Wow, the life of Richie-rich – I was whisked through security in about 2 minutes thanks to the ‘fast track’ line for us ‘privileged’ flyers. Then I took an elevator up to their fancy-schmancy business class lounge where all kinds of nibbles and beverages were on offer. If I wanted some fresh squeezed juice, it was available. How about some dumplings and noodles? Check. Or a glass of wine to even out any pre-flight jitters? Cheers. How could I ever hang out at the gate with the rest of the riff-raff? Oh please. How gauche.
Seriously, I felt a bit out of place. Will someone soon reveal my true identity? Will they kick me out knowing I’m just a poser, a budget travel gal who rode here on the icky subway? Ew. When will the jig be up?
First Class Comforts
So, I was one of the first people to board the plane on a special ramp just for us ‘special’ folk so we didn’t have to rub elbows with the ‘steerage’ at all – dirty, dirty peasants and their scruffy backpacks and sacks. Oh, I hope nobody sees my backpack. I must’ve left my Tumi case at home.
First class on this 747 is just nine seats. And by seats, I mean these lovely upholstered, semi-private pods. I think I’ve stayed in some hostel rooms that were smaller than my seat on Cathay Pacific.
So, after shaking my hand, the flight attendant graciously accompanies me to my seat and offers me the prerequisite drink – champagne. But that’s not all. Then I am handed a soft, cotton sack as the flight attendant says, “A small will work for you, yes?”
I feel stupid asking, but that’s not new.
“What is this, I inquire?”
“These are your pajamas.”
Ah, of course.
Inside the bag was a soft set of cotton, brown PJs with orange trim, plus slippers, and a face mask. But, wait, there’s more. She hands me another little mesh baggie. I slip out a beautifully embroidered, cylindrical, black toiletry bag – which the stewardess (yeah, yeah so retro) informs me was designed by a woman in Vietnam. Inside this cute case was a lovely assortment of creams, emollients, oils, a mini hairbrush, some earplugs, and a complete mouth care kit. Ahhhhh.
Okay, let me give you the grand tour. I’m in seat 4K. My seat itself is more like a small love seat. I’m sure my boyfriend and I could get quite cozy here (but I don’t think they offer it for two) or I think a small Asian family would fit quite nicely next to me. Across from me is another smaller seat, about the size of a normal economy seat, but this one is, oh, just for throwing your stuff on, or your baby, if you so happen to have one. Once your ‘bed’ is all opened up…it’s for your feet. Can’t wait to try that out.
The main seat itself has all manner of reclining positions, including flat. Excellent. I’ve never been a good ‘transport’ sleeper since I have trouble falling asleep sitting up or even reclining. I’m one of those stomach sleepers with a driving need to flip over to fall asleep. The seat also has a massager built right in that I have not turned off since I sat down. Seriously, how am I ever going to fly ‘normal’ economy again? I am asking you. Seriously. Damn you, Cathay Pacific. Thanks a lot.
What else…there’s a little closet for my coat or a cool hangout room for midgets (more non-PC behavior, sorry being in 1st class is already making me all cheeky). Not only do I have a window seat, it’s a three-window seat. All I need now is a skylight above me. Hmmm…good idea, no? Okay, maybe not.
Let’s get to the entertainment. The last time I had such choices was when I flew Emirates Air from Dubai to Istanbul. First, there is a neat, little compartment to my right in which some nice noise-canceling Bose-like headphones live. Just above them is the handy dandy remote control that operates all the music, gaming, TV, and movie needs I’d probably have for the remainder of my life. The TV screen is about 17 inches and on a swivel so you can adjust it to your liking. From their entertainment magazine I learn that at my fingertips are:
- 100+ films
- 500+ television programs
- 888+ CDs
Sigh. I was happy that this was my office for the next 12 hours as I got a lot of writing, pitches, and photo organization done. But then, I felt all this pressure to watch all these movies that I hadn’t seen yet. So I put on the heart-wrenching, Oscar-nominated, Blue Valentine and dug into my caviar, oh yes my friends, ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams.’
A couple hours later, I opted for some music while I did some writing. I was able to build my very own playlist. So I was jamming to Kid Rock, The Eagles, Billy Joel, The Killers, Duffy, Maroon 5, and Bon Jovi. And don’t you even make fun of any of them…I’m the one in 1st class. I think I want to live here. The rent seems pretty high though.
Not long after we took off, my first class man and new friend, William, came ‘round with the wine list and the menu. I was advised that I could order anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. Hmmm…12-hour flight, I could do it all with a dish an hour! First I enjoyed the Cathay Delight, a refreshing kiwi smoothie, if you will, with coconut juice and a sprig of fresh mint. And it was…delightful. I wanted to start out slow, but even Ruth, who took my order, encouraged me, asking twice if I wanted an appetizer. Okay, you twisted my arm, I’ll have the smoked salmon and caviar. It arrived along with a white tablecloth, shiny silverware, stemmed glassware, and a full basket of warm bread. Then my next course arrived: smoked duck atop a salad of fresh greens. And this was just lunch. I had also already spied a cheese plate that I knew I couldn’t resist. I’ll get that in a few hours…along with a fish course.
I sneak off to the bathroom (so nice not having to slide my ass in the face of other customers in my row like in stinky economy!) to relieve myself (isn’t that what they say in 1st class? Yeah, I guess they don’t say ‘ass’ either). When I open the door, I am amazed at the spacious commode before me. So I do what any normal passenger does, I go back out and grab my camera.
If you ever dreamed of joining the mile high club, this is the place to do it. You could have a party in this bathroom. It’s light and airy with two windows allowing the sunlight of 40,000 feet to light the room up like an atrium. There’s a fancy bowl sink and lotions and even cloth hand towels. No scratchy paper towels for us. It’s fancy and good for the environment too. Well, not sure which is better – disposable paper towels or these that require water, power, and detergent to wash and dry. But who cares? We are all rich! We can do whatever we want! A bit later on, I go back to the bathroom, shut the door and smile. Now, I can’t recall that ever happening when I’ve ever entered an airplane bathroom in the past. Yeah, it hasn’t. I brought my little sack o’ fun and change into my brand new pajamas. I might as well get into this whole thing and milk it for all its worth. And even more happiness – the size small fits. I guess it’s still sized for Westerners because after having spent some time in Asia before I know sizes run much smaller there.
I’m drowning in affluence. Wow, I wish this 12-hour flight was longer.
When I finally was stuffed full of food and a bit sleepy, it was time for some shut eye. No problem. The crack team of flight attendants were on the case making my bed up – punching the controls to position it to the full-out, flat position, covering it with fresh, white sheets, and my very own fluffy duvet and full-size pillow. Ahhh.
A few hours later, I awoke as we were approaching Hong Kong. I have to admit, this was the first time I’ve ever flown and actually wished the flight was longer – that’s messed up. Well, there was always the ride home!
A wee bit of history: Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong and has its headquarters there. The airline is frequently voted as one of the world’s best and services about 115 destinations in 36 countries worldwide. And now we can add Chicago to that list. Starting September 1st (my birthday, by the way – airline miles are always a nice gift! Not very subtle), Cathay (the ancient word for China) will begin daily non-stop flights from Chicago to Hong Kong. Already flying out of New York, LA, and San Francisco, this is the airline’s first new American destination since 1998.
At the time of this writing, round-trip, economy seats are costing around $1000, but for the best ride of your life – live a little. First Class seats are available starting at US$10,241 and Business Class roundtrip fares start at US$6,341. No, this isn’t budget travel, but hey, it does include fees and taxes.