Melbourne to Hong Kong.
Airbus A330-300; Cathay has 41 of this aircraft type in service.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Marco Polo Club. The airline is part of the oneworld alliance that includes Qantas.
Economy, in window seat 65A.
Although scheduled to last 9.5 hours, the flight lands half an hour early.
There are multiple daily departures from Melbourne (as well as Sydney) to Hong Kong.
The economy cabin features a 2-4-2 configuration. Upon boarding, passengers towards the back discover the happy sight of several empty middle rows and redistribute so they can stretch out. The fabric seats recline six inches, feature a 32-inch pitch and a width of 18.1-18.5 inches.
In September 2016, Cathay Pacific increased its checked baggage allowance by 10 kilograms across all four classes on most routes. Economy-class passengers can now check up to two pieces with a combined weight up to 30 kilograms. Carry-on is one bag up to 7 kilograms.
No complaints. I watch a few movies and flex the headrest's side-wings so they fold around my ears. With no neighbour in 65B, I try a little human origami, tucking myself horizontally into the two seats. It's uncomfortable, so I revert to exploring the entertainment system for the rest of the daytime/early evening flight.
There's a so-so selection of recent-release Western movies (along with plenty of Asian cinema). I opt for Oddball, which showcases the state I'm departing. At first, I can't hear any audio (the attendant suggests trying another pair of headphones, which works). Now I can't work out how to adjust the volume and again ask for help (turns out there's a discreet control button just below the nine-inch TV screen that also activates other controls for crew assistance, brightness and the reading light).
For our late lunch, there's sliced duck breast with coleslaw for starters. I choose chicken with black mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, capsicum and steamed jasmine rice for main over the hickory pork with beans and roasted pumpkin and potatoes, and the vegetarian pasta. As I spread butter on the warm bread roll (points for the pre-warming), I realise the curved-blade plastic knife is designed for right-handed diners (ahem, about 10 per cent of the population is left-handed). A South African unwooded chardonnay accompanies lunch. Before landing, we're offered another meal – I go for the stir-fried noodles with pork, choy sum, carrot and sweet soy over the shepherd's pie, and gobble the mango cheesecake. The headline news on this tray, however, is a stray hair lurking in the fruit salad.
The test of any airline's service is how attendants handle an awkward moment such as that above. It's handled exactly as you'd want – with apologies, an offer to replace the dish and more apologies when bringing the new dish. Earlier in the flight, the same attendant remembered my headphone issue and checked in about 10 minutes later that all was now in working order.
ONE MORE THING
Next-level planners can consult the airline's website to find out in advance what movies will be shown on their flights.
Heartfelt and thoughtful service can go a long way towards making an economy-class seat feel more luxurious. Cathay Pacific was ranked the world's fourth-best airline in Skytrax's 2016 World Airline Awards – and I can see why it's so well regarded. Despite one or two hiccups, I'd recommend to friends and family.
Tested by Katrina Lobley, who flew courtesy of Scenic.
See also: Dragonair economy class to Hong Kong
See also: Cathay Pacific premium economy class