Taipei is a major destination for business travellers – and for Cathay Pacific, with over 10 daily return flights darting between the two cities.
Many of these flights feature Cathay's long-range international business class seats, on a route that's barely longer than a quick Sydney-Melbourne hop.
Australian Business Traveller recently flew from Taipei to Hong Kong aboard Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777-300ER, to bring you this business class review.
- Frequent flyer program: The Marco Polo Club + Asia Miles. Through its membership in the global Oneworld alliance, 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, boarding and luggage delivery work as expected. There are no 'Express Path' equivalents for immigration and security at either Taipei or Hong Kong, although Australian travellers can freely enrol in the Hong Kong eChannel scheme to zip through Hong Kong passport control and to avoid completing landing and departure cards: ditto the Taiwan e-Gates.
If you're near Taipei Main Station, you can now check-in and drop-off bags for Cathay Pacific flights through the in-town check-in facility. This is a relatively new addition, so extra signage and staff are around to help you.
It's available to anyone, not just passengers taking the Taoyuan MRT to the airport. Otherwise, Cathay Pacific has a dedicated row for business and first class check-in at Taipei Taoyuan Airport T1.
It's worth getting to the airport early to relax in Cathay Pacific's excellent lounge in Taipei Airport.
From the well-stocked bar, you can order from a large range of drinks such as cocktails and bubble milk tea...
... while from the Noodle Bar, there are plenty of delicious small bites made to order, such as Dan Dan noodles.
A lounge invitation will be issued alongside your boarding pass for a quick and easy entry at reception.
With a journey time of 1 hour and 55 minutes, CX445 departs Taipei at 1:45pm each day to reach Hong Kong by 3:40pm. Due to bad weather, we ended up spending an extra 35 minutes holding near Hong Kong.
On these short regional routes with high frequencies, it's not uncommon to encounter last-minute aircraft changes or delays and cancellation of flights, so be mindful that you might end up on a different aircraft, or flight, to what you originally booked.
I was initially set to fly later that afternoon on an Airbus A330 with regional business class, but received a flight delay notification first thing in the morning.
Armed with this information, I immediately rang Cathay Pacific from my hotel and easily switched to an earlier flight (CX445) for free, which happened to have a first class cabin and lie-flat business class seats. More importantly, it was still running on time.
On this route, you might also see Airbus A330s and Airbus A350s with international business class, both of which are often found on flights between Hong Kong and Australia.
If your schedule permits, check other times to see what's available. In the example below, the 7:20pm departure has the newest Airbus A350-1000 scheduled, while the flight just 5 minutes later still has the standard regional Airbus A330.
Business class on Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777-300ERs comes in a 1-2-1 arrangement, with seats angled away from the aisles.
There's a mini-cabin of two rows at the front, then the main cabin with eleven rows.
Each seat has a small pillow upon boarding. Also, note the shoe storage cabinet under the armrest.
Each seat has a tapered foot cubby which I didn't find to be too narrow, although unlike some other business class seats, this one doesn't have a hollow area under the ottoman for additional storage.
Seats in the front of each cabin have a bit more space in the footwell, but do have that space underneath for more storage.
The centre pairs are angled towards each other and are suitable for people travelling together, although there's no privacy divider between them for solo flyers. The only way around that is to swing open the adjacent cupboard door to achieve a similar outcome.
The wrap-around shell provides reasonable privacy from any neighbours.
The aisle-side armrest can be moved up or down, for your comfort. The default position is stowed away.
All your seat controls are in the side panel, aside a remote for the inflight entertainment, an adjustable reading light, an AC power point, USB charging outlet and an AV port.
The AV port isn't where you plug in your headphones. Instead, that socket is hidden away inside the cupboard just behind the seat controls.
Near your feet is the main storage space for your bits and pieces, with a net for a water bottle.
The seat's tray table pops out folded in half, but it's most useful when expanded. The table isn't height-adjustable – it can only move towards or away from you.
The safety card and other reading material are located in a small flap near the floor, out of the way.
Coat hooks are found towards the aisle on the back of the seat ahead of you; you can see it in use on the far right.
Once again, this is all on a flight which will last just under two hours.
On longer flights such as from Hong Kong to Australia Cathay's Boeing 777 business class seat still gets the basics right, but doesn't stack up quite as strongly, compared to Cathay Pacific's newer aircraft and some of its competitors
The journey begins with a choice of drinks before takeoff, including Champagne Deutz Brut Classic NV.
Given the relatively short flight time and large business class cabin size, the meal service kicked off fairly quickly. Here's the menu:
[You can click or tap on the image to enlarge it.]
Everyone received a tray with the appetiser and dessert already plated. The main meals were then wheeled around on a trolley, so you could choose on the spot.
My partner nabbed the barbeque chicken thigh, which she reported to be quite tasty...
... leaving me with the sole option remaining off the trolley – the stir-fried prawn ball with steamed rice and veggies.
This dish was surprisingly good, despite its watery appearance. The prawn balls tasted fresh and the rice wasn't dry like I've experienced on previous flights.
I wasn't a fan of the parma ham starter, but that's just down to personal taste. The mango marble cheesecake was as delicious as it looked inviting.
With my late lunch, I also enjoyed a signature Cathay Delight which just might be my favourite mocktail ever – kiwifruit with coconut milk and a touch of mint.
My partner tried the other signature drink – the Pacific Sunrise – a magical-looking concoction of golden Champagne mixed with Drambuie and garnished with lemon and orange zest.
Entertainment & Service
The 15-inch entertainment screen swings out from the side, but doesn't have to be stowed for take-off or landing, so you can watch shows gate-to-gate.
Cathay Pacific's refreshed inflight entertainment interface is easy to use and offers a good selection of new-release movies and television shows.
However, a particular negative was having to sit through nearly five minutes of advertisements and sponsored messages before the movie actually played. Some clips were repeated, so I'm not sure if it was an error or intentional.
The ads were 'burned in' to the actual movie stream so I attempted to use the fast-forward functionality. However, it was laggy even at 2x speed, and I ended up jumping back and forth a few times.
Noise-cancelling headphones are found in this cabinet and do a reasonable job. I still preferred my own pair of Bose QC25s, though.
There was no inflight WiFi on this particular aircraft, and given the short flight length, amenity kits weren't offered.
The cabin crew worked at a lightning pace to look after the almost-full cabin, completing the meal service within an hour after departure.
Despite all this, guests were still greeted by name and special requests (such as my glass of Cathay Delight, which was not on the drinks trolley) were looked after promptly. I couldn't fault the cabin crew's service at all.
For the quick dash between Taipei and Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific business class ticks all the boxes. There are excellent departure lounges on both ends and if you can land one of the Airbus A330s, A350s or Boeing 777s with lie-flat business class seats, well that's just a bonus.
Brandon Loo travelled to Hong Kong at his own expense using frequent flyer points.