Review

Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class review – Flying with kids on CX253 Hong Kong to London

My focus for this flight was to stay sane and comfortable whilst travelling with my family – my partner and our two daughters, aged 3 years and 3 months. Hong Kong to London in Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER in Business Class was the second leg of our journey on a 5 week trip to Europe in December 2013.

Ensuring we all travelled well without going too insane, or making other passengers want to kill us, the level of attention spent on taking photos and noting details of the ‘experience’ was significantly reduced – so my focus of reviews for this trip is to give others who are considering travelling with children, such as on Cathay Pacific in Business Class, an idea of what to expect.

Hong Kong Airport – Cathay Pacific Lounges & Children

The best thing about the 3pm departure time was that we didn’t have any kind of rush to leave our hotel and get to the airport, far preferable to the alternative departure times early in the morning or late in the evening. A few hours after take-off the children should be tired according to their natural body clock, and start to get some sleep to see them through the journey. However, the 8pm (same day) arrival time in the UK posed potential problems – more on that later.

After arriving on our excellent hotel car transfer from the Hyatt Sha Tin, we were checked into Business Class slowly but without issue, despite having about 8 bags. It took so long that Zoe, our 3 year old, decided it would be a good idea to do some origami at a small children’s entertainment area while I sorted the check in.

10 minutes later, we were off though security and looking for a lounge, leaving our nicely priority-tagged range of bags behind. I was secretly hoping I’d never see them again so I wouldn’t have to pick them up, ever.

Hong Kong Airport is massive and Cathay have more than a handful of excellent lounges there to choose from. Normally on personal or work travel I might go to a couple of lounges – The Wing for some food and The Cabin for the views.

I’ve previously reviewed The Cabin and The Wing Business Class lounges and I love both for different reasons. The Bridge also opened in November and I had originally planned to try that out, but it ended up being just too far away from our departure gate with the time we had available.

With kids, unless you have LOTS of time, it’s about picking the closest lounge to your departure gate in Hong Kong, as the place is just so big you don’t want to have to walk up and down the terminal unnecessarily. For us, that seemed like The Cabin, so we ventured downstairs.

The Cabin is a long, narrow, galley-style lounge so it wasn’t the ideal place to spend lots of time with small kids. However the food here, such as the smoothie bar, is probably more kid-friendly than what’s on offer in some of Cathay Pacific’s other Hong Kong lounges.

Seating in The Cabin

Seating in The Cabin

If you have time and it’s convenient, I’d recommend The Wing as a better place to spend time with kids as there’s more space, facilities and corners to settle down in.

The new Noodle Bar

The noodle bar in The Wing

We only had 1/2 hour to spare, so left for boarding and were some of the last Business Class travellers to board.

The Flight – Hong Kong to London in Cathay Pacific Business Class

This was my first time on a Cathay 777-300ER and my first impression of the Business cabin was that it was pretty massive. There’s a small First Class cabin upfront, and behind a mini cabin of 2 rows of Business Class seats. Behind that is the First and Business Class galley, and then the main Business Class cabin of 45 seats in one area. The full seat map is here.

From our seats in row 15 with the bassinet position at the front of the cabin it seemed particularly vast, and was around two-thirds full of other passengers when we arrived as one of the last to board.

I was quite glad it wasn’t looking full – this was our first overnight flight with an older child (the flight up to Hong Kong was the daylight QF127) and we had some trepidation about how meals and bedtime might work for both children.

Seating

Having previously travelled in Cathay Pacific’s newest Business Class from Hong Kong to Sydney, I knew what to expect from the seat – a very private space, with a fully lie-flat seat, large screen entertainment and plenty of space for extraneous bags, food – and toys.

1 Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

The 777 was no different to the A330 in this regard – a great seat for Business Class, and possibly the best in the market at the minute. We had selected two of the centre seats as this the designated bassinet location, and one aisle.

2 Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

Above the two front middle seats is a large bulkhead space, at the sides of which is the actual bassinet location. You can just about see it at the top of the image below, above the in-flight entertainment screen. This was excellent as a dumping ground for bags in flight, meaning we didn’t have to constantly pop open the overhead lockers for toilet visits, food, clothing and the like.

3 Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

On take-off it become evident that the usual advantages of a Cathay Pacific Business Class seat would actually cause some challenges when travelling with a child seated in one of them. It was almost impossible to reach across from my aisle seat to my daughter in the other centre seat next to me, thanks to the masses of dividing space for side storage, trays, and privacy. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to hold her hand for take-off.

After the seatbelt sign was turned off, we executed a quick swap, allowing my partner to sit in the other seat, and my daughter in the solo aisle seat. This made it a little easier for me to reach her, not so much physically closer but certainly more visible than when sitting in the centre.

