airbus A350. The A350 has some advantages – it feels quiet and looks fresh. Supposedly the air is also better than on other planes though I have not personally noticed this.

However, Cathay’s kitting out of its 350s is problematic. The seat in economy felt thin, and parts of the fixtures are peeling away from the walls. An ashtray was dangling by a cord, which I had also seen happening with multiple ashtrays on a 350 flight shortly before this one. It feels as if the plane interiors are aging fast.

As I was in an exit row, my entertainment screen popped up from under the seat. These are wider than the screens on the 777s and use the new interface. The interface takes a little time to understand and does not show all options at the same size, which I find confusing. It is more like using an IPad and looks contemporary. They also put ads and information in some of the tiles, including in this case about the weather in Seoul.

Flight

The gate was 64. The monitors showed “final call” but when I went to the gate boarding was shown as slated to start soon. The captain informed us that departure would be pushed back by twenty minutes due to flow control en route. We pushed back late and our arrival into Incheon’s Terminal One was also behind schedule.

This was a morning flight on a weekday so I had not expected it to be particularly busy but in fact it looked to be more or less full in economy class.

Service

The crew was friendly. They did a meal service and later distributed landing cards but were generally not in the cabin much.

Food and Drink

There was a choice between eggs or congee. I chose the congee and got a pretty standard Cathay congee breakfast – unremarkable but fine.

Conclusion

This flight was okay but didn’t stand out. The A350 feels modern and airy but the comfort in the cabin is arguably less than on the Boeing 777 which Cathay also offers on this route.

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