Cathay Pacific Economy vs Premium Economy Dining

Cathay Pacific economy class review featuring a tray of food with rice, meat, and vegetables.

I recently flew Cathay from Melbourne to Paris in economy class and previously in premium economy from London to Melbourne. So, here’s what to expect. First things first, let’s talk about the economy class experience – it was quite average. In fact, I was downright disappointed to find a dirty tray table and phone mount area on two different flights.

Now, on to the positive stuff. The airline has recently upgraded its premium economy experience and it’s a nice upgrade. They’ve bumped up the food game by serving meals from the business class menu, complete with larger trays and fancy Chinaware. (Thanks to Cathay Pacific for the below photos)


In November 2021, I traveled from London to Melbourne in premium economy. While the service has since changed I thought I would still cover it to show the difference between the two cabins.

A windowed airplane with two seats.

On my flight from London to Melbourne in premium economy, I was thrilled to see the Do & Co catering truck servicing the aircraft. If you’re not familiar, Do & Co is the Rolls-Royce of airline caterers, responsible for the delicious offerings on airlines like Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines.

Cathay Pacific passenger jet parked on airport tarmac.

Lunch was served 25 minutes after take-off, and although no choice was offered (thanks COVID), the inflight meal consisted of beef with potato gratin and bulgur salad with salmon, and included a Lilly O’Breins dessert. I have to say, the main meal was quite enjoyable, with the gratin being particularly delicious.

Review of Cathay Pacific's economy class meal - meat, rice, broccoli and bread on a tray.

In between meals, I was impressed that the airline offered snacks in the galley and hot noodles on request.

An amenity kit was also provided including an eyeshade, socks, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

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Breakfast served before landing was an omelet with bacon, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes, accompanied by jam, yoghurt, a croissant, and fresh fruit. A lovely piping hot breakfast with plenty of food, no complaints here.


While the service onboard was disjointed and robotic from London to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Melbourne felt like a completely different airline. I had the entire cabin to myself on this 8-hour flight, which was a treat. The service was top-notch, and the crew was lovely, professional, courteous, and friendly.

Empty airplane seats in economy class.

There was a choice of two meals on this flight, and I opted for the Chinese option on both. The first meal was fish with rice and baby Chinese cabbage, served with a pasta salad, small chocolate, and after-dinner ice cream from Movenpick.

The second meal was pork with stir-fried vegetables, fresh fruit, and rice pudding with apple sauce. Can I just say, premium economy dining is a step above economy-class dining!

You’ll receive three main meal choices for the first service and two choices for the second meal service (much like in economy class), but the main meals are supplied from business class, and you’ll also receive proper chinaware and cutlery.


Firstly, let me share my experience with the airline’s luggage fees. I made the mistake of assuming that I was entitled to carry 25 or 30kg, when in reality, I was only allowed to carry 23kg because of the light fare I purchased. The problem was compounded when we were directed to print our bag tags at the self-check-in machine at Melbourne Airport, which did not indicate our weight or entitlements.

When our bags were weighed at the drop-off area, we were immediately told that we would have to pay for the extra weight. I asked about pooling our weight but was told it wasn’t allowed. Without hesitation, the agent instructed us to place the second bag on the scales. (The first bag was now out of reach and we could not access it according to her). We paid an exorbitant fee of $450 for the 13kg we were over, and I couldn’t help but feel like this was a last-minute money grab by the airline. It left a sour taste in my mouth and made me scrutinise everything for the next 24 hours of my trip to Europe.

Cathay Pacific airplane wing at an airport.

Once we boarded the flight, we were given printed menus and bottled water on the ground. However, it took about 15 minutes after takeoff for the rest of the cabin to receive their inflight menus and arrival cards. Special meals were delivered around 25 minutes after takeoff, and the main meal service started 1 hour and 10 minutes after takeoff.

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When the crew finally reached our row, I received my wine and ice cream first because they had run out of trays and I placed them in the phone holder. However, I noticed that the phone holder and cup holder were quite dirty, and I wondered if the airline’s cleaning contractors had overlooked them.

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Here’s a look at the infight menu:

For the first meal service, Cathay Pacific offered three choices of mains in economy class, which was impressive. We opted for one chicken and one seafood option, the meals were satisfactory, but nothing to write home about.

A tray of food and drinks on Cathay Pacific's economy class.
Cathay Pacific economy class review featuring a tray of food with rice, meat, and vegetables.

Around 20 minutes later the crew collected everything and we didn’t see them until the second service!

The second service offered a choice of noodles or cottage pie, with a berry cheesecake and seasonal fresh fruit. The noodles were much better than the first meal, but the “seasonal fresh fruit” turned out to be processed fruit from SPC, one of Australia’s largest producers of packed fruit and vegetables.

A tray of food on a table during a Cathay Pacific economy class review.


Here’s a look at the inflight menu:

A menu on a table.

On a positive note, the service on our second flight was better than our first, and the meal portions seemed larger. For the first service, three meal choices were available: pