Cathay Pacific First Class JFK to Hong Kong – Review

I took this trip for the sole purpose of flying Cathay Pacific and Qantas first class, both of which I had never flown before. I booked my flight with Alaska miles, for a total of 80,000 miles, New York to Hong Kong with a free two-day stopover in Hong Kong and then continuing in business class to Sydney (there is no first class cabin on the HKG-SYD segment). I was originally booked out of San Francisco, with only 18 hours on the ground in Hong Kong during an all day stop, but two weeks before my flight a first class seat on the JFK flight opened up. Since I’m on the U.S. East coast, I paid the $125 Alaska change fee to trade for a shorter positioning flight from Tampa to New York, and two full days on the ground in Hong Kong rather than the original 18 hours.


Cathay first class passengers get access to American’s Flagship lounge and Flagship Dining at JFK. I got to JFK about 5 hours before my flight on a cheap JetBlue award flight and was able to get a boarding pass printed at the Cathay counter to get through TSA and into the lounge. This was my second flagship lounge visit, having recently visited the Miami Flagship lounge.

I arrived as they were serving breakfast, so I ordered some food and a drink and enjoyed the views for a while, then went outside to the main lounge area and worked for a few hours.

After a while the lounge started filling up, so I took a shower and then went back into the first class dining section and ordered the lobster bisque and the burger for lunch, which I had read raving reviews about, and it did not disappoint. It was really great.

While having lunch I noticed Jason Rabinowitz was having lunch at a table nearby, so I stopped by and said hello on the way out to my gate, which was about a 10-minute walk away.

Flight 0831 is operated by a 777-300. Boarding wouldn’t start for another 15 minutes, so I went to a nearby store to get some travel items I needed and mostly hung around the gate until boarding started. It puzzles me that Cathay did not board first class before everyone else, even though there are only 6 seats. I was about the 30th or so person who boarded along with elites and some business class passengers, so I could not take a picture of the empty first class cabin.

Seat and prior to takeoff:

The seat was spacious and comfortable, although this particular cabin and seat had seen better days, in my opinion. It looked “old” and had quite a bit of scuff marks and dings which looked like normal wear and tear. I also stuck my hand on the opening between the main seat and the seat extension as shown on the picture above, and there was a sharp metal edge between the two and I cut the back of my hand pretty deep, so I had to ask the crew for a band aid to stop the bleeding, which they seemed concerned about, but I assured them I would be fine.

One thing I noticed right away was the lack of storage space for normal items that you would use during the flight, such as an iPad. The storage space was limited to a small compartment on the side, so I had to put all my items on that one small space.

In all fairness the seat does have its own closet where you can store a hanger with your clothes and a full size carry on, so I stored my backpack there along with my clothes. My apologies for not taking a picture. The closet does face the aisle and is behind the TV monitor, so it requires you to get up from your seat to reach for anything you might need during the flight. I personally would prefer more storage space within easy reach that doesn’t require getting up while the seatbelt sign is on, during takeoff, landing, etc.

My flight attendants Fifi and Jonathan came by to introduce themselves, along with Ivonne, their cabin manager. Fifi offered me champagne and warm mixed nuts, which I gladly accepted, as Cathay serves Krug on the ground. I was also offered a hot towel.

Before takeoff they also set up Cathay’s trademark orchids in each seat. 

Once we were ready for pushback and the cabin door was closed we started our taxiing, which while it wasn’t very scenic, it took quite a bit of ground hold as there was some traffic waiting to takeoff. I was able to see ahead thanks to the plane’s nose wheel camera.

Once it was our turn we started our takeoff roll and were on our climb. The views out the window were incredible.

After takeoff:

Right after getting some altitude the seatbelt sign was promptly turned off, so I unpacked my pajamas and slippers and went to change in the lavatory. The package also included an eye mask.

There was one small and one larger (by comparison) lavatory up front. The larger one was taken, so I used the smaller one to change. Here are a couple of pictures of the larger lav.

Once I got back I also unpacked my amenity kit, which is segregated by gender and had Aesop products, which were great quality. The lip balm was especially helpful for a long flight with dry cabin air. I was puzzled by not seeing any socks though, so I just ended up wearing my own.

Headphones were Bose branded. There is also a wired remote that can be used not only to control the entertainment, but also has flight attendant call and light control buttons. There were also electronic seat and light controls next to it, but I only used the regular seat control buttons on the opposite site of the seat.


After getting settled in lunch service began, and I checked out the menu.

