Tag Archives: first class

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific First Class BOS to HKG (CX 811)

On most flights, I typically like to sit on the right-hand side of the aircraft, but in Cathay Pacific first class, the seats on the left (1A and 2A) are more private since the center seats open up to the right-hand aisle. So on this flight, I had selected seat 1A. I will say that it seems like the flight crew defaults to using the left-hand aisle to pass through the cabin so as to disturb fewer passengers, so there is slightly more foot traffic on the left-hand side.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t have overhead bins in the first class cabin, so it feels more spacious. Instead of overhead bins, there are lockers at every seat for you to store your belongings.

My seat, 1A

Footrest and IFE screen

Seat and IFE controls

Storage closet

I was soon offered a pre-departure beverage of water, juice or champagne. I was also offered an amuse bouche of prosciutto and cauliflower, but I asked if they had a vegetarian option instead since I had requested a vegetarian meal. The flight attendant scrounged around for a bit and brought me a flaky pastry filled with hummus, an olive, and marinated sun-dried tomato instead. I was then given Bose headphones, PYE pajamas, and an amenity kit (I requested the female one to give to my sister since I already had several of the male amenity kits).

Headphones, amenity kit, pajamas

Vegetarian amuse bouche

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a special VJML (Jain vegetarian meal). I was still provided a menu and wine list for the flight, and I was told that I could order off the menu after the flight attendant asked the other passengers for their selections.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

After takeoff, I was given warm cashews and almonds to start. I ordered a Cathay delight to drink.

Nuts to start with Cathay Delight

I started my meal service off with the caviar service. I prefer blinis to toast, and I like the spoon that Cathay uses, which makes Cathay’s caviar service one of my favorites. I was also offered an entire warmed breadbasket, although there was no handwritten card.

Caviar service

I next had a soup of white asparagus with some freshly ground black pepper. If you like soup and asparagus, then it was pretty tasty.

White asparagus soup

The salad that I was served was the salad off the menu without the lobster. It was a little odd to eat without the lobster, since the salad was mostly just frisee otherwise, but I could imagine that it would be good with lobster.

Salad

My VJML entree was not very good. There were cut green beans and cauliflower in a brown sauce. I wish there had been lentils or chickpeas or something with more protein.

Pretty bad VJML

The fresh berries in rose syrup, though, made up for my sub-par entree.

Berries in rose syrup

And since I’m a glutton, I also tried the pistachio cake with ice cream. A little too sweet for my tastes, but still good.

Pistachio cake and ice cream

After dinner chocolates

After dinner, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and when I got back to my seat, the bed had already been made. In general, I found the service on this flight to be good and proficient, but maybe not quite as personable or memorable as crews I’ve had on the past on Cathay Pacific.

One benefit of the departure time of this flight is that I found it easy to sleep. I slept soundly for about 9 hours, and I find the Cathay Pacific seat and bed to be one of my favorite hard products. It’s nice and wide, and the bedding is comfortable.

Bed

For breakfast, I started with a fruit plate that was pretty delicious. I also ordered some earl grey tea which came pre-steeped.

Fruit plate

The VJML pre-arrival meal was way better than dinner. It consisted of okra, cauliflower, potatoes, and peas in a spicy and flavorful sauce.

Much tastier VJML pre-arrival meal

Overall, this was a solid flight on Cathay Pacific. It’s one of my favorite hard products for sleeping, and I felt that the service was pretty good.

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class CGK to NRT Boeing 777-300ER

This was my second flight on Japan Airlines first class. You can read a review of my first flight in JAL first here.

I was welcomed warmly on board. I’ve heard other people criticize JAL for having flight attendants who don’t have a great command of English, but English proficiency was high across the board for this crew. Four of the eight first class seats were occupied on this flight, and there were two other Asian people who don’t speak Japanese on this flight (or at least they preferred to converse with the flight attendants in English instead of Japanese).

I really like the first class cabin on JAL. I think it’s classy (except for the carpet), and the hard product is great. The seat is super wide and comfortable, the screen for the in-flight entertainment is large, and there’s lots of storage space for the seat (your bag can go underneath the foot rest/ottoman, and there are a number of side compartments for storage of smaller items like a laptop or glasses case). It’s also easy to look out the windows (unlike, say, the ANA First Square product).

JAL First Class seat 2K

JAL First Class seat 2K

Looking forward into 1K

Looking forward into 1K

IFE screen and foot area

IFE screen and foot area

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

More storage and power outlet

More storage and power outlet

Privacy divider up

Privacy divider up

There was an amenity kit waiting for me at my seat. This was different from the one that I had received on my prior flight flying from NRT to LAX, and I asked the flight attendant if the kits had recently changed. She told me that they hadn’t, and it turns out that JAL has different amenity kits for inbound vs outbound flights. I was also offered pajamas, a pre-departure beverage, a blanket, a menu, and a small set of Shiseido amenities for men.

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

I don’t really understand why they build airplanes without personal air vents. The cabin got super warm during taxiing and takeoff, but they corrected the cabin temperature and kept it much cooler for this flight than my previous JAL flight. I went to sleep immediately after takeoff on this flight, and I was able to sleep much better on this flight because the cabin was cooler.

I find the JAL bed to be quite comfortable. The seat is wide, so the sleeping space doesn’t feel constricted, and they have a thick mattress pad on top (you can choose between the “hard” side and the “soft” side for the mattress pad, although I’m not sure how much difference there is between the two functionally).

Made bed

Made bed

The crew on this flight was amazing. They were extremely attentive and friendly, and there was great attention to detail. For example, they would rearrange your slippers for you when you’re sleeping so that when you wake up, you can slip them on more easily. They also unwrapped the pajamas in front of you, and they were meticulous about the amount of time the tea was steeped for. I almost felt bad for sleeping through so much of the service because this crew was so great!

The flight from CGK to NRT is blocked for about 7.5 hours, which really isn’t that long for a red-eye flight, especially if you want to eat anything. I asked a flight attendant to wake me up 1.5 hours prior to landing so I could try out some of the food. For my meal service, I started off with the caviar. The caviar presentation is maybe not as elaborate as on other carriers, but it was quite tasty, and the spoon was actually made of mother of pearl and wasn’t just shiny plastic. JAL takes their food very seriously.

Caviar service

Caviar service

Up next I had the fruit plate. Although I’m not a huge fan of dragonfruit, it was surprisingly decent.

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

For my main course, I had the pancakes. They weren’t quite like American pancakes, and they were a tad dry, but they were delicious when eaten with the cream sauce they were served with.

Pancakes

Pancakes

As accompaniments, there was a marinated vegetable salad, yogurt, bread, and green tea jelly. Perhaps not the traditional assortment of Western breakfast accompaniments, but I enjoyed the green tea jelly.

Gelatin dessert

Marinated vegetables, green tea jelly dessert, yogurt

Soon after finishing my meal, we began the descent into NRT. The flight was scheduled to land at 6:35am, and we landed a bit early. One thing to keep in mind is that the JAL lounges at Narita airport don’t open until 7:30am! I found it super strange that they have flights that arrive about an hour before the lounge even opens (e.g. most carriers will make sure that their lounges stay open through the last departure, so you’d think that the lounges would open for the first arrival).

Saying goodbye to plane

Saying goodbye to plane at NRT

Overall, this was a great (if short) flight. The service on this segment was incredible, the food was solid, and the hard product is great. Definitely a great way to fly within Asia!

Flight Review: Emirates Airlines First Class A380 DXB to SIN (EK 354)

On my second Emirates first class flight on this trip from Dubai to Singapore, I was the only passenger in first class. This flight departed at around 3am, and we were delayed a bit due to congestion. Funny how 3am is a congested time at DXB! Only in the Middle East.

Boarding an A380 to Singapore

Boarding an A380 to Singapore

Based on the first interaction, I could immediately tell that Sarah, the flight attendant serving the first class cabin, was awesome. She was super bubbly and nice, and she was really attentive. I wanted to go to sleep immediately, so I almost felt bad that I wasn’t giving her anything to do.

I told her that I wanted lots of water, the cabin temperature lowered, and to be woken up 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to landing so I could take a shower and have a meal. She set up a bed in another suite and delivered my requested water.

Asked for lots of water

Asked for lots of water and that is what I received

I slept soundly for a couple of hours, and I didn’t overheat thanks to the lowered cabin temperature. I was woken up exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to departure. After waking up, I showered, which is such a great (if excessive) amenity. I felt super refreshed and was able to hit the ground running in Singapore thanks to my onboard shower.

Post-shower snack

Post-shower snack

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a vegetarian oriental special meal (VOML). Even though I was the only passenger and I had pre-ordered a special meal, Sarah told me that the entire menu was catered as well, so she guilted me into trying the vegetarian pad thai from the menu as well as my special meal.

Menu for this flight

Menu for this flight

Ready for my meal

Ready for my meal

It’s hard to see, but I enjoyed the pain au chocolat that was in the bread basket.

Breakfast bread basket

Bread basket

The vegetarian pad thai, on the other hand, was not very good. It just tasted salty and a little bit spicy, kinda like a bad chow mein. Not at all like what pad thai should taste like.

Veggie pad thai

Veggie pad thai

My VOML was actually pretty decent. It was vegetarian dim sum, although it looked a lot like meat to me. There were some stir-fried noodles, sticky rice in a banana leaf, and shu mai.

Vegetarian oriental meal (VOML)

Vegetarian oriental meal (VOML)

Finally, I had a fruit plate for dessert.

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

This crew was generally much more detail oriented than other Emirates crews I’ve had in the past. They did things like tidy up my seat while I was in the bathroom, which I’ve generally found to be more common on Asian carriers (e.g. Singapore, Cathay Pacific, ANA) than other ones. Easily the best Emirates crew I’ve had.

ICE IFE system

IFE system and a warm towel

First class seat

First class seat

Empty first class cabin

Empty first class cabin

Overall, this was a great flight. People sometimes criticize Middle Eastern carriers for having service that lacks personality and attention to detail, but Sarah on this flight was amazing, and she provided service that could rival the service I’ve received on any other airline. I just wish I were awake for more of the flight to experience more of the service!

Lounge Review: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai (DXB) Concourse A

I’ve reviewed the Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai before, but that was in 2013, so here’s an updated review.

Entrance to the first class lounge

Entrance to the first class lounge

The entrance to the spa is right in front of the entrance to the first class lounge. As a First Class passenger, you’re entitled to a complimentary treatment. This time, I chose a haircut since I never seem to get haircuts as often as I should, and it was pretty decent (although my hair is very simple and unstyled).

Entrance to the spa

Entrance to the spa

I can’t help but be impressed whenever I visit this lounge. It’s huge. Cavernous, almost. It’s also a bit sterile, in that it doesn’t feel “cozy” at all, and the first class lounge is strange in that it’s often only very sparsely populated with passengers, and yet there are tons of staff just standing around with nothing to do.

