When I set off on my Around The World In A Weekend trip I hadn’t booked a flight home. I know that sounds absolutely crazy, but it’s just the way I like to travel. I like to keep my options open. You never know when that perfect last minute award space may open up. It wasn’t until my layover in Doha while visiting the Qatar Airway Al Mourjan Business Class lounge that I booked a flight home.
I ended up booking a Cathay Pacific economy flight because it was by far the cheapest option at the time of booking. Cathay Pacific luckily is a member of the OneWorld Alliance so I would receive some elite benefits while traveling, but the flight I booked wouldn’t earn any AAdvantage miles. Most of Cathay Pacific’s discount economy tickets don’t earn AAdvantage miles. Instead, I chose to credit the flight to British Airways where I at least earned a 50% mileage accrual.
To get home from Ho Chi Minh I had to first fly from Vietnam to Hong Kong and then spend a several hour layover in the Hong Kong airport. Trust me, there are much worse places to spend a long layover.
During the layover I visited several lounges thanks to my OneWorld Emerald status and American Express Platinum card. For this trip report I reviewed both the Plaza Premium Lounge East and the American Express Centurion Lounge.
I want to hold off reviewing the two Cathay Pacific First Class lounges until I’ve had longer visits at each of them. At first glance both The Wing and The Pier First Class lounges are incredible and I can’t wait to review both of them.
Additional Security Screening For All US Bound Flights
After what seemed like an extremely short layover it was time to head to the gate for my flight to Chicago. Cathay Pacific scheduled the flight to depart at 11:50AM, but the gate area opened an hour prior. Typically gates don’t “open” at HKG as the gate areas are simply always open. However, US bound flights currently depart from Gates 3 or 4 which are closed off via movable barriers.
The gates are currently closed off because US bound flights require a secondary gate screening prior to boarding. Because of the additional screening, Cathay recommended US bound passengers arrive at the gate an hour before the scheduled departure time.
Once I arrived at the gate I joined the line for the secondary security screening. After a short wait in line I reached a security agent. This agent asked me a series of questions about my bags and my visit to Hong Kong. After providing satisfactory answers I was then directed to wait in yet another line. This line was for the secondary bag check.
After another short wait I then reached another security officer. At this point the officer instructed me to place my bags on the table in front of him which he subsequently searched by hand. He opened all of my bags and searched each one individually. The whole process took about a minute before he told me to reseal my bags and move into the gate area.
Boarding The Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class Flight To Chicago
Just 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time the gate agents made the initial boarding announcement. As I maintain OneWorld Emerald elite status I was able to board with the First Class boarding group.
The boarding process was overall chaotic. Once the initial boarding announcement was made, nearly all passengers swarmed the gate door. At that point the gate agents were only boarding the First Class cabin from the left, but at the right some economy class passengers were also boarding. This created a lot of confusion as to who should have actually been boarding. As a result, many passengers simply flooded the gate area door to board the aircraft even though it wasn’t yet their turn.
However, after a few minutes of confusion it was finally my turn to board the flight. I then approached the podium where the gate agent scanned my boarding card and verified my passport. Next I was directed through the gate door onto the jet bridge.
The jet bridge was quite long, but featured glass walls on either side. This allowed for great views of the aircraft and tarmac area prior to boarding. I enjoy glass walled jet bridges as they don’t feel as claustrophobic as the completely enclosed alternative.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class Cabin
Since I was among the first economy class passengers to board the aircraft I decided to snap a few pictures before settling into my seat.
The Economy Class cabin on the 777-300ER features a 3-3-3 seating arrangement. Cathay opted to cover half of the economy class seats in blue upholstery while the other half were grey. The reverse was true for the middle section of the cabin.
In the middle section the forward seats were blue and the aft seats grey. I enjoyed the variety of seat colors featured within the 777-300ERs cabin. Often aircraft feature the exact same seat throughout economy class which is rather dull by comparison.
