Cathay Pacific’s flight from New York JFK to Vancouver is one of the flights known as a “fifth freedom” flight. These flights are flights that take place when an airline is from country A, but flies from country B to C (or vice versa) before going back to A. See this post for extremely comprehensive (but somewhat outdated) information on this topic.
I was in New York for a few days and on my way out I decided to fly this route. The cost is 35K AA miles or 37.5K Avios, and since I had a lot of Avios to burn I decided to use them. It would also be a fantastic value to use 25K Avios for this flight if these are two cities you need to go between.
Boarding was a little chaotic. Business Class and First Class passengers boarded together, and there were quite a few in Business Class so it took a while to get on the plane.
The Cathay Pacific First Class cabin on their 777 is a very small but spacious one. There are 2 rows of 3 seats in a 1-1-1 configuration, which gives everyone plenty of space. In my opinion, the best place to sit in this cabin is in either 1A or 2A as it provides the most privacy. You’ll see what I mean from my pictures below.
The Cathay Pacific First Class seat is one of the more spacious and comfortable seats that there are. I don’t have any complaints at all inn terms of the seat itself. A few of the other items, however, are starting to look a bit out of date when you consider some of the newer First Class products on the market. For example, the TV size is smaller than some other airlines have in their First Class cabins (the Asiana A380 First Class one is more than twice as big) and I feel like the foot rest could be a little bigger, but that’s not to say that it’s small by any means. There was an Ermenegildo Zegna amenity kit awaiting me at my seat.
I mentioned privacy earlier. These seats are labeled as “Suites” but aren’t the kind with closing doors, which generally provide the most privacy. Instead, seats 1A and 2A have the most privacy because there’s a big wall across the aisle, the the seats in the middle section facing the opposite windows.
That means that if you’re traveling alone, or if you and your travel partner prefer extreme privacy, you should try to get the “A” seats. If you’d rather sit closer to your travel partner, then grab a pair of seats on the other side of this wall so you’re at least able to lean forward and waive hello.
The flight time for this flight is just under 6 hours and it departs around 10pm, so the service part of this particular flight isn’t why you’d book it. Instead, it’s because of the bed. Because of the departure time and the short flight, the lights are turned off almost immediately after takeoff and they serve dinner very quickly.
I received my pajamas while boarding was completing and immediately changed into them. They’re nice and comfortable, but not the best pair of pajamas I’ve received from an airline.
I actually fell asleep on takeoff, but as soon as I woke up a flight attendant handed my a menu and Bose noise cancelling headphones. There were also immigration papers already at my seat. The flight attendant came back to take my order after just a few minutes.
Dinner service was started very quickly after takeoff; quicker than I can recall on any other flight, in fact. I was first asked for my beverage choice (apple juice) and brought some cashews. Notice how dark the cabin already is – several First Class passengers had gone to bed.
Below is a full size image of the menu (click to enlarge).
I didn’t want to mess around and have 5 courses – I was really tired and wanted to get to bed as quickly as possible since the flight was so short. I asked to skip the appetizers and have them bring my my main course immediately, which was the prime beef tenderloin. For dessert I asked for a fruit plate.
First my table was set and I was brought a basket of warm bread, which was accompanied by butter and olive oil. It was better and tasted fresher than it normally is on planes.
My main course of beef came out shortly after that, accompanied by mashed potatoes and ratatouille. The beef was a little over done, but it was still good.
My fruit plate came out next and was simple and really delicious. I love fresh fruit! My meal was done and my table cleared in 25 minutes flat. I love that the flight attendants understand how people just want to get to bed, and their service was designed to ensure that happens as quickly as possible.
As soon as my table was cleared, I asked for my bed to be made so I can to go sleep. I headed for the lavatory as I usually do while the bed was being made. The First Class lavatory on Cathay has one of the “fancy” sinks that looks like what you’d see in a normal bathroom.
My bed was made when I got back to my seat, and it looked really comfortable because of it’s size and how tired I was.
I love that Cathay provides a full size pillow and has such a huge seat. If you’ve never flown Cathay First Class, it’s one of the most comfortable seats and beds that you’ll find. It’s extremely spacious and the bedding is excellent. I mentioned earlier that the foot rest is a bit small compared to others, but that doesn’t mean it’s too small. It’s still comfortably sized.
I wanted to charge my phone while I slept, so I hooked it up to the power outlet that’s just beside the seat.
Note the location and how I can charge a device regardless of what position the seat is in. This is something that Asiana really messed up with on their A380 First Class seat. Even though this one was next to the bed, it was raised and I never bumped into it while sleeping.
I fell asleep for the remainder of the flight, which was about another 4 hours or so. Another cool thing about this particular flight is that the cabin lights aren’t turned on and no announcements made until just 15 minutes before landing. This is very thoughtful of Cathay to allow everyone to maximize their sleep time. It’s a bid of a mad rush to prepare the cabin in those 15 minutes, but I prefer it that way than waking up earlier and sitting around.
My flight landed at Vancouver YVR around 12:45am and the airport and immigration was very quiet.
It was a quick flight of under 6 hours and most of it was spent sleeping, but Cathay Pacific makes the experience really great because everything is planned with that in mind. Pajamas are handed out before the flight, dinner is served very quickly after departure, and the rest of the time is devoted to sleeping aside for the final 15 minutes, which is a mad rush to get the cabin ready for landing.
If you need to get from New York to Vancouver, this is by far the best flight you can take (in Business or First Class), and if you have a bit more time and need to get to Los Angeles, flying JFK-YVR-LAX with the first leg on this flight isn’t so bad either.