#nykflies: BKK-SIN on CX’s J

It was time for me to head home after a short, but fruitful stay in Bangkok. For this sector, I would be flying on Cathay Pacific’s Regional Business Class cabin. Having experienced the Long Haul Business Class seat on my way up (Trip report here), I was keen to find out if the Regional seats were as impressive.

I took a taxi from my hotel to Suvarnabhumi Airport on the day of departure. Despite travelling during the morning rush hour, there was surprisingly no traffic congestion along the way. I reached the airport at 9 am, which left me with plenty of time to spare before my flight departs.

Cathay Pacific uses the back half of Row M (Counters M06 – M19) for check-in. If you are travelling by taxi or private transport, Row M is near Door 6 of the Departure Hall. The airport was bustling with activities at that hour, and the counters for my flight were already opened for check-in.

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Check-in was a fast event. There were 4 counters opened for Business Class. I did not have to wait long before I was served.

The check-in agent greeted me with a wai, before asking for my passport. After verifying my passport details, she gave me my boarding pass, lounge invitation and Premium Lane pass. The entire process took about 5 minutes, and after which, I went straight to the immigration.

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BKK’s immigration was a PITA as usual. Even with the Premium Lane pass, it took me close to 30 minutes to clear the immigration. The immigration officers were extremely inefficient. They were busy chatting among themselves and taking their time to process the passports, although there were just 5 people in my line. There was nothing I could do, other than to stare at the line and sigh.

I went to the Cathay’s First and Business Class Lounge after clearing immigration. The lounge is located at Concourse G which is at the extreme end of the terminal – you got to be prepared to walk. I shall save my lounge experience for a separate blog post. (Update: Lounge review here)

After spending an hour in the lounge, I decided to leave the lounge to do some shopping. I had been ‘assigned’ the sacred task to bring home some Mango Sticky Rice from King Power at the last minute.

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The gate used for my flight was G5, which is unfortunately the last and furthest gate in the pier (i.e. more hiking). While walking to the gate, I counted at least 4 CX aircraft parked at Concourse G. Looks like Cathay’s operations is really huge in Bangkok.

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Boarding was called about 20 minutes before departure (slightly behind schedule). An announcement was made to invite passengers travelling in the premium classes to board first. However, like my experience out of SIN, the boarding sequence was not enforced by the gate agents. Many of the passengers charged towards the doors once the boarding announcement was made, and the gate staff just let them pass through the glass door.

Date: 23rd July 2016 (Sat)
Flight: CX713
Sector: BKK – SIN (Continuing from HKG)
Reg: –
Type: A330-300 (33P)
Seat: 14A
Class: Business (J)
STD: 11:50 ICT (UTC +7)
STA: 15:20 SST (UTC +8)

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My first impression of the flight was not very great. There was no cabin crew at the door to check the boarding passes. There was a Senior Purser working in the front galley, but he merely gave me glance and went back to his duties. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not stuck up for pleasantries. I just felt it was a security lapse that any one could be allowed to enter the cabin freely.

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The hard-shell Regional Business seats on the A330 were in a 2-2-2 configuration. Those sitting by the window do not get direct access to the aisle. Given that these seats were meant for regional travel, I think that’s still acceptable.

The seat was comfortable in its fully upright position. It was wide enough for me – there was sufficient space for me to adjust my posture in my seat. The seat cushion was firm and there was enough padding for support.

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Legroom was adequate. The cubby hole in front of my seat was deep enough that I could extend my leg fully while sitting. I could get out of my seat without disturbing my seatmate when he was sitting fully upright. Having a hard-shell seat back also meant that I was not affected by any movement from the seat in front.

There was not enough time for me to fully experience the seat recline for this short flight. I only had around 45 minutes to lounge after the meal service. For the little time I had, I was able to find a comfortable position to lounge in my seat. However, do note that the seat does not convert into a bed.

Tip: You should retract the calf rest before reclining the seat because the seat moves slightly forward when reclined. I did not retract my calf rest while reclining and I almost got my legs trapped. Silly me.

