Circle Pacific on oneworld – Best Transcontinental Ride in North America YVR-JFK

CX888 Vancouver YVR – New York JFK 
04 Mar 2011
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 2155 – 0600
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 2221 – 0555
B777-300ER B-KPO
Seat No: 11K

It was time for the next installment of my Circle Pacific trip which will provide me with 2 legs of my trip in exploring USA. The first leg will bring me to New York from Vancouver where I had spent some time with my family. My brother dropped me off at the airport early as I went to check in at the empty Cathay Pacific check-in counter. The friendly check-in agent welcomed me and handed me the boarding pass in a nice Business Class folder. I also noticed while checking in that Cathay Pacific will now charge passengers for every snowboard being checked in at a cost of C$75 each. Seems like even passengers in premium classes are not exempted from this rule. This will be actually my first time on Cathay’s business class on the 777, having taken the YVR-HKG leg of this trip before on economy, it is a pleasure to experience the YVR-JFK leg on business in the front of the cabin!

Check in counter for Cathay Pacific
The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by Bill Reid at YVR

With my lounge invitation and the priority access, I was able to pass by the security screening without much wait and problems. It was onwards to the discreet elevator on the left after security screening to head towards Cathay’s Business Class Lounge. It is worth noting here that the lounge is quite a walk towards the gate and it would take passengers up to 10 minutes to walk over to this remote gate. Being very early, I was perhaps the only one in the lounge when I arrived which allowed me to take photos of the lounge in a leisurely manner. The lounge at YVR is a bit on the small side and besides a small lounge area, it has a long table for dining, several workstations close to the restrooms and an enclosed first class lounge. In terms of food selection, it was alright as well, similar to the offerings at Pudong and Bangkok with some dim sum selection, cup noodles, vegetable snackers and salad platters.

Buffet Area and Long Table

I helped myself to some salad platter and dim sum for dinner since I wasn’t that hungry and I expected to have some supper during the flight later which I am pretty sure beats the cup noodles at the lounge. For beverages, there was bottles of Evian mineral water for one to help themselves to as well as a variety of soda, juices and alcoholic drinks. A coffee machine is also provided for hot water and cups of espresso or cappuccino. Tea packets are also supplied complete with honey and lemon. Fairly standard lounge offerings then, and there was also an impressive selection of reading materials in the CX lounge, ranging from South China Morning Post to Financial Times as well as assorted magazines. Restrooms in the lounge was also furnished with the dermalogica amenities that could be found in the HK lounge. Overall it was easy to spend the next 2 hours in the lounge.

Salad and Vegetable Snackers
Dim Sum at CX Lounge

The view outside the lounge isn’t too bad either at night as I could observe an EVA Air 747 and a Westjet 737 being prepped for pullback. I relaxed into the lounge with some magazines and a cup of hot tea with honey and lemon as I took out my laptop and began to check my emails and browse facebook for a bit. The internet in the lounge works pretty well and very soon I spent enough time in the lounge to decide heading out to the gate and at the same time explore YVR since it is one of my favourite airports in the world. From what I know, the lounge agent will call out passengers when it is time to board, but I decided to make the move before the call and walk around the departure terminal first since I know it will be quite a walk to the gate. The shops around the main concourse were still open then but as I went further towards the remote gate, the shops are already closed. Due to CX888 being a transit flight, passengers continuing their journey to JFK are sort of ‘quarantined’ in their own gate, and travellers taking the YVR-JFK routing have to be separated and waited outside the gate. Transit passengers were allowed to board first at 21:30 before the rest of us were allowed into the gate proper at around 21:45. Premium passengers were then allowed to board the plane first and upon boarding I noticed a clear advantage for business passengers seated in the front mini-cabin. Each passenger get their own overhead compartment, a far cry from my experience on the upper deck of the 747 when I headed to Vancouver.