Map of half of the lounge

Map of half of the lounge (the other half has essentially identical amenities)

Directions in the lounge

Directions in the lounge

The lounge has just about every sort of lounge amenity that you could think of. There are video games, TVs, a business center, a formal dining room, a more casual cafe-ish dining area, shower rooms, a spa, shopping, a kids room, a cigar room, a prayer room, a relaxation room, and a shoe shine stand.

Shopping within the lounge

Shopping within the lounge

One variety of seating area

One variety of seating area

Lounge decor

Lounge decor

It just keeps going on

It just keeps going on

I spent some time working in the business center. One thing that could be improved is the wifi speed. The wifi is pretty slow (about 1 mbps down), but it works.

Business center

Business center

Although I didn’t use it this time around, I’ve taken a nap in the relaxation room before, and it’s plenty comfortable for that purpose. They have pillows and blankets and eye masks at all of the seats. Not a place you’d want to spend too much time given the lack of privacy, but fine if you need a place to lie down for a bit.

Relaxation room

Relaxation room

Recliners if you want a nap

Recliners if you want a nap

Charging station

Charging station

Kids room

Kids room

One nice aspect of this lounge is the dining area with proper table service. There’s both an extensive menu as well as an extensive buffet for whatever you’re looking for.

Dining room seating

Dining room seating

Window into the kitchen

Window into the kitchen

Here are photos of the made-to-order menu at the time. Apologies for the hand and camera shadows!

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

One thing that slightly worries me about the buffet is how often the food gets turned over. The lounge never gets particularly busy, so I’m wondering how long some of the food items sit there before they get thrown out…

Pastries

Pastries

Sushis and seafoods

Sushis and seafoods

Cheeses

Cheeses

Salads

Salads

Foods

Foods

Hot buffet

Hot buffet

More hot dishes

More hot dishes

I decided to order some food from the menu. To start, they brought out some mezze and some bread and butter. More airlines should serve good bread and butter. Good bread isn’t that expensive, and it’s super good. I think the best bread I’ve had on airlines has been on either JAL or Qantas, and I appreciated the bread and butter served in the lounge here.

Appetizers to start

Appetizers to start

Next up I had the spring roll. Which was a spring roll. Not too much to say about it.

Spring roll

Spring roll

For me entree, I had the paneer achari, which was pretty good. A solid vegetarian main, although I wish they had more vegetarian options on the menu.

Paneer achari

Paneer achari

For dessert, I just had a large bowl of berries. Berries are so great and can be rare to find while traveling!

Overall, the Emirates First Class lounge at DXB is just an impressive physical space. The lounge spans the length of much of the terminal, and you can board directly from the lounge onto A380s. The lounge offers all of the amenities that you might expect from a lounge, and generally does a good job with all of them. The service can be a bit strange given the extreme surplus of workers to passengers (you’d think that would mean that the service would be extremely attentive, but I haven’t found that to be the case), but it’s definitely a treat every time I get to visit this lounge.

Trip Report: Emirates A380 First Class SFO to DXB (EK 226)

This was my second flight in Emirates Airlines First Class on their A380. Emirates was actually the first airline that I ever flew in international first class, so it has a special place in my heart.

A380 to take me to DXB

A380 to take me to DXB

Boarding was a bit delayed due to a late-arriving aircraft, but I was welcomed warmly on board once boarding started.

Lots of wheelchairs waiting to board

Lots of wheelchairs waiting to board

There were only two passengers in first class on this flight, so I was shown to my assigned suite and told I could sit anywhere. This was a newer aircraft (just two months old), and it’s an impressive hard product. The suite has tons of storage space, including a closet for each seat (although it’s not actually an enclosed closet and just opens up into your suite). It feels extremely private, and I love the finishes. The only critique is that the seat itself is actually not that wide, and the cabin feels a bit crowded to me when all of the doors are closed, but that’s a function of having enclosed suites rather than open seats.

Emirates First Class seat/suite

Emirates First Class seat/suite

View of the seat/suite from behind

View of the seat/suite from behind

Seat and IFE controls

Seat and IFE controls

I was quickly offered amenities of pajamas, slippers, an amenity kit, a snack basket, and a bag to hold it all. Already at the seat was a writing kit (I’m a fan of the pen), a vanity kit, headphones, and a stocked drink mini-bar.

All of the goodies that they give you (and a helpful carrying bag as well)

All of the goodies that they give you (and a helpful carrying bag as well)

Tons of storage space in the seat

Tons of storage space in the seat

Unrefrigerated mini-bar at each seat

Unrefrigerated mini-bar at each seat

Vanity kit, mirror, and snack basket

Vanity kit, mirror, writing kit, and snack basket

Multiple people came by to greet me before the flight, and I was given a tour of the bathrooms and seat functions. And then the captain came by and offered me a chance to look at the cockpit, which was awesome! I was also told that the load was super light in all classes, with just 261 passengers and 31 crew.

View of the cabin (note the somewhat ungraciously stuffed-next-to-the-seat bedding)

View of the cabin

Looking down the aisle of the plane

Looking down the aisle of the plane

Prior to departure, I was offered Arabic coffee and dates as well as the opportunity to order a pre-departure beverage. I asked for sparking water with lime or lemon, and when I was asked if I wanted ice, I said no if the water was chilled. When I was brought the water, the flight attendant wanted to make sure that the water was cold enough for me! She was super on point.

Date and coffee before takeoff

Date and coffee before takeoff

Love that they have shower icons for their bathrooms

Love that they have shower icons for their bathrooms

Safety demonstration on the large IFE screens

Safety demonstration on the large IFE screens

This plane had the option to watch not just from a tail camera, but also a downward-facing camera as well as one at the nose of the plane, which was awesome! I love the takeoff roll on the A380 because you’re off the ground before you feel like the plane is even moving quickly.

