Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 business class (Hong Kong-Brisbane)

Review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 business class (Hong Kong-Brisbane)

Route:
Hong Kong to Brisbane
Airline:
CX (Cathay Pacific)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Airbus A330-300
Flight:
CX155
Seat:
14D (centre aisle)

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Great choice of lounges in Hong Kong
  • Full dinner and breakfast service on overnight flights

What's Not

  • No pyjamas
  • Low-quality headphones

X-Factor

  • Fully-flat beds with direct aisle access on all Australian flights

Introduction

Planning a business class journey with Cathay Pacific? There's a good chance you'll find yourself aboard the airline's Airbus A330 aircraft during your travels, which appear regularly on flights to Australia and to destinations across Asia for connecting passengers.

While not as large as Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777s or as new as the airline's Airbus A350s, these A330s still provide fully-flat beds with direct aisle access at every seat, getting the basics right for most business travellers.

Australian Business Traveller put Cathay Pacific's Airbus A330 business class to the test on a recent flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane to bring you this review.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: The Marco Polo Club + Asia Miles. Through its membership in the global Oneworld alliance airline, travellers can earn points and status credits in other programs too like Qantas Frequent Flyer when travelling on eligible fares, and can use Qantas Points and other Oneworld miles to book Cathay Pacific flights.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 40kg total weight (maximum of two bags), boosted to 50kg for Marco Polo Club Silver frequent flyers. Marco Polo Club Gold members and other Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers (including Qantas Gold) receive a higher total allowance of 55kg over a maximum of three bags, while Marco Polo Club Diamond and Oneworld Emerald (including Qantas Platinum and above) can pack 60kg over three bags.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag plus one small item such as a laptop bag, briefcase, handbag or backpack, at a combined total weight of 10kg for most passengers, or 15kg for Marco Polo Club Diamond members and above. This bonus doesn't apply to other Oneworld frequent flyers: only Marco Polo members.
  • Airport fast-track: Priority check-in and boarding as expected, along with the use of Express Path channels in Australia, which saved a great deal of time at the Customs exit when arriving in Brisbane during the busy morning rush. Australian travellers can also freely enrol in the Hong Kong eChannel scheme to zip through Hong Kong passport control and to avoid completing landing and departure cards.
    Finally, while I normally travel with only carry-on, on this particular trip, my three checked bags appeared on the belt in good time, thanks to priority baggage tagging and delivery.

Lounge

Cathay Pacific's business class passengers are spoiled for lounge options in Hong Kong, having a choice between the airline's The Wing, The Pier, The Bridge and The Deck lounges, plus the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge under Oneworld rules.

Being in transit with a few hours to spare between a Finnair flight from Helsinki and this Cathay Pacific flight to Brisbane, I opted for The Pier, where there was no shortage of shower suites available, and my Dan Dan noodles from the Noodle Bar were promptly cooked and delicious...

... and to both unwind and help keep me awake before my onward departure, an old favourite from the cocktail bar: an Espresso Martini.

Travellers with Marco Polo Club Diamond status (and above), Qantas Platinum (and above) and other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers have two more options in The Wing First Class and The Pier First Class lounges, although access here isn't included for 'regular' business class passengers unless connecting from a long-haul Cathay Pacific first class flight, such as from London.

Read: The business traveller's guide to Cathay Pacific's Hong Kong lounges

Flight

On flights to Brisbane, Cathay Pacific uses both the Airbus A330 and the Airbus A350, with the A350 serving the airline's daily return Brisbane flights (CX156/157), and the A330 adding in an extra four-times-weekly service.

CX155 currently departs Hong Kong at 9:35pm on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays to reach Brisbane at 8:35am the following morning, with the return CX150 jetting from Brisbane at 10:35am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, touching down in Hong Kong at 5:40pm local time.

During peak periods, these Airbus A330 flights run non-stop, although throughout the year, they sometimes detour via Cairns in each direction, with Brisbane's daily A350 service remaining a non-stop flight.

When all Brisbane services are flying non-stop, Cathay Pacific instead serves Cairns using separate non-stop flights, and also links Hong Kong with Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth using a mix of A330, A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft, all with the choice of business class and premium economy.

Seat

Whether you're flying on an Airbus A350, Boeing 777 or the Airbus A330 as served this flight, you're always guaranteed a fully-flat bed in business class on Cathay Pacific's Australian flights, with seats in a 1-2-1 layout.

That's long been the case with Cathay Pacific, and guarantees direct aisle access for every passenger, whether sitting in the centre as I was, or over by the window on your lonesome.

