There are just three first class products that I view as the top first class redemptions for points and miles enthusiasts. I consider these products as top redemptions as they are relatively easy to find, popular products, and can be booked using points or miles. These products are Lufthansa first class, Emirates first class, and Cathay Pacific first class. Until recently, I had only flown in just one of these first class products, Lufthansa first class. Finally, after years of trying to find award space that worked with my budget and schedule, I managed to snag a seat in Cathay Pacific first class using miles.
Earlier this month, I managed to book Cathay Pacific’s 5th-freedom route between New York City (JFK) and Vancouver (YVR). At 50,000 AAdvantage miles, this redemption was neither a deal nor outrageously priced. Ultimately, I found the experience to be a worthwhile and reasonable use of my AAdvantage miles. Why? After just over 5 hours in Cathay Pacific first class, I feel comfortable ranking the experience as one of the best first class products offered by any airline. Here’s why.
Cathay Pacific First Class Itinerary
- Departure City: New York City, NY (JFK)
- Arrival City: Vancouver, BC (YVR)
- Dep/Arr Time: 8:57 PM (Late) / 11:21 PM (Early)
- Duration: 5 hours 23 minutes
- Airline/Flight #: Cathay Pacific CX865
- Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (Registration: B-KPQ)
- Class of Service: First Class
- Seat: 2A
To say that I booked this trip last minute is an understatement. After my original plans for the weekend fell through, I still wanted to take a quick weekend trip. So, I made my way to the American Airlines’ website and began to search for award flights. I didn’t expect to find anything that made for an attractive redemption or that met my budget. However, after just five minutes, I found wide-open award space on Cathay Pacific’s 5th-freedom flights between New York City (JFK) and Vancouver (YVR). Without hesitation, I booked a one-way award redemption in Cathay Pacific first class from New York City (JFK) to Vancouver, BC (YVR).
Though some readers may not agree with my decision to redeem 50,000 AAdvantage miles for a flight that was just over 5 hours, I feel that I made the right decision, and the trip was of significant value. However, there are numerous ways, many of which are more cost-effective, to redeem points or miles for Cathay Pacific first class.
I recently covered the best ways to redeem points or miles for Cathay Pacific first class on The College Points. The College Points is a new travel blog aimed at introducing college students, recent grads, and young professionals to points, miles, and all things travel. In this post, I breakdown the best ways to redeem points or miles for Cathay Pacific first class while getting the most value from your frequent flyer miles or points.
My flight to Vancouver didn’t depart until a little after 8 PM that evening. However, living in St. Louis, Missouri, I needed to give myself ample time to get to New York City. I woke up at 5 AM, drove to the airport, caught a flight to New York-LaGuardia (LGA), and arrived in NYC a little before noon.
I decided to book a stay at the TWA Hotel located on the ground of New York-JFK Airport. I felt that it was incredibly sleazy to show up to the first class lounge more than 8 hours before departure. Moreso, I stayed at the TWA Hotel on opening night back in May and wanted to give the hotel another chance. Finally, I knew that I would likely want to take a quick nap to recharge before my flight to Vancouver.
After a quick traffic-less drive from LaGuardia to JFK, I checked in to the TWA Hotel for my quick 4-hour stay. I had initially planned to check-in and take a quick nap. However, as a huge TWA nerd, just being in the iconic TWA Terminal gave me a second wave of energy, eliminating the need for a nap.
During my stay, I explored what may very well be one of the most well-designed and aesthetically charming hotels in the world. After my self-guided tour of the TWA Hotel, I decided to take a dip in the heated rooftop pool. Though it was a brisk 40-degrees (4-degrees Celsius), the water was a steamy 100-degrees (38-degrees Celsius). This made for a hot-tub like experience. I ended up spending the better part of an hour at the rooftop pool watching aircraft taxi, land, and takeoff.
After my swim, it was already time to get ready for my flight to Vancouver. I made my way to the JFK AirTrain, which, unsurprisingly, was delayed due to track maintenance.
I arrived at Terminal 8, which houses nearly every Oneworld airline at New York-JFK, including American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
I arrived at Terminal 8 just as Cathay Pacific’s check-in desks were opening up. Cathay Pacific does not allow passengers to check-in using kiosks at New York-JFK. This is due to a lack of kiosk: they’re aren’t any. This wasn’t a big deal for me as I had a few questions about the flight and wanted to ask a Cathay Pacific rep at check-in.
When I lined up to check-in for my flight, there were just two Cathay Pacific reps handling a growing line of passengers. Eventually, another five or six Cathay Pacific employees made their way to the check-in area, at which point, the lines began moving quite quickly. The check-in agent was extremely welcoming, polite, and helpful. She gladly told me how many first class seats had been booked on my flight. Additionally, though I didn’t need them, she gave provided me clear instructions on how to access the American Airlines Flagship Lounge and Dining Room.
