CX0254 LHR to HGK - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

CX254 LHR to HGK – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

My working holiday in Hong Kong at the end of April started with a delightful journey on Cathay Pacific (CX). I upgraded from Premium Economy to Business for the nearly 12-hour overnight flight on a 777-300ER out of Heathrow’s (LHR) Terminal 3. Now a long day’s work always deserves a beer. And I was also on a mission to sample a Betsy.

CX Lounge in T3 - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

CX Lounge in T3 – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

My business ticket granted me access to CX’s lounge in LHR T3. I therefore scurried over to discover it and to crack open a CX-inspired cold one. Reopened in November 2016, the revamped Cathay lounge is slick and elegant, finished in brown wooden panels and marble.

Noodle bar in the CX Lounge T3 - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Noodle bar in the CX lounge T3 – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Naturally enough, it also had an authentic Asian feel and the noodle bar was tempting.

CX Lounge T3 - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

CX lounge T3 – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

However, I headed straight to the (drinks) bar like a parched beer monster and ordered a bottle of Betsy. Who and what is Betsy, I hear you say? Well, here she is:

Betsy beer - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Betsy beer – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Cathay Pacific and the Hong Kong Beer Co. have combined to produce a craft ale that has been scientifically brewed for 35,000 ft. The beer takes its name from CX’s first aircraft, a Douglas DC-3, purchased in New York in October 1945. It is currently only served in the CX lounges and in first and business class on board. So I decided to put it to the test. Obviously.

Betsy and dinner in the CX Lounge T3 - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Betsy and dinner in the CX lounge – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I plonked myself down on a black leather lounge chair, with a nice view of the runway.  I then nibbled on a small portion of chickpea tagine and a few mini samosas so as not to booze on an empty stomach. Then came an unashamedly giant first swig of Betsy… It had a rich malt taste and was considerably sweeter than I was expecting. At ground level, I found it pleasant enough. I must confess that it was a little too rich and sickly sweet for my palate. However, I would entirely reserve judgement for tasting session part ‘deux’ on board.

Night berth 20A - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Night berth 20A – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

20A welcomes me - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

20A welcomes me – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

20A IFE welcome -Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

20A IFE welcome – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

It was wonderful to be reacquainted with Zodiac’s reverse herringbone seat, having enjoyed and played around with Air France’s biz product on the Dreamliner from LHR to CDG a few months ago. Instead of 45 minutes, however, I was getting about 12 hours! Overnight! I have never looked forward to a night flight more and wondered whether I’d really be able to sleep. I am not someone who can generally sleep just anywhere or in an upright position.

Plenty of legroom for the trip - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Plenty of legroom for the trip – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I sipped some champagne whilst listening to those GE90 bad boys spool up just below my window. Push back was slightly delayed, but I wasn’t paying any attention to the time. Avgeek heaven, folks.

My control centre for the next 12 hours - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

My command center for the next 12 hours – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

As we climbed into the London night sky, I browsed the IFE for a suitable movie to enjoy over dinner. I’m still not sure what possessed me to choose Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. It’s a decent enough WWII film, but not really a dinner companion. It didn’t matter. I salivated at the menu, having never tried smoked coffee crusted salmon before.

Smoked coffee crusted salmon, red quinoa and cauliflower puree - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Smoked coffee crusted salmon, red quinoa, and cauliflower puree – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Well, I can recommend coffee crusted salmon. Delicious. However, I tucked in too quickly. I should have waited for my Betsy to arrive first in order not to contaminate my palate with too many strong flavors. Food critic protocol 101, right? Nah.

Ale of the Skies - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Ale of the Skies – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Betsy is indeed a different proposition at 35,000ft. The menu describes the beer, brewed using Hong Kong-sourced “Dragon Eye” fruit and English Fuggle hops, as having travel in its DNA. I concur – up here she’s a less sweet, sharper and punchier pale ale that would compete nicely with other microbrewery creations worldwide, in my view. Physics dulled my palate and also made Betsy taste magical.

