Cathay Pa­cific A350-900 Pre­mium Econ­omy Class

Lon­don Gatwick– Hong Kong

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - TRIED & TESTED FLIGHT -

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

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