It also meant she had a lot of private space to herself, which meant that later in the flight she slept like a champion for around 6 hours – but now she is in the mindset of thinking that all airline seats ’turn into beds’, which is going to be problematic for her in later life.

4 Kids in Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

Zoe sitting in her aisle seat throne, pyjamas on, dinner served, movie queued up

It also turned out that the gentleman sitting in the window seat on the other side of the plane decided (as I would too) to move further back down the cabin when he saw we had two kids in tow, leaving us the full row of four seats open to us at the front of the cabin.

This was the first time I had ownership of the width of the whole of an aircraft, and it was so, so good. Not something to rely on happening though!

The standard bassinet position, as I mentioned, is above the two centre seats. The bassinet on offer by Cathay Pacific on the 777 for Business Class is a fold out basket-style offering with a hood, rather than integrated into the bulkhead.

This isn’t necessarily a bad concept, but the bassinet fitting to the bulkhead was by just a few poppers, and a single poorly designed piece of webbing. The crew, including the manager, didn’t know for sure exactly how it was supposed to work, and this left the littlest one somewhat open and unsecured in the bassinet.

We didn’t feel comfortable with her being less secure than an adult in a regular seatbelt, so moved the bassinet over to the vacated spare seat and belted her down to the seat. It worked like a treat, and she ended up sleeping for around 8 hours of the 13 hour flight – massive win.

5 Bassinet in Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

6 Bassinet in Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

7 Bassinet in Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG-LHR 777-300ER

Thank you for sleeping for the last 8 hours.

Food

I don’t remember much at all about the food on this flight, good or bad, to be honest. The service on offer was good, allowing us to delay meals as necessary to handle kids, and with proactive questions on what meals we’d prefer in order to be kept aside. Having said that, the courses could have been served closer together to minimise that ‘stuck in the seat’ feeling.

As I run through at the end of this review, this flight was originally booked in Premium Economy, and for some reason I thought that ordering an adult meal instead of a kids meal for our eldest was the right idea.

Given that we upgraded ourselves to Business a day before departure, our meal preference didn’t get changed and this was the wrong decision, and meant that she was presented with overly complex Business Class food. We had, however, packed a lot of sandwiches, leftovers and snacks so this wasn’t a drama – if we hadn’t had those though it would have been more stressful.

The Business Class menu from this flight is below.

Special service for children offered by Cathay Pacific

I’ve found that one of the most important things to ease the pain of any flight with kids is the attitude of the staff around you. If they are offering great, proactive service, but still remaining professional and letting you parent them without getting in the way, then it makes all the difference.

On this flight, the crew were pretty spot on. They paid appropriate attention to our eldest without overdoing it, making sure she was OK and that she knew they were there to help her, but not making her think she was an absolute princess. They also listened to our concerns about the bassinet positioning, trying to help with the positioning it effectively to get the baby secure, while also apologising and looking to offer solutions.

There was also a kids pack handed out which was a collaboration with Disney – and again, this was really good. The majority of the pieces were foldable paper toys and puzzles, plus a few stickers and colour story books. It felt like there was minimal wastage, not much plastic to throw away, and I didn’t have any qualms about exploding it all out onto the seat around her to play with. There was a collapsable plastic box to hold all of this in, which still gets played with now.

By contrast, Qantas’ pack is a pack of drawing pencils, a colouring book, pencil sharpener and a luggage tag – all of which require a bit more adult supervision, and the last thing you need as a flying parent is another thing to think about.

How I researched & booked this flight – using British Airways Avios to book Cathay Pacific flights

As I detailed in the original post outlining my booking techniques for this trip in the middle of last year, I originally booked this leg in Premium Economy using 45,000 British Airways Avios points per person. I used to live in the UK, and have maintained my British Airways Executive Club account and the ability to earn the odd credit card signup bonus from American Express UK.

Given our flight up to Hong Kong in Qantas Business Class had gone so will with the children, and I’d earn a few more Avios since making the booking, I started pondering the possibilities of getting us all into Business Class.

Knowing that Cathay Pacific often open up award space on their flights in the days immediately before departure, in the few days we were staying in Hong Kong I started monitoring Business Class availability for our existing flight. I really didn’t want to make day or time changes given we had a range of logistics locked in in the UK on our arrival based on us taking this flight.

Sure enough, Business Class availability opened up, so just 30 hours before our original departure time I placed a call to BA Executive Club in the UK to see if we could make the change up to Business. I knew this would be a tense call, as I’d be cancelling our existing Premium Economy booking, getting a refund of the Avios in my account, then making a new booking into Business Class – and there’s always scope for any one of those steps to go wrong and have the availability I intended to book disappear before I could confirm the flights.