Once I had my boarding pass and first class lounge invitation, I made my way to the American Airlines Flagship First Class check-in area.
American Airlines operates a swanky check-in area at a select few airports, New York-JFK being one of them. This check-in area is dedicated to passengers traveling in international first class on aircraft with three cabins of service, Concierge Key holders, and first class passengers traveling on select three-cabin transcontinental routes. Though I wasn’t entirely sure that I could access the check-in area and expedited security lane, I decided to give it a shot.
To access the check-in lounge and expedited security lane, you first have to show your boarding pass to an agent outside of the check-in area. I handed my boarding pass to the agent and explained that I wasn’t sure if I had access. I also explained that I just wanted to use the expedited security lane to avoid the long security lines. She informed me that I could access the check-in area and the expedited security lane.
Again, since I already had my boarding pass, I didn’t need to stop to check-in, so I made my way to the dedicated security lane.
The Flagship First security line was relatively short. However, a crew that was preparing to depart on a LATAM flight bogged down the line as the Flagship First security lane is also the crew lane. I wasn’t in a rush, and I know that airline employees have to go through security too, so I just took my time and accepted that this wasn’t going to be one of those times that I could clear security in a minute.
In all, security took just under five minutes, which is by no means speedy. However, it beat waiting in the standard TSAPreCheck or premium cabin security lanes.
Once I cleared security, I made my way to the elevators for the Flagship Lounge and Dining Room.
Cathay Pacific is a member of the Oneworld alliance and one of American Airlines’ closest airline partners. Cathay Pacific doesn’t operate its own lounge at New York-JFK and, instead, allows the airline’s premium passengers to access the American Airlines Flagship Lounge. Additionally, Cathay Pacific first class passengers have access to the American Airlines Flagship Dining Room, a separate dining facility located within the Flagship Lounge.
I had toured the Flagship First Dining facility at Miami International Airport at a media event in 2017. However, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to use the space as a passenger.
I could write an entire post on my experience at the Flagship Lounge and the Flagship Dining room. The Flagship Dining area at New York-JFK is beautifully designed. With access to the space extremely limited, the space was quiet and intimate. With just four other passengers dining during my visit, service was fast but not rushed. The Flagship Dining staff knew what time my flight departed and performed the dinner service accordingly.
Dinner started with a glass of Krug, a champagne that is exclusively available in American Airlines’ Flagship Dining area and not in the Flagship Lounge.
For my appetizer, I selected the tuna tartare, which was served with avocado spread. The tuna was surprisingly fresh and flavorful.
For my main course, I chose the lamb chops. While many readers may not believe what I am about to say, I am being sincere and mean this. The lamb chops I had during my dinner in the Flagship Dining room were the best lamb chops I have ever had in my life.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever had in general. Served on a bed of polenta, the lamb chops were cooked to perfection and served in a delicious sauce. The lamb chops were cooked to the point that they fell off the bone and seemed to melt in my mouth. I took my time during the main course and savored each and every bite.
To end a fantastic dinner, I ordered a brownie sundae minus the ice cream and whipped cream. Basically, I ordered a brownie, which was also delightful.
Following the dinner service, I made my way out to the Flagship Lounge to pass the time. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been to this lounge, having visited the lounge in late 2016. The Flagship Lounge at New York-JFK is still in mint condition, and the amenities have actually improved. It easily one of the best business class lounges in the United States.
Boarding Cathay Pacific First Class
Cathay Pacific flights from JFK depart from the satellite wing of Terminal 8. While not a terribly long or challenging walk, it’s still a good 8 to 10 minutes from the Flagship Lounge to the boarding area.
I was surprised by how small the gate was for a flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. Nevertheless, the gate area seemed to suffice and did not appear overly crowded.
Business class passengers were already lining up using the dedicated business class boarding lane. Shortly after that, the gate agent requested that passengers seated in premium economy and economy begin to line up.
There was also a dedicated boarding lane for first class passengers which, is at max, just 6 passengers. I lined up to board, and after roughly 5 minutes, boarding commenced. The gate agents were extremely engaged in the boarding process and exceptionally welcoming as I made my way down to the jetbridge.
At the door of the aircraft, there were at least three flight attendants greeting and directing passengers to their seats. Seated in 2A, I knew to turn left at the boarding door and use the left aisle to access my seat. However, one of the first class passengers took my boarding pass and walked me over to my seat. Once at my seat, she welcomed me to the first class cabin and asked if I had flown first class on Cathay Pacific in the past. Upon learning that this was my first time in Cathay Pacific first class, the flight attendant provided me with a brief overview of the first class seat and offered to store my carry-on bag in the closet found at every first class seat.
