Airline review: Cathay Pacific economy class, Melbourne to Hong Kong

THE PLANE

Airbus A350-900. Cathay Pacific has ten of this latest-generation Airbus in its fleet.

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Hong Kong.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Marco Polo Club. Points can accrue to Qantas' frequent flyer scheme, along with those of other Oneworld alliance airlines.

CLASS

Economy, seat 62D.

DURATION

Nine hours from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

FREQUENCY

There are three flights daily between the two cities.

THE SEAT

81cm (32 inches) pitch, 46cm (18 inches) width. There are 214 Economy seats in a 3-3-3 layout.

BAGGAGE

The fare includes one or two checked bags to a total of 30kg. One carry-on bag of up to 7kg, plus one additional personal item may be taken aboard.

COMFORT

This is a brand-new aircraft which only recently started on the Melbourne-Hong Kong run, so all the fixtures and fittings are in top condition. Though seat width is snug, the leg room is surprisingly generous in economy - I can extend my legs beneath the seat in front without my knees coming close to bumping the seat pocket. My seat seems firm but comfortable, with adequate cushioning for this mid-range flight. There's a lot of space above my head and plenty of natural light coming through the windows, which makes the craft seem reasonably roomy. And there's a very clever innovation in front of me - above the standard tray table is a second smaller table with a cup holder and a long groove, into which a tablet can be neatly placed if you'd prefer to provide your own entertainment.

ENTERTAINMENT

There's a state of the art entertainment system on board. The large touchscreen is highly responsive and easy-to-use, allowing menus of options to be dragged horizontally across the screen. Movie categories range from Hollywood releases to Chinese films, with specialised categories including Arthouse, Short Films and Family. I fancy watching Doctor Strange, as my wife's already seen it at the cinema. Maybe later I'll go French with Cigarettes et Chocolat Chaud. The TV selections are diverse, with some popular cable TV choices such as Westworld. Other entertainment options include games and magazines, and I can even view images from cameras mounted on the plane's exterior.

SERVICE

The flight crew is brisk but friendly, efficiently serving the passengers on this almost-full flight.

FOOD

Lunch is served after takeoff. A grilled chicken, corn and bean salad is followed by a choice of three mains, with a neat balance of Asian and Western dishes. I order the orecchiette with pesto, roasted pumpkin, capsicum and almonds. It's fairly bland (and there's no salt and pepper provided to season it), though the salad is tasty. Dessert is a mango ice cream sherbet bar, so deeply frozen I have to wait 15 minutes to eat it. Later in the flight there's a second, lighter meal with a choice of stir-fried noodles with pork, or penne bolognese. A pleasant mixed berry cheesecake rounds out the food service.

ONE MORE THING

There's wi-fi available, priced at $US9.95 for an hour's connectivity or $US19.95 for the entire flight. However, if you scroll down the login page, you can gain free access in return for providing your details to a commercial enterprise.

THE VERDICT

An impressive economy service. The new Airbus A350 provides improvements in entertainment and physical comfort, which notably enhance the passenger experience.

Tim Richards was hosted by Cathay Pacific

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