In April 2012 I had the pleasure of flying Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy section from Sydney to Hong Kong. I was invited as guest of the airline to evaluate the new service.
In addition to it being my first flight in premium economy, it was also my first flight on Cathay Pacific.
The premium economy seats are slightly larger than the standard Cathy Pacific economy seats with more legroom. The standard configuration for economy on an A330 is 8 seats in a row (2-4-2). In premium economy is 7 seats to a row (2-3-2). There were 5 rows of premium economy seats which means they probably lost 1 row of seats, plus 1 seat per row for 12 seats total.Each seat is almost the same size as a first class seat on a domestic US flight. The seat might have been a few inches narrower and the armest between seats was also just slightly narrower.
I sat in seat 30H which was near the bulk head. The amount of leg room I had was ridiculous. A 7-foot tall man could have stretched out his feet easily. The only downside to the bulkhead seat was the pocket for magazines and your personal items was very small and out of reach.
Seats recline to 38 inches of pitch which is 6 inches more than economy class. It isn’t anywhere close to the lie flat seats you get in business or first class, but it is also much better than what you can find in economy.
Entertainment SystemI’m a big fan of entertainment systems. The Cathay Pacific system didn’t disappoint. There is plenty of selections for the 9 hour flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. I easily could have killed several more hours of time watching TV shows and movies.
One feature of the premium economy seats which I really liked was the power outlets and the USB port which each seat has. Not only does the seat have a USB port, which will charge your USB device, but if you have and iPhone/iPod/iPad, you can access your content from the screen of the entertainment system! This is the first time I’ve seen this feature on any airline.
The 10″ screen is approximately the same size as an iPad.
One thing I found confusing about the entertainment system was the headphone port. Cathay Pacific uses a three prong port to prevent people from taking their headphones. I didn’t realize that I could use my own headphones by just plugging in the right hole. This could have been made clearer on the seat.
ServiceCheck in – Premium economy passengers have their own line for check in at the Cathay Pacific counter. I was able to check in immediately with no delay.
Food and Beverage – The food and beverage selection in premium economy is the same as in business class. We had braised lamb shank for one meal and it was good for airline food. The beverage selection was also equivalent to business class. Champaign was offered when you took your seat and wine was available throughout the flight.
In flight – The flight attendants who serviced the business class cabin also covered the premium economy cabin. I wasn’t in business class so I don’t know for certain, but I’d say the level of service was the same or at least very similar.
Cathay Pacific premium economy fits a definite niche between economy and business class. It is close to the equivalent of a first class seat on a domestic flight, or what a business class seat would have been 10 years ago before the trend towards the lie flat seats.
Service in on a par with business class and is a definite upgrade over economy. In some respects, it could be called Business Class Minus.
Premium economy seats are expected to run at a 50-80% premium over economy class seats.
Disclosure: I was neither paid for, nor did I pay for this this flight.