Review: Cathay Pacific Economy Class A321neo (MNL-HKG)

Jyaga likes (4.5/5)

Cathay Pacific flight details

Airline : Cathay Pacific
Flight No : CX906
Departure City : Manila – Ninoy Aquino (MNL)
Arrival City : Hong Kong (HKG)
Equipment : Airbus A321neo (B-HPI)
Blocked Time : 2h35m
Seat No: 23K

Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s flag carrier and the territory’s largest airline. Founded in 1946 by Australian and American co-founders, the airline has historically operated a fully wide-body fleet. This finally changed when its regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon was merged into the airline in 2020. Cathay Pacific finally introduced its first narrowbody jets in 2021, consisting of Airbus A321neos inherited from Cathay Dragon.

Booking Cathay Pacific Economy Class

To get to Hong Kong from Manila, I considered a variety of options, not excluding flying a Philippine Airlines A321 or Cebu Pacific’s infamously dense A330s. However, I ultimately had my heart set on flying Cathay Pacific so that I could also review the Cathay Pacific Lounge Manila. As such, I paid a fare of USD 217.40 for a return trip between Manila and Hong Kong, two weeks before my flight. Specifically, this was an Economy Light fare which includes just one 23 kg checked bag.


After checking out extra early from the Belmont Hotel Manila, I walked through Runway Manila and headed straight to the check-in hall at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. Specifically, I arrived at 07.15 for this 10.45 departure, since I was hoping to get some decent breakfast at the Cathay Pacific Lounge. Although Manila is a busy outstation for Cathay Pacific, I was surprised to see that there isn’t a dedicated First Class desk. Instead, all elite members will have to make do with the Business Class counters, which were deserted at the time.

Cathay Pacific Business Class check-in

Despite flying Economy Class, I was able to check in at the Business Class queue on account of my Cathay Diamond membership. As such, I was attended to within minutes by a friendly check-in agent who reconfirmed that I was only flying to Hong Kong. After registering my passport details, I was handed my boarding pass and was soon on my way to the Cathay Pacific Lounge!

Cathay Pacific check-in desks in Manila


Given the number of Cathay Pacific flights from Manila, it is no surprise that the airline operates its own lounge at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Despite arriving extra early, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the lounge, which I might just say is the best airline lounge in Terminal 3. I’ve reviewed the Cathay Pacific Lounge Manila in a previous instalment.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Manila


After spending the better of three hours at the lounge, I finally headed to Gate 112 at 09.55, ten minutes before the printed boarding time. There, I was surprised to find an entrance channel dedicated only to Business Class and frequent flyer members. This allows such passengers to bypass the narrow boarding lounge and head straight to the boarding.

Boarding gate at Ninoy Aquino Airport

Impressively, as soon as I arrived at 10.00, preboarding started for passengers requiring special assistance. After confirming my Cathay membership status, the friendly gate agent requested me to wait in place until preboarding was completed. Five minutes later, right on time, general boarding started, permitting Cathay Diamond and oneworld Emerald frequent flyers to board before Business Class. Nice! Since I was first in line, I was able to get empty cabin pictures for this review (yay!!).

B-HPI at Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Cathay Pacific A321neo Cabin

Originally destined for the now-defunct Cathay Dragon, the Airbus A321neo is the latest addition to the Cathay Pacific fleet. As such, it is no surprise to see the introduction of new seats for the airline with the delivery of this aircraft. However, since these weren’t originally ordered for Cathay Pacific, the A321neos do feature a different cabin colour scheme to the usual Cathay green.

Business Class cabin

At the front of the aircraft lies the Business Class cabin, equipped with just 12 seats in a 2-2 configuration. For their A321neos, Cathay Pacific has opted to use a JPA-customised version of Collins Air Rest fixed shell seat, which you’ll also find on the Oman Air Boeing 737-8 Max. Each pair of seats features a small privacy partition that can be extended forward. Curiously, there are also shoulder harnesses for the seatbelts, which you don’t see often on narrowbody jets.

Cathay Pacific A321neo Business Class
Cathay Pacific A321neo Business Class

On the seat back is a large 15.6-inch 4K HD monitor, which is amongst the most technologically advanced entertainment screens fitted on commercial aircraft. Since large tray tables take up most of the seatback, the literature pocket has been curiously moved next to the foot space. When reclined, these seats move forward and cradle up slightly into a ‘lazy-Z’ position. Overall, although not an excellent-looking product, I hope to review these seats real soon!

