Airline review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350, premium economy class

THE PLANE

Airbus A350-900. Cathay Pacific has 19 of this aircraft in its fleet.

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Hong Kong.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Marco Polo Club. Points can instead accrue to schemes of other Oneworld alliance airlines, including Qantas.

CLASS

Premium economy, seat 30C.

DURATION

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Nine hours.

FREQUENCY

Three flights daily between the two cities.

THE SEAT

40 inches (101 cm) pitch, 20 inches (51 cm) width. There are 28 premium economy seats in a mostly two-four-two  layout.

BAGGAGE

One or two checked bags to a total of 35kg. For carry-on, one bag of up to 7kg, plus one personal item.

COMFORT

The first thing I notice is that this is a snugger premium economy than others I've flown. As there are eight seats across in this class (compared to nine down the back of the plane), my seat is wider than those in economy but only by a small amount. In fact, the fixed armrests mean that the space available for my hips is similar to that in economy. Having said that, I'm definitely more comfortable than the folks in the cheap seats.

Those armrests create more shoulder space, and being located in a set of two seats bestows a feeling of exclusivity. I'm also in a bulkhead seat, so the available leg-room is decent. Seat recline is a generous 23cm (nine inches), good for leaning back to relax on this daytime flight.

ENTERTAINMENT

As this is an up-to-date aircraft, the entertainment system is top-notch. The large 31cm (12.1 inch) touchscreen is responsive, allowing the user to flick menus across the screen with ease. From my bulkhead seat, the screen is slightly awkward to reach, but the in-seat remote works well enough.

There's a good spread of movies to watch, from both Western and Asian cinema; including recent flicks such as The Trip to Spain, Alien: Covenant, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. TV choices range from the drama 24 to amusing sitcom Black-ish (my surprise discovery of this trip), and even an opera, Turandot. Elsewhere in the system there are games, audio channels, shopping, kids' movies, and travel magazines.

SERVICE

The flight crew is helpful, efficiently sorting out a minor problem with the USB charging slot at my seat.

FOOD

A late lunch is served after takeoff. A salad of sliced duck breast and coleslaw is followed by a choice of three mains: kung po prawns with steamed jasmine rice; grilled lamb backstrap with roast vegetables; or a vegetarian option, rigatoni with tomato ragu sauce. I have the rigatoni, which is tasty. There's ice cream for dessert, which takes a while to thaw enough to eat. The drinks selection looks good but I'm avoiding alcohol in flight nowadays, so I go for a Perrier and lemon. Toward the end of the flight we receive a lighter meal, either a chicken biryani, or penne with prawns. There's a mango cheesecake for afters.

ONE MORE THING

There's Wi-Fi available, priced at $US9.95 for an hour's connectivity or $US12.95 for the entire flight. It's hard to justify paying that much without knowing the reliability of the signal, so I decline on this occasion.

THE VERDICT

A pleasant premium economy experience, though I'd prefer the seats a bit wider. Food and service are up to scratch, with good entertainment options.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Tim Richards travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

See also: Is premium economy worth the extra price?

See also: The best stopover cities for Australians

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