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Los Angeles (LAX) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Scheduled Departure: 01:30 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 6:45 AM
Duration: 14hr 15min
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Seat: 1A (First Class)
I was able to book this flight from LAX to MNL with a layover at HKG using 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles. This amount of miles is needed to redeem a first-class flight from North America to Asia via Cathay Pacific with a free stopover in Hong Kong. Because there is no first-class service between HKG and MNL, my second leg of the journey was in business class. What I like about Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions is that there is no restriction on how long you can stay in the layover city. An alternate method to book this flight is through Asia Miles, but will require 110,000 points from LAX to HKG.
Cathay Pacific award redemption does not show up on the Alaska Mileage Plan website, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not available. I used the British Airways website to check for Cathay Pacific flight award availability, and then called the Alaska Miles hotline to redeem my points for the flight.
You can get bonus Alaska Mileage Plan welcome points by applying for the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard. Alternately, you can transfer from Marriott Bonvoy, which can be acquired from Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card at a ratio of 3:1 into Alaska Miles. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred over, you get a bonus of 5,000 airline miles. I decided to take an early morning flight leaving Los Angeles at 1:30 AM. This gave me sufficient time to stroll around Los Angeles since it was my first time in the city.
Mobile check-in and counter check-in were both available for this flight. I had an initial hiccup when my middle name was not initially included on my ticket, thus I was not able to use the mobile check-in at first. But kudos to Alaska Airlines - a phone call the day before my flight was able to resolve it.
I arrived early and the counter for my CX flight was already open, even though my flight was not until about 6 hours later. I was able to check-in with ease as there was a dedicated check-in counter for first-class passengers. First-class passengers are allowed two items of baggage up to 32 kg each, one carry-on, and one personal item, which in my opinion, was adequately generous. If you happen to be a Gold or Diamond Marco Polo member, you can have one additional check-in bag. Since I was spending more than 24 hours in Hong Kong, my bags were tagged to Hong Kong even though my final destination was Manila.
I was handed my boarding pass, invitation to enter the Qantas First Class Lounge, and an invitation to the arrival lounge at Hong Kong International Airport (though the arrivals lounge no longer exists).
The Qantas First Class lounge is the only lounge that caters exclusively to OneWorld First Class passengers and Emerald OneWorld tier status in LAX. The location of the lounge is located airside on Level 5. Although about a third of the lounge was occupied, there was still a lot of space to feel comfortable.
There were multiple sections in this lounge including a dining area, various lounging areas, a bar, meeting rooms, and shower rooms. The staff was very attentive and upon entering the lounge, a server immediately invited me to a table in the dining area which I happily accepted.
I liked the idea of this lounge serving an a-la-carte menu rather than serving food on a buffet table. The choices were quite comprehensive. I started with champagne and had a four-course meal. The food was acceptable. I did not want to get too full as I wanted to appreciate the food on board, but I ended up eating nevertheless. After having a hefty meal, I went to the lounge area to catch up on some work.
I decided to head to the boarding gates 40 minutes before departure and thankfully I did because the boarding gate was located further than what I had initially thought. When I arrived, they had already started pre-boarding. It was a good idea to go earlier after all or else I would not have been able to board the aircraft first.
Upon handing my boarding pass to the crew on board, I was immediately ushered to meet the purser who excitedly greeted and welcomed me to the first-class cabin. She told me that I was lucky as I was the only first-class passenger for this flight. The other two staff also introduced themselves and told me that I should feel free to ask should I need anything. They asked if I would like to take any other seat but I decided to stay in 1A. They also happily offered me seat 2A to be my bed. I chose champagne as my welcome drink and was expecting Krug, but for this flight, they carry Comtes de Champagne, which was fine with me. Hot towels, an Aesop amenity kit, and pajamas were handed to me. Of note, the pajamas come with a 500 HKD voucher that can be used in PYE stores which is a neat idea.
The cabin was arranged is a 1-1-1 configuration in the first class section. Seat 1A and 2A have additional privacy, as there is a wall between the middle seats and the A section. Seats in the D and K sections share a common aisle. I suggest getting the seats in the A section first if these seats are available.
The seat was very spacious, even for a taller person. There was an ottoman in front of the seat which can also be used as a second seat if you would like to dine with your companion. There was plenty of space to put your carry-on under the ottoman and a hidden compartment on the side of the TV screen. These compensated for the lack of overhead bins. The seat had an automated control where you could adjust the degree of recline of the seat and footrest. There was an additional footrest that extends to fill the gap between the seat and the ottoman when you fully recline the seat. This was an important feature for people with legs that are not long enough to reach the ottoman while on recline. There were two lights available on either side of the seat which could have their level of brightness adjusted. A USB and A/C power outlet were ergonomically located near the seat. There was also a small compartment on the side which was a handy place to store my phone, watch and charger.
The flight crew happily offered seat 2A to be my bed. The seat was large enough to make me feel like I was actually in a real bed. The pillow and comforters were soft and fluffy, and seemed like they belong in a 5 star hotel rather than an aircraft. I was able to get around 4 to 5 hours of sleep after consuming some alcoholic beverages. I decided not to sleep for too long as I didn't want to miss out on the food service and the in-flight experience.
The entertainment system is stowed on the aisle side of the seat, which is an awkward position. Luckily, the screen can swing to the window side which made the viewing pleasant. The image quality was very good and I was not able to discern any pixels. I was provided with a noise-canceling Bose headset which added pristine quality to the entertainment. I was able to watch Black Panther, The Big Bang Theory and Bob’s Burger. The entertainment system can be controlled via the touch screen or by a remote control located at the side of the seat. There was no lag in the entertainment system. The good thing about the system was that you can easily go back to the previous movie that you were watching should you decide to switch to the flight map or music.
One of the highlights of this flight was the meal service. Dinner service started as soon as reached our cruising altitude. As expected, there were two options to choose from: Western and Asian cuisine. I decided to go for the Asian choice. Meal service started with a delectable Venise caviar, served with champagne and the traditional garnishes. This comes with a personalized note from the crew which was very sweet. This was followed by an American ginseng soup, which I did not like. The main dish was a stir-fried prawn in XO sauce served with rice and kailan. The prawns were fresh and the XO sauce wasn't too overpowering. I think Cathay won in terms of how they cooked these prawns. Next came a plate of cheese, and of course there is always room for dessert-pudding with ice cream on the side. As a snack, I had pork and cabbage dumplings and the famous Cathay grilled US beef burger. Let me say that this was one of the best dumplings that I had ever tasted.
The restroom looked similar in configuration to the ones found in most economy class cabins, with only minor differences which include a fancier washbasin, hand cloth towels, and Aesop soap and lotion. The restroom looked clean every single time that I used it, likely because I was the only passenger in the cabin. I am sure that they keep it clean even if the cabin was full.
I was given a box of chocolates and some memorabilia as parting gifts from Cathay Pacific and to encourage me to fly with them again in the future. I was also offered complimentary Green tier membership to their Marco Polo Club. This was a welcomed gesture because of my other upcoming Cathay Pacific flights.
ARRIVAL AND CONCLUSION
We arrived in Hong Kong on time to clear skies and I was able to view some of the islands and windmills. Upon landing, I was able to use the complimentary arrivals lounge which I did not enjoy as it was very crowded and small. As mentioned previously, the Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge doesn’t exist anymore, but the arrivals Plaza Premium Lounge is still there and can be accessed with Priority Pass.
The CX881 first-class flight did not disappoint. The hard products coupled with the caliber of service from the flight crew made the experience something to remember. I would not hesitate to fly first class on Cathay Pacific again.