Lunch service started with caviar and more Krug. I also requested some chilled vodka to go along with the caviar. The quality and taste were great. The crew also brought a basket of assorted breads, but I only tried a bit of the garlic bread as I wasn’t too hungry to begin with.

Fifi also brought me a personalized handwritten note thanking me for flying with them, which was a nice touch. 

After the caviar I had ordered both the clam chowder and the smoked duck salad, but there was a bit of chop at the time, so Jonathan told me that they couldn’t bring out the clam chowder just yet due to the turbulence, so they brought out the smoked duck salad instead. Shortly after that the turbulence stopped and the seatbelt sign was turned off again, so I was able to try out the clam chowder.

For the main course I had the veal cheek, which was so tender you could just cut it with a fork, and very tasty.

While I wanted to try the orange sweet curd souffle for dessert, I was too full at this point, so I made a mental note to try it later and instead had the Hong Kong style milk tea, which was a winner in my book. It came with a biscuit of sorts, and a box of pralines.


After lunch I went to the lav to brush my teeth while Fifi offered to make my bed, which I accepted. I wasn’t planning on sleeping yet, but I wanted to be comfortable to watch TV.

The bedding was comfortable and there was plenty of space to move around. The TV monitor comes out of its original storage space so it can face the seat directly.

I then scrolled through the entertainment system, which was huge with lots of shows and new movies, so I settled on watching “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, which I really enjoyed.

After the movie I went to sleep and I must have slept about 4 to 5 hours and woke up somewhere over Russia, at which point I sat up and ordered another Hong Kong style milk tea.

While having tea, Fifi asked me if I had seen the northern lights (since our flight took the normal polar crossing route to Hong Kong). I missed them since I was sleeping and I’m bummed it had not even crossed my mind at the time to try to stay awake to spot them.

Once I finished the tea I ordered a Diet Coke and Johnnie Walker Blue label.

At that point it was about 4 to 5 hours out of Hong Kong, so I decided to have dinner and watch another movie. I settled for this year’s Oscars’ Best Picture “The Shape of Water”, which I found odd for my movie taste but remarkably well made.

For dinner I mixed and matched from the lunch, snacks and dinner menu. As first course I ordered the noodle soup from the snacks menu, and then asked Jonathan if I could have another serving of caviar and he happily obliged. I also had some more Krug to go with it.

I then ordered the steamed sea bass with jasmine rice from the dinner menu, and went back to the lunch menu to order the orange sweet curd souffle with dulce de leche ice cream.

The sea bass was flaky and fresh, and the dessert was crazy good. I’m not sure why I never thought of asking for a second portion.

Throughout the flight Fifi and Jonathan were wonderful and really took good care of me. They were a pleasure to fly with and always had a smile on their faces. I really enjoyed their company.

After dinner I lounged for a bit and watched some TV for about an hour, and then about an hour out of Hong Kong I went back and changed out of my pajamas and started preparing my stuff for landing.

It was pretty cloudy and foggy around the Hong Kong area, so I couldn’t really see anything until almost final approach, which was smooth and I watched through the nose camera.

Overall impression:

I really enjoyed my Cathay flight. The bedding was comfortable, the service and the food were top notch and the cabin was kept at a comfortable temperature (on the cold side, which I enjoy). Cons: The seat has seen better days and cut my hand, and the easy access storage space is almost non-existent. I also wish my amenity kit would have had socks. Maybe they were just missing from my kit. Overall, it was a great flight and a great experience, and I would love to fly them again in the future.

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4 Responses to Cathay Pacific First Class JFK to Hong Kong – Review

  1. Jerry Mandel says:

    Two reviews said the First Class food was pretty much the same as Business Class food.

    • travelguys says:

      Definitely not in my case. I flew business to SYD two days later. I got champagne, Johnnie Walker Blue and caviar in first class. The business class food was perfectly edible but nowhere close to the quality and variety in first class. In all fairness my business class flight was a redeye so that might have played a factor but I really doubt the two would be comparable when the first class cabin has only 6 seats and the business class cabin has around 42.

  2. Paul says:

    I had read a number of mixed reviews about Cathay Pacific First Class Food. My experience was similar to yours – the Cathay First food is excellent. I’ve also flown Cathay Business and the First Class food and drink is a step above the Business Class food.

    • travelguys says:

      @Paul, glad to hear! I really enjoyed the first class food and service. I’m hoping to find some time in the near future to write up the business class review as well. Thanks for the feedback!

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