Flight test: Cathay Pacific premium economy

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Hong Kong

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-300

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

One World

CLASS

Premium economy, seats 32 A and C, and 33 A and C

DURATION

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Nine hours, 30 minutes

FREQUENCY

Four flights daily (with a seasonal adjustment of three flights on one of the days) from Sydney to Hong Kong, and three flights daily from Melbourne.

SEAT

38-inch (96.5cm) pitch, 19.3-inch (49cm) width. It's a 2-3-2 layout for the 28 premium economy-class seats. There is a business-class cabin in front with 39 seats and economy behind, seating 175 passengers.

BAGGAGE

Checked bags up to 25 kilograms, plus one carry-on bag and one personal item (such as a handbag).

COMFORT

Overnight flights are never particularly comfortable when you're travelling with kids, but it was Lulu, seven, who insisted on the adventure of a "night flight". (We'll take the day flight home to reduce jetlag.) The premium economy cabin is small, so you don't feel like sardines like you might down the back. While the seats don't recline fully, the seat pitch is generous and footrests are a bonus. Our children delight us with their excitement. Within minutes of sitting down they've ripped open the amenities kit, are wearing socks and eye masks and pressing every button they can. I'm hoping there's no motion sickness from all that reclining and uprighting of the seat.

ENTERTAINMENT

The inflight movies, including Thor, The Tooth Fairy, Narnia and a selection of Percy Jackson films, get such a thumbs-up that Lulu barely gets any sleep at all during our flight. On offer are 143 movies, including recent box-office hits, new releases, Hong Kong cinema and a great family section, plus games, music, radio and a wealth of family-friendly TV shows.

SERVICE

Superb. Cathay gets it so, so right. While we're not in business class seats, we're certainly getting close to business class service. If only other airlines were as good. Cathay was named the world's best airline in this year's Skytrax World Airline awards.

FOOD

Soon after our 10.20pm take-off we're served supper. The chicken with rice, pak choy and carrots is tastier than the ricotta and spinach ravioli, and Maggie Beer ice-cream tubs go down well with the kids. Cathay's menu always features at least one Cantonese-style dish. Breakfast is served an hour before landing, and congee with ginger and spring onion is surprisingly good.

ONE MORE THING ...

According to our kids it's not premium economy, it's "kids' business class".

THE VERDICT

Dreading that long-haul flight in economy but can't or won't pay for business? Cathay's premium economy is definitely the answer.

Tested by Sally Webb and her family, who flew courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

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