Before I got to this flight, I was looking at ways to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business. Don’t get me wrong, from past experience Premium Economy on Cathay is an excellent product. But with the Ukraine war all flights from Europe to Asia are still flying the long way around Russia, so my first leg to Hong Kong was going to be 12 ½ hours and I’m not getting any younger, so I did anything I could to get into a lie flat bed!
Looking at the Cathay website, there were multiple options for upgrading, this included; using points if you’re part of their club, bidding and a straight cash upgrade. For the straight upgrade it said I had to contact them directly, for this they gave me a WhatsApp number. This turned out to be a very efficient way of communicating. Once I got past the bot by selecting an option to upgrade I got a human who asked for my flight details and quickly came back with a price. All in all the whole process took less than 20 minutes. I’d normally spend more time than that on hold with BA when I phone them!
The price they came back with was well over £2000, in fact more than I think the original full price Business ticket would have cost. I said no and went to look at the bidding option.
Bidding for an upgrade can be done directly on the Cathay website, it’s a process quite a few airlines use. You simply put in how much you’re prepared to pay to upgrade and if there are any seats going, they start giving them to people starting with the highest bidder. If you don’t win you don’t pay.
The bid to upgrade option started at £995 and went up to over £3000. Why anyone would pay £3000 when the straight cash upgrade is £2000 is beyond me. I decided to place a bid and I went for one notch above the lowest, at £1025.
I wasn’t hopeful, in fact I’d put a message out on a Facebook group for Business and First Class travellers asking what they thought my chances were. They were not too positive. I had to wait until 48 hours before the flight to find out if I won.
Right on time, exactly 48 hours before take-off, my email lit up with the message “You’ve been upgraded!”, which made me very happy. I then headed straight to the Cathay Pacific app to select my new seat. Unfortunately, as this was so close to the flight, all the window seats had gone.
This particular flight was on a 777 with a 4-class configuration. Two rows of First Class, followed by 2 rows of Business, before the galley and second set of doors. After the doors is the main Business cabin, followed by a wall which has Premium Economy and Economy behind that. I would ideally have liked to have been in the 2 rows of Business at the front, that would have felt like a very nice semi-private area, but they were all full. The seat I selected in the end was a middle aisle seat, second row back. All the seats here have full aisle access as it’s in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Heathrow Terminal 3 departure
I arrived in good time at Heathrow so I could enjoy some lounge time before flying. If you’ve been reading my previous articles this year, you’ll know I’ve now flown from all 4 terminals at Heathrow in the past few months. Terminal 3 is the oldest of the lot, but it’s had a facelift meaning it’s not too bad inside. The worst area from experience is after check-in, when you can get some pretty nasty queues for security. I headed for the Cathay Pacific check-in area, and they had a dedicated area of desks for First, Business and people with frequent flyer status. For some reason when I fly east there’s always a family with 25 giant suitcases ahead of me in the queue, and today was no exception. But not long after arriving they opened a new desk and I was all checked in. After that I headed upstairs to fast-track security (something you can use if you’re travelling in First or Business Class, or with One World Sapphire or above status). Once through I headed to the lounge area. One of the great things about T3 is it caters for a lot of One World airlines, including British Airways, Qantas, Finnair, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific. This means there are a number of lounges to choose from and when it’s not too busy you can use any of them if you are travelling on a One World airline. This also allows for lounge hopping, see my article on that, here.
I know from previous experience that the Cathay lounge is one of the best, so headed straight there. Not to be disappointed, the lounge is big, with lots of different styles of seating. There’s a whole kitchen with a chef making noodle dishes, as well as a standard buffet of food and a bar. I selected a seat near the far end where they’ve installed large, boxy seats that offer a lot of privacy. I grabbed some juice and breakfast, then settled in to enjoy the views out onto the airport.
In good time before my flight I thought I’d try another lounge, so I headed to BA. Unfortunately, it was a busy day, and they were requesting that you stick to your own airline. I’ve been to T3 many times and have always successfully managed to lounge hop, this was the first time it was too busy for this.
I needed a few bits, so I wondered around the shops then made my way leisurely towards the gate. Cathay always seem to get a gate right at the end of a wing, which is normally quite a walk, so I knew to leave plenty of time and have a gentle stroll down there. When I arrived, they were all setup and there was a 777 parked outside, however no sign of boarding. There was some kind of technical fault, which was going to delay boarding. After a while a few other Business, or possibly First, customers started getting annoyed and asked if they could return to the lounge. The staff said they would put a call out in the lounge when boarding was starting, so a small group of middle-aged men in suits headed back to the lounge. I decided to wait as it was quiet the trek back to the lounge. Somewhat amusingly, the gate opened 5 minutes later, and I boarded.
London to Hong Kong experience
This 777 was a 10-year-old aircraft and I’m pretty convinced it’s never been updated. The seat, fittings and screen all looked a little dated, especially when you compare them to BA’s new Club Suite or Finnair’s amazing new Business seat. However, there was plenty of storage, including an odd little cubby hole under my arm rest with a little shutter door on it, ideal for my headphones and iPad.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Seat
The middle seats are set at a slight angle, facing away from the aisle, so pointing slightly towards the person sitting opposite you. However, the bulkhead of the storage cupboards between you block your view of the other passenger. It was just a bit odd on occasions during the flight when I leant forwards for some reason, and he did the same and us both realising how close we actually were. A privacy screen between the seats would be a good idea here.
There was wifi on this flight, but a little pricey for my liking, $10 for an hour or $20 for the whole flight. Free if you’re in First Class.
The seat might have been older, but it was comfortable and there was plenty of storage for my stuff, I settled in, got a movie on and started looking at the menu.
Cathay Pacific Business Class Menu Summer 2023
The crew were very attentive, plenty of drinks offerings as well as a wet towel to freshen up. The menu had a good choice and thought I’d never had a burger on a plane before, so I went for that. I’d chosen a tomato and mozzarella starter, which was delicious, then burger and chips (fries) . I don’t think it’s easy to make crispy chips on a plane, but they were ok, and the burger was good. Towards the end of the flight, gate information for connecting flights was posted on the IFE screens, which really makes life easier when you land.
Tomato & Mozzarella Starter
Hong Kong to Seoul experience
After a very pleasant flight I landed in Hong Kong for my transfer to Seoul. Hong Kong is one of my favourite airports. It’s well laid out, organised and the Cathay lounges are brilliant. After I worked out which lounge location was best for my next flight, I headed in to relax and have a drink.
My next leg was in Economy as I’d only upgraded the long leg, but it was only a few hours to Seoul, so I wasn’t bothered. However, it was still on a 777, which was configured for shorter routes like this. By that I mean the Business Class was just large reclining chairs, not lie flat beds like the long haul planes, this means they get a higher capacity. You still get IFE and my Economy seat had a good screen and a very clever flip down shelve for a phone or tablet. There was also great leg room in this seat, so it was a very comfortable flight over to South Korea.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class
I always loved Cathay Pacific, their service, food and lounges always impressed. And this trip did not disappoint, I’d heard rumours that their service had declined since Covid, but I saw no evidence of that. The lounges are still great and it’s a pleasure to spend time in them.
One more thing…
Since initially writing this, I was somewhat annoyed that I didn’t automatically get any Avios and tier points in my BA account for this trip. It turned out my “bid to upgrade” thing broke the automatic system. I applied for missing tier points through the BA website (you always have to appeal through you own club airline), but that failed. After speaking to someone it turned out it needed to be done manually and they submitted a request for a manual fix. At time of writing it has been over 2 months since I flew and I still don’t have those points! Moral of the story… always check your points have credited, and if they haven’t.. chase up to get them!