Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class (CGK-HKG)

Jyaga okay (3.5/5)

Cathay Pacific flight details

Airline : Cathay Pacific
Flight No : CX796
Departure City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Arrival City : Hong Kong (HKG)
Equipment : Airbus A330-300 (B-LAN)
Blocked Time : 4h45m
Seat No: 12K

To kick off my Emerald Farewell trip, I flew Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A330-300 Business Class, a product I know all too well. Being the backbone of the Hong Kong flag carrier’s fleet, the Airbus A330-300 gets rostered on most regional and Middle Eastern routes. I’ve even reviewed the aircraft’s Economy Class product on a flight from Hong Kong to Manila back in October. Although I used to fly this product frequently, it has been nearly two years since my last flight – so this is a great opportunity to refresh some memories!

Booking Cathay Pacific Business Class

I originally booked this flight in Economy Class with the intent to use two expiring upgrade vouchers that I have had in hand since 2020. For a roundtrip ticket in the upgradeable Economy Essential fare type, I paid IDR 7,061,400, equivalent to ~GBP 351 or ~USD 444. Had I outright paid for Business Class, this ticket would have cost me IDR 16,900,000 (~GBP 841, USD 1063), savings about IDR 9,900,000 (~GBP 490, USD 619) on this journey. While two short regional flights are a poor use for the certificates, it was the easiest way to redeem them before they expired.


I got to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport two and a half hours before this flight departing at 00.15. As with most foreign airlines, Cathay Pacific departs from the airport’s cavernous Terminal 3, which boasts some very user-hostile design. 😉 Despite the exhausting nature of this short red-eye, this flight is very popular for those trying to maximise their time in Hong Kong. As such, it was no surprise to see that the check-in lines were packed, particularly for Economy Class.

Cathay Pacific premium check-in counters
Cathay Pacific check-in counters

Thankfully, the First Class and Diamond line was deserted, allowing me to check in effortlessly. Within seconds my bags were tagged by the friendly Cathay Pacific ground agent and I was issued my boarding pass. I also received an invitation to use the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, which I’ve reviewed previously. The speed and efficiency of the check-in process later proved to be useful, as a massive group soon made their way behind me to the security checkpoint. Whew, December travel, am I right?

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport Terminal 3


After spending roughly one hour at the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, I decided to wander around the gate area to look at the various flights departing at this time. Nearing midnight, the majority of the gates are occupied by Eastern Asia departures, heaving heavies from various airlines like Air China, Asiana Airlines, and Korean Air.

Air China Airbus A330-200 in Jakarta
Asiana Airlines Airbus A330-300 in Jakarta
Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER in Jakarta

As the clock neared our printed boarding time of 23.35, I headed to Gate 7 – where our flight would depart. However, as I got there I was surprised to see that the crew had yet to board. Soon after, the ground agents announced a boarding delay of 20 minutes, allowing me to check out the aircraft flying us to Hong Kong. Our flight today is operated by B-LAN, an Airbus A330-300 delivered new to Cathay Pacific in 2012.

Gate 7 at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
B-LAN at our gate in Jakarta

About 13 minutes later, the ground staff quietly began preboarding passengers requiring special assistance. Soon after, an announcement about the boarding process followed, before boarding eventually started at 00.00. Sadly, the priority lines were unguarded, leaving many people lining up with the wrong boarding groups. To make things worse, the ground staff mistakenly invited those in the Business Class line before the First Class/Diamond line. This led to many confused passengers randomly boarding the aircraft from any door. What a mess!

Boarding gate at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
Boarding gate at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport

Thankfully, things got better once I got on board. Welcoming me at the door was Winston, the Business Class flight attendant, who pointed me in the direction of my seat.

Cathay Pacific A330 Cabin

Our flight today is operated by a 33E-configured Airbus A330-300, with 39 flatbed seats in Business Class and 223 seats in Economy Class. Unlike the recliners used on the 33P-configured aircraft that I flew to Manila, this configuration features fully flat beds in Business Class.

Business Class

Business Class features 39 reverse herringbone seats, spread between two cabins totalling 10 rows. Specifically, there are seven rows of Business Class with 28 seats, followed by a further 11 seats in the three rows in the mini-cabin behind.

Forward Business Class cabin
Forward Business Class cabin
Rear Business Class cabin

The seats are based on the Zodiac Cirrus, which you’ll also find on China Eastern, Vietnam Airlines, Finnair, etc. However, Cathay Pacific’s version has been highly customised. In addition to the airline’s elegant signature green, the seats are adorned with many features otherwise not available with the base seats. I’ll explain more about this in a bit.

Business Class centre seats

With its 1-2-1 configuration, each seat has direct aisle access and converts into a fully flat bed. This means that you will not need to potentially jump over someone when you get out of your seat. Due to the design of the centre seats, you can’t really talk to your companion very easily. As such, I would go for a window seat regardless of whether I’m travelling solo or with someone.

