So I wasn’t able to get business class as expected on my flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong on my first ever flight on world-renowned airline, Cathay Pacific. I got FIRST Class! Holy rice balls!
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.
The Full Disclosure: My flight to Hong Kong and my stay in Hong Kong were provided by the folks at Cathay Pacific & Shangri-La Hotels. All views, writing, and photos are my own.
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This is amazing–i've not flown anything but economy! this looks amazing…did you fly back home first class too?
Thanks Vitra! Typically, I am also in economy! The ride home was in amazing business class. Not all the perks, but just as comfy.
Wow! That's just ridiculous. Good luck going back to economy after that.
It was ridiculous and scrumptious! I enjoyed every second of it. I had to – considering it may be a LONG time until that happens again…I'm hoping the feeling will last. Unlikely, but a girl can dream.
So nice to see this through your eyes! So well-written that for a moment there I thought I could see Stanley Market down there, on the left…
I would take a large, though. 🙂
Thanks Leyla! Really appreciate your feedback. I was so giddy and excited, it really inspired me to write this post while onboard.
are you the nice lady in the pictures?! I flew back from JFK to LHR with BA in Dec 2001 business class upgraded from economy! I was nice but as nice as 1st! Christopher.
Oh my GAWD!! I'm totally living vicariously through you right now. Damn you, Lisa! – my bucket list just grew 🙂
Sorry Jannell!! Are you adding Hong Kong or just First Class on Cathay to anywhere onto your Bucket List?!
As a frequent flier of Cathay Pacific, I’ve enjoyed your post…but definitely didn’t appreciate your borderline-racist remarks about ‘rice balls’ and ‘small Asian families.’ I think you can be both informative and witty without offending anyone.
Jon – I am terribly sorry if you were offended by my jokes. But they are all just that – jokes. Not sure if you are a new reader to my blog, but my writing can be fun and snarky at times. Also, if you are a regular reader you would know a running theme is how I love the people I've met all over the world (and in my own city) of all kinds! By rice balls…I just meant the balls of rice under nigiri sushi…if they have another 'off-color' meaning – I had no idea! Thanks for reading.
Glad you made it to Asia! Shangrila is the best hotel in hong kong! its a bit pricey but its worth it even if you do it just once. Giant Buddha (Lantau Island) is cool and Victoria Peak is much better at night.
Hi Alvin! How are you? Traveling? I'd been to Asia before and love it all. Hong Kong is a favorite though.
Wow, I get giddy when I get a bag of peanuts and soft drink.
Ha! Ha! I know what you mean. This was sensory overload as you can tell by my reaction to every perk. 🙂
To the kind but sensitive Jon above; order the decaf next time you fly this extraordinary airline! Describing the space in a manner that relates to the petite-ness of Asians is not borderline racist at all. Holy Rice Balls is not a pattern of hate speech anywhere I've ever been. As a frequent flier of this airline, you're reading this differently than everyone else who is half filled with envy and enjoying the good fortune of our little buddy (who is rather Asian-sized too) who has been regaling us with stories of dirt floors and other non-Cathay style accommodations for years. I'm guessing the people in economy on this flight probably missed her ass a bit. lol.
i had so much fun reading this post. it's funny because i was at a florida marlins game this past week in a corporate box with food and drinks and relly good seats overlooking the stadium and all the peasants. i, too, couldn't help myself from calling the regular people in regular seats peasants. it's fun, really.
Thanks Mack. It's fun to 'act' like we are snobby, aristocrats sometimes…even when I'm just a small town Jersey girl! 🙂
yeah, i'm no big-timer buy any means. just a florida boy from such a small town (miramar) that people always say where? so i have to say ft. lauderdale or miami.
To Kevin. Hate speech means exactly that: hate. We certainly wouldn't teach our kids to hate other cultures. In the same vein, comments that perpetuate ignorance (i.e. the term 'rice balls' evoke thoughts of hunger in many parts of Asia) should be avoided unless appropriate context is provided for their usage. Here's another view. If your son called my son a 'small, rice ball,' I would ask my son to ignore your son; but your son's ignorant comment may land him in hot water one day. Indeed the world is changing fast.
Jonathan, my sons would never call your sons a name. The context was an exclamation with no personal intent implied. Perhaps you've shared that this term has more meaning that many of us would be aware of. Noted. Peace brother. K
I bet this is the first time you've ever been glad to miss out on a Business class seat! 😛
My parents have saved their frequent flier points and get to fly Cathay First class at the end of the year from Hong Kong to New York. I hope, for them, it is as nice as this!
Oh, I am sure they will love it. It's a treat!
Oh yes, Darling….I live like this all the time. NOT! 🙂 Wow, talk about extravegance. I am still amazed that they can make you anything you want to eat, anything at all in the middle of the sky! This is great. I cannot wait to read more about this amazing opportunity. When I read this, I will picture I am right along with you so really, it's you and I travelling. 🙂
Hi Rhona! To share this experience would be fun…although I had so much to savor…I liked not 'being bothered' too!
Ooh la la! Looks fan-tabulous!
'twas! Most likely a once in a lifetime perk for me!!
Dharmendra Kr rai
Glad you made it to Asia! Shangrila is the best hotel in hong kong! its a bit pricey but its worth it even if you do it just once
If someone asked me to be creative and come up with what "airlines of the future" would be like, this is it. Except you know, they'd be affordable. What an experience. Oh to be rich….
Thanks Gray! It was seriously sweet! I wasn't used to them encouraging me to get more, have more, drink more…until I knew what the ticket would have cost. Wow. That's a lot of jack.
I just loved your posting — Thanks! I'm in the magazine business. When I was very young — err 28 or so — I was comp-ed by Cathay (a client at the time) on their innaugural flight from SF to HK… In F class. What a joy for a poor boy! One that I didn't think I would ever repeat. I've flown internationally in First on many other carriers, since — at my own expense, by the way. But, I always recall that 1st fabulous flight with CX. I am counting the days until I fly with them again soon from LAX to HK to SIN… This time, in Suite 1A (yippee), which I actually purchased from a broker — round trip — for an amazing deal. WooHoo. So, shop around a bit and — you too — can enjoy Cathay's absolutely awesome service and truly amazing food without having to give up your first born for First Class 😉 Please don't ask me who I booked through — I don't want to get busted. Cathay: You're the best!
Thanks Chuck! Glad it made you chuckle! Have a great time on your flight!
I want to travel to travel like that!!! I'm going to recommend that to my clients.
Holy rice balls indeed. I think I need to step up my blogging game and polish my sales technique. Mama needs a first class flight!
Thanks Katrina. Just reading it again now reminds me how fun it was. …And now has me weeping at the fact that it will probably never happen again!
Blimey. I hate flying, but I could maybe learn to suffer this, just about!
Jools…it was nothing like flying. It was like hanging out on the couch all day watching movies and stuffing my face – except the food was better than what's in my fridge!
HOLY CRAP! Seriously… wow… now to convince the airlines they should pay for 2 tattooed kids on their first class fare…
🙂 Thanks Erica! I loved it and enjoyed being me and not pretending that it was a normal day for me. Nowadays anyone can look rich…even you guys! 😉
Damnn, I need to take first class one of these days
It's a rare treat Phil. Ooh…I just thought that they should have on-board massages too. Spa in the sky. Next business idea?
Wow that is awesome! Did you get to keep the PJ’s? 🙂 I got bumped to 1st class once on Emirates from BKK to Dubai. I was in business and a very beautiful woman was sitting next to me. Up comes a man and he asks her to come sit with her in 1st class. She looks at me and smiles and says No, thats ok. Now I think here comes a brawl. He returned to 1st class and then shortly thereafter returned to me and said, “Sir, how would you like to sit in my seat in first class?” I was headed back to Iraq for work and it would be another six to eight months of NO luxury and I said Hmmmmm….. No problem! Come to find out from one of this mans security people he was a very rich Arab man and this was his Moroccan GF that was sitting next to me in business class.
Seems he didn’t buy her a first class ticket for her and she was kind of peeved. The security guy then added “you should have asked him for money too. He would have paid….” GREAT! A little late with THAT advice Willis! LOL It was heaven up there and hope it happens again someday. 🙂 Great story by the way! 🙂 (By the way… I failed the “captcha” my first attempt!” LMAO :-D)
Hi VW! I DID keep the PJs! What a great story…good for you! Although biz class ain’t too shabby! 🙂
My business class seat was using miles so it was a win situation overall. 🙂