I was pretty excited earlier this year when I managed to book five tickets to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Business Class, all departing on the same day. My parents and sister would be traveling on the 12:30 AM flight out of San Francisco, while my brother and I would depart thirty minutes later. At check-in we were helped by Eason, who couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating. My dad asked if it would be possible to put us all on the same flight and after a lot of typing and phone calls, Eason managed to make it happen. We’d still have to split up on the Hong Kong – Singapore segment, but that was fine by us. This experience was in stark contrast to my experience in Hong Kong, where the attendant at First Class check-in claimed I had to call American Airlines if I wanted to make any flight changes.
I had insisted on everyone bringing just one bag and by some miracle we all managed it. We were traveling to three countries for 4-6 days each, which worked out well because I personally just packed 5 outfits and recycled and mixed/matched them the entire time. It helped that we had access to laundry service for most of our trip. Upon checking our bags, we were informed all of them would be sent to Singapore on the first flight our group was taking that day. This ended up working in our favor, because my brother and I arrived in Singapore several hours before my parents did, collected all of the bags, then went to the hotel before finding out my parents and sister had missed their flight. This situation was stressful enough, but at least they didn’t have to worry about reuniting with their luggage.
After checking our bags, we headed off to the Cathay Pacific lounge, which was just past security to the left. In my experience, the TSA agents at SFO tend to be civilized professionals. On this particular night, they were doing their jobs with the finesse of San Quentin prison guards (down to the frequent flyer comment at 2:35). I’m used to that type of behavior at most airports, but damn it don’t leave the tourists departing this country with such a bad impression!
After a TSA grope fest, we headed to the Cathay Pacific Business and First Class lounge, where the attendant greeted us with the warmth of a mortician. Oddly, when we left she was warm and chipper, so either her dosage kicked in or she was really happy to see us leave. I’d always heard that the Cathay Pacific ground staff wasn’t quite as polished as the flight crew and this experience fell in line with that assessment.
Despite the fact that this is Cathay Pacific’s First and Business Class lounge, there is no separate area for First Class passengers. In order words, you’re not going to get a ritzier experience for flying further up front. This is fine for people like me, who don’t care for strangers rubbing their feet or giving them a haircut before the completely unrelated activity of sitting on a plane for 12 hours. Don’t get me wrong – these things are nice and all, but extras I can live without.
The lounge was pretty cramped, despite consisting of two sitting rooms, a dining area, and a sectioned-off office space, bathroom and shower room. There were lots of families with kids, but everyone was well behaved. We managed to get seats together, thanks to inexplicably high turnover.
The seats were fairly comfortable, though cramped a bit too close together. I liked the fact that each seat had a series of power outlets, which made it convenient to power up while waiting for boarding. For those looking for a bit more space to get work done, there is a computer station, separated from the general seating area by a glass wall. There are six stations, equipped with Mac desktops and a printer.
After a while, the large table in the dining area opened up, so we moved there. I don’t recommend it, since the seats are super stiff and uncomfortable. The nearby buffet had some of the worst food I’ve ever had outside of an elementary school cafeteria.
The standout feature of the Cathay Pacific lounge is the noodle bar, which was infinitely better than the buffet selection. When I walked up to the window to place my order, the employee was having some sort of labor dispute with her supervisor. This came to an abrupt halt, with both of them pasting on their best smiles when they noticed me. I ordered the vegetarian noodles, which were very good.
As is the law nowadays, I had to take a photo of my food before eating it, and since I couldn’t even get that right, I enlisted my sister as photographer. This right here is NOT a stock photo, just a very well lit iPhone pic. I don’t know why, but of all the photos I’ve taken on this trip, I’m particularly proud of this one…
We had a little under three hours in the Cathay Pacific lounge, which I mostly spent photographing the place and annoying people with my social media updates. Our travel date fell on Eid, so my parents spent most of the time calling as many friends and relatives as possible before we boarded the 12-hour flight.
When boarding began about 45 minutes before departure, I gave everyone the option to stay in the lounge, since I was only taking off early in order to have enough time and space to take photos of the cabin. There wasn’t much to do in the lounge, so everyone grabbed their stuff and came along.
The trip was off to a great start and the Cathay Pacific lounge was a good place to pass the time before the flight. Stick to the noodle bar, avoid the large dining table with the stools and you’ll be very comfortable.
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