Each Economy Class seat-back featured an adequately sized touch-screen entertainment screen.
Just below the screen is a USB outlet to charge electronic devices and a small shelf to store them on. Below the shelf is a compact tray table with a convenient pop-out cup holder.
The legroom within the Economy Class cabin isn’t exactly what I’d call plentiful, but I had just enough room so that my knees didn’t yet touch the seat in front of me while seated.
For the 14.5 hour fight I opted for an aisle seat so I wouldn’t have to disturb anyone in case I needed to get up. I chose seat 43C which is located just behind the wing section of the aircraft.
Departing Hong Kong
Although the boarding process began just 30 minutes prior to departure, the ground crew was able to get everyone on board and the door closed on time. At precisely 11:50AM the ground crew began pushing the aircraft back from the gate.
During the pushback and subsequent taxi flight attendants circulated the cabin to prepare for takeoff. At this time the cabin crew instructed all passengers to unplug mobile devices from the USB outlets. Additionally, the crew further required the small shelf beneath the IFE screen to be emptied for takeoff.
Although passengers have the ability to watch content on the IFE immediately prior to pushback I found it frustrating to try to watch a movie. Prior to takeoff and the moments immediately following takeoff there are several cabin crew announcements. With each announcement video playback is paused and the screen displays an “announcement in progress” box. After several interruptions I switched to the exterior camera which was a much better option.
It was quite fun watching us taxi to the runway and eventually take off. Sadly we entered dense fog just after takeoff which limited the views of Hong Kong and surrounding waterways.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class Meal Service(s)
Shortly after takeoff the cabin crew began an initial drink service. Passengers could order the typical beverage options found on international flights at this time (soda, wine, beer, juices, spirits, etc.). During this initial drink service the crew also distributed an in-flight “menu” which you don’t often see in economy class.
The menu was a single page with english on the front and mandarin on the back. There were a few items offered for each meal, but otherwise the menu was mostly unnecessary. It did however add a premium touch not found in economy class on many carriers these days.
About an hour and a half into the flight the cabin crew once again circulated the cabin for the first meal service. When the crew arrived at each seat they then asked passengers which meal option they preferred. I chose the Braised Pork in Black Vinegar Sauce which they luckily still had plenty of.
Regardless of which meal passengers ordered, all passengers were served a duck breast salad, dinner roll, and a bottle of water with their meal preference. Although this is clearly economy class airline food I found the meal to be much better than what is served on most carriers today.
After finishing my salad and main course the flight attendants again circulated the cabin. This time they handed each passenger a small container of ice cream. I wasn’t hungry and wanted to sleep so I passed on the dessert; which was a first.
Shortly thereafter flight attendants again returned to each seat to collect the meal service trays. At that time the crew dimmed the lights and instructed all passengers to shut the window shades. The cabin became mostly dark and I quickly fell asleep.
I suppose about halfway into the flight, seemingly out of nowhere, all of the lights in the cabin turned on. Since I had been asleep for a few hours at that point I was utterly disoriented. I assumed something was wrong, but instead it was simply time for the dinner meal service. I would have preferred a longer gap between meal services, but when flying economy you are at the mercy of when the crew wishes to serve meals.
Similar to the lunch service the cabin crew stopped by each seat asking passengers for their meal preference.
For dinner each passenger received a side of fresh fruit, a dinner roll, a cheese mouse cake, and their meal preference. I opted for the 3 Cup Chicken which again was surprisingly enjoyable. For an economy class flight I was pleasantly surprised by both meal services offered throughout the flight.
Since the lights in the cabin were already turned on during the dinner service my seat-mate opened his window to reveal the incredible wing flex of the Boeing 777-300ER.
Economy Class Snack Service
In addition to the two set meal services, passengers also have the option to order snacks at any point throughout the flight. The snack service includes either cup noodles or assorted packages of chips and cookies. I wasn’t remotely hungry throughout my flight so I passed on the snack services, but many people around me ordered the cup noodles which smelled delicious.
Again, I was surprised to see a “snack” offered in economy class. Typically long-haul flights offer two fixed meal services, nothing more. It was nice to have the snack option both in case you get hungry outside of set meal times or if you dislike the main courses offered.
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class Lavatories
During each meal service the cabin crew requested all passengers remain seated. As a result following each meal service long lines formed near the center lavatories. The center lavatories are used heavily throughout the entire flight and became very dirty early on. Luckily, the 777-300ER offers a second set of aft lavatories which are much less used and actually a bit larger than the center lavatories.
It’s a fairly long walk from the forward section of the economy class cabin to the aft lavatory, but the walk is definitely worth it. The lavatory is quite deep as it occupies the tail section of the aircraft. This means there is plenty of room to change unlike the center lavatories.
The sinks featured a bottle of hand soap that smelled quite nice, but also featured bottles of hand cream and face moisturizer.
If you find yourself in the economy class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ER I highly recommend visiting the aft lavatories. Again, the aft lavatories are much larger than the center restrooms, but more importantly, they are much cleaner.
Arriving In Chicago
After what seemed like a short flight we were just a few hundred miles from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. At this time the cabin crew illuminated the cabin and began informing passengers to prepare for landing. To prepare for landing the crew again required all passengers to remove USB devices from the plus located just beneath the in-flight entertainment screens.
After touching down in Chicago and a short taxi we arrived at O’Hare’s International Terminal (Terminal 5). We then disembarked the aircraft and began the mad dash to the customs hall. At that point I launched the Mobile Passport app and began the arrival process. Mobile Passport passengers can use expedited security lanes at several international airports around the country. Luckily, Chicago O’Hare is a participating airport. The whole process took less than 5 minutes and before I knew it I was at the arrivals curb piling my bags into a cab.
Overall Impressions Of Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Economy Class
Well, I have to admit, after nearly two weeks of flying in various business class cabins around the world it was difficult to return to an economy class cabin. However, Cathay Pacific economy class is a step above the offerings of most international carriers. The service on my flight was excellent throughout. In between meal services the cabin crew was constantly checking on customers and distributing snacks and beverages.
Also, the economy class food offered by Cathay Pacific was much better than that found on many carriers today. Not only was the food edible, but I actually enjoyed both meals. However, I don’t think I’ll be seeking out either dish again on the ground.
Lastly, as a OneWorld Sapphire or above you can’t beat the Cathay Pacific lounges offered in the Hong Kong airport. Both The Wing and The Pier lounges are absolutely stunning and well worth arriving at the airport early to experience. I didn’t have enough time at either to write a proper review this trip, but luckily I’ve gone back to Hong Kong since this flight and full lounge reviews are on the way.
The only downside to flying Cathay Pacific Economy is that you don’t earn any AAdvantage elite credit or redeemable miles. While I wouldn’t enjoy earning just a 50% mileage accrual it would at least be something. I find it hard to book flights these days unless I can credit to the AAdvantage program. For that reason alone I’m not sure if I’d book Cathay Pacific Economy Class anytime soon. However, if you don’t mind not earning mileage you can’t go wrong flying Cathay economy class on a transpacific flight.
One thing I really appreciate about Cathay Pacific economy class on the 777-300ER is the seat padding. I didn’t realize this until much later when I took a long flight in a much less comfortable seat.
During my flight I didn’t notice the seat. The economy class seat just wasn’t something I thought about. Throughout the flight the seat just quietly did its job. I sat there for over 14 hours without any pain or discomfort. While that might not seem like a big deal, you’ll quickly appreciate it once you find yourself in an uncomfortable seat for even 3 hours!
Overall I was really impressed with my Cathay Pacific Economy Class flight. I’ve been meaning to fly with Cathay for a while now and am glad I finally had the chance. I’m not sure that I’d fly economy on Cathay again anytime soon just because I can’t afford to miss out on earning that many miles. However, if Cathay economy is my only option I’d happy fly again.