When I was researching flights for our recent trip to Italy, I had a few criteria. I wanted to nab a sale fare, plus I wanted to be able to stop over on the way home. I preferred a day flight to begin with, and good connections wherever possible. After checking multiple search engines and exchanging a long series of emails with our travel agent, we found Cathay Pacific flights that met all these criteria except the last.
To be honest, I was dreading the flights to Europe despite the good reputation of Cathay Pacific economy class. I was apprehensive for two reasons: our first flight had to stopover in Cairns for an hour, and because we had a seven-hour lay-over in Hong Kong before our flight to Milan. Our travel agent tried to convince me to change to a different, more expensive flight so we could have a shorter stopover. It was a tough decision, but we opted to save our pennies and hope for the best.
In the end, it all worked out better than I dared hope. The stopover in Cairns was brief and provided an opportunity for the kids to run up and down the departures concourse while amusing the throngs of Chinese tourists. Once in Hong Kong, we walked to our pre-booked room at the Regal airport hotel (which is connected to the airport), had showers and went to bed for four hours. The kids were surprisingly pleasant when woken at midnight and still managed a few hours of sleep on the long flight to Milan. Here’s how we found Cathay Pacific economy class:
Aircraft: Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300
Route: Brisbane – Hong Kong – Milan
When: June 2015
Seats: Economy on the A330-300 has a 2-4-2 layout, so with five of us (two adults, three children) travelling, we chose to spread out across one row in a 3-2 configuration – I recommend selecting seats in advance through your travel agent. The downside of these seats is that we only have one window seat between three kids, which always causes issues, but it’s a far better option than the 2-2-1 configuration we had on another flight. With a pitch of 32 inches and width of 18.45 inches, the seats in Cathay Pacific economy are larger than their main competitors: the seats on Qantas A380s have a 31-inch pitch and 17.5-inch width.
Baggage allowance: 20kg per passenger, plus 7kg carry-on baggage. We travelled with two suitcases and three carry-on bags: a backpack, a handbag and a small children’s suitcase.
Flight duration & performance: 9 hours 45 minutes (plus 1 hour stop in Cairns)/12 hours 40 minutes. The Brisbane to Hong Kong flight was on time, however our second flight was delayed by an hour – not ideal with children at 1.30am in the morning. However we must have caught a headwind during the flight as we landed in Milan on time.
Family-friendly features: Families board early, and there are special family lanes to get through immigration at Hong Kong airport. Onboard, we receive activity packs for the kids on one flight. Perhaps they want to encourage sleep on the second flight? The crew are helpful when required, but otherwise do not go out of their way to interact with the kids.
Food: I am happy with all our meals, and am particularly impressed with the kids meals from Australia. The food seems fresh and relatively healthy, and far lower in sugar than other kids’ meals we’ve tried. The food gets the thumbs up from all three kids, although I think they’d love just about anything divided up into cute containers and trays. Adults choose between an Eastern and a Western meal, and I select the Eastern option nearly every time. Dare I say it, but the stir-fries were delicious.
Service: The service on all our flights is very good, and the staff are quick to respond to any requests.
Entertainment: The StudioCX inflight entertainment system on Cathay Pacific has a good range of offerings for adults, however the kids options are more limited than I expected. They are about 15 kids’ movies on our flights, but only a few of these are suitable for younger viewers. When you’ve got four long-haul flights in one trip, the options start to wear thin. Fortunately, my kids seem happy to watch the same thing over. And over. And over again. Home and Epic were the favourites with my girls, while Mr 3 loved Jake & the Neverland Pirates.
Loyalty scheme: One World, which includes Qantas.
Final verdict: I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Cathay Pacific economy class again. The seats, food and service are excellent, plus Hong Kong airport and its onsite hotel offer a smooth transit for weary families. Hong Kong also makes for a fun stopover destination.