Thankfully, for an extra 15,000 Avios per person I was available to get us into Business Class on CX253, the same flight – however the new booking hadn’t ticketed with no email e-tickets arriving in my inbox, all the way up to leaving our hotel for the airport despite several calls to British Airways to try and get this sorted.

I was anticipating problems at check-in, but in the end they just had to make a few phone calls to ensure the bookings were actually confirmed. I don’t know what went wrong, but I certainly felt better knowing that I had done everything I could do get us confirmed in Business for this flight, and thankful that no problems eventuated when we got to the airport.

Conclusion

This flight went very well, and much better than we could have hoped given it would be the longest flight we had taken with two children to date. Nearly 14 hours in the air is a long time for adults, let alone children, and given they both slept for nearly half or more of that time, and neither disrupted other passengers in any way, we were happy.

The Cathay Pacific service was excellent, and the seating lived up to my expectations – with the surprise that it was actually harder to keep tabs on our 3 year old given how vast and private the space Cathay have on offer for you.

In hindsight, this was almost the hardest part of the flight, and given a choice between a more traditional side-by-side Business Class cabin layout with children, I might actually opt for that option over the otherwise excellent Cathay Pacific Business Class set up.

Aside – Heathrow, and dealing with kids after a 13 hour flight with an 8 hour time difference

Arrivals at Heathrow were a bit of a farce. The fast-track arrivals lane had only one person staffing it initially, and as we were at the front of Business Class and one of the first to leave the plane, I felt particularly sorry for the other 30-40 premium passengers who ended up behind us as we made our way through.

Bags arrived quickly thanks to the priority tagging, and we headed off to meet family and then spend the night at an airport hotel – the Novotel Heathrow. The Novotel was fine – not amazing, to be honest, very worn down. In future I’d choose somewhere different.

Another data point for parents considering this kind of flight, the kids essentially felt like they’d had enough sleep after only 3 or 4 hours, leaving us awake from the early hours of the morning before we made our way out of London the next day. Not ideal, but I’d rather be awake and killing time in a hotel room with our children than on a plane, so a necessary evil I guess.

All up, it took around a week for everyone to get over their jet lag with the time difference from Hong Kong & Australia.

Comments Expand Comments

  1. john

    Interested to know what you would do seating config wise with the same seating layout and 2kids (3&5) and 2 adults. 1 whole row or 2×2.

    • Keith Author

      Wow, that’s a tough one. What route and how long is the flight?

      I think I would avoid being 4 across. It would mean being completely split into two parties of two, you wouldn’t be able to move across to the other side to help your other half or vice versa. The only reason this was tolerable for us was because we had the bassinet position in the first row and could cut across using the galley.
      Given that, it leaves you 2×2. Put the kids in the window seats, more enclosed, not next to others, can see out. Not ideal bit you’ll do fine.

  2. Nelson

    “but now she is in the mindset of thinking that all airline seats ’turn
    into beds’, which is going to be problematic for her in later life.”

    🙂 that reminds of my friend who flew for the first time in his life. After 3-4 steps inside the SQ 777, he saw the wide leather J seats and asked “What are people complaining about? This is sweet!”

    And I said “ermmm What’s your seat number?” he replied “48”
    I said “Keep going”

    He kept walking, pass the galley, and then suddenly… he went “ohh, I see”

    One of the best moments of my life, I laughed and laughed. I shouldn’t have, but I did.

  3. KMc

    Thanks for the write up and a couple of good tips. We’re on MH BNE – KUL – LHR in an older style J cabin in Apr. We have also done BNE LAX with VA J. Ages for upcoming trip will be 2 adults, 4yo and 20mo. Looking forward to it. Have programed plenty of in-between time (including a night in kl each way) to get them adjusted.

    • Keith Author

      Ah, cool. Review of MH A380 and A330 coming in a couple of weeks. Do you know if you’re on the A330 or 777? Either way we found the A330 sloped seats a pain as kids kept on sliding down them. Somehow need to find a trick to anchor them higher or put stuff below so they don’t end up on the floor asleep.

  4. koby

    How did you book the seat for the infant? I assume you used points to redeem for your seats (excluding the infant) , right? I always want to do the same thing, but I’m afraid of the huge charge for the infant because of the business class fare.

    • Keith Author

      For infant travel on points, airlines have different policies. British Airways (for this flight) charge 10% of the adult points plus taxes. Qantas don’t charge anything, only taxes. Malaysia Airlines the same. Unsure on others, some do try and charge 10% of adult cash fare, but I avoid that, obviously.