Watching external cameras before takeoff

Watching external cameras before takeoff

After takeoff, I had the chance to peruse the massive menus. Emirates has an on-demand dining service, and I had pre-ordered an Asian vegetarian special meal (AVML). I decided to hold off on eating a proper meal given that I had eaten quite a bit in the lounge at SFO prior to the flight, so I just had some fruit to start.

Liquor menu

Liquor menu

Liquors continued and à la carte options

Liquors continued and à la carte options

À la carte menu continued

À la carte menu continued

Dom Perignon 2004 champagne offered

Dom Perignon 2004 champagne offered

Other wines on offer

Other wines on offer

Dessert wines

Dessert wines

I tried some for the Château Guiraud sauternes

I tried some for the Château Guiraud sauternes

Fruit plate and nuts to start

Fruit plate and nuts to start

At the time, Emirates was offering 10 megabytes of free wifi to all passengers, and an additional 500 megabytes was $1. I paid for extra data, but the wifi was slooooow. I could check email, but only intermittently.

The internet is censored in flight

The internet is censored in flight

I spent a while at the bar behind the business class cabin and had some good conversation with a senior flight steward. As much as I love the A380 as a (first class) passenger, he said that the A380 has a reputation for being crew-unfriendly (e.g. not enough galley space or ovens, smaller crew rest space compared to a 777). I was the only passenger who even passed through the bar for the couple of hours I was there, but the bar area apparently gets used much more on other flights.

Mostly self-serve first class bar

Mostly self-serve first class bar near the showers

The bar itself

Business class bar

Snacks available at the bar

Snacks available at the bar

Premium cabin bar seating

Premium cabin bar seating

Bar food menu

Bar food menu

For my main meal, I started off with some caviar. I was served a generous portion of caviar with all of the normal accoutrements including egg, sour cream, blinis, toast, onions, and lemon.

Caviar to start

Caviar to start

Next up was the appetizer of my special meal. This was a cold chickpea and jicama salad. This was pretty bland and not that appetizing.

Cold chickpea salad

Cold chickpea salad

For the entree, I was served some daal and paneer with rice. This was quite tasty! Even though it doesn’t seem like “first class” food, I ate it happily and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Daal and paneer

Daal and paneer

Raspberry tart

Raspberry tart

After the meal service, I had a bed made up in a different seat (a perk of being in an almost-empty cabin). To be honest, the bed is not as comfortable for me as other first class seats like Cathay Pacific or Lufthansa. The mattress pad isn’t that thick, so you can feel bumps in the seat, and the seat doesn’t seem to actually go lie flat (although I don’t mind the non-lie-flatness part that much since there’s a natural backwards tilt when you’re in a plane).

Seat as a bed

Seat as a bed

After sleeping for a bit, I decided to have my shower in the air. This is just such a ridiculous and excessive experience, although it does make me feel like I’m ready to go immediately after getting off a long flight. These bathrooms on the A380 are nicer than my bathroom at home. They’re super spacious with heated floors, lots of mirrors and counter space, and even a screen! They have two choices for toiletries (relax or revive), shaving kits, nail files, loofahs, a hair dryer, etc.

As an aside, I will say that I feel a bit bad for the dedicated bathroom attendants. There are two of them on A380 flights, and it seems like some members of the flight crew treat them pretty poorly.

Spacious first class bathrooms on the A380

Spacious first class bathrooms on the A380

Amenities available

Amenities available

Can still see the moving map while you use the bathroom

Can still see the moving map while you use the bathroom

Shower!

Shower!

Nicer bathroom than I have at home...

Nicer bathroom than I have at home…

Fruit after showering

Fruit after showering

Finally, as a pre-arrival meal, I was served some rice with a spicy pea curry and a samosa. All of it was again pretty tasty.

Spicy green pea curry with samosa

Spicy green pea curry with samosa

Debarking at DXB

Disembarking at DXB

Overall, Emirates has a pretty special hard product in first class on their A380s. They were the first to let you shower on board, which is a ridiculous experience. The seats are super private, and the in-flight entertainment system is the my favorite of any airline. I also think that the bar area is pretty cool. As for the soft product, the service on this flight was generally good. There were a couple of minor issues, but the flight attendants were responsive to any requests that I made. There are also tons of options for food and beverages, and the AVML I had on this flight was pretty good.

Lounge Review: JAL First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) Satellite Terminal

I’ve reviewed the JAL First Class Lounge in the Main Terminal of Tokyo Narita (NRT) airport before, but this trip (in November 2014) was my first time in the First Class Lounge in the Satellite terminal. I love Japan Airlines much more than many travel bloggers, mostly because I think they have great food (except for their special meals), both in the air and on the ground.

Entrance to the first class lounge

Entrance to the first class lounge

The lounge agents were super welcoming when I was checking in. JAL offers short massages to first class passengers, so you should see if they have open slots right when you enter the lounge because they can fill up quickly.

The lounge was pretty empty when I was there, so I was able to arrange a massage during my layover. The lounge features lots of different seating options with varying degrees of privacy and ample power outlets.

Seating

Seating

Seating areas

Seating areas

More seating

More seating

Beyond the massages given by people, they also have fancy massage chairs. I love these chairs! Too bad they’re thousands of dollars…

Massage chair

Massage chair

Apron views

Apron views

Since I had just gotten off a long-haul flight, I asked for a shower. The shower rooms are quite small and a bit too warm for my liking, but the room was clean and I enjoyed the shower amenities that they have.

