After a fun and delicious two nights in Singapore, it was time to turn around and head back home to the States. We took an early cab to Changi airport and arrived in plenty of time. Check-in was a breeze and we since security isn’t until the gate, we had a little bit of time to kill. So we headed to the Sky View Lounge in Terminal 1 since it was the only lounge accessible to oneworld Emerald members at that hour in the morning (the Qantas and British Airways don’t open until later in the afternoon).
The lounge was quite comfortable with some decent hot and cold breakfast options. I grabbed some noodles to go along with a Diet Coke and took a seat with my friends by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows just as the sun was coming up. We checked e-mail and surfed the Internet for a bit before it was time to head to the gate.
There was a very long line for security and boarding, but we were able to board with business class passengers despite being ticketed for an economy seat (59A). After security, I went to have my boarding pass scanned by the gate agent, and it beeped a few times. The friendly gate agent informs me, “Mr. Ryan, thank you for being a valued oneworld Emerald customer. We have upgraded you to Premium Economy Class for this morning’s flight.”
Now, I’d heard of oneworld Emeralds being upgraded before by Cathay and other airlines like LAN, but I’d never experienced it before, so this was quite unexpected. Sometimes, unexpected upgrades like this one are some of the best and most satisfying upgrades that there are.
She re-printed my new boarding passes, and I was on my was to board this A340-300 for Hong Kong!
A Weekend in Southeast Asia
- American Business Class New York-JFK to Los Angeles
- American Business Class Dallas / Ft. Worth to Hong Kong
- A Layover in Hong Kong and a Quick Flight to Singapore
- Two Nights in Singapore at the Grand Hyatt Singapore
- Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Singapore to Hong Kong
- American Business Class Hong Kong to Dallas / Ft. Worth
- American Business and First Class Dallas to Los Angeles to New York-JFK
Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) 710
Singapore (SIN) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Seat: 30A (Premium Economy)
Monday, February 9
8:05AM – 11:55AM
Cathay Pacific is in the process of phasing out these A340s, so the interiors on these planes aren’t as updated as the newer Cathay products. These planes have a three cabin layout with business class in the front cabin, a small premium economy cabin and then regular economy. Though I wasn’t in Business Class, I’d flown in Business Class on Cathay Pacific on four occasions:
We boarded through door 2L and I popped my head into Business Class to snap a quick picture of Cathay’s older, herringbone business class configuration.
I then proceeded to my seat, which happened to be the first row in Premium Economy – seat 30A. As it turns out, all three of us were upgraded to Premium Economy on this flight, but my friends were in the fourth and last row of the mini-cabin.
Premium Economy on the A340 features four rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. The seats themselves feature a generous recline and legroom. They also have extra room on the sides.
My apologies for the poor photos — I tried to snap pictures of the seats quickly, while the seat mate stood up briefly.
In general, these seats are comparable to domestic first class seats on carriers in the US, though the recline on these seats was notably better.
As soon as I sat down, I was welcomed onboard by the flight attendant. She said, “Welcome back” and then noted that she worked the flight I was on a few days before en route to Singapore. She even noted where my friends and I were seated on that flight! Not two minutes later, the Purser came back and personally welcomed me back onboard as a oneworld Emerald passenger and delivered a bottle of water to me. At that point, I recalled the purser doing the same thing on my HKG-SIN flight. Minutes later, another flight attendant came by to welcome me back onboard. At this point, my seat mate must have been wondering, “who the hell is this guy sitting next to me?”
A tad creepy? Or amazing service? I’m going to go with amazing service.
Seriously though — this was one of the warmest welcome I’ve had on board any flight I’ve ever taken. And it was in Premium Economy — not business or first. And it was only because I have status with a partner carrier — and not status directly with Cathay Pacific. Now, that’s incredibly warm service — even by Cathay Pacific’s stellar standards.
Eventually, we pushed back off the gate and made a relatively long taxi to begin our flight back to Hong Kong. As we pushed back, you could tell who the geeks were in the cabin, as my friends and I were trying to figure out what the hell a TAM B777 was doing in Singapore. Quick Internet research revealed that they were in SIN for heavy maintenance and for an interior refresh.
After watching our ascent from Singapore, I nodded off for about thirty minutes before being woken up for the breakfast service. Breakfast included an omelette-typed dish with a tasty sauce on it, chicken sausage, a hash brown and tomato. Also included was fresh fruit, a blueberry muffin and strawberry yogurt. It was decently tasty, and on par with a typical breakfast service in domestic first class in the US.
After breakfast, I snoozed for a little bit longer in the comfortably reclined Premium Economy seat. The generous recline really did make for quite a comfortable nap. I woke up about an hour outside of Hong Kong, so I decided to check out the entertainment system. The personal inflight entertainment (IFE) video screens were pretty standard, and the CX Studio system was loaded and had a nice selection of movies, television shows and whatnot. Because I was in a bulkhead seat, the IFE system was in the armrest instead of in the seatback in front of me.
After an episode of Anthony Bourdain, I put on the flight map and looked out the window as we approached Hong Kong.
We landed pretty much on-time and at a central location at Hong Kong’s massive Chep Lap Kok International Airport. We had about 90 minutes until boarding for our long flight on American Airlines back to Dallas / Ft. Worth, so it was off to the lounge!
Of course an unexpected upgrade is a wonderful thing. I realize this was only Premium Economy, but the service I received on this flight was pretty spectacular. And that’s really what sets Cathay Pacific apart from other airlines — even ones in Asia. The catering was pretty good, and the seat was very comfortable for this almost four-hour flight.
Though it’s nowhere in the realm as nice as business class, Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific is a definite step up from standard Economy Class. I’d be quite happy to fly this product again, and wouldn’t mind flying it on a long-haul, Transpacific flight.
All in all, this flight was an unexpected delight!
How I Booked It…
This was the first return segment of a convoluted routing to Singapore: