Cathay Pacific – Premium Economy



Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong. The airline offers daily direct flights from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International, connecting to over 170 destinations worldwide. Together with sister airline Dragonair, it offers particularly good connectivity into the People’s Republic of China. Cathay Pacific is a member of the oneworld alliance, which includes Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, British Airways and American Airlines.


Cathay Pacific allows you to check in online up to 48 hours before departure, whereas most airlines only open 24 hours prior. The online check-in process is quick and intuitive, allowing you to select a seat, add frequent flyer details and input the required passport information for immigration. If you choose to check in at the airport, Premium Economy passengers are able to use the priority lanes.

Lounge & Boarding

While Cathay Pacific’s Business and First Class passengers have access to the Shongololo Lounge at O.R. Tambo International, there is – unsurprisingly – no lounge access for Premium Economy passengers. However, as with check-in, one of the perks of flying in the new Premium Economy cabin is that passengers enjoy priority boarding along with Business and First Class passengers. Unfortunately, on this occasion the ACSA staff did a poor job of managing the queues, resulting in a confused crowd at the boarding gate.

The Seat & Flight

Premium Economy is a relatively new addition to the Cathay on-board offering, but could be the perfect ‘Cinderella’ option for business travellers watching their budgets. With just 30-odd seats set in a separate cabin between Economy and Business, it’s far less frenetic than the busy back of the plane, and on this 747 I scored what I thought was the best seat in the house: 30A, a bulkhead seat with plenty of extra legroom. 30C, K and H are also good options. The 2-4-2 layout also means the pair of seats at the window offer more privacy and space. Note that a 747 will be used full time on the route for the rest of 2013, with a mix of Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft from January 2014. The new Premium Economy seats are well suited to corporate travellers, offering a larger tray table (my Macbook Pro easily fitted on) along with in-seat power. There’s also a USB port to connect to the impressive touch-screen in-flight entertainment system. Cathay Pacific offers some of the best food in the sky, and the menu out of Johannesburg offers a good mix of Asian and Western dishes. I went for the hake with steamed rice and pak choi, which was excellent. The fairly small wine selection included a German Riesling and French red blend. Tray tables – especially for the main meal – are laid similarly to what you’d enjoy in Business Class.


After 12 hours of flying, we arrived in Hong Kong slightly ahead of schedule. The Chek Lap Kok airport is one of the best on the planet, and the arrivals hall is a pleasure. Although there are occasionally queues at immigration (South African passport holders receive a 30-day visa on arrival, free of charge), the desks are usually well-manned and the queues move quickly. I was in transit to China though, and the signs were clearly marked. With boarding passes issued in Johannesburg, it was a quick and painless process to find the new gate. The luggage I’d checked in Cape Town arrived safely in China after passing through four airports, which I thought was pretty impressive.


This flight once again proved why Cathay Pacific remains one of my favourite airlines. The new Premium Economy cabin was quiet and comfortable, with excellent cabin service and food, as per my previous experiences with the airline. Although it’ll never replace the superb Business Class experience, it’s less than half the price and a great option for travellers who are happy to pay a little bit extra for a lot more comfort.

Richard Holmes