Business Class cabin
Business Class cabin
Window seats

Finally, I’ll note that the centre and front row window bulkhead seats feature slightly more leg space, owing to the larger footwells fitted in these seats. As such these seats might be ideal despite their close proximity to the lavatories and the galley. The rear bulkhead window seats do not have this trait, however.

Forward bulkhead seat
Rear bulkhead seat
Rear centre bulkhead seats

Seat details

Featuring the airline’s signature cream tones and sophisticated green cloth upholstery, I found the seat to look very attractive and aesthetically pleasing. The design is also very practical, with a large wing attached to the seat shell for added privacy.

Business Class seat
Business Class seat

To the side, you’ll find the control centre, featuring the buttons to control the seats, USB-A and universal power outlets, a reading light, and the entertainment remote control. Behind that is a small enclosed cabinet with a mirror, in which the headphones are stored. It is also big enough for a phone, passport, or wallet, making it an ideal place to store smaller items in flight.

Storage cabinet
Storage cabinet

Next to the seat is the side table, from under which the tray table comes out. Under that is a narrow open storage area, with a small pouch that fits a water bottle. Opposite that is the collapsable handrest, which can only be used inflight.

Side table
Tray table
Storage area

Right across the seat is a 15-inch LCD entertainment screen, featuring Cathay Pacific’s excellent StudioCX system. The touch-screen monitor pops out by pressing the button on the side, although it otherwise has to be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing. Under that, you’ll find the padded ottoman, with a relatively spacious footwell.

Stowed entertainment screen
Unstowed entertainment screen

Then, under the seat, you’ll find a small shoe storage locker that can be closed. In addition, a fixed literature pocket is built onto the shell of the seat in front. Finally, while the cabin sadly does not have overhead air vents, Cathay Pacific thankfully keeps its cabins cold – at least compared to other Eastern Asian airlines.

Shoe storage locker
Literature pocket
Overhead console


Given the short flight time, it is no surprise that the provided amenities were only limited to a pillow and a blanket. Despite that, I did find the Bamford-branded pillow to be very plush and rather firm, to my liking. Additionally, a bottle of water was already waiting at my seat when I boarded, alongside the menu card for the flight.

Seat amenities
Water and menu

Departure from Jakarta

Pre-departure service

As I found my way to my seat, I was soaked in Cathay Pacific’s characteristic easy-listening playlist playing in the background. Winston soon came around to offer a selection of pre-departure beverages, which included water, orange juice, or champagne. I selected the latter, a flute of Ayala Brut Majeur NV. Sadly, the champagne was served flat and at room temperature, which was disappointing. This was followed by hot towels being offered, which were extremely hot! Things kept getting less pleasant as I observed my neighbour using the hot towels to wipe her feet. Eek!

Pre-departure drink of champagne
Hot towel

As the boarding process went underway, there was an announcement requesting passengers to be mindful of their belongings. Interesting… is inflight theft that big of a problem now? Anyways, the doors were closed at 00.18, 18 minutes after boarding started, and our flight ended up completely full. Soon after, the Hong Konger captain welcomed us onboard, detailing our flight time of 4 hours and 15 minutes, and remarking, ‘Enjoy the Cathay service’.

Fogged up windows

Pushback and departure

The purser soon made three separate welcome announcements, in English, Cantonese, and Indonesian before playing the safety video. We started pushback at 00.28, all while Cathay’s simple and timeless safety video played.

Safety video

As we taxied to the runway, the Indonesian Senior Purser, Grace, came to introduce herself and extended a welcome for any special requests. After doing so, she invited me to reserve the Supper meal choice before the other passengers, owing to my Diamond status.

Taxiing to the runway

The taxi took longer than usual as we were headed for the airport’s newest runway. As we taxied, the man sitting in front blasted his mobile game on full volume for the rest of the cabin to enjoy. He also had the courtesy of coughing without a mask on regularly. And he did so regularly (sigh)… We eventually reached Runway 06 at 00.43, 15 minutes after pushback. As there wasn’t a line, we took off immediately, ascending on our way to Hong Kong. Sadly, I couldn’t take any pictures out the window due to the condensation buildup.

Takeoff from Jakarta
View after takeoff

Supper Service

About 10 minutes after takeoff, the captain switched off the seatbelt signs, by which time the StudioCX system was switched on (more on that later). Soon enough, the inflight service manager came down the aisle to greet passengers and take meal and drink orders. She seemed to be struggling in doing so, however, having to take a long pause at her iPad to attempt to pronounce our names. Sigh…

Anyway, while Cathay Pacific has made changes to the meals on long-haul flights, regional destinations like Jakarta still retain the airline’s traditional meal service. For reference, the following is the food and beverage menu on this flight.

Supper Meal

After making my beverage choice, the meal tray was delivered by hand 15 minutes later. To maximise sleep, it is no surprise that the appetisers, main course, and dessert are served together on the same tray on this flight. This time, I selected the Western option of Spiced Baked Barramundi with Tomato Harissa Sauce. I had a Cathay Delight to drink. This was automatically served with two pieces of garlic bread and a warm bread roll.

