Flight check: Cathay Pacific B747–400 Premium Economy



Cathay Pacific operates 135 wide-bodied passenger and cargo aircraft to 174 destinations in 41 countries and territories. The airline flies daily between Johannesburg and Hong Kong.


Premium Economy passengers get priority check-in and boarding, which is a boon on a full flight from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. What I liked was the generous luggage allowance – 25 kilograms checked and two carry-on pieces, which is ideal for bargain hunters hitting the markets.


My Cathay Pacific Premium Economy ticket did not come with lounge access at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.


My 12h30 flight for Hong Kong was called on time and it definitely helped having priority boarding, with Premium Economy passengers being given a march on the poor guys in Economy.
The Seat

There were 26 seats in Premium Economy, with a seat configuration of 2-4-2. Somewhere between the lie-flat luxury of Business and the tinned sardines routine of Economy, Cathay Pacific’s wider Premium Economy offers a seat pitch of 96.52 centimetres – that’s 15.24 centimetres more than the cheap seats. The TV screen and meal tray folds into the immovable armrest, so there’s no chance of turning the two seats into a bed. That was perhaps just as well, since the Chinese chap next to me who spent the flight watching reruns of Friends on his iPad might have got the wrong idea! My seat (30H) offered loads of legroom, and thanks to the foldout footrest, the seat is the best reason for upgrading to Premium Economy as the flight between Johannesburg and Hong Kong is just under 13 hours at 12 hours and 45 minutes.

The Flight

Overall it was a good experience, with excellent service, although I did have some issues with the food on offer. I choose to avoid tortured, factory-farmed flesh, while gluten leaves me bloated, so I requested a wheat-free vegetarian meal. The day before my departure I was told I would need to provide a doctor’s certificate for such a request. I could have vegetarian OR gluten-free, but not both in one meal. So I opted for vegetarian. Bad mistake. Apart from a mound of dry white rice served with a few dry mushrooms and margarine, gluten ruled the galley. Bread rolls or noodles in chicken soup were offered as snacks, with more noodles and grey sauce for breakfast. Some fruit – an apple, even – might have been nice, but of this there was no sign. Faint with hunger, I might have out-wailed the infant in the adjacent row, had it not been for the kindness of flight attendant Yelta, who was patient and warm without being overbearing. When I whined about starving, she fetched me a selection of dark chocolates from First Class, which probably pre-empted a hypoglycemic meltdown. Clearly Yelta loved her work, dispensing orange juice and care to passengers all night, and soothing the colicky baby in the adjacent row whose mother snored on, oblivious. Premium Economy welcomes infants. I am not one of those lucky people who can sleep on planes. Call me picky, but I require quiet surroundings and dark rooms devoid of fractious brats, drinks trolleys banging my elbow and screechy announcements in Chinese and English. Fortunately the entertainment was great. Think cool tunes, games, TV re-runs, latest Hollywood releases and art house movies on a nice-sized screen that folds into the armrest. Four minutes of ads before each gets annoying, but hey, that’s what the fast forward button is for. Also, Premium Economy’s noise-cancelling headphones were fab. Flight socks, earplugs, and an eye mask complimented the blanket and pillow, but best of all were the fragrant and clean toilets.


The flight arrived on time at approximately 07h15 in the morning, local Hong Kong time.


Great seat and super service, but if you’re a fussy eater, you might be better off bringing your own food.

Caroline Hurry