Most of the seat's features and controls can be found in the side area, including a small storage cupboard where your headphones (and headphone plug) are located – ditto, a mirror – along with a reading light, power point, seat controls, TV connectors, USB power port and the detachable inflight entertainment remote:

Of course, you might not want to see yourself every time you open the side panel on an overnight flight, so that mirror can easily be covered up...

... and taking a closer look at the seat controls, the chair can be reclined and tracked to suit your preference or to make it easier at meal times, with the legrest having its own tab, and handy shortcut keys nearby for take-off/landing and bed positions, along with a switch for the seat's ambient lighting.

That keeps things relatively straightforward, with only one control button kept separately, and that's on your aisle-side armrest, which begins its journey in the stowed position...

... but can be raised with the simple press of a button:

Beneath that armrest is an almost-secret shoe cupboard with a closing door, but which can't be seen when comfortably seated. I've flown with Cathay Pacific many times but forgot it was even there, before spotting what appeared to be a cupboard in the safety demonstration video, which had me go looking.

Directly opposite that – and visible while seated – is a literature pocket down near the floor, which I always find is a handy place to stash the inflight menu when not needed...

... with extra storage down beside your legs, including a water bottle holder:

As there's a tiered space in front of you, you can't store personal items here during take-off and landing (other than the blanket), with the first 'level' serving as a handy footrest, and the upper section forming the tail end of your fully-flat bed...

... measuring up at a total of 82 inches (208cm) in length, but with a usable space of around 75 inches (190.5cm), given the tapering towards the back of the footwell, and that your head won't be pressed up against the seat's shell.

As this PR photo hints, pyjamas are BYO.

The seat cushion is just over 20 inches (51cm) wide, and although the seats are relatively 'open', there's still a reasonable feel of privacy thanks to that shell surrounding the seatback, and a further panel which obscures travellers' faces when sitting upright.

You'll also find a handy coat hook nearby, although the crew will hang your jacket before take-off...

... and whether you're sitting upright or in bed mode, this side shelf proves a handy place to keep drinks, snacks, and other items handy – or just out of your way:

Also, here's a little 'seat hack' for shorter travellers who may sometimes struggle to reach the overhead lockers. On the aisle-side of each seat, you'll spot this...

... which is a conveniently-placed step, to help you reach your bags above – and it's right near the seat's hard shell, so that you have something to hold onto.

Finally, business class on Cathay Pacific's Airbus A330-300 aircraft is divided into two zones, with most seats up the front, and a small three-row cabin just behind.

Where possible, I generally recommend sitting in the forward cabin, particularly for travellers who like to board early and settle in, because passengers travelling in premium economy and economy normally board the aircraft between rows 18 and 19 and walk further back to find their seats, through the rear business class section.

That means lots of foot traffic (and people behind you) when you're trying to store your bags and relax, as opposed to the front cabin which is much quieter.

Meal

Begin your journey with a choice of water, juice or Champagne (Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV) before take-off...

... with warmed nuts and an aperitif once in the sky: a simple Cointreau and lemonade in my case.

Being an overnight flight, my normal approach on journeys solely between Asia and Australia is to eat on the ground and sleep in the sky to maximise my rest, but as I was connecting home from Europe, in the process of adjusting between time zones and felt quite peckish, I took the chance to indulge in the dinner service.

This began with a starter of smoked halibut, roasted pumpkin, capsicum, pesto and tomato paste – a nice and fresh way to kick things off – with a mixed salad, garlic bread and a glass of Spanish white on the side (Tomas Cusine 'Auzells', D.O. Costers del Segre 2017):

For the main course, options were as follows:

  • Stir-fried chilli prawns glazed with crab meat, choy sum, carrot and steamed jasmine rice
  • Grilled Australian beef tenderloin with French beans, capsicum, new potatoes and red wine sauce
  • Chicken Makhanwala with jalfrezi vegetables and jeera pilaf
  • Strozzapreti pasta with zucchini sauce

I'd initially planned to order the prawns, but on Cathay Pacific, you give your meal preference when the trolley goes past, and after seeing the beef, I couldn't pass it up. The meat was nice and tender, and I thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

Next comes a cheese course, with a Stilton, St. Paulin and a Camembert mixed with crackers, fruits of your choice and spiced pear paste, which went well with a small glass of Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012:

Dessert follows – offering either Hibiscus jelly with mixed fruits, or a New York-style cheesecake – although I opted-out and went to bed.