  5. Laura

    We are looking at flying the new CX business class from Chicago to HKG (16 hours) with our two children (will be 8 years and 26 months old at the time).

    The little one is a pretty good flyer with her longest flight to date being 11 hours when she was 18 months old (business class w/ angled lie-flat seats side by side).

    I struggle with the decision as the angled seats drive me crazy for sleeping but I’m nervous about being so far away from her in CX business.

    If I were to put her in one of the single window seats would she be able to see me in the middle seat across the isle or are they staggered too much?? She is in the thick of separation anxiety right now, but who knows what she will be like in another 6 months.

    Also, did you have any issues with the seat belt being too big for your 3 year old? I usually like to fly with a CARES harness for safety but CX does not allow those or car seats on their business class seats, I think because they have an airbag incorporated into their seatbelt.

    Thoughts?

    • Keith Author

      Great questions. We found it tough to begin with, but then Zoe (just 3) handled it OK. I sat her next to me for take off so I could at least reach over and hold her hand, just, and then moved her over for the flight. Worked well; definitely couldn’t reach her though across the aisle, but we could see each other. The extra space though I think was worth the trade off. Zoe ended up having a blast in her corner.

      Seat belt was fine, no problems. We have a Cares harness too but didn’t use it.

  6. Jessica

    What was seat 15a like (where you ended up putting the bassinet?

    We are flying HKG – LAX with my 1 year old (bassinet seats but looking at the bassinet and your 3 month old in it I’m dreaming if I think she will fit!!!!) and my almost 3yo.

    Have allocated 3yo 15a then we have the 3 window seats behind and my husband in the 1st row of middle seats.

    Thanks for the tip about the food too. I’ll make a call to Cathay this week to get her meal allocated as a kids meal along with my 1yo.

    • Keith Author

      The forward-most seats on both sides were great, really private – with the exception of the curtain to the galley (and light from it) occasionally being accessed. I think you’re pretty set with the config you have selected – seems like the least trade-offs.

  7. adele

    Hi Keith. Great article, and very relevant for us at the moment as (call us crazy!) my husband and I will be taking our then 17 month old as a lap infant on four CX J class long haul flights in December as part of a one world classic award. I wonder if you might be able to help with a couple of questions: Most of our flights are on the 777-300ER. Is it worth assigning ourselves a bassinet seat? While I understand the weight limit is 12 kgs, and my daughter will come under that threshold, I get the sense from your photos it is pretty small. Failing that, what seating options would you take on the 777-300ER? front rows (row 11 and row 12)? I’ve also read lots of comments about the 1 2 1 config – given the privacy between the two seats in the middle, would it be better to book 2 seats across the aisle from each other? Thanks for your help!

    • You’re not crazy, we’ve done trips with the kids too. Business makes it 1,000 times more tolerable!

      Is it worth assigning yourselves a bassinet seat? Definitely – the bassinet spot has a heap of flat space which is in front of the seat that you can use as a dumping ground for bags and baby stuff, even if you don’t use it for the bassinet (which you won’t I would imagine with a 17 month old).

      Given you are flying as a pair plus an infant, I’d 100% recommend one taking a window and the other the bassinet (middle). That way the partner not on duty can just leap up over the aisle to help out if required. If you go 2 x middle, you’ll end up needing to walk around the whole cabin – or do an ungainly hop over the centre partition – to get around to help, get something out of the overhead or a bag or whatever if needed.

Links to this article

  1. First time on CX J - A few questions ?
  2. 7 'Ultimate' ways to use Qantas Points - Point Hacks Guide

Leave a Reply

Earn points to fly with Cathay Pacific

ANZ Rewards Black credit cards - 75,000 ANZ Rewards Points

ANZ are offering a 75,000 ANZ Rewards Point sign up bonus after your first eligible purchase in the first 3 months.

Eligibility criteria, T&Cs, fees and charges apply.

  • 75,000 ANZ Rewards point bonus after first eligible purchase in the first 3 months after approval.
  • 10,000 Reward Point loyalty bonus if you make at least $50,000 of qualifying purchases on your account in the first year
  • 24/7 Personal Concierge and exclusive entertainment and lifestyle offers
  • ANZ's highest point earn rate on spend with 3 ANZ Rewards points earned per $1 spent on eligible purchases on the American Express, 1.25 ANZ Rewards points per $1 spent on the Visa
  • Annual Fee: $375 p.a.
  • Signup bonus points will be awarded within 2 months of meeting purchase criteria

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earn up to $150 per applicant for this card. More about this →