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Cathay Pacific introduced their A350 service between Vancouver and Hong Kong on March 28th, 2017. This route is pretty special because it was the very first A350 route to Canada. There was a pretty big celebration on the day of the inaugural flight, and we even braved the torrential downpour to snap a photo. The route operates every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 9:30am.
Before the announcement of Cathay Pacific’s A350 service, we were already booked on a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong on Sunday, April 9th. This flight was operated by their regular 777s. When we saw that award space opened up on Saturday April 8th for the Cathay Pacific A350 flight, we jumped on it IMMEDIATELY! This flight would only be the 6th time that the A350 flew the route.
This flight was booked as part of an award redemption which costed 50,000 Alaska Mileage points each. Our award redemption included two one-way segments in business class:
Cathay Pacific Business Class from Vancouver to Hong Kong (CX855) on Airbus A350-900
Cathay Pacific Business Class from Hong Kong to Seoul (CX418) on Boeing 777-300
After leaving the beautiful Cathay Pacific Lounge, we headed to our gate D64 for boarding. There were still 10 minutes before boarding, and the waiting area was pretty packed. Unfortunately the jet bridge was blocking most of the view of our plane. Not too long after, boarding began, right on time at 8:50 am.
We boarded from the front of the plane, using the forward jet bridge. The flight attendant welcomed us on board and directed us towards the right, into the main business class cabin. There are two business class compartments on Cathay Pacific’s A350. The one in the front is the main one with 8 rows of seats in a 1-2-1 configuration (except the very front row, which have just 2 in the center. There is another smaller business class compartment behind the galley, with just 2 rows of seats.
I was seated in 18A, which was the second last window seat on the left side of the plane. Peterson was seated in front of me in 17A, while our friend Fion occupied 16A. We opted to get all window seats as they felt a bit more private than the ones in the center.
Once we settled in, the flight attendants came around with pre-departure beverages, which included juices (orange & apple) and water.
Seventy Eight Percent amenity kits were handed out after the doors were closed.
The business cabin was mostly full, with only 4 seats left empty. Luckily the seat across the aisle from me was one of them, so I had a bit of extra privacy.
The safety video played as we began our push back on schedule. After engine start-up, we began to taxi to the South runway for a departure on runway 08R.
My first impression upon boarding was how new everything looked. The cabin felt more modern and airy compared to Cathay Pacific’s international 777s. Our plane’s registration was B-LRK, which was only 2 months old at the time. Luckily we didn’t get one of Cathay Pacific’s older A350s, as they seemed to be having some quality issues with their seats.
The business class seats on Cathay’s A350 are set in a reverse herringbone configuration, much like their international fleet of 777s. However, the A350 uses an updated version of the Cirrus seat, which features some improvements over the previous generation. While some of these improvements are cosmetic, the better TV and new remote are welcome additions. You also get a larger storage compartment as well, to store anything that might get in your way.
The seat itself is very comfortable and spacious, very similar to the previous generation of the seat. The leg room is generous, and the footrest is good size. Being 5’7″ and with the seat fully extended, I had plenty of room left to stretch out. The area beneath the footrest can be used to store your shoes.
The seat width is plenty, especially with the extension piece that can swing out and lock in place, to give you more seat space. I demonstrate this in my video review here.
The TV screens were large, and the display was nice and crisp. You could swivel them out when you are using it, or stow it back into the seat if you want it out of the way.
On the side of the seat was the handheld controller, which doubled as a small screen to display information, such as the ETA of the flight and the temperature at the destination. It was a huge improvement over the older version of the handset. It’s almost like comparing a very old flip phone with a new iPhone.
You’ll also find an adjustable reading lamp here, as well as the seat controls, which were very intuitive and easy to use.
A small cabinet beside the side table held the noise-cancelling headphones. It was also a great place to store small personal items, such as cameras or phones. The power outlet could be found here, along with a USB port. I didn’t get a picture, but you could slide the latch down on the door for a mirror.
Below the side table was a large storage compartment.
The finishing on the side table had also been refreshed with a wood-textured material.
The tray table slid out from beneath the side table, and flips out to provide a good amount of space. Even in the open position, you could slide it forward and out of the way should you need to leave your seat, without having to fully stow it away.
The armrest could be extended by pressing down on the button until it sprung upward. The button was a bit hard to press… you needed to use quite a bit of force, so I’m not sure if that was just my seat. There was also storage here for a water bottle. Interestingly, I discovered a half-used water bottle in my seat when I popped up my armrest. Oops!
Our flight took off at 9:50am, behind an Air Canada Rouge 767. We had a flight time of 12 hours and 53 minutes. Plenty of time to enjoy the A350 🙂
After takeoff, the WiFi became available for purchase. The rate was 19.95 USD, which wasn’t outrageous, but we decided to go without it.
Near the start of the flight, the senior purser, Kannika, came over to introduce herself. There were two other flight attendants serving the business class cabin as well. All of them were great, but Kannika was just amazing. She was super attentive and her service felt very genuine throughout the flight. She seemed to be one step ahead at all times, and was very proactive in her service.
As we leveled off at cruising altitude, towels were handed out in preparation for the breakfast meal service. To start off, I had a Hong Kong style milk tea, along with a croissant and a selection of fruits.