Breakfast is served around two hours before landing, commencing with a glass of juice, and continuing with seasonal fresh fruits, oatmeal with chia seeds, coconut milk and apricot, and a selection of breads, with choices as follows for the main:

  • Parsley omelette with Dingley Dell pork sausage, streaky bacon, rosti potato and tomato concasse
  • Dim sum selection: prawn fun gor, asparagus dumpling, spinach siu mai and a glutinous rice dumpling
  • Beef, shimeji mushroom and dried scallop congee with stir-fried egg noodles and vegetables

Most of the time, I'll order dishes that are 'local' for the airline, so went with the dim sum and enjoyed the meal with the spicy sauce and chopsticks provided:

Tea and coffee are also available, although with no espresso machine on board, it's just 'black' or 'white'.

Overall though, that's still a pretty solid meal service for a nine-hour flight, and on this occasion I was glad to have a full dinner available – not just supper – and a comprehensive breakfast to boot.

Entertainment & Service

A 15-inch video screen sits in front of each passenger, and although this may be stowed as you step on board the aircraft...

... you can pop it out by pressing the button in front, to reveal your touchscreen monitor.

I found a good selection of movies and TV shows on board, although the supplied noise-cancelling headphones gave particularly poor sound quality, so I reverted to my own pair.

When it comes to entertainment, sitting in the centre pair of seats may be fine when travelling with a companion, although if your seatmate has stowed their own inflight monitor but left it switched on, it'll be staring right at you when sitting upright.

Here's what that looks like, with my TV screen unlocked and the screen beside me stowed – so if you are planning to head to bed and fold your TV screen away, as a courtesy to your neighbour, do make sure it's switched off:

Given my own screen was within easy reach, I didn't have much use for the supplied remote control found over near the seat's side panel, except to glance at it occasionally to see how much time was remaining on the flight:

That said, I couldn't find a way to switch off the remote control's screen when trying to sleep – even when the main TV display had been turned off and stowed – so ended up pulling out the remote, storing it down in the seat's side panel, and placing the supplied amenity kit on top to obscure the light, because even if you turn it over, there's an illuminated keyboard on the back which is just as shiny.

Service-wise, cabin crew on this flight were polite, handled requests promptly and addressed passengers by name throughout the meal service, thanks to a printed 'cheat sheet' kept atop their trolleys.

Outside of meal times, crew tended to remain in the galleys – reducing the number of footsteps in the aisle for sleeping passengers – but responded promptly to call bells.

All things considered, while this may not be Cathay Pacific's newest business class seat, it still ticks most of the boxes for a comfortable journey, although the addition of espresso coffee, and pyjamas on overnight flights, would be most appreciated.

Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense using frequent flyer points.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

18 comments

  • smit0847

    smit0847

    23 Jan, 2019 04:37 am

    How come the seat was only 3.5/5?
    Aside from a sliding door CX's A330 business class seats are about as good as herringbone seats get, and have the two critical factors some other airlines seats don't have -- storage and privacy.
    No member give thanks

  • Dale

    hakkinen5

    23 Jan, 2019 08:49 am

    Usable length 190cm would be 1 reason I guess. About 10cm shorter than some other seats out there.
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  • LP

    LP

    23 Jan, 2019 10:09 am

    The seats are really quite narrow, not a lot of shoulder room at all.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    23 Jan, 2019 10:53 am

    Hi smit0847. A star rating of 3.5/5 is the same as giving a 7/10, which certainly isn't a bad score, so I wouldn't say the rating was "only" 3.5, as such.

    Cathay Pacific's A330 seats, while generally comfortable, aren't quite as good as the newer seats found on their A350s, which have bigger and brighter entertainment screens with a more intuitive inflight entertainment system, better-designed storage spaces that can all be fully-utilised during take-off and landing, improved privacy through a larger shell that wraps around each passenger's head, and other more subtle differences, so while the A330 seat certainly gets the basics right (a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access), in 2019, a 3.5/5 or 7/10 is a fair score for the A330 seat, all things considered.

    It also takes into account that Cathay Pacific doesn't provide a mattress pad, duvet, a larger sleeping pillow or pyjamas for a good night's rest on the seat – merely the typical small pillow and airline blanket, which I put over the seat itself to make it softer, rather than using as a blanket. All up, it's still a good seat, just not a perfect one: and the star rating reflects that.