A glimpse into Cathay First Cabin in the 777-300ER

Shortly after placing my bag on the overhead compartment, I got seated and noticed the Top Gear magazine in the rack which I took for some reading while the crew prepared for the flight. The captain soon announced that due to the curfew around JFK airspace, they weren’t in such a hurry to take off and it suits me just fine since it would mean I get more time to enjoy the cabin! Crew that served the flight today seemed to be based in Vancouver and they seemed friendlier and younger than the ones that served my flight from Hong Kong. Seated at the front of Business class, I also managed to gain a peek into the First Class cabin in front and noticed 2 passengers occupying that cabin. Just before 22:00 the doors to the plane were closed and the stewardess came around to offer welcome drinks which included champagne, orange juice or water. I settled for a simple cup of water since I have already drank juices and tea in the lounge, and the flight attendant came back around with hot towel service. As I got down to explore the seats in the 777-300ER, i noticed the angle of the seat in the 777 makes it better for viewing out of the window compared to their angle in the A340 and the 747. Though with the new 777-300ERs of Cathay to be outfitted with the new Business seats, this piece of information seems redundant.

By 22:13 the plane reached the end of the runway and the captain announced for the crew to prepare for take-off, and we had a smooth ascent up into the skies at 2221. The captain did mention a traveling distance of 3933 miles and that they will attempt the flight in a time of 4 hours and 26 minutes, that’s less than  5 hours and a bit shorter than what I had hoped for a shut eye in a night flight. The take off in a 777-300ER is always one of the best, only to be eclipsed by that of the A380. I do enjoy a quiet ascent and one that makes passengers feel comfortable. Now if only Cathay purchases some A380s…

Richmond and the Olympic Oval upon take-off

Once we were airborne, mineral water in bottles were given out to passengers along with amenity kits. Having had the ladies version in my flight to Vancouver, I accepted the male version of the kit, something which will come in handy for this trip. Purser Reiko then came over with menus for the night where supper will be served. The chief purser then came over and noted my various recent flights with Cathay and welcomed me on board as well as trying to make some small talk. It ended with her enquiring if I needed an arrival form. It should be noted that it was the first time a purser came over to say hello in a premium cabin though. Usually I appreciate the privacy given to me as a passenger and since I am not one who particularly enjoys attention, I would rather just them coming over quick when I press the attendant button. The welcoming on board and making sure one has everything they need for arrival was a nice touch though, and it made this short fight memorable nonetheless.

Amenity Kit and Inflight Shopping Catalogue
Inflight Entertainment and Magazines on board CX Business
Reading The Globe and Mail

Hot almonds were then served shortly and I requested for the Oriental Breeze, a CX signature drink which I had yet tasted since it was the second alternate set of CX Signature drinks list. I always seem to be onboard CX when they had the other set which had Cathay Delight and Pacific Sunrise in the selection. Oriental Breeze is the non-alcoholic drink and I enjoyed it better than Cathay Delight which seems heavier on the palate. It was actually a great drink for the night since it was a fruity concoction. Another ‘memorable’ moment was when StudioCX (Cathay’s IFE) died on me again when I started it. The irony was how it never fails me when I am seated on the back in Economy but just hangs itself on more times than I have sat in CX’s business cabin. That was when I started to humour myself by taking more shots of the cabin and browsing the nice Discovery magazine. There was also copies of The Globe and Mail when I boarded which is currently my favourite national newspaper.

CX Signature Drink – Oriental Breeze and hot almonds

For this transcontinental flight, the following meal choices was served:

Starters 頭盤

Seared paprika prawns with Caesar salad and Caesar dressing 燒明蝦凱撒沙律伴凱撒醬汁

Main Courses 主菜

Beef massaman with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried Chiangmai vegetables 咖哩牛肉配白飯及炒蔬菜

Pan-fried cod with lobster sauce, creamy polenta, green beans, baby carrots and grilled peppers 香煎鱈魚柳伴龍蝦汁配奶油玉米餅,青豆,胡蘿蔔及烤甜椒

Light Choice 輕膳

Wontons in Noodle Soup 雲吞湯麵

Cheese and Dessert 芝士及甜品 

St. Paulin, Brie, Bleubry 精選芝士

Fresh seasonal fruit 時令鮮果

Almond cappuccino cake 杏仁咖啡蛋糕

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡

Praline 精美朱古力

Drinks List 飲料 

Juices: Orange, Apple, Tomato  果汁:橙汁,蘋果汁,番茄汁

Soft Drinks: Coke Zero, Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, Perrier water, tonic water, soda water and ginger ale 汽水:零系可口可樂,可口可樂,健怡可樂,雪碧湯力,梳打,薑啤,巴黎礦泉水