CX three cheeses, fruit and French red - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

CX three cheeses, fruit, and French red – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

For my main course, I chose chicken with oyster sauce, shiitake, wood ear, carrots, celery, and dried shrimp with steamed jasmine rice. There’s no photo of this dish, served in white china bowls, because I inexplicably forgot. No, that’s not true. There is an explanation. I loved the way in which the air hostess practically sang its arrival, “ready for your chicken and rice? Please enjoy!” so much that the camera sat idle.

Bourbon and vanilla cheesecake - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Bourbon and vanilla cheesecake – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I wolfed it down – it was tasty, but I found the oyster sauce somewhat overpowering – and gratefully agreed to sample the cheese selection (a blue, Cornish yarg, and some Cotswold brie). Washed down with a glass of Beaujolais Crus.

CX praline - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

CX praline – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

On a serious note, the trademark warm Cathay hospitality is a real asset to the airline. This goes right down to the smiley chap who served me a praline from a box with a mini set of twongs. Awesome. I was now starting to flag and was ready to sleep. The lights had long been dimmed and it was time to go night night. Down went the flatbed.

Early evening sky (morning for me) - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Early evening sky (morning for me) – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Incredibly, I got approximately seven hours of comfortable slumber. I briefly raised my two window blinds to see an early evening sky somewhere over China. My body clock obviously told me it was about 6:00 am. I felt good though, and ready for breakfast.

Good morning - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Good morning – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I freshened up with my CX amenity kit and briefly stared down the aisle as other passengers began to stir.

Jolly class rise and shine - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Jolly class rise and shine – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I strolled back to my seat, the whiff of coffee brewing already in my nostrils. The flatbed had done a sterling job of enabling me to sleep through sporadic light turbulence.

Breakfast part I - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Breakfast part I – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I am not a fan of muesli, but this Bircher stuff with blueberries went down a treat with some strong coffee.

Breakfast part II - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Breakfast part II – photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I followed it up with a full English breakfast. I should really have tried the chicken and mushroom congee with goji berry or the stir-fried noodles with seafood and X.O. sauce. Noodles for breakfast? I’m being a cultural philistine I know, but that’s just not cricket.

HK beckons - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

HK beckons – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We gently touched down at just after 5:00 pm local time and I felt the excitement of visiting a new place mix with a crazy twinge of sadness at the end of the journey.

On stand in HK - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

On stand in HKG – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Rolling along to find our stand, I did a final browse of suitable music to accompany the arrival. However, Mr. Mozart did it for me in the end.

On stand in HKG - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

On stand in HKG – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Like all legacy airlines, CX is having to become ever more competitive in the face of growing mainland Chinese airlines and, more widely, meet the global challenges which impact the industry. However, they have a superb product and their customer service ethos is strong. I wholeheartedly enjoyed my experience on board. Long may the Cathay dragon continue to roar!

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CORRESPONDENT - LONDON, UK. Alastair is a Brit AvGeek and an aviation services lawyer, with a passion for all things aircraft, airport and flight. Email: alastair@airlinereporter.com.

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4 Comments
Rowen Sears

I noticed photos of two separate jets in the report. B-KQV at night and B-KQF during the day in Hong Kong. Also due to the window arrangement, B-KQV looks like a four class jet, and -KQF looks like a three class jet. I know CX operates both configurations to LHR, but which configuration operates the overnight?

Alastair Long

B-KQV overnight was four class configuration – First, a small Biz section of 8 seats to the left of entry, remaining larger Biz section to the right, Premium Economy and Economy. Yes, good spot on the photo. B-KQF was my return. I used this photo for illustrative purposes because my snaps of B-KQV on stand at HKG were horrendous (the airport glass window was pretty filthy too).

SURAJ

Hi Alastair,

I don’t mean to be rude, but the quality of these photos are all over the place (some are underexposed/overexposed/out of focus). If you don’t mind a suggestion, by learning just a few simple steps, one can take vastly improved photos even on a smartphone. Nice article, though!

Lindsay

Alastair….Hmmm… Betsy in the lounge, champagne on boarding, Betsy again, red wine glass in photos full then empty….. and they are only the ones that you owned up to. No wonder you thought you were served a praline with a mini set of “twongs”. (You had me checking the dictionary). Cheers.

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