Supper meal tray

While the fresh fruits were obviously good, I wouldn’t say the same about the rest of the meal. Despite the harissa sauce, I found the Spiced Baked Barramundi to be bland and overcooked. If the accompanying vegetables were to indicate anything, the dish was probably left in the oven for too long. The Strawberry Mousse was okay, but it didn’t taste especially good or fresh. At the very least, the garlic bread was nice enough.

Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Strawberry Mousse Cake with Coulis
Bread plate
Spiced Baked Barramundi with Tomato Harissa Sauce

As I only picked around the fish and the rest of the meal tray, I decided to request the optional cheese plate as well. This was frankly a lot better and it didn’t take long for me to finish the plate.

Cheese Plate

The meal service ended up being wrapped up within 40 minutes, with three hours to go before our arrival in Hong Kong. Overall, I didn’t find the meal to be great or high quality, which is disappointing.

Inflight Entertainment

As I tried to relish in my passable supper, I distracted myself with the StudioCX entertainment system. Sadly, this aircraft still featured Cathay’s older and clunky StudioCX system, which struggled to keep up with the growing library of movies and television programmes offered by the airline. As I tried to navigate the system, there was often a lag in the responsiveness of the screen. The provided noise-cancellation headphones weren’t very great either, so I stuck with my own pair of Bang and Olufsen.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Regardless, while Cathay Pacific has always been pretty good with inflight entertainment, this seemed to have gotten better in recent years. For one, the selection has increased in magnitude, featuring many new releases and award-winning films. With this, StudioCX has finally joined the league of Singapore Airlines’ KrisWorld and Emirates’ ICE. The StudioCX system is complemented by the Cathay magazine, which has recently been renamed from being called the Discovery magazine.

StudioCX selection
Cathay magazine

Check the Cathay Pacific website for the latest StudioCX selection.


After finishing my meal, I quickly headed to the lavatory to freshen up a bit before attempting to go to sleep. With this specific A330-300 configuration, Business Class has three lavatories, two of which are in the aft. Owing to the curvature of the aircraft, the lavatory did seem a bit small, though clean and well-kept. Cathay Pacific-branded hand sanitiser was available, alongside Bamford-branded hand wash and body lotion.

Hand sanitiser, hand wash, and body lotion

Bed Mode

With the meals wrapped up and with three hours to go before our arrival in Hong Kong, the cabin lights were finally turned off. Having refreshed myself, I quickly reclined my seat into a flatbed to try and get as much rest as possible. Like most reverse herringbone seats, the bed has a very slight angle when fully reclined. Thankfully, this was not too noticeable owing to the angle at which planes fly.

Seat in bed mode
Seat in bed mode

Furthermore, the great padding, the soft blanket, and the excellent Bamford pillow ensured a good sleeping surface. Regardless, while the bed was comfortable and the cabin cold I still struggled to sleep. The regular turbulence announcements didn’t especially help either, leaving me tired.

Seat in bed mode


Given the nature of this short red-eye flight, the service was understandably limited to what was necessary. Despite that, I still felt very conflicted about the service I received on this flight. While Grace was very friendly and poised, I sadly couldn’t necessarily say the same about the rest of the crew. Many little details were just overlooked and I can’t help but feel it was rather sloppy. From the flat champagne, the precariously hot towels, and trouble remembering people’s names, things were far from perfect.

At the same time, I feel terrible for the flight attendants, who have been widely reported to be overworked and demoralised. While I understand that this could very well be a structural issue, so much has to be done to bring the Cathay service back to the lofty standards of the past.

Arrival in Hong Kong

About 40 minutes before landing, the captain announced our descent and stated the details of our arrival. In particular, we were expected to land at 06.05, five minutes past our scheduled arrival time. With the mood lighting turned on, the crew started offering drinks to each passenger as they woke up. On our final approach, 15 minutes before landing, the seatbelt signs were switched on and the cabin was secured. We landed smoothly at 06.07 on Runway 07L, Hong Kong International Airport’s new runway.

Landing in Hong Kong
Landing in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific planes in Hong Kong
Greater Bay Airlines and Hong Kong Express at the Midfield Concourse
Hong Kong Express A321-200

We slowly taxied to our gate at Terminal 1, we passed by a bunch of Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express planes. There was also a Greater Bay Airlines Boeing 737-800, which is Hong Kong’s newest airline. At 06.17, we finally arrived at Gate N70, the furthest gate at Terminal 1. As I disembarked, I thanked the crew and bid them farewell.

View at the gate
Hong Kong International Airport traffic
View at the gate
Energy saving message


Being a Cathay Pacific loyalist of many years, it’s sad to see how much the airline has deteriorated. Whether it is the sloppy boarding process, the stressed-out crews, or the lacklustre food, there’s just so much that is underwhelming about this flight. Perhaps it is by the design of this tiring red-eye flight. Either way, as much as I hate to say it, Cathay Pacific is regrettably no longer in the same league as Singapore Airlines in Business Class. While I’m still hopeful for the future, there’s still a lot that the airline needs to do to catch up with its rivals.

Read more from An Emerald Farewell here!

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