Cathay Pacific Premium Economy: a great way to go

I was travel editor for five years at the Star. I’ve been travelling the world (on and off) for 25 years or so. But I still can’t figure out why Asian airlines are able to do things North American airlines can’t. Or won’t.

There’s just something about the service you get when you fly an airline like Cathay Pacific that you won’t find on American or Delta, and probably not WestJet or Air Canada. It’s little things, I think, such as nicer bathrooms and hand lotion even in economy washrooms. Not to mention a TV screen that showed passengers what baggage carousel they’d be using once we landed in Hong Kong, which I did Friday morning HK time.

My plane also had an outside camera so I could see what was happening. Alas, my flight was overnight and I didn’t see much. But I love the concept. And their inflight mapping system was a lot better than most.

I was able to fly Premium Economy on the 15-hour (actually, 14 due to favourable winds) flight, which probably helped my mood. I hadn’t flown Premium Economy on Cathay before but I was hugely impressed. I’ve flown business class with upgrades on Delta and Delta’s biz class is quite inferior to Premium Economy on Cathay, which is a step below business.

My Premium Economy ticket got me a pair of warm socks to place over my regular socks, so I wouldn’t, you know, step in anything along the way. They also provided nice eyeshades, which I’d forgotten at home.
Best of all were the extra-wide seats and extra legroom and the reclining seats, which swooshed back into a not quite horizontal
but close enough position that allowed me to sleep five hours or so en route; a rarity for me. The seats also had foot rests
that popped up to help me stretch out.

There was a huge array of movies and TV shows and music available, and the food was quite good. I had a nice salad with shrimps and edamame and then Chinese braised pork with rice and broccoli and carrots for dinner, with a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar and a square of chocolate thrown in for good measure. The breakfast omelete was only okay, but it came with little hash browns and sausages and a fruit cup and
yogurt and a croissant and coffee. And we got a glass of champagne when we got on board; a nice touch that felt like biz class. Plus a hot towel.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable flight on a very, very nice airline that does the little things right.

The feeling continued at the airport in Hong Kong, which is as nice an airport as I’ve seen anywhere. Customs was, naturally, deserted at 4:30 a.m. but they didn’t even ask a question about how long I was there or what I was doing.

They’ve got luggage carts available and free Wi-Fi and lots of goodies, even though most of the shops weren’t open at that
hour. There’s an express train to central Hong Kong from the airport that costs about $15 Canadian and takes only 24 minutes; a great deal.

The first train is at 5:55 a.m. and there’s a booth where you can buy tickets. The sign said the booth opens at 5:44 a.m. and, sure enough, a young woman showed up right on time. The train was comfortable and quick and when I got off in Kowloon there were more free luggage carts to use.

Amazing. Efficient. And something I’d love to see in Toronto.

Speaking of Toronto, why is that when I flew out of Terminal 3 at the ungodly hour of 1:40 a.m. on Thursday the bar near my gate closed at midnight? It makes no sense. If passengers don’t board that flight until 1 a.m., which they don’t, why isn’t the bar open that late?


On a completely unrelated note, I see that overseas visitors to Ireland were up 6.5 per cent in the first half of
this year compared to 2012. Officials say the increase likely is due to their massive “Gathering” campaign,
where folks from around the world were invited to come back to Ireland to celebrate their heritage.
An impressive result for a hugely impressive country.

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