    No member give thanks

  • Dave

    Grannular

    23 Jan, 2019 09:07 am

    I don't think I would call fully flat beds with direct aisle access an X Factor. More of an expectation these days.
    Member who gave thanks

    074061

  • Stefan Kane

    DrSK

    23 Jan, 2019 10:50 am

    True, but it's an expectation that is routinely not met by many other airlines flying internationally to/from Australia. As Chris notes, you will always get a fully flat bed with direct aisle access when flying J on CX in Australia - this consistency counts for a lot, in my experience. The changes to the updated version of this seat on the A350s, while nice, are really quite minor, and are more than outweighed by their seemingly interminable issues with build quality and durability.
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  • Lachlan Burnet

    Lachlan72

    23 Jan, 2019 11:36 am

    CX is still my preferred J class choice to HKG. (Admittedly haven't tried VA). The timings have more choice (to/from SYD) than QF and I prefer the J Class CX seat slightly for comfort over QF's newer biz seat. CX will be even better once the enhanced meal service is introduced on flights here. I like how on CX you have have cheese AND dessert. Numerous times on QF I've been told I can't do that and can only pick one. Finally, slightly disagree with Chris on the smaller cabin. I much prefer this - quieter during flight and less or a "dormentory feel" than the bigger cabin. Yes, some pax walk through during boarding, but that's only a handful of minutes compared to the peace of the smaller cabin for a flight of many hours.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    23 Jan, 2019 01:08 pm

    Interesting point on the rear cabin: I've flown down there before, but find that these seats are generally the last to be served with the crew working their way from the front of the aircraft to the back, so on overnight flights, that can mean getting the meal later than others, which cuts into sleeping time if you're having a bite before turning in, despite the other advantages.
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  • Lachlan Burnet

    Lachlan72

    23 Jan, 2019 03:54 pm

    Fair point about the meals, Chris. The last couple of flights I've been on, the crew started the second meal service of the flight from the opposite end that they started the first service from. Could be up to each flight's In-Flight Service Manager how to structure the service? Not sure, but HKG-SYD last time they started from the back and worked forward. At any rate, my personal preference is always the smaller cabin. The new food service system might change things when introduced here.
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  • Anders Ccervin

    acervin

    28 Jan, 2019 09:34 am

    From memory, Lufthansa start service from the front outbound and from the back homebound. Maybe other carriers have a similar system?
    No member give thanks

  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    23 Jan, 2019 11:54 am

    Do you know if the HKG e-channel registration expires after a fixed period, and needs to be renewed?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    23 Jan, 2019 12:10 pm

    The registration is valid until the expiry date shown on your passport, so for Australians, that's up to 10 years. Hong Kong just requires that your passport be valid for at least one month after the period of your intended stay each time you visit.
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  • rencontre

    rencontre

    23 Jan, 2019 02:46 pm

    @Lachlan72. Do yourself a favour and give VA a go on this route - in my experience, far superior.
    Member who gave thanks

    jch

  • bcworld

    bcworld

    23 Jan, 2019 07:01 pm

    As evidenced by the photos, the quality of meals served by CX in J is still very poor! Basically Y class meals served up in porcelain. I thought CX were going to upgrade J meals to something actually plated up by the FAs? Having just flown MEL HKG rtn with VA in J the meals leave CX's offerings for dead.
    No member give thanks

  • Dan Ho

    djtech

    23 Jan, 2019 10:46 pm

    Definitely better than Y class but I would say more of a Y+ portion with slightly upgraded choice. I agree than VA has much better portions and quality in Business but QF has a similar portion sized not to mention their 'light refreshment' instead of a full meal on landing.
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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    23 Jan, 2019 07:06 pm

    Cheese AND dessert!
    No member give thanks

  • IntegralMan

    IntegralMan

    23 Jan, 2019 08:08 pm

    I travel regularly with CX and find Chris' experience was quite consistent with CX service. It's far from a world-beating J class experience, but it's an acceptable hard product with decent service.

    I do, however, agree the food is a real weakness. Hopefully the improvement program they're slowly rolling out across the network goes some way to solving those issues. What I do like about it is that it's served via a choice off the trolley. It makes the meal service very quick and easy which is what you want on an overnight flight. QF can take 2+ hours to complete meal service on the evening ex-HKG flights which is just too long.
    No member give thanks

  • Dan Ho

    djtech

    23 Jan, 2019 10:50 pm

    I find CX's strength is their consistency in business. The seat is identical throughout their long-haul fleet. Whereas Qantas, you have to choose the a330 or 787 and not the a380 and have a slight chance of getting the 'dud' a330 with SkyBed I.

    The new meal service I've experienced from a Chicago to Hong Kong flight was a bit of a step up but don't expect much of an increase in portion. I had more choice and a fancier menu which reads more like a Taste magazine more than anything. Portion sizes have not changed but I guess for the better since I get to try all the new inflight snacks! The Maryland crab cakes are quite nice. Service was quite prompt and its more personalised when they bring it around for the supper flights.
    No member give thanks

Guest

23 May, 2019 05:21 am

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