Coffees 咖啡

Freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte; regular or decaffeinated 特級咖啡,特濃咖啡,低因咖啡,泡沫咖啡, 牛奶咖啡

Teas 名茶

Hong Kong style milk tea 港式奶茶

Ceylon, Japanese, jasmine 錫蘭紅茶,日本綠茶,香片

Organic selection: camomile, earl grey, peppermint 有機系列:甘菊茶,伯爵茶,薄荷茶

Hot Chocolate 熱朱古力

Wine List 

Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic

White wines: Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Monterey County Chardonnay 2008 / Drouet Frères Le Mont Fleuri Sancerre 2009

Red Wines: Estancia Paso Robles Meritage Reserve 2007 / Château Rocher Corbin Montagne-Siant-Émilion 2004

Port: Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005

Aperitifs and Cocktails: Gin, Rum, Vodka, Martini Rosso, Martini Extra Dry, Campari, Sweet and Dry Sherry, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver

Whiskies: Chivas Regal 12 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Jack Daniel’s, Canadian Club

Cognac: Hine ‘Rare and Delicate’ Fine Champagne

Liqueurs: Drambuie, Cointreau, Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beer: International selection

CX Signature Drinks:

Oriental Breeze – A sour-plum tea and cranberry juice based non-alcoholic drink with honey and fresh lemon juice and a hint of rose water.

Cloud Nine – A refreshing combination of Vodka, Cointreau and Sprite with a refreshing touch of lemon flavour

Some comments on the meal service was that Cathay seems to have a propensity for prawns as appetizers and they are usually great. I also enjoyed the servings of garlic bread and being a supper, I chose the lighter wontons in soup noodle which was warm and wonderful for a winter flight. For desserts, I was only able to get the fruit platter and there doesn’t seem to be any further mention of the cake, though I was able to get 2 portions of the pralines which was really delicious and much better than the one given on the christmas eve flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver. I also tried the alcoholic version of CX’s signature drink – Cloud Nine – before I retired for the night. So far, it seems I enjoy both Oriental Breeze and Cloud Nine better than Cathay Delight and Pacific Sunrise.

Business Class Cabin on descent into JFK

I managed to get a shut eye of about 3 hours or so after the conclusion of the meal. I was actually woken up as most of the other passengers started using the lavatory to freshen up and there was another hot towel service by the crew before preparations were made in the cabin for descent into JFK at around 05:30, and perhaps the pilot was trying to make it the first flight arriving into JFK that day to avoid the crowds and so passengers can be the first to disembark into a less crowded passport control. A short video was shown to passengers to familiarize themselves on US Security measures before the video turned into the camera view underneath as it showed the landing gear being lowered until the plane finally lands on JFK at 05:55. The outdoor camera view just reminds me of why I like the 777 more than the 747 on Cathay.

Lights of New York on descent
Landing Scene

There was priority disembarkation for business passengers but not before I took a parting shot of what I think will be the last time I sit on the ‘Olympus’ business class seats of Cathay Pacific. It was a long walk into passport control from the gate but there was no queue there when I arrived and it sure beats queueing up when taking a mid-morning flight. Managed to get out of the terminal after collecting my luggage by 06:48 which is not bad at all and makes this night flight on CX a great way to arrive in New York. Arriving at Terminal 7 in JFK, I headed towards the lone ground transportation desk to arrange for a super shuttle service to Andaz Wall Street, and it was a comfortable ride which came down to $18.50, for a total pf $22.00 with gratuities. The only drawback is perhaps when one is in a rush since I was the last passenger to be dropped off on the doorstep of the Andaz after a 2 hours plus ride. The flight between Vancouver and New York was comfortable, and allowed me to rest while reaching my destination relaxed. I always find the service on CX888/889 less than on par to other CX long haul service and it could be due to the timing of the flight at night which makes for a slower crew.

Cathay ‘Olympus’ Business Class Cabin

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