This was third leg of a Seoul to Singapore return which I had purchased on the Cathay website a couple of weeks prior to travel for 437,200 won (around $2,955).
At the Airport
This was the first time I checked in with Cathay in Singapore since they moved to terminal four. The terminal felt spacious, and having centralized security rather than at gate security made it easier to have a sense of when one ought to leave for the gate.
The checkin kiosks were all automated. There were a few Cathay staff at a desk nearby, but the setup felt designed to discourage interaction with them. It was impersonal and lacked the personal touch I associate with good service. The machines spat out a thin paper boarding pass not a decent card one – when one puts such paper boarding passes in one’s pocket, I find that they easily get crumpled under other items.
After security, I visited the Cathay lounge (which Dom reviewed here). In the lounge, there was an announcement around boarding time that due to air traffic control, departure would be delayed around forty minutes. Later I went to the gate (G19) for the delayed boarding.
The flight was operated by an Airbus A330 (registration number B-HLU). The seats were the old style fixed seats which recline down, which one does not see so often these days on Cathay. I was in seat 60D, which had a bit of extra legroom. The screws in the bottom of the armrest were so sharp that when I opened it to remove the table I hurt my finger – it wasn’t bleeding, but the screw tips definitely feel like an oversight which should be corrected.
This was the laziest Cathay crew I remember. They served the meal service and apart from that were largely invisible. When I went to the galley, one was seated, with a blanket over her and snoozing. Maybe she had a rest period, but it looked really unprofessional. After landing, the crew nearest me didn’t stand to say goodbye, but slouched against the jumpseat. The overall vibe was of disinterest.
Food and drinks
There was no menu provided. The meal choice was chicken rice or pasta. That felt a bit uninspiring, although as Singapore is known for its Hainanese chicken rice I went for that in hope. It was gloopy and looked alright but not especially uninviting. Ice cream was offered for dessert.
The flight arrived around forty minutes late and I received an e-mail saying I had been rebooked on the following morning’s Incheon flight, as well as a text message saying I had been upgraded for that flight.
At the jetbridge, a Cathay representative gave me a voucher for a good airport hotel (the Regal), a $75 food voucher for the airport and a boarding pass for the following morning, which showed I had been upgraded to premium economy (typical: the first three flights had not had any upgrade, and this one which I would now miss did). I didn’t use the hotel or meal voucher but appreciated them and the fact that they had been proactively offered on arrival after a fairly short delay which arguable was outside the airline’s control.
I phoned Cathay and explained that the delay obviated the need for my trip to Seoul, and ask whether they would refund the cost of the fourth leg of the ticket. They said that they would only refund the tax. Their rationale was that a ticket ending in Hong Kong would be more expensive than the Incheon to Singapore return, so I was not due any refund. Airlines set the rules for the game by pricing their offering oddly and then use this to deny you a refund, alas.
The delay was annoying but I don’t hold Cathay responsible. I was disappointed that they wouldn’t partially refund the ticket. I also was very unimpressed at the lazy cabin crew.
On the plus hand, the delay handling in Hong Kong airport was excellent and shows that Cathay can still provide excellent customer service when it chooses.