Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cathay Pacific CX 391: PEK - HKG Premium Economy

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): B-LBB 1000th A330

After some time in Beijing, I moved onto a visit to Hong Kong, given that I hadn't visited in several years. Time has flown so fast that I haven't even been able to post about lots of the restaurants I visited in Hong Kong last time!

Beijing Capital Airport (Beijing, China): Terminal 3

Check-in for Cathay Pacific is done at Terminal 3. This flight in particular was also a Air China codeshare flight, but check-in was was preferably only done at Cathay Pacific.




Cathay Pacific CX 391
Service from Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
Premium Economy Class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300, B-LBB (1000th produced A330)

After check-in, it was time for another customs and security checkpoint, and a ride on the people mover to get to our gate. Both went fairly smoothly, with limited queues.

Lufthansa A340-600 "Fanhansa" at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

After the security check, in the inside we saw quite a confluence of traditional Chinese and modern Terminal 3 architectural features. However, more appealing were the large windows which were perfect for plane spotting. Here's a Lufthansa "Fanhansa" Airbus A340-600, specially themed for the World Cup.

Air China Special Livery A330 at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

Amongst the large range of Air China aircraft was this specially painted Airbus A330.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): B-LBB 1000th A330

We ended up waiting at the gate for a while, for we arrived at the airport slightly late, and there was another delay. We were kept hydrated, for like other international airports, PEK also included water machines with cups for hydration purposes.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): B-LBB 1000th A330

 As we boarded the aircraft, it became largely evident that we were flying on the 1000th Airbus A330-- registration B-LBB, to be exact.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)
Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

Past the business class cabin was our cabin-- the premium economy class cabin. These seats were arranged in a 2-3-2 format and were upholstered in a Cathay Pacific green colored cloth, and were like an older style business class seat.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): Premium Economy Seating

The seats included a  closet hook, USB port for charging, and a large screen for enjoying the StudioCX entertainment options. Quite useful was the plastic lip below the screen, which was handy for putting small items like a cell phone while in flight.

Below were a large pocket for storing personal items (as well as supplied noise canceling headphones, Cathay Pacific Discover and Duty Free magazines, a sanitary bag, and safety instructions), and a foot rest. The first row seats in the cabin get leg rests, but not the seats in other rows.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): Premium Economy Television

The StudioCX system was just as good as last time I flew Cathay Pacific, with a myriad of movies, television episodes and shows, music albums, and games! It also has a current version of the airshow.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

Though we all boarded quite quickly, unfortunately, we happened to be put on a delay yet again by the airport. Our pilot, who welcomed us on board and was very detailed about weather and traffic conditions for the aircraft, noted that this is pretty common in Beijing, and to bear with it.

So, to bear with it, I took plenty of pictures. Here's us waiting at the gate....

Air China at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Air China at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Air China at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

Soon, we were able to begin taxiing to the runway, which was quite positive and enlightening-- the captain even said so, and wished that we would be off shortly! Look at all of those Air China aircraft-- Beijing Capital International Airport serves as the major hub, and you can really tell when moving across the airport.

China Eastern A330 at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

Just as we were excited to reach the runway, however, our pilot noted that our runway had multiple aircraft in the queue on not only one side, but both sides. In addition, the runway was also being used for landing, so all the planes in the queue for take-off had to wait for the landing aircraft as needed. This was rather unfortunate, but yet again we had to bear with it.

Hainan Airlines 787 at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

This proved to be a very long wait, probably another additional hour or so. In the process, we saw a couple of Hainan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliners....

China Eastern A320 Landing at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

And Chinese airlines landing and taking-off from the runway.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

After a long while, it was finally our turn!

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

A big advantage of flying in the daytime in good weather are the beautiful views. This was just the beginning!

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): Premium Economy Meal

The cabin soon launched into lunch mode. Compared to prior Cathay Pacific flight(s) and the Asiana flight(s), this was a tad disappointing. This was also the same meal being served in Economy Class. Bread and salad were missing, replaced with fruit and a small piece of Toberlone instead. Water was pre-loaded on the tray, and like Asiana, a wide range of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were available.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): Premium Economy Entree

The entree size was also rather tiny, as in past Cathay economy meals. It was, however, quite delicious, with the flavorful dark soy sauce, rehydrated mushrooms, green onions, and pork coupled with steamed, fluffy white rice.

 Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

After the meal, the cabin was left alone, and lights were dimmed a tad for those who wanted to get sleep. It was time to recline and enjoy the flight, and in this premium economy seat, doing so was easy. The seat pitch (38 inches, versus 32 in economy) and width (19.5 versus 18 inches) were plenty, and the recline was greater than on typical economy seating (8 versus 6 inches). I was able to get some work done, for now I could open up my laptop to a pleasant viewing angle on my table/lap and not have my hands super scrunched up to the keyboard. If the person in front of you reclines their seat a lot though, that might not be fully possible.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)
Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)
Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

While waiting for my computer to process some photos, I couldn't help but enjoy the scenery outside. With the aircraft being a recent delivery, the windows were in great condition for enjoying the view. Look at those rainbows and cloud formations!

Complementing the in-flight experience, the staff also did some beverage runs occasionally throughout the flight.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

And soon enough, we were landing at Hong Kong International Airport! Above is an inflight video of part of take-off, and the descent and landing process taking place.

While posting this video, Youtube noted that the music being played in the cabin speakers was Medwyn Goodall's Full Moon Magic. Now we know one piece in Cathay's soundtrack!

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)
Cathay Pacific at Hong Kong International

Going to the terminal, we passed by quite a number of aircraft.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)

The TV screens also displayed a thank you message as we taxied back.

Hong Kong International Airport Construction
Hong Kong International Airport Construction
Hong Kong International Airport Construction

We also passed by some ongoing construction, which will increase the number of gates available for aircraft.

Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG)
Cathay Pacific CX 391 (PEK- HKG): B-LBB 1000th A330

And we were at the gate! The flight ended up arriving more than an hour late due to the delays faced in Beijing.

Customs and baggage claim were smooth, other than the baggage claim was slower than in past experiences-- even after we took the people mover to reach security and baggage claim, and queued to pass customs, we still had to wait a while for our baggage. Disembarking early has its own pros and cons.

Airport Express Hong Kong: Tram Doors
Airport Express Hong Kong: Updated Signage

Afterward, it was onto Airport Express to go into the city. The MTR is updating the information displays throughout its transportation system, and the new screens are pleasant, filled with color, and have a neat, simple, and modern interface for displaying weather, time, arrival time, and instructions for riding.

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Overall, Cathay Pacific provided a comfortable experience on its Premium Economy product, but in our opinion, the price premium was not really worth it (typically double the price of an economy ticket) for the "enhancements." Three notable pluses were more comfortable seating, noise cancelling headphones (same as the business class' version), and a larger luggage allowance (25 kg versus 20 kg); however, all the other ones were minor: somewhat earlier boarding, slightly earlier receiving of meal and drink, and earlier disembarkation. Lounge access and improved food and drink might be some other good additions, but they were not offered. Nor was an amenity kit in our flight's case.

Read more about the differentiations on Cathay's own Premium Economy website. Notice that the premium economy product is marketed as an enhancement upon economy, but not a significant enhancement--take note of this when booking.

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