Cathay Pacific Business Class
THE FLIGHT: Flight CX344 from London Gatwick's South Terminal to Hong Kong, flown by the airline's new A350-900 aircraft. This was the inaugural flight on the new four-times-weekly service that commenced in September 2016. It is the only service between Gatwick and Hong Kong and joins Cathay's five-times-daily service from Heathrow.
PRE-BOARDING: I had checked in online and was travelling only with hand luggage so made straight for Gatwick's Premium security channel. Business class passengers can make use of the No.1 lounge. There was a carnival atmosphere at the gate, where cake and Champagne were distributed and balloons hung to mark the occasion. Premium passengers were boarded first and in plenty of time of time to settle in.
THE SEAT: There are 38 forward-facing business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. I was in seat 15A, angled towards the window, giving a reasonable degree of privacy. It is the newest version of Cathay's business class product, with a slightly longer seat pitch but the same flatbed length and good touch controls. There's more storage space than previously and some clever design features such as a fold-out shelf that increases the sleeping area when in flatbed position. However I did struggle with an armrest that was reluctant to move up and down. The screen is 18.5 inches and there's a second, smaller handheld unit and screen, plus power points. A new function of the IFE system are 'Do not disturb' and 'Wake up call' notifications for cabin crew. It is the first aircraft in Cathay's fleet with wifi connectivity, costing from $9.95 for one hour up to $19.95 for over six hours.
THE SERVICE: Menus and amenity kits were handed out once we'd reached cruising altitude and drinks followed. Lunch was a choice of two starters, four mains, dessert and cheese and fruit. Snacks such as a traditional British pork pie were available on demand and an excellent breakfast was served shortly before arrival in Hong Kong.
THE VERDICT: The new business class shows some innovative touches and the service was excellent, though crew were undoubtedly drilled to put on a good show for this inaugural flight.
THE DETAILS: Cathay Pacific flies four times a week from London Gatwick to Hong Kong. Return fares start from £3,579 in business class and £709 in economy. cathaypacific.com.
Reviewed by Andy Hoskins (2016)