Cathay Pacific A321neo Business Class

Economy Class cabin

Right past the small Business Class cabin is the Economy Class cabin, featuring a whopping 190 seats in a standard 3-3 configuration. The seats are decked in reddish tones, which is a nice occasional change from the usual green and blue cabins Cathay Pacific is known for. For its A321neos, Cathay opted for the HAECO Vector seats, which nicely feature a six-way headrest and personal 4K entertainment monitors for each seat.

Cathay Pacific A321neo Economy Class
Cathay Pacific A321neo Economy Class
Six-way headrest of the Economy Class seat

As you can see below, the bulkhead row 22 features a great deal of legroom, much more than the following rows. Although this row does not feature under-seat storage, I particularly liked that the personal television screens on the bulkhead still have a small storage shelf under it. As such, you should definitely go for these seats, assuming that they are open for selection.

Economy Class bulkhead row on the A321neo

Seat details

On this flight, I was seated in 23K, the right-hand window seat on the second row of Economy Class. As soon as I was seated, I noticed how nice the seats looked compared to a run-of-the-mill Economy Class seat found on other airlines. What truly caught my attention was the many storage slots and shelves, which is appreciated.

Cathay Pacific A321neo Economy Class seat
Cathay Pacific A321neo Economy Class seat

For one, I liked the large double-folded tray table, which is sturdy enough as a laptop work surface. In addition to the tray table, there is a stowable cup and tablet holder that’s released by a button on the left side of the seatback. There is also a shallow phone pouch sewed into the seatback pocket, which is surely a thoughtful touch.

Economy Class seat details

Furthermore, I really loved the 11.6-inch 4K personal entertainment monitors at each seat. For a narrowbody plane, this screen is huge, which is only made better by its high definition and intuitiveness. In addition to the super responsive touch-screen panel, there are also USB-A and USB-C power outlets. Furthermore, I appreciate that the aircraft is equipped with individual air vents in the overhead compartment.

Economy Class entertainment screen
Overhead air vents

Positives aside, I’ll have to note that the legroom was not great. I mean, I guess that’s to be expected from an A321neo with 202 seats, 190 of those in Economy Class. At my height of 180 cm or 5’11, there was a gap of less than 7 cm (2.75 inches) between my knees and the seatback, sitting up straight. This is frankly something you’d expect from a low-cost carrier, but less so from a premium airline like Cathay Pacific.

Economy Class legroom
Economy Class legroom


Already waiting in the seatback pocket of each seat is a copy of the Cathay inflight magazine, along with a mediocre pair of headphones. This is in addition to the usual airsickness bag and safety instruction card you ought to find in the seatback pocket. I was surprised to see that Cathay has rebranded the Discover Magazine, although, I’d attest that the new Cathay magazines look great.

As a Cathay Diamond frequent flyer, I also found that the crew proactively left a pillow and a blanket on my seat. This is a nice touch from the crew, for a flight with otherwise undifferentiated service. As you can see from the cabin pictures, this is not a standard offering on short-haul flights in Economy Class. Such pillows and blankets are available on request, however.

Economy Class pillow and blanket

Departure from Manila

The boarding sequence was completed after about 25 minutes, which was followed by the closing of the door. The flight was nearly completely full in Economy with just a few empty seats sporadically spread across the cabin. Luckily, the middle seat next to me was blocked, preventing it from being selected unless the flight was completely full. Shortly before pushing back, the purser made a clear and crisp announcement in English, welcoming us on board and detailed our flight time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

View outside the window

We started pushback at 10.42, three minutes before our scheduled departure time. At this time, the Korean purser came by to introduce herself and thanked me for my loyalty. Curiously, however, Cathay Pacific appears to have stopped offering a pre-departure bottle of water to their most loyal members. Although she welcomed special requests, I was not about to pull a DYKWIA and request a glass of champagne from Business Class. 😉

Cebu Pacific A330-900neo at Ninoy Aquino Airport

As we taxied to the runway, the safety video was played. Along the way, we passed by some very interesting planes, including a U.S. Air Force C-17 (so cool!). Sadly, the windows were covered in water droplets from the light rain we’ve been having. This prevented me from getting better pictures.

U.S. Air Force C-17 at Ninoy Aquino Airport
U.S. Air Force C-17 at Ninoy Aquino Airport

After holding short of the runway, it was finally our turn to take off, 26 minutes after pushback. We took off from Runway 06 at 11.08, 23 minutes after our scheduled departure time. Since the takeoff cleared the windows, I managed to get a good view of Manila as we ascended up the skies towards Hong Kong!

Takeoff from Manila
View on takeoff
View on takeoff

Lunch Service

About 10 minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew rolled up the aisle with the inflight service cart to start the lunch service. On this relatively short flight, hot meals are impressively served, although without a choice of meals. On offer on today’s flight is Pork and Rice, served with a small bottle of water and complemented by a wet towel. Although the service commenced very quickly, I’d have to admit that the flight attendant on duty was not especially friendly.