Directing you to massage rooms, shower rooms, and bathrooms

Directing you to massage rooms, shower rooms, and bathrooms

Small shower room

Small shower room

After my shower, I was able to get a 10-minute massage. It wasn’t anything special (the massages that I’ve gotten in Cathay Pacific’s the Pier lounge and the Thai Airways Spa have been better), but it was still nice and appreciated after a long flight.

The lounge has drinks and snacks available, including Hokkaido milk, which is supposed to be some of the best milk anywhere, and the Sky Time drink that’s made specially for JAL.

Snack foods

Snack foods

Alcohol selection

Alcohol selection

Hokkaido milk and Sky Time drink

Hokkaido milk and Sky Time drink

In this lounge, there’s a separate dining area where they serve food (and you’re expected to keep the food in the dining room). The buffet featured salads, udon noodles, desserts, breads, soups, two hot entrees, curry, and rice. The food was all generally good, although I felt that it wasn’t quite up to the standard of the food at the lounge in the main terminal.

Dining room

Dining room

Cold food

Cold food

Make your own noodle bowls

Make your own noodle bowls

Japanese curry

Japanese curry

Fried rice

Fried rice

Pastries

Pastries

Desserts

Desserts

Self-serve towel warmers

Self-serve towel warmers

Seating in the dining room

Seating in the dining room

One thing that I’ll point out that the satellite lounge lacks is a sushi bar. They have a sushi bar with actual sushi chefs in the first class lounge in the main terminal. Like where they don’t serve the sushi with wasabi on the side because they already put wasabi on the sushi. And the rice is ridiculously delicious. A number of lounges around the world serve sushi (e.g. the United Club at HKG, the ANA Lounge at NRT, the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai), but this is by far the best sushi that I’ve had in a lounge, and it’s better than most of the sushi I’ve eaten at restaurants in the US. Granted, the sushi bar is not open the entire time the lounge is open–it’s only open for lunch and dinner (although I would happily eat sushi for breakfast).

Sushi bar!

Sushi bar in the main lounge!

Plate of sushi

A delicious plate of sushi

Anyway, I know people disagree, but I really like JAL’s first class lounges. The lounge in the main terminal is strictly superior to the lounge in the satellite terminal because of the sushi bar, but it was nice that I was able to get a massage in the satellite terminal lounge (which I’ve never been able to do in the main terminal lounge).

Lounge Review: Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge (Renovated) Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

I’ve reviewed every other oneworld lounge in Hong Kong (the Wing, the Cabin, the Bridge, the Arrival, the Qantas lounge, and the Dragonair lounge), as well as many other lounges in Hong Kong (the Plaza Premium lounge, the United lounge, the Thai Airways lounge, and the Singapore Airlines lounge). I’ve even reviewed the old Pier lounge. But this is a review of the renovated Pier First Class lounge, and let me say that I think this is my new favorite airport lounge in the world. Holy moly is it great.

Entrance to the Pier

Entrance to the Pier

This lounge is beautiful. My photos do not do it nearly enough justice. It looks and feels like a cozy, luxury hotel. The lounge never felt crowded while I visited, and there’s lots of seating. The tables beside the chairs contain hidden power ports. The chairs themselves were also just super comfortable!

Hallway

Hallway

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

Bar

Bar

Work station

Work station

The lounge has shower rooms and day suites. The day suites are pretty basic, as it’s just a small area with a curtain, so there’s not much noise insulation, but no one was using any of them when I asked to take a look. The attendant said that you can use one for 1.5 hours. The shower rooms maybe aren’t as fancy as the cabanas at the Wing, but I certainly have no complaints about the shower rooms.

Hall of day beds

Hall of day suites

Day bed

Day bed

Shower

Shower

The food options in this lounge are both extensive and awesome. There’s a huge dining room with table service as well as a self-serve buffet in a separate room. For the self-serve buffet, think of the cold section of a good buffet at a luxury Asian hotel. For breakfast, there were pastries, breads, fruits, salmon, cold cuts, etc. For lunch, they had delicious-looking tarts and some savory cold dishes. Make sure to check the fridge for jars of more foods.

Service cart

Service cart

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast spread

Breakfast spread

Well-stocked fridge

Well-stocked fridge

Coffee

Coffee

Desserts

Desserts

Lunch foods

Lunch foods

The dining room is incredible. It’s easily much better than the dining room at the Wing, and I’d say I like this dining room better than the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney or the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai. The Wing always felt crowded to me (maybe because the tables are so close together), but the Pier’s dining room is spacious and gorgeously appointed.

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

There’s a full made-to-order menu, and they even have a separate (smaller) vegetarian menu! I had some bircher muesli and juice for breakfast, and both were good. For lunch, I had a salad, eggplant with mapo tofu, and some mango sticky rice, along with a non-alcoholic ginger forest to drink. This meal was great, and I would happily pay money for this food (to me, this is a huge compliment to airport food). This food is actually good food.

Dining menu

Dining menu

Muesli

Muesli

Salad

Salad

Eggplant and tofu

Eggplant and tofu

Mango sticky rice

Mango sticky rice

One final perk of the Pier is that they offer complimentary 10-minute massages. I chose the neck and shoulder massage, and the masseuse was very good.

