I recently flew from LA to Hong Kong and had a chance to compare my experience to Chris’ good experience on the route a few weeks prior.
At the airport
I arrived a couple of hours before departure and the ground staff were very good. The ground agent was serving someone but once he had finished with him, came over to beckon me personally to the counter, which was highly courteous. He quickly issued my boarding pass and told me that I had been upgraded to premium economy. Security alas was not so fast and I was milling in the queue for a good twenty minutes.
The boarding gate was 104. Boarding was very efficient.
The plane was a Boeing 777 (registration B-KPO). Premium economy makes a big difference versus economy on Cathay when it comes to seat comfort – the seat is a bit wider, but feels a lot more spacious. The padding seems better but it’s the space I really appreciate.
We pushed back half an hour or so after departure. Premium economy was full and it looked as if economy was too.
The captain came on the intercom and it was the quietest announcement I have ever heard – I couldn’t make it out at all. That was the same for his other announcements later in the flight. This didn’t inspire confidence in his ability from my perspective, which was a shame as an hour or so later off the U.S. coast we hit some pretty serious turbulence for a good fifteen minutes and it was a pretty uncomfortable time. Once that cleared up, we continued up and around, hugging the coastline in a smooth trip all the way to Hong Kong.
Despite the delayed departure, we arrived at the gate (3) in Hong Kong only around ten minutes behind schedule.
There was a blanket and pillow on the chair before departure, along with a cute though thin amenity kit with the absolute basics inside, and a pre-departure beverage was served. Shortly afterwards they also distributed bottles of Crystal Geyser water. One meal was served shortly after takeoff, and the second about eight hours in. There were some tasty though small snacks in the galley and I once saw a crew member offer them in the cabin from a tray. I didn’t notice any drinks services in the cabin during the flight.
This was a dismal crew, the worst I can recall on Cathay. They were not friendly, critically they did not seem to work as a team and they weren’t especially competent; I had to ask for a drink three times before it came and one flight attendant asked me to show him the menu card when I mistakenly asked for something which wasn’t on the menu. They were mostly absent from the cabin, which didn’t surprise me, but I was surprised to see one wearing a jacket over her uniform as she (presumably) headed for a rest. That struck me as unprofessional.
Did it make a difference to the team cohesion that the captain didn’t seem able to operate a microphone effectively? Actually I think the captain sets the tone for the flight: the inflight manager can elevate it with a bad captain, but if the team is indifferent and not working as a team, and the inflight manager seems to be a waste of space then the captain failing to motivate the team from above means that they can be as indifferent as they want. I don’t think the captain ought to be concerning himself with the details of inflight service, but if as often repeated, the cabin crew is “primarily there for your safety” then an indifferent crew doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Food and drink
The crew distributed a simple, sturdy printed menu.
The first meal on this flight was delicious, both the starter and the beef main, though I wouldn’t have minded if it was a bit more substantial. Ice cream was offered but I didn’t bother, although if I recall correctly it was a different brand to the one shown on the menu.
The second meal was okay but just a bit odd. I don’t like a fruit platter as a starter outside of breakfast, although I know that this is a common choice on Asian airlines. Mint pea risotto is a bit far from what I would pair with lamb. The lamb itself was delicious.
Later in the flight I asked for the roasted vegetable folded pizza as a snack. I was told it would take twenty minutes to come, which it did and which seems a bit excessive for a snack. It seemed fairly processed and eating it directly out of a paper sleeve isn’t a great fit for the premiumness of Cathay’s brand, in my view. But the slice itself was tasty.
The turbulence on this flight was worse than I’ve had on the west coast of the U.S. before, so it was interesting to know that for future flights in this area. The meals were good but light, and the crew did the bare minimum and did that with few smiles and mixed competence.