Weekend in Singapore: Cathay Pacific regional business class HKG-SIN

Living in Hong Kong allows us to extravagantly celebrate birthdays and anniversaries anywhere we like. This year I celebrated my big day in style in Thailand, our anniversary in Japan, and my other half’s big day in that city state Hong Kong loves to compare itself to, Singapore.

I know a few people who turn their nose up when I mention visiting SG, believing it to be boring or too politically restrictive. Recent events in HK politics are anything to be proud of, and as for boring, well… it’s the high cost of decent accommodation that sees me restrict my time there or even eschew SG for more budget-friendly Malaysia. I’m never lost for things to do in Singapore.

Given that we’d spent a fair deal on our school holiday tickets, something we do in a big burst at the start of the school year when term dates are published, we decided to burn some miles and go business class. Not necessarily the most prudent use of miles, but it worked for us at the time.

So, let’s fast forward to the airport. We didn’t bother with the Cathay lounges (overhyped IMHO) & instead made a beeline for the renovated Qantas lounge. Wow! Great staff (thanks especially to May) and from the food to the decor to even the generous space between dining tables, was so very Australian.

We arrived at the gate very relaxed and happy after our lounge experience, but also tired since our flight was delayed (we’d received a call about it during the day, but this being Cathay’s hub, I wished they could have done more) and after a day at work it would have been nice to have a flat bed to lessen the burden of the delay. Alas, it was the regional J configuration.

Still, once boarded it was a nicer cabin than I recalled, having been about 3-4 years since my last CX regional J flight.  In my mind it had looked like premium economy but seeing it again, was actually a lot nicer… Not as nice as the long haul product, mind 😉

I was happy that our special meal requests were confirmed by a crew member before take off. While we were waiting for take off, crew paged 6 passengers and their seat numbers to notify crew if they were already on board. Were pay playing musical chairs down in cattle class, or had someone stuffed up?

Captain Dwight, speaking with a North American accent, apologised for the late arrival of the aircraft and promised he would try to make up time in flight. Our flight this evening would take 3 hours and 16 minutes.

One of my favourite things about travelling at the pointy end is a (generally) quiet cabin. So much less stressful than cattle class, particularly welcome after a long day at work.

Landing cards were given and then cabin manager Antoinette announced our service was a codeshare flight of Finnair, S7 etc. She then requested our attention for the safety demo, but as it played on the PTVs, crew came around flashing 15% off duty free cards. Which is more important – shopping or safety??? Surely the sales pitch could have waited.

Our aircraft felt very HK – like everywhere else indoors in HKG, the air con was blasting and I was cold. Unfortunately this 777-300 had no individual air vents. It also had no gate to gate entertainment and we were still waiting for push back. I couldn’t help but think of the competition, SQ, with its wonderful Krisworld, better flight times and flat beds. At 9.36 Captain Dwight said we were held due to ATC congestion and it’d be another 10-15 minutes. Sigh, the joys of travelling through HKIA.

Bored, I asked when the entertainment would be turned on,after which crew turned it on. There were repetitive ads which for the same bank with “Asian values”, which made accessing entertainment tedious, and as usual I found StudioCX quite Asian centred. It’s no ICE or Krisworld. Anyway, I  watched “The Middle” while waiting for departure. I fly often enough that I don’t watch it on the ground, it’s reserved for in-flight giggles!

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Menus started getting handed out then stopped, then continued. When given, they were given by name. Antoinette welcomed us personally but it felt quite perfunctory when  compared to the prolonged and chatty welcome to the super elites around us, some of whom seemed to do the HKG-SIN hop on a regular basis. It was a bit weird to hear her exclusively ask them “Can I get you a tea or coffee while we’re waiting?”… perhaps all other business passengers should be offered the same courtesy?

Finally! We pushed back at 22.03, only to have what felt like the longest taxi ever. I was really tired by this stage. We took off around 22.26, over an hour past the supposed retimed departure. By this time we knew we’d be arriving at the hotel close to 2am and hoped check in would be a swift affair. The seat, while comfy, only reclined (not as much as Emirates’ old style recliners, which I’d flown in somewhat recently on an intra-Gulf hop) and it wasn’t enough for sleep at this late hour on a Friday after work.

Passing the wonderful Finnair and Swiss, an unknown carrier to me, as we taxied. The dimmed cabin was calm and quiet.

With such a late departure, the course by course dining wasn’t welcome. I would have preferred everything on one tray, like Finnair’s midnight menu concept. I ended up swapping my Indian vegetarian potato appetiser for the tuna tataki,  which was delicious. One of the nicest dishes I’ve had on a plane recently – simple and tasty. The non-special meals were served hot from the trolley. The prawn sambal, which I would have chosen if I hadn’t had the special meal, sounded nice on the menu but didn’t look amazing in reality. Just to clarify, I’m a pescatarian but order vegetarian meals in case there is no seafood option on board, and CX don’t offer seafood meals (another point to SQ – they really do offer a better product to SIN!). CX business class Indian vegetarian meals are always delicious and come with all the proper condiments. Sadly, MH and SQ economy class Indian vegetarian meals used to be like that but sadly not any more.

Since I had pigged out in the lounge (modern Australian options in the QF lounge and they had gluten free bread – heaven!), I couldn’t eat much, and I decided to skip the cheese course in favour of a nap. Yeah, I really could have done with a flat bed.

The rest of the flight continued uneventfully and we landed at 1.41am.

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Approaching SIN
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Hello, Changi

Thankfully immigration was swift, as it usually is in Singapore, and we soon found ourselves in a cab to our underwhelming hotel.

It was a nice way to travel but definitely not worth the HKD5000~ ticket price, especially for the regional product when competitors offer a consistent long haul configuration (yes, SQ aircraft may vary, but you’ll still get a bed). Still, it is a decent option if part of a longer route, connecting in HKG, or of course if one’s employer is footing the bill!

Our return trip featured the long-haul product – of course it was a daytime flight that didn’t necessitate a flat bed which had one- and I’ll detail that soon. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment.

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