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There were 4 crew members serving the Business Class cabin for my flight – 2 Senior Purser and 2 Flight Attendants. One of the Senior Purser was in the galley most of the time so he was not involved in the cabin service.

Once I settled down in my seat, one of the Flight Attendant brought me a selection of pre-departure drinks on a tray, while the other Flight Attendant came around with hot towels. Both of them appeared to be gloomy and casual in their service. Neither did they greet the passengers by name, nor did they use proper service language when interacting with us. I was not impressed by the level of service so far.

Things changed for the better when the Senior Purser came around to distribute the menus. Her service was exceptional. She knelt down at every row, greeted each passenger by their name and introduced herself. She also took the effort to explain each and every item on the menu to the passengers. I never thought I would be able to get this kind of attention in Business Class, at least not for such a short flight.

Once we were airborne, the Inflight Service Manager came around to introduce herself, and to also welcome the Marco Polo Club members. I found this a very nice gesture. We had a little chat about my Cathay experience so far and she highly recommend the catering out of Bangkok. She vouched that the quality of the food from this station is one of the best in their network.

Here’s the menu if you are interested:

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Meal service started with another round of beverage run. I merely asked for a top up for my champagne and some water to keep myself hydrated.

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Small-ish PTV screen

Next, my table was set up for lunch service. I was presented with the starter, and also offered some bread from the bread basket. I went for the garlic bread as usual.

The garlic bread was a disappointment. It was soggy, and only part of the toast was buttered. Some parts of the bread were also cold and tough. I guess the bread was not reheated properly. Having sampled scrumptious garlic bread on my previous CX flight, I gave it a benefit of the doubt that this could be a one-off lapse.

On the other hand, the Thai marinated prawns and glass noodles salad starter was quite refreshing and appetizing. I like that the glass noodles were nicely seasoned – it was slightly spicy and tangy. The prawns were fresh and juicy too. It was an interesting departure from the usual western salad.

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For my main course, I chose the Thai barbecued red duck curry, kailan, carrots and steamed jasmine rice. I went for the Thai option since the Senior Purser raved so much about Bangkok’s catering. I also wanted to see if CX was able to serve good duck meat on board. Duck meat tends to get dry and tough if not well prepared. It is already a challenge to serve them well on ground, not to mention at 35,000 ft. Not many airlines can get it right.

The main dish was just average, be it for the presentation or the taste. The duck was on the tough side (Not surprising). It took me quite a while to finish chewing the meat. The curry was a little too oily for me, although I liked that it was not too spicy. The kailan did not complement the curry well, not to mention that it was slightly overcooked. Meh~

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Dessert was the good ol’ Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Safe choice, albeit boring. On top of the ice cream, I also asked for some Hong Kong Milk Tea to complete the meal. I thought it was going to be something special, but the milk tea tasted just like those instant milk tea sachet you can get from the supermarket.

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By the time we’re done with the meal service, it was about 45 minutes to landing. I just lounged in my seat for the rest of the flight.

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Basic toiletries in the lavatory

We landed in Changi Airport on Runway 02L. The taxi to the terminal was rather short. We parked at D42 which was just next to the immigration (Yaaass!). Clearing the immigration was swift, and my bag was one of the first few on the belt.

This concludes my virgin experience on CX’s Regional Business Class seat. Here’s my overall verdict for my experience:

Check-in – Rating: 4.5/5

Efficient. Nothing to fault.

Lounge – Rating: 3.5/5

Quite good for an outstation lounge. Would be better if it was less crowded. Given the number of flights CX has, they should consider expanding the lounge.

Seat – Rating: 3.5/5

Comfortable enough for regional travel, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped in this seat for anything more than 4 hours. It’s a premium economy product at best.

Entertainment – Rating: 3/5

The IFE content was quite limited, and the PTV screen is small by today’s standards.

Service – Rating: 3.5/5

Only the Senior Purser and Inflight Service Manager were commendable. The rest of the crew were average. While the plane was taxiing in BKK, the crew were chatting and laughing so loudly in their jump seats that I could hear their entire conversation from where I was sitting.

Food – Rating: 3/5

Underwhelming. I’m not very impressed with the catering out of BKK.

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