Thumbnails of the menu (click to enlarge)
For the main dish, I chose the stir fried egg noodles with beef and black beans sauce. It was pretty good and the beef was tender. I personally liked how Cathay Pacific brings the mains on a cart, so I can actually see what I’ll be getting. However, this won’t be the case for much longer, as Cathay Pacific is rolling out Dine on Demand service in business class later this year.
Shortly after the meal, the window shades were shut and the lights dimmed to allow passengers to get some rest. I loved the colors of the ambient lighting on this plane.
I took this time to check out the entertainment system. Firstly, the TV screen display was large and crisp, which was great to use. The home screen and menu were redesigned to be much more modern and intuitive to use. The options in the menu included movies and television shows, music, news, kids, games, shopping, map, and camera views. Clicking into each of the tabs brought up the selection in the main window, and you could just swipe to browse, just like on a phone.
You could also use the handheld controller to select your entertainment as well. It had a more mobile-friendly version of the menu. Once you have found your desired entertainment, you could choose whether you wanted to watch it on the handset or the large display.
The handset felt really good to hold, and was much easier to use compared to the older generation handset found in Cathay Pacific’s 777s.
I especially liked how interactive the flight show was. You could zoom, rotate and pan with intuitive finger gestures either on the TV screen itself or on the handheld controller. Check out this video to see it in action.
There were some pretty useful features as well such as the Do Not Disturb mode and the Wake Up Call. You could set certain points during the flight to be woken up for, such as the First or Second Meal.
My only complaint about the entertainment system was that the touchscreen was not as responsive and snappy as I’d like. There was about a half-second to one second lag in the touch response.
After watching a movie, I got about two hours of sleep. The provided duvet was thick, yet it didn’t feel too hot either.
I woke up feeling a bit hungry, so I headed to the galley to check out the available snacks.
The galley snacks consisted of a selection of chips and biscuits, as well as fruits. The sun-dried tomato bruschettas were particularly tasty.
I ordered a Cathay Delight to go with my snacks, which is a really refreshing kiwi-based drink with coconut milk and a hint of mint.
Halfway through the flight, the dinner service began. We were served a warm dish of nuts along with our choice of drink. I ordered another Hong Kong style milk tea.
The starter was a smoke salmon dish with some crab salad in the middle, served with chili mayonnaise. There was a choice between bread rolls and garlic bread. Of course garlic bread! I love Cathay Pacific’s starter dishes and this was no exception.
For the entree I chose the beef tenderloin, which is always risky as beef tends to be overcooked on flights. However, it was actually decent, but the presentation could have been a bit better.
I had a fruit platter and cheese plate afterwards.
When dessert came along, both Peterson and I had a really hard time deciding between the mixed berry cheesecake or the chocolate raspberry mousse. Kannika sensed our dilemma, and encouraged us to try both. The chocolate raspberry mousse tasted kind of funny and bitter, so I sort of regretted afterwards.
After dinner, there were still a couple of hours to go before our arrival into Hong Kong. Regardless, I already started to miss the plane and didn’t want the flight to end!
We landed at Hong Kong International on runway 25R. As we deplaned and started walking towards immigration, I felt this weird sensation of having left something behind. I looked around and realized we had left our carry-on luggage on the bins of the plane! Peterson sprinted back through the jet bridge to retrieve it. Luckily Kannika came to our rescue and offered to retrieve it for us.
Without a doubt, the A350 is my favorite plane to fly on. Throughout the journey it was extremely quiet and comfortable. Even after a long flight across the Pacific, I didn’t feel that tired or dehydrated, which sometimes can happen on an older plane. The actual window shades were appreciated, as it could completely shut out the sun. This was an annoyance on the 787, which only has dimmable windows. Even with the windows completely dimmed on the 787, it would actually get quite hot if the sun happened to land on your face or body as you were trying to get some sleep. The A350 window was also a very generous size, comparable to the 787.
The plane is a nice addition to Cathay Pacific’s existing fleet of 777s, which are starting to feel a bit dated. The updated Cirrus seats, although not revolutionary, have many small improvements. These add up to a better experience on the A350 than you would get on the 777.
As we’ve come to expect from Cathay Pacific, the service was very consistent and genuine, especially with the amazing Kannika serving our aisle. Sometimes the service on Cathay Pacific feels a tad rushed, but it was not the case for this flight. We were addressed by name throughout the flight, which made the service feel more personal.
The food itself was good, but not amazing. The presentation of the meals could have been a bit better.
The time slot for the flight out of YVR is great. You arrive into Hong Kong in the afternoon and still have half a day to spend there.
If you ever get a chance to fly on Cathay Pacific’s new fleet of A350 aircraft, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate!
If you’d like a video review of our experience on Cathay Pacific’s A350, you can check out our trip report here:
Have you had the chance to fly Cathay Pacific’s new A350 business class? Please comment below to share your experience with us. You can also let us know what you thought about this review! If you want more reviews like this one, subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates and flight/hotel reviews.
Alvin is an aviation geek, enthusiast photographer, and software developer with a goal of exploring the world. He uses mileage programs to redeem premium flight travel, and shares his experiences here on OneMoreWeekToGo.