Again, I think this is my new favorite lounge in the world. The lounge itself is beautiful, the amenities are awesome (incredible food options, free massages, day beds), and the service throughout the lounge was friendly and attentive. My only (incredibly minor) complaint is that the carpet in the hallway is really soft, so I found it oddly difficult to wheel my bag around. But seriously, I would go out of my way to use the Pier over the Wing, even if it meant trekking back to the low-numbered gates because the people mover only takes you in one direction.

Review: JAL First Class Boeing 777-300ER NRT to LAX

Oh, JAL. I love JAL. I love Cathay too, but JAL invests so much in their food, and their first class catering is a step above any other airline’s in my opinion. JAL definitely has its shortcomings (and their special meals are terrible from my limited experience), but food is definitely the way into my heart.

My Cathay flight from HKG was delayed a bit, so my connection ended up being quite short. Luckily, there was a JAL representative waiting for me as I got off my Cathay flight, and she escorted me to my next flight. It was a bit comical as she kinda jogged in front of me while I walked as quickly as I could without running, and I couldn’t tell if she wanted me to run with her or not. She then helped me cut to the front of the transit security line, saving me about 20 minutes. Funnily enough, boarding was delayed 20 minutes for the JAL flight, so the flight hadn’t even started boarding by the time that I arrived at the gate, and I probably could’ve stopped by the JAL first class lounge, which is one of my favorite lounges.

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

The gate agents were actually enforcing priority boarding lines, which was pretty funny because one passenger in business class just couldn’t believe that he had to wait behind other people and kept trying to get into the first class line. One of the first class passengers also had a small entourage and a JAL agent personally carry a small shopping bag of his and escort him onto the plane.

When I boarded the plane, I was shown to my seat and welcomed warmly. I’d previously read of issues with English proficiency on JAL, but all of the flight attendants had super high English proficiency (although one was clearly more confident in speaking English than the other).

My first impressions of the cabin were positive. I liked the dark color palette, and the suite is large with a super wide seat. There were slippers already at the seat, and I love me some airplane slippers. I wear a size 9, and the slippers fit me well, so you might be out of luck if you have larger feet.

First class seat

First class seat

Lots of space

Lots of space

There’s both underseat storage that fits a normal carry on and overhead bins. There are also lots of side compartments for smaller items (or even larger items–I could fit my laptop with lots of room to spare in one of the side compartments). The only strange thing about the cabin was that there’s a large dead space between the suite and the window with an open grate, and I definitely saw some items had fallen through the grate.

So many compartments

So many compartments

Electrical outlet

Electrical outlet

Privacy divider

Privacy divider

First class cabin

First class cabin

One strange thing–open grate between seat and window

One strange thing–open grate between seat and window

I was offered a hot towel and a pre-departure beverage of champagne or orange juice. The bathroom had a standard Japanese toilet as well as cloth towels instead of normal paper towels.

Hot towel and pre-departure beverage

Hot towel and pre-departure beverage

I also took a moment to check out the business class cabin. JAL has a fully-flat business class product on their B777-300ERs in a 2-3-2 seating configuration. Even though it’s 2-3-2, each seat technically has direct aisle access. The seats looked perfectly comfortable (if a bit narrow).

Business class seat

Business class seat

More business class seat

More business class seat

Business class mini-cabin

Business class mini-cabin

The pillow and blanket already at my seat were pretty serious business–nice and sturdy. There was wifi and an extensive seat instructions guide available. I also enjoyed a number of smaller design elements–the reading light doubled as a headphone hook, and there was a small cutout under the ottoman storage for shoes. The ottoman can also be used for guest seating given that it has a seat belt, and it’s probably one of the nicer guest seats in the sky (e.g. Cathay’s guest seat is pretty tiny comparatively).

Lots of privacy

Lots of privacy

Pillow and blanket for sitting

Pillow and blanket for sitting

Details on JAL wifi

Details on JAL wifi

Seat and suite guide

Seat and suite guide

The IFE screen is 23 inches diagonally. Not as ridiculously large as Asiana’s first class IFE screen, but still a good size. I didn’t really use the IFE at all during the flight, but the movie selection looked decent. The non-movie selection, however, looked pretty bad for people who don’t speak Japanese.

IFE controller

IFE controller

I also liked the tray table design. First, the tray table is massive, so there’s plenty of space to spread out. Second, the tray table is adjustable so it moves back and forth. This means that it’s easy to get out of your seat even if the tray table is out, and you can move it super close to yourself so you don’t have to bend over while eating.

Another thing that I like about JAL is that they post their food and drink menus online prior to the flights. So if you’re obsessive like I can be, you can see what’s on offer and figure out exactly what you want to try before you’re even in the air.

Classy wine and drink menus

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Food menu

Food menu

Food menu

Food menu

First up was an amuse bouche. There was shrimp with roe, a ball of pate, and a vegetable rice roll with some seafood inside. These were probably the worst things I ate on the flight, and that was just because they were just fine and forgettable.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

I decided to go the Japanese route for my main meal service. I started with the five seasonal delicacies. I don’t think I’d ever had soft cod roe, and it looked a bit like shirako to me. I really enjoyed the tofu preparation, and it had actual truffles on top! The egg cake was good, as was the kobashira (I believe this is a type of clam). The only one I didn’t finish was the deep-simmered conger eel, but that’s because I didn’t feel like eating the bones.

First course

First course

Love the chopsticks and holder

Love the chopsticks and holder

I skipped the soup course, but I indulged in the Salon 2002 champagne. This was the cleanest and clearest tasting champagne that I’ve had. I think I prefer it to the Dom Perignon and Krug that other airlines cater.

