Review: Down to Modern Middle-earth – CX 197 Hong Kong to Auckland A340-300 Economy Class

Introduction
CX 197 HKG – AKL 343 Y
Treetops Lodge and Estate Rotorua
Exploring Rotorua
Waterfront Suites HBC Paihia
Exploring Paihia
Exploring Auckland
NZ 087 AKL – HKG 772 Y

Comfort 4/5 Service 5/5 Amenities 5/5 Little things 5/5 Meals 4/5 Overall 5/5

I’ve always known Cathay Pacific to be my “home” airline, and to tell the truth I take Cathay Pacific whenever I can. The service is usually exceptional, and (mind you, we were sitting in Economy) this time it pretty much trumped First Class service on American airlines (according to reviews). Embarrassedly, I admit that this was the longest time I have ever taken an airplane – I usually travel around Southeast Asia, and the longest time I had ever been on an airplane before the day I took this flight was from Hong Kong to Brisbane, Australia. So I was excited, especially if I could try out how it was like to be at the very end of the airplane.

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Airport Express on the way there

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Airport Express on the way there

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Views from the Airport Express

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At the airport, at last!

Our trip didn’t start the best way possible – first of all, CX 197 was delayed for an hour, even though they decided to notify everyone about this when they realised they needed a delay. Why can’t all airlines be like that?

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Oh well…

There were Chinese New Year decorations in the airport, as usual during this time.

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Chinese New Year Decorations

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Shops in Hong Kong Airport

We roamed around the airport for an hour or so, with nothing to do, since we thought there’d be a long checkin line to find nobody there.

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Our bird

Cathay Pacific Flight 197
Saturday, February 1st, 2014
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 41 Dep: 21:00 (22:00)
Destination: Auckland (AKL) Gate: 2 Arr: 13:05
+1 (14:25)
Duration: 11 hr 05 min (11 hr 25 min)
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A340-300
Seat: 74K (Economy Class)

Boarding began at Gate 41 at about 21:40, and we made our way to the back of the plane.

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Premium Economy

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Premium Economy headrest

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Our seats for tonight

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More seats

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More seats

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Even more seats

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My seat, at last!

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Legroom

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Views from the tarmac

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My screen

I didn’t know that my screen was touchscreen, as I thought the function was only on the new A330s and 777-300ERs, so I was surprised to see that happening.

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Safety demonstration

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Dragonair A330 in sight

Takeoff was smooth and we were in the air within ten minutes. The entertainment selection was huge (as is always on Cathay Pacific), and I settled to listening a little of Mozart and Hungarian Dances (both were well played).

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Entertainment music selection

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Airshow

Dinner started at about midnight, and was presented with a menu (that I embarrassingly forgot to take a picture of). Service was impressive – my father wanted to order curry chicken, but they had unfortunately run out. The flight attendant apologised profusely and asked if he wanted anything else, and even gave her recommendation (the one I have forgotten, something to do with fish). Then when my father declined another meal the flight attendant asked him if he wanted more bread, which he took one more. (I gave my bun to my father after I took this picture.) After that she asked if he would want to reserve his breakfast so he would get his choice. Impressive. Anyway, there was a choice of curry chicken, the choice that I have forgotten and a vegetarian option, a penne pasta. I went with the latter.

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Dinner, with Coke

The pasta tasted really good and was cooked to al dente (surprise!), although I wish there could have been cheese (although if that was the case it wouldn’t be an economy meal, would it?).

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Cabin during dinner

The appetiser was chicken salad, which was good (although the chicken could be more tender, but again, this is economy, not first class).

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Appetizer

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Drinks cart

After dinner the lights dimmed. The seat was fine. It wasn’t the best economy seat ever, but I did not expect it to be good. I was expecting that I would have to book a back massage in Rotorua but this seat’s cushioning and shape made it bearable…or am I just positioning the cushions right?

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Seats (the next morning) – you’ll see this picture again later in the trip report

Knowing that I would be too excited to sleep (nothing about comfort here), I watched a season of An Idiot Abroad, which was good overall but slightly “wtf”.

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Inspiring branding shown (with inspiring IFE name)

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An Idiot Abroad

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An Idiot Abroad

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Cabin at night

After watching that, I caught up a little work (Google Drive has offline), and then watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which is my favourite animated movie currently by far. (Anyone else here watch their favourite movie for the first time on a plane?)

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Airshow (passing Indonesia)

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Cabin when I was finished with CWACOM

About 8AM Auckland time (3AM Hong Kong time…yawn) I went past the galley and recognised the chief purser, Maria. The only time I had seen her before was in a photo, so…but I knew that my aunt was friends with her, so I introduced myself and the family to her…she gave us each a bottle of Evian water (each) and a packet of nuts (Diamond branded), what you would expect in Business Class. She was beaming at us in the galley every time she walked past. Other people might have thought of us as lucky, but it was creepy…

Service was attentive throughout the night, especially with Maria (who told my mother about all the fashion products in Auckland to buy, i.e. Manuka honey hand lotion, Rotorua mud hand lotion etc.). The other flight attendants were also servicing to our needs (they were pushing carts around and the drinks cart went through the galley a few times). I may be biased, but the other passengers were treated equally well (for most of them that means the flight attendants left them alone in their sleep). Since three of my friends were seated in Business and I forgot to tell Maria, I wonder what happened?

Later I also snapped a picture that could easily be the headline picture of View from the Wing.

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View from the Wing?

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View from the Wing

An upside to the shell seat was that it was perfect for working, and I did so, for about an hour, I guess. Guess what people would think when the Google Doc said “Last edited by me at 4:50am”…

Of course for you guys I took a picture of the toilet, which had amenities of a forgotten brand (hey, don’t blame me, I was half asleep for watching too many movies and lacking a night’s sleep. I couldn’t even see the camera, my eyes were so blurry).

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Standard economy toilet lotion

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Finally, starting to get bored…

The flight was so uneventful 🙂 that I started to get sleepy. I slept well, with two pillows supporting my lumbar and one supporting my head (despite the fact that I woke up finding my head on the seat pan).

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My seat’s the window seat, my dad sat at the aisle (see that pillow?)

Breakfast commenced shortly after I woke up. My dad got his congee as the flight attendant promised, and I had the salmon egg soufflé (the sausages were decent but the egg had a sour hint). Dinner and breakfast were on the same menu.

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Breakfast, with orange juice

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Views during breakfast

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Is this the real View from the Wing?

After breakfast I slept a little more, and before we knew it the Captain said we were landing. The views on approach were stunning, and none of these pictures do it justice, even if they give you the slightest idea of New Zealand beauty.

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Views upon landing

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Views upon landing

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Views upon landing

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Views upon landing

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Views upon landing

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Views upon landing

We touched down into Auckland exactly an hour and fifteen minutes beyond schedule.

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Bird we parked next to

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Qantas 737

Thankfully during the day taking pictures was easier (at night all I get is my reflection). Disembarking the aircraft was swift, and we (the last to get off) came off 5 minutes after parking, which is quite impressive. My pictures would be so much better if I got my phone out in time…

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Emirates A380

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A picture worth taking

Soon we were on our way out.

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Auckland Airport

Overall this was a very good flight, and I look forward to flying with Cathay Pacific again in April. However the new seats may be a welcome change? (not saying that these were uncomfortable, or at least as uncomfortable as people describe it) Stay tuned for my next few reports!

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