The boarding experience along rivaled the actual customer service offered on-board in first and business class on other major airlines.
For the next 5 or so minutes, first class flight attendants were bringing in-flight amenities, including an amenity kit and pajamas, to my seat. Additionally, the in-flight service began with champagne and mixed nuts. Moments after my champagne had arrived, a warm towel as delivered to my seat.
For the next few minutes, passengers continued to board the aircraft using the 2L door. This meant that the first class aisles remained completely clear during the boarding process. In less than ten minutes, the crew informed passengers that boarding was complete, and the boarding door was closed.
Cathay Pacific First Class: Cabin and Seat
On-board Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ER, there are just 6 first class seats arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration. With just two rows of first class, the atmosphere of the cabin was extremely private.
Cathay Pacific’s first class seat is one of the most comfortable first class seats in which I’ve ever had the opportunity to fly. While the seat does not offer much in the way of privacy, the private atmosphere of the first class cabin made up for the lack of privacy. Additionally, the openness added to the seat’s comfort. For once, I didn’t feel constrained by foot-wells or the narrowness of the seat.
The seat, of course, transforms into a fully lie-flat bed. Not only is the bed fully lie-flat, but it’s also extremely wide and comfortable. The comfort of the seat is greatly enhanced by Cathay Pacific’s custom-made, first class bedding designed by Bamford, a U.K.-based skincare and clothing brand. Having flown in Lufthansa First Class, I assumed that I would never come across a more comfortable in-flight bed. I was mistaken as Cathay Pacific’s first class seat offers by far the most comfortable lie-flat bed in the sky.
When not transformed into a fully lie-flat doublewide bed, the Cathay Pacific first class seat is still very comfortable. The seat is controlled via a dedicated touchscreen panel. Passengers can customize virtually every aspect of the seat.
In addition to an unbelievably comfortable seat and lie-flat bed, Cathay Pacific’s first class seat features both a USB and AC power outlet. The seat also features a 17-inch screen that can be controlled either by the touchscreen interface or the remote mounted in a panel adjacent to the seat. The flight also featured Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi, which was reasonably priced. I ended up paying for Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight. This meant I kept myself entertained with social media and music saved to my phone. That being said, I didn’t spend much time using the in-flight entertainment system. However, the little interaction I had with the system gave me the impression that it is, at least, one of the responsive systems in the sky. The entertainment options seemed to be in-line with what other major airlines offer on widebody aircraft.
Storage was somewhat limited. Though there were several compartments in which to store items, none of these compartments were very large. However, with the seat being so large and open, you can easily store items adjacent to your seat or under the ottoman at the front of the seat. As previously mentioned, there is also a closet in which to store carry-on bags. This closet is built into the side of the first class seat and also features a clothing rack. Cathay Pacific utilizes a built-in closet as opposed to overhead bins to allow for a more open feeling in the first class cabin.
Cathay Pacific First Class In-Flight Service
Once the aircraft reached a safe altitude, the first class flight attendants came through the aisle to take drink orders. Upon delivering passengers their drinks, the flight attendants took dinner requests. The menu listed three options, all of which were quite enticing. However, I had my heart set on the lobster. I wasn’t necessarily craving lobster, but rather, I wanted to see how the lobster tasted. Lobster is just one of the things I feel shouldn’t be attempted at 35,000 feet.
Before explaining the options on my flight, the flight attendant informed me that the lobster was already gone. However, I could see her in-flight manifest, which included the three other first class passenger’s meal preferences. None of the other passengers had requested the lobster. I assume that the lobster option was not loaded onto the aircraft, and rather than informing passengers of a catering error, flight attendants were instructed to tell passengers that other passengers had already ordered all of the available lobster plates that evening.
Ultimately, I settled on the pork chops. I wasn’t hungry whatsoever; however, I couldn’t pass up on tasty free first class food.
Dinner was served in courses as opposed to all at once. It always surprises me how much more enjoyable and premium in-flight meal services are when they are served as courses.
I selected the tuna for my appetizer. Maybe it was because I wasn’t all that hungry, but the appetizer just wasn’t all that good. It was quite bland, lacking any defining taste. However, it was one of the only aspects of the in-flight service that was subpar.
Following the appetizer, the soup de jour was served, which was a broccoli cheddar soup. I had the option to pass on this course; however, being a St. Louis native, I was raised on the best broccoli cheddar soup on the planet––St. Louis (Panera) Bread Co’s broccoli cheddar soup. I needed to compare the two and assumed Panera’s would reign supreme. Ultimately, Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup still takes the crown; however, the broccoli cheddar soup served on my flight gave Panera a run for its money. The soup was quite tasty and was served hot. I say it was served hot because many in-flight soups are often served at room temperature or even on the cold-side once they reach passengers. In addition to the soup, a bread basket with a variety of breads were served.
