Cathay Pacific is the flag-carrier of Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of China. With direct flights from Johannesburg, and onward connections to over 40 cities in Asia, it is one of the most convenient options for travel to the Far East. Cathay Pacific is a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, which includes the likes of British Airways, Qantas Airways and American Airlines.
For this trip I completed all check-in formalities online (opens 48 hours before departure) and it worked perfectly. I also selected my seat, added my British Airways Executive Club membership number (because they’re both Oneworld alliance carriers, I could accrue Avios) and printed out my boarding pass. I was impressed that it even printed out my invitation for the Shongololo Lounge at ORTIA.
With all of that in hand I could step straight from the Gautrain and through security and immigration.
Lounge & Boarding
Cathay’s premium passengers have access to the excellent Shongololo Lounge, which recently received the Priority Pass award for Lounge of the Year in Africa and the Middle East. There’s a wide selection of hot and cold dishes, full bar service, good washrooms, free Wi-Fi, a range of newspapers/magazines and plenty of seating. Announcements are also made when flights are ready for premium passengers to board. It’s one of my favourite lounges at ORTIA. Boarding took place on time, and was seamless. The helpful manager even ensured my ‘advance passenger information’ was inputted for my onward connection from Hong Kong.
On this flight the business class was spread across the lower and upper deck of a Boeing 747 and – because I’d checked in early online – I bagged a coveted upper deck seat. With just a handful of seats I always find it more peaceful than the lower deck… it almost has the feel of a private jet!
The unusual ‘herringbone’ layout of the cabin ensures every seat has direct aisle access, which is a real pleasure. Revamped a few years ago, the seats – which convert into fully flat beds – were comfortable, spacious and had good storage space behind the seat. In-seat laptop power points are useful for getting some work done en route. If you don’t have deadlines to meet, the 15.4” personal television offers access to one of the better Audio and Video on Demand (AVOD) systems I’ve come across in-flight.
One of the joys of flying Cathay Pacific is the food, though. They definitely offer some of the best dining in the skies, with both western and Asian options available. I tried deep-fried kingklip with sweet and sour sauce, as well as the Asian breakfast of udon noodles, and both were excellent. The wine list is extensive, favouring Australian and New Zealand vineyards. Lunch/dinner is served shortly after take-off, with a light breakfast before landing in Hong Kong.
The comfortable seats, good entertainment and excellent food are especially welcome on this 12-hour flight – the afternoon departure, six time zones and early morning arrival make sleep tricky… unless you’re adept at switching off your body clock! I’m not, so didn’t get much sleep, but had a comfortable flight regardless.
The Norman Foster-designed Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong is one of the best in the world, and arrivals is as stress-free as you could ask for. There’s a bit of a walk from the arrival gate to immigration, but it’s along carpeted hallways and quiet passageways.
It’s a massive airport, and one that rarely feels crowded. The queue at immigration was all of four passengers long (happily, South African passport holders receive a 30-day visa on arrival, free of charge), and it took just minutes to make it through to the baggage hall, where our luggage was already arriving on the carousels.
This is as comfortable, stress-free and seamless as long-haul international travel can get. It was my third flight with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, and each time they’re hard to find fault with. Easily the best way to access Asia.