Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Observations about Flying Business Class

Yes, much to my delight, we were upgraded to Business Class for the flight on Cathay Pacific from Vancouver to New York. This has happened to me only once before, on a leg from Honolulu to Sydney, many years ago. At that time business class brought you larger seats with more leg room, along with extra service, better food and real knives and forks.

But lately my flying has been done on Boeing 777-200s and I have wondered what it would be like to travel in the newly designed, rather odd looking seats that are the business class seats provided for these planes. I even briefly flirted with the idea of paying for business class on my trip to Australia but the 9 -10 times greater price figure seemed too outrageous to me so we toughed it out in the economy class for 15 hours. Again, for this trip, I checked it out but the difference cannot be justified in my mind and certainly not for this relatively short flight of 4 hours 40 minutes duration.

The Cathay Pacific schedule has recently changed and the Vancouver to New York leg of the flight, which is actually part of a flight from Hong Kong to New York, has morphed into a red eye flight as it leaves at 10.30 pm local time and arrives at 6.55 am, which is not so nice for those who have to travel to meet us at the airport.

Each business class seat is its own little entity in this plane, separated one from the other which is just fine for the single traveller but not so friendly for those travelling together. I have always thought the seats rather narrow looking as I have passed through that part of the cabin and having tried one now, I think it would not be especially comfortable for a larger person for a long haul. The wonderful advantage is that the seat turns into an almost fully reclining bed which is quite comfortable for sleeping. Each alcove has its own headphones, personal TV and stowed table.

Even before the aeroplane took off, business class passengers were offered beverage service, in this case it was orange juice or champagne and I suppose you could build your own Mimosa by taking one of each, which certainly was fine with the stewardesses as I saw someone do.

After takeoff each passenger received a small toilet pack including a pair of socks and a sleeping mask and a menu for the dinner to come. Now it was 11.30pm by this time and dinner was slowly served over the next hour and a half. I'm sorry to say I have no photos of the food as my camera was in my hand luggage above the OS's seat. I know I should have refused the dinner and taken the opportunity to sleep but I simply had to enjoy all the bonuses which went with this surprise upgrade.

Dinner, served on the foldout table set with a placemat and cloth napkin, started with a seasonal salad with Gravlax salmon and a delicious dressing. There was a choice of three different dishes for the main course and I chose butterflied prawns wrapped in bean curd skin and served with fried rice and vegetables. The wine flowed freely however I am teetotal, but the OS enjoyed the choosing from the many on offer. Then followed a cheese plate and fresh fruit or a fruit flan or no doubt all three if desired.

The tea and coffee service was interrupted by some pretty wild turbulence and the stewardesses were ordered to their seats for a time. Ultimately it was served later but by this time I had chosen to recline my seat as fully as possible and sleep for the remainder of the flight. Unfortunately this was only for two hours before we landed in JFK airport.

There is a lot to be said for business class travel and I certainly would do it if it were more reasonably priced. Even priced up to four times economy class I would be very tempted and no doubt succumb. But eight to ten times seems just too much for me.

Now I have talked with many people who travel business class and it is interesting to note that hardly any of them pay the advertised price. Either they are frequent flyers and use points to upgrade or just the evening before we left we had dinner with a couple who said they earned them through charging everything they could on their special airtravel credit cards. So it seems that the few people who actually pay the advertised price are subsidizing others who pay much less for one reason or another. I mean these air travel points schemes started out as a reward for being loyal customers to one airline or another but now you can get free flights by charging a house renovation to your credit card and in fact I know one family who got six free tickets for their family from Canada to England in just this way. It's no wonder the airlines are losing money hand over fist. I am sure the banks who have these credit cards do pay the airlines money for these tickets but at a highly reduced rate from normal. Frankly I just shake my head as I have no idea how charging completely unrelated items to your credit card really has anything to do with flights on airlines or how it managed to become the way that so many people now pay for their travel.

However, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of business class travel which came our way so unexpectedly. So thank you so much Cathay Pacific and if you are looking for volunteers to upgrade again, I would be happy to oblige.


Katney said...

We we're "bumped" to first class on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Seattle years ago. Nine course meal, the toilet pack, a souvenir figurine and room to stretch out. Nos something we could have ever paid for.

I think the upgraded amenities are best on intercontinental flights. I've not seen anything like that on flights within North America. But I haven't flown for a while.

Rositta said...

I tried to get an upgrade on Olympic a couple of years ago and was rudely put in my place. It's never been full either but the flight attendants go sleep there while we in steerage get to fend for ourselves. It costs about 8 times more than regular fare and the seats on an older airbus are not that great. Certainly they don't recline into a bed. We have another 12 hour haul ahead of us next week...ciao

jmb said...

Well I think that beats me Katney. Nine courses! It would have been nice to have had this upgrade on our Vancouver Sydney 15 hr flight in February. But I am not complaining really.

Rositta, it seems the flights I travel on lately are very full and this one was no exception. So I was very pleased to get the upgrade.

napaboaniya said...

Actually, I've noticed that every time instead of the 2hr ahead check in. I'll stroll to the counter like 50mins before take off, and out of 5 times. I got the upgrade 5times :)
You might want to try. From what I understand, when there are empty seats nearing gate closing, they'll want to fill up those business/first class seats

Liz said...

Wow! Wonderful.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Wow! What an experience. My only experience of anything like this was being late for a flight from Rome to London because Alitalia [who else?] had been terribly late flying out of Sicily. As an apology, they phoned through to BA and got permission for me to wait in their first class lounge. "This is the life!" I thought - there was free g&t, free soft drinks, free everything. And comfy seats and glossy magazines. So if I had the money I'd pay to go first or bus class every time!

Johnes Joseph said...

Nice post..Thanks for sharing your experience with us..
Discount to Cathay pacific first class

Shawn Holstein said...

That is indeed very interesting. I do have to agree with your observations. Most luxury flyers are usually those who travel often and understand how stressful it is going through coach class. Actually, another option for them could be travelling through private rented jets.
Shawn Holstein