Economy Class inflight meal
Pork and Rice inflight meal

Despite the lack of a choice, I’ll have to admit that this light meal was very satisfying for this short flight. The soy sauce-cooked pork was very tender, which combined with the fluffy rice and crunchy vegetables made it an excellent meal. I was more so impressed that Cathay Pacific still uses metal cutlery in Economy Class, even on its shortest flights. This counters the trend of disposable cutlery found on many full-service airlines in Economy (looking at you, Singapore Airlines!).

Pork and Rice
Metal cutlery in Economy?!

Six minutes after the inflight service commenced and 16 minutes after takeoff, the seatbelt signs were finally switched off. I was very surprised that the crew was allowed to commence service despite the signs still being lit. Oh well. Either way, the crew came back to clear the tray about 30 minutes later. Although not proactively offered, it is also possible to request other drinks after the meal service is completed. For one, the passenger on the aisle seat ordered a glass of orange juice, which was promptly delivered in a plastic cup.

Inflight Entertainment

It was only after the meal service did I started to pay attention to the inflight entertainment system. As I’ve mentioned towards the beginning of this review, the new entertainment monitors are fabulous, given its very high responsiveness and clarity. Add into the mix Cathay Pacific’s award-winning Studio CX system and you have a winning combination.

Studio CX entertainment system

Between the extensive selection of films, there were quite a lot of new releases, including John Wick 4, which was only released three months back. In addition, there is also a special selection featuring a complete set of indie A24 films, which I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate (myself included). In the end, I decided to watch John Wick, which was embarrassingly the first time I’ve seen any movies from that franchise.


Although the purser was very friendly, I felt that the service on this flight seemed a bit like a mixed bag. Although the flight attendant servicing our section of the cabin was not rude, she did appear to be quite curt and cold. There were no smiles or lighthearted comments of any kind, a stiff upper lip in its place. In such a sense, it looked like she was very disinterested and was merely going through the motions of her job. Despite that, it was fine as I didn’t feel unwelcome or anything.

Arrival in Hong Kong

About 40 minutes before landing, the captain announced that we were commencing our descent and stated the details of our arrival. Specifically, he expected us to land early at 12.55 local time. Following that, a full 24 minutes before landing, the cabin was prepared for landing. At this time, all seats had to be put back upright and the window shades had to be opened. I was quite surprised at how early this was being conducted since we still had over 20 minutes before our arrival.

Descending to Hong Kong

Regardless, we got some spectacular views of the islands surrounding Hong Kong on our approach. Soon enough, the water finally turned into an emerald shade of green – a clear indication that we are finally here.

Final approach
Landing in Hong Kong

At 12.49, we had a very smooth touchdown on Hong Kong’s new and spiffy Runway 25R, 31 minutes before our scheduled time of arrival. As we landed on the airport’s newest runway, this also meant that our taxi would be longer than usual.

Arrival in Hong Kong

After landing, we taxied past the entire length of Hong Kong International Airport, passing a lot of widebody jets along the way.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER in the Midfield Concourse
Various Boeing 777-300ERs in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific A350-900 in Hong Kong

For the next 10 minutes, we pretty much trailed an Air China Boeing 777-300ER that had just arrived from Beijing. After that, it became clear that we would be parking at the North Satellite Concourse, a small terminal dedicated to narrowbody jets.

North Satellite Concourse

Arrival in the North Satellite Concourse

We arrived at our final parking position at 13.00, a full 20 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. The door opened a couple minutes later, during which time I thanked the crew and disembarked the plane. As I left the plane, I got a great picture of the HK Express A321 parked next door.

HK Express A321 in Hong Kong
B-HFI in Hong Kong

As I went up the escalator to the Hong Kong International Airport Sky Bridge, I caught sight of our Cathay Pacific A321neo alongside a HK Express A321 and a Hong Kong Airlines A320. What a special sight to see Hong Kong’s three passenger airlines’ A320 family aircraft parked side to side!

Airlines of Hong Kong


Despite the lacklustre legroom, I was definitely impressed by Cathay Pacific’s A321neo Economy Class product. Between the nice food offering and the really good inflight entertainment system, I was a very happy camper on this short flight. For one, I really liked the new and cutting-edge Economy Class seats, which I found to be well-padded and very comfortable (apart from the legroom). As such, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on the A321neo again, particularly if I could score a bulkhead seat. Although, I’ll admit that this might be a different story on a much longer flight.

Read more from this trip!

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