Salon 2002

Salon 2002

Up next was some squid and spiny lobster with caviar and a seafood egg custard. I really enjoyed the spiny lobster, and it was a novel way to eat caviar for me. The seafood custard had uni, shrimp, mushrooms, and something else on it. I’m normally a huge fan of uni, but this uni did not have the same uni goodness that I love.

Caviar and seafood custard

Caviar and seafood custard

Next was the sukiyaki of wagyu beef filet, served with tofu, an egg, miso soup, Japanese pickles, and rice. The beef was super tasty and tender, and the tofu was delicious. This was a great way to finish the savory foods. I also switched my beverage to the royal blue tea, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like it. The taste was very complex for tea, with multiple undertones and aftertastes.

Beef, tofu

Beef, tofu

For dessert, there was a yogurt ice cream with mandarin jelly, a pudding, and a black bean cake. The yogurt ice cream had something like pop rocks on it, and it reminded me of eating froyo. The pudding was Ryugin’s signature Roppongi pudding, and that was ridiculously good. The black bean cake was fine and made better with some wine.

I asked for a glass of Riesling to drink with dessert, and the flight attendant spilled a bit of wine when she poured me a taste. She was absolutely horrified at herself and acted as if she had kicked my puppy and insisted that she bring me a new glass and change my tablecloth. I told her that it was unnecessary, but they definitely care about presentation.

Trio of desserts

Trio of desserts

And since I’m a fatty, I tried the dessert off of the western menu as well. This was a Japanese inspired Mont Blanc. To me, it tasted extremely Asian, if that makes sense.

More dessert

More dessert

Overall, this was definitely the most ambitious meal I’ve eaten on a plane. It’s hard to serve seafood on a plane because it’s not going to be nearly as fresh as it can be on the ground, and it’s hard to heat properly given their limited equipment, but I appreciated the effort.

After dinner, I got ready for sleep. The pajamas are a bit on the thick side. The quality isn’t as nice as pajamas on Cathay or Singapore, but they have pockets. I normally wear a small in the US, and small was the appropriate size for me for the pajamas, even though the flight attendant recommended that I get a medium.

Amenity kits and pajamas

Amenity kits and pajamas

You can choose either a soft or hard mattress (really, they’re just two sides to the same mattress pad), and I went with soft. The cabin wasn’t that warm, but with the thick pajamas and blanket, I definitely overheated. They also handed out macarons at this point, and they were really quite good.

Bed mode

Bed mode

More bed

More bed

Hevin macarons

Hevin macarons

I was woken up exactly 90 minutes prior to landing. There’s not preset second meal service per se, so you’re not going to get fed unless you actively order something. I asked for the Japanese curry, the ruibe salmon, some fruit, and another Roppongi pudding.

The curry was super flavorful–it was like getting punched in the tongue with every bite. I’m still debating whether that’s good or bad. The ruibe salmon is a bit like eating salmon marinated in soy sauce. The texture is similar to balk salmon. The fruit plate was solid with ripe fruit. And the Roppongi pudding was again ridiculously delicious.

Japanese curry

Japanese curry

Straight shot across the Pacific

Straight shot across the Pacific

Fruit and more Roppongi pudding

Fruit and more Roppongi pudding

Overall, I really enjoyed my flight on JAL. The food was good and ambitious, the service was eager and friendly, and the hard product is solid with lots of small design touches that I appreciate. The service wasn’t as confident or as polished as I’ve experienced on other carriers, but I’m not complaining.

Review: Cathay Pacific First Class ORD to HKG

I know that Cathay Pacific First Class has been reviewed to death, but this flight was one of the best flights I’ve ever had. The flight attendant was absolutely incredible, and I ordered a VGML for this flight, so that will at least be novel. I’ll skip the pictures of the hard product.

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

On this flight, I was pretty sure that the first class cabin was just people who had used miles. There were two youngish American couples in first class plus me. I booked my ticket at the last moment, so unless these couples were rolling in it, I imagine that they had booked their tickets pretty far in advance for their honeymoons or something.

Cathay’s seat is one of my favorite first class hard products. It’s giant and comfortable. It’s not an enclosed seat, but I’ve never felt that privacy was an issue with these seats.

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

I’m also in love with Cathay’s amenities. When I took this flight (a very long time ago), they had just switched amenity kit providers, so the first class amenity kit was made by Aesop. They still have the PYE pajamas, which I love.

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

I asked for a Hong Kong style milk tea, but for some reason, they couldn’t serve that prior to departure (I’m really not sure why since they just make it from a powder). And they also couldn’t serve me sparkling water. So I ended up with some green tea to go with my VGML pre-flight appetizer. At first, I thought it was fruit in a mousse, but it was in fact hummus and vegetables. I enjoy both of those things, so I thought that it was tasty.

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

I could immediately tell that Carrie, the flight attendant serving the first class cabin, was awesome. In most cases, I think you can tell very quickly if the flight is going to be remarkable or not. She was fun and gracious at the same time. She also offered to let me try the non-VGML appetizer of crab, after she confirmed that I was okay with eating something not vegetarian. If you like crab, you’d probably like the appetizer, but I preferred the hummus.

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Menu for the flight

Menu for the flight

Non-alcoholic drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks

Drink menu

Drink menu

I think that Cathay’s caviar service is great. They have blinis, all the fixings, and a Cathay Pacific-branded caviar spoon. You might notice a glass of Krug in the photo, which was poured because Carrie insisted that I drink some champagne.

Caviar service

Caviar service

No metal spoons here

No metal spoons here

For the main course, the VGML was an Indian-inspired dish of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant. It’s essentially a business class meal plated as a first class dish. But the food was tasty, which is what matters. I would order and eat it again, and I’d be happy to eat this at an Indian restaurant.

