Before embarking on my mini-round-the-world trip report, allow me to finish reviewing my flight back from Manila to New York via Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific is undoubtedly one of the best airlines out there, consistently making it to the top of Skytrax's annual ranking. Having flown mostly on coach with them, it was a big treat to snag free return business class seats during my last visit to the Philippines.
My flight was scheduled to depart at 12 PM. After checking out of the Marriott Hotel Manila, I took advantage of the hourly free shuttle to the airport. I was the only passenger until an American couple coming from the nearby Remington Hotel also came aboard. It was an uneventful short trip to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 without the hassles of Manila's infamous traffic.
|Business Class lounge at NAIA 1|
Some noisy renovation work was going on at the NAIA 1's main concourse despite the heavy flow of human traffic. This is an airport terminal that is truly past its prime and it embarrasses me to know that this is the first and last Philippine structure foreign visitors see. Not a good impression really, more so when one thinks of how Sleepinginairports regard NAIA 1 with the rest of the world's airports (or even just neighboring country's airports!).
|To the upper deck|
Check-in at Cathay Pacific's business class counter was swift. The smiling agent gave me both my boarding and lounge passes. There are 2 queues past check-in, one for terminal fees (how in the world the Philippine government goes so backward as not to levy these fees on the ticket befuddles me) and of course the immigration counters.
Cathay's lounge for First & Business is located airside next to Gate 2. It look pretty much the same the last time I was there - it's cramped and badly in need of refurbishment. There was a choice of drinks, sandwiches and Arroz Caldo (which reminds me of Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge). I only stayed to take advantage of the complimentary WiFi before heading off to a crowded, congested Departure Gate (which is no better than a bus terminal).
Flight time to Hong Kong is only an hour and a half so in-flight service was fast yet efficient. While I know coach class on short CX flights get only a warm sandwich these days, business class catering still showed the whole works. Menu cards were distributed after hot towels. Drink service began and I ordered Oriental Breeze - a Cathay signature drink. The meal cart came by shortly and I chose the fish out of the 3 choices available. It was a delightful Chinese lunch up in the air.
Our arrival was on time. Right after disembarkation, I passed through security and into The Pier, Cathay's business class lounge which happens to be the closest to my New York-bound flight 2 hours later. I have visited the much better (and newly-renovated) The Wing on the inbound flight so I'm actually posting photos of both lounges here.
It was short walk to my next departing flight on a Boeing 777-300ER. As usual, there's a secondary check of all carry-ons for US-bound flights just before boarding the plane. Cathay Pacific's new business class is now available on all its ultra-long haul flights and I was pleased to find myself ensconced in the same environment I experienced only a few weeks earlier.
|Cathay Pacific business class cabin|
|My window seat|
After getting escorted to my window seat, the flight attendant took my jacket for storage. Another flight attendant did the rounds offering drinks - champagne, water and juice. Amenity kits were soon distributed along with menu cards. As soon as boarding process was completed, our plane was pushed back from the gate for an on-time departure. We were airborne shortly, heading in a northeast direction via the Pacific.
Inflight service is something Cathay Pacific leads in the airline industry irregardless of class of service. That's pretty much consistent with this flight. StudioCX, Cathay's inflight entertainment, offers a wide array of movies, TV programs, music and games to kill a 16-hour flight time. My seat has a plethora of connections for electronic devices - even a USB port - but I wasn't planning on working. I was more more intent in just watching a movie and then catching up on some zzz's - the seat after all, turns into a completely flat bed.
|Starters: smoked salmon|
|Main Course: grilled beef tenderloin|
Meal service began with dinner. There were 4 choices and I ended up with the grilled beef tenderloin which really wasn't anything special. Midway into the flight, a selection of snacks were available and all I needed to do was just ask - a flight attendant came up with warm egg tarts. It was at this point when the plane encountered moderate air turbulence and my glass of Coke fell on my lap. Later, the flight attendant was thoughtful enough to ask if I was OK. I managed to sleep again after that.
|Snack: egg tarts|
|Starters: seasonal fruit|
|Breakfast: Dim sum|
About 2 hours before arrival, breakfast service went underway. Since the flight originated form Hong Kong, I decided on Dim sum. I wasn't wrong with my choice - the Dim sum came out bursting with the flavors of the East. Chinese dishes prepared from Hong Kong could never go wrong, could it? The turbulence came back again while I was just finishing my meal. I had to hold on to my cup of coffee fearing it would topple over.
Had it not been for the sporadic air turbulence - which really slowed down the plane - our flight would have arrived even earlier than scheduled at 8 PM. It was nonetheless another CX flight worth remembering.