This was ticketed as the third leg of a Tokyo to New York return ticket which in total booked into V class, costing 100,780 yen (HKD 6,698) and accrued 19,717 Asia Miles. In terms both of price and of the mileage accruing, I find this to be excellent value by Cathay’s standards.
Cathay added a Newark route to its JFK routes last year. When booking this ticket I had had the option of departing from either JFK or Newark and as both are equally convenient for me decided to choose Newark basically to see what it was like.
It was years since I had flown from Newark. In my mind the time to the airport was similar to JFK but I wondered if it would be like that in practice. In the end I went to the grimy – though well-policed – Penn Station and took an NJ Transit train to Newark Airport station and the internal “Air Train” from there. Both were clean, quiet and reliable and I arrived at the airport about an hour and twenty minutes before the scheduled departure time of 1.10 a.m. The checkin desk was totally empty when I arrived and so I was able to check in immediately. As I did so, the flight crew arrived at the checkin area.
I asked whether I might have an extra legroom seat as I had on the outbound leg and the ground agent changed my preassigned seat to 59H.
I proceeded through security where again there was no queue and the staff were friendly. I used the BA Galleries lounge, a short walk from security, and from there proceeded to gate 55, also a fairly short walk away.
Overall I was impressed by my experience of the Cathay checkin process at Newark. It was fast, smooth and involved relatively little walking once in the airport.
This was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. The seats were properly reclining. 59H was by the door and galley, so it had endless legroom but also some noise from the galley. It’s also in the same row as the baby bassinet so there was some noise from a poorly behaved child a couple of seats over in the centre.
The departure time was scheduled to be 1:10 a.m. and boarding was in full swing half an hour before that. We pushed back at 1.05 a.m. and began a relatively short taxi.
The seat beside me was empty, although the armrests on those bulkhead seats are immoveable so one could not take full advantage of that. The economy cabin was busy without being full – it looked to be about eighty per cent loaded, despite the dearth of passengers at the checkin area when I had been there.
As is often the case for flights from the east coast of the United States to Hong Kong, we took the polar route which as I understand it takes better advantage of the winds – thus, passing over northern Russia, east of Norilsk and Irkutsk, then heading down over Ulan Bator and over China.
It was a smooth service and we had little turbulence for the entire flight.
We arrived in Hong Kong ahead of schedule by forty five minutes, arriving at 6.15 a.m. at the conveniently located gate G3.
I was impressed and happy with the service on this trip, starting from the ground agent who although not especially friendly was efficient and helpful, the excellent gate staff and the cabin crew. I received a Marco Polo greeting both from the flight attendant and manager and they were friendly throughout, checking in on me and for example bringing me another drink without asking for it and so on.
Food and Drink
As this flight is scheduled to leave after one in the morning, as one may expect the first meal service began shortly after the takeoff. Menus were distributed first, unlike my outbound flight to JFK where there were no menus. The meal and drink service were concurrent.
The starter of potato salad and prawns was fine and the main course of salmon and potatoes was decent thought not especially tasty. The wines on offer looked terrible – the red was a 2015 screwcap Chilean wine – so I had beer, although coming out of America I was served Coors Light which I don’t much care for as a beer. There was an ice lolly for dessert, but I declined.
During the flight there was a small snack setup at the galley and occasionally a tray of waters brought through the dimmed cabin.
Cathay’s popular instant noodle offering on its longhaul flights can sometimes cause annoyance. Often one passenger asks for some, then as others smell them, they do the same, and for several hours there is a near constant stream of passengers to and from the galley. On my last redeye service from New York to Hong Kong last year, the North American based crew served breakfast halfway through the flight with no more food for the remaining eight hours, seemingly to stop having to serve noodles.
This crew prepared trays of noodles about eight hours into the flight and walked through the cabin offering them, which I thought was a better approach on all fronts.
Breakfast was served an hour and a bit before Hong Kong. I wanted congee but it was finished so had a rather rubbery omelette and hash brown.
This was a good flight, showing a well-led and coordinated Cathay cabin crew. In some ways, Newark is not as good an option as JFK (for example, it only has one flight per night, so if one misses it, there is no fallback option). But overall I was impressed by the service there and how smooth the airport experience was. I will definitely now consider the Newark flight as an equal alternative at least to the JFK one when choosing future itineraries.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.