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

For dessert, I took advantage of the red bean soup. They’ll serve it hot or cold (I chose hot). This is a super Asian dessert and super comforting to me.

Red bean soup for dessert

Red bean soup for dessert

Berries and cream

Berries and cream

They lowered the cabin temperature after the meal service, so the cabin was nice and cool for sleeping. No overheating this time. After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up and decided to have a snack given the length of the flight. First up was the fruit plate and berry smoothie.

Fruit plate and smoothie

Fruit plate and smoothie

I then asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs on the side. Cathay offers made-to-order eggs for their breakfast service, so I wondered if they’d bat an eyelash if I asked for some fried eggs to accompany my noodles. I think the flight attendant was a little confused at first by exactly what I wanted, but I did get the noodles and eggs so I could add the eggs to the noodles.

Asked for the noodles with two fried eggs

Asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs

Right before landing, we had breakfast. The VGML breakfast consisted of a cheeseless omelet with peppers and onions and an assortment of sides (spinach, potatoes, tomato, and mushrooms). I’m not sure why they include an omelet in a VGML since a VGML is supposed to be free of eggs and dairy products, but the omelet was pretty tasty. The sides were less tasty. In general, I think the mid-flight snacks are tastier than the second meal service items, so I wouldn’t hesitate to order those instead of breakfast.

VGML breakfast of a cheeses omelet with peppers, onions, and sides of spinach, tomato, potatoes, and mushrooms

VGML breakfast

Given that Carrie noticed how excited I was about the flight, she brought me one of the new (at the time) business class amenity kits. The business class kit contains Jurlique products, and the bag is a little nifty.

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Overall, this was one of the best flights I’ve ever taken. So what makes service good? For me, it’s the small touches: always being addressed by name, making sure not to interrupt when you’re in the middle of something, being gracious, attending to small details like the position of items on the table, reading the passenger to know how to interact with them, noticing when you need things before you know you need them. This was the most proactive Cathay crew I’ve had, and they were one of the best crews I’ve ever had on a flight.

Trip Report: Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco (HKG to SFO)

CX 872
HKG to SFO
Depart: 12:30am
Arrive: 10:15pm
Duration: 12h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 77W
Seat: 1A

Just going to warn you that this is going to be a shitty trip report because my pictures aren’t great, but I’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific’s First Class product before (albeit on the 747 instead of the 77W) with better pictures. The differences between the 747 and the 77W are marginal in terms of hard and soft product. To me, the main difference is that there are only 6 seats in the cabin on the 77W instead of 9 on the 747. The cabin has a 1-1-1 layout in first class, with the center seats facing toward the right, so people generally prefer sitting on the left-hand side of the cabin since it feels marginally more private.

The flight was delayed about 20 minutes for operational reasons, which was caused because we were waiting for connecting passengers coming from Guangzhou. Since this flight departs after midnight, I just wanted to get on the plane and pass out.

When I boarded, I was shown to my seat, and I immediately found the flight attendant to be super bubbly. I also noticed that I had definitely flown first class before with another one of the passengers, but I was pretty darn sure that he was a person flying for business and not a miles/points enthusiast (he could be both, but it seemed like he was not flying on miles either time).

Seat 1A

Seat 1A

Super wide seat

Super wide seat

Foot area

Foot area

Seat controls

Seat controls

Fresh orchids

Fresh orchids

IFE screen and storage

IFE screen and storage

Cathay has a great first class seat. It’s not a suite, but it’s spacious, private, and not claustrophobic. The seat is incredibly comfortable, and it’s not too hard or too soft. The IFE is large and responsive, and I appreciate small touches like a fresh flower at every seat.

Decor of first class cabin

Decor of first class cabin

I was offered a pre-departure beverage and an amuse bouche of duck mousse. They also passed out headphones, an amenity kit, and pajamas. I LOVE the PYE pajamas. They are hands down my favorite airline pajamas, and they come with awesome slippers (like I regularly wear a pair of PYE slippers around the house and bring a pair with me on long-haul flights). Sizing seems pretty close to American sizing, so I would go with whatever size you normally wear.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Former first class Zegna male amenity kit and PYE pajamas

Former first class Zegna male amenity kit and PYE pajamas

I essentially passed out after we took off, but the flight was pretty turbulent, so they turned on the seatbelt sign about once an hour and made an announcement each time. About halfway through the flight, I decided to eat something, so I had the caviar, the hot pot rice, some berries, and the Chinese dessert. This was shortly after they changed from the caviar and balik salmon plate to just caviar, which I didn’t mind. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon (except from Willows Inn), so I liked the new preparation.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Alcohol

Alcohol

Caviar

Caviar

The hot pot rice was fine. It’s definitely comfort food and not fine dining food like you might find on ANA or JAL first class.

Hot pot rice

Hot pot rice

Berries

Berries

Chinese dessert

Chinese dessert

A couple of hours later and it was time for breakfast. I asked if they had any more caviar and was rewarded with more caviar. Never hurts to ask.

More caviar

More caviar

I then had some croissants, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs. It’s impressive that they can make eggs to order in first class, and they offer some good quality products like Tasmanian honey.

Bread basket

Bread basket

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs

Cathay Pacific has been reviewed to death in the blogosphere, but it’s a relatively accessible first class redemption and they offer an incredible, solid product. I can’t really find fault in anything that Cathay does as they have a great hard product, amazing service, incredible lounges, and a great hub airport. I happily fly Cathay in all classes of service, and first class always feels like a treat.