Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy Class
London Gatwick– Hong Kong
BACKGROUND Cathay Pacific (CX) began its London Gatwick route last September with a four-times-weekly schedule, which will become a daily service on June 1.
CHECK-IN This flight leaves from the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport. Check-in counters are in aisle F; the economy counters were quite busy with around 30 people lined up, but as a Marco Polo Club member I could use the business class counters, which were empty. I was processed immediately and through customs within five minutes.
LOUNGE You don’t get lounge access with this ticket, but Marco Polo upper-tier members can make use of the No 1 Lounge (left at the escalators, next to Dixons). Outside the lounges the main public area has plenty of places to sit, plus charging point islands, and wifi is available but is only free for 90 minutes.
BOARDING A ten-minute walk brought me to gate 31 for boarding at 1055. The gate opened for premium economy and Marco Polo members at the same time as for business class; on board, my jacket was taken and I was offered a glass of sparkling wine, juice or water. We pulled back from the gate at 1140.
THE SEAT I was in seat 30A, a bulkhead window seat at the front of the premium economy cabin. Legroom was very good, with a wider than normal central armrest. The seat was comfortable, detailed in shades of dark blue with brown leather on the arm and headrests, with a firm cushion for extra back support. The slide-down aisle seat armrests are a useful feature, allowing easy passenger exit/access, and there’s a basic amenity kit containing eye mask, socks, earplugs and toothbrush.
A small drink shelf slides out from under the armrest, there’s a seat-back cubby hole that fits a phone and other sundries, and a small drop-down shelf for a personal tablet (not present in bulkhead seats) if you want to watch your own content. The articulated, dimmable reading light next to the headrest provided enough light without being annoying for other passengers.
The 12.1-inch touchscreen monitor is excellent, with intuitive navigation through reams of video, music and games options. The seat’s recline is substantially better than economy, with a leg rest and extendable footrest. Wifi is available on CX’s A350s – it’s easy to connect to and costs US$9.95 for an hour, US$12.95 for six hours and US$19.95 for the whole flight.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Premium economy has its own cabin section, with 28 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. As the cabin is not near the toilets or a galley, noise is not an issue.
THE FLIGHT Twenty-five minutes after take-off the drinks trolley and menu were brought round. Lunch was served soon after: my seared chicken fillet with sautéed baby spinach, herb polenta gallenti and pesto rosso was highly satisfactory.
I watched a film on the IFE – the excellent over-ear headphones are the same as in business class – before reclining my seat for four hours of relatively good sleep (destination time was by then midnight, and the cabin lights had been switched off 3.5 hours into the flight).
At 0415 the soft mood lighting in the cabin came on, increasing slowly as people woke up – a nice touch. Breakfast was fruit and yoghurt, plus a choice of prawn, chicken and egg noodles, or omelette, bacon, sautéd mushrooms, tomatoes and Lyonnaise potatoes. I enjoyed the latter – and the coffee was also surprisingly good.
ARRIVAL The plane landed at 0640 and was at the gate within five minutes – 20 minutes early. Immigration was clear and my bag arrived on the carousel by 0700.
VERDICT This is an excellent premium economy product, combining the elements of a great seat, comprehensive software and fine service into an appealing overall experience. Jeremy Tredinnick
DEPARTURE 1135 PRICE Internet rates for a return premium economy class flight from London Gatwick to Hong Kong in mid-April start from £1,499 (US$1,876) including taxes and surcharges. JOURNEY TIME 11 hours 30 minutes SEAT PITCH 40in/102cm SEAT WIDTH 18.5in/47in CONTACT SEAT RECLINE cathaypacific.com 9 inches