My main course, the pork chops, was surprisingly full of flavor. You never know what you’re going to get when you order something like a steak, pork chop, or lamb chop in-flight. Most of the time, the meat is overcooked and dry. This was not the case on my flight. The pork chops were juicy, cooked to perfection, and full of flavor. Though I had just chowed down in the first class dining room, I managed to finish the entire course.
Finally, for dessert, I chose the chocolate coffee cake. To me, coffee cake has a particular texture and taste. While the chocolate coffee cake was more of a chocolate mousé-cake mix, it was still delicious and rich. Again, I finished the entire plate. I also opted for a coffee with dessert, which was quite enjoyable for airplane coffee.
If you’re curious as to what my beverage of choice was during this flight, I stuck to champagne for most of the flight. Cathay Pacific serves a 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. A bottle of this Taittinger champagne retails for up to $200 a bottle. Knowing this, I did my best to savor it while I could. In all, I likely consumer close to a bottle of this pricey bubbly. Surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling much even after copious glasses of champagne. To finish off the in-flight dining experience before taking a nap, I ordered one of Cathay Pacific’s signature first class cocktails. I selected the Cloud 9 signature cocktail, which was very similar to one of my favorite in-flight cocktails––JetBlue’s signature mint cocktail. The Cloud 9 cocktail was very tasty and a refreshing way to end the dinner service.
During boarding, I was provided an amenity kit, pajamas, and a full-sized down pillow. Feeling the effects of a long day of travel and booze, I decided it was best to succumb to my heavy eyes and take a nap. With first class seats lacking air vents and the cabin kept on the warm size, I decided to pass on Cathay Pacific’s first class pajamas and instead visited the lavatory to change into a pair of shorts and t-shirt. The lavatory featured Bamford amenities similar to what is found in the first class amenity kit. I noticed that for a more than 5-hour flight, the lavatory was kept extremely clean for the duration of the flight.
As I made my way to the lavatory to change, one of the first class flight attendants stopped me and asked if I would like my bed made up. I responded yes and assumed this meant that a flight attendant would deliver the first class bedding and linens to my seat. I fully anticipated that I would be the one making my bed.
However, this wasn’t the case. One of the first class flight attendants took the time to make up the seat into a bed while I changed into my pajamas. When I returned to my seat, the lie-flat bed had been carefully made up with the pillows neatly arranged, and the bed linens laid out perfectly. I was amazed at the care to detail the crew had put into making up my bed.
Additionally, as I got comfortable, the flight attendant that made up my bed returned to my seat with a massive 600-thread count duvet. Again, I assumed that he would have simply put the duvet at the end of my seat, but no, he proceeded to lay the duvet down over the seat and essentially, tucked me into bed. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a weird or uncomfortable experience just unexpected and over the top. However, over the top seems to be Cathay Pacific’s thing when it comes to first class service.
I ended up sleeping for the rest of the flight. Knowing I wouldn’t miss a second meal service, I didn’t feel the need to stay up or set an alarm. This allowed me to take what was by far the best nap I’ve ever taken on a flight in my life. Moreso, rather than the typical rude awakening from a crew member who is rushing to get everyone ready for landing, one of the first class flight attendants gently tapped me on the shoulder and quietly informed me that we would be landing shortly.
I made my way back to the lavatory to change back into my other outfit. It was during this time that the crew made the bed back into a seat. Again, this was one of the few times that an airline provided true turn down service.
Shortly after I had returned to my seat, we were on final approach to Vancouver. Feeling groggy from my nap (and numerous glasses of champagne), I wished I had been continuing on to Hong Kong, so I didn’t have to deplane, clear immigration, and make my way to my hotel. Of course, all good things must eventually come to an end.
Overall – Cathay Pacific First Class
I often go into a first class flight skeptical of the hype other bloggers and travelers have built around a product. On such a short flight, I was extremely concerned that I might not get to experience the full Cathay Pacific first class experience. However, once on-board, my worries quickly faded. Cathay Pacific lived up to the immense hype. With exceptional in-flight service, tasty in-flight dining, a myriad of amenities, and what is likely the most comfortable bed in the sky, Cathay Pacific continues to offer one of the best first class products of any airline.
How to Book Cathay Pacific Using Points & Miles
Interested in trying out Cathay Pacific first class for yourself? Head over to The College Points for my post on how to redeem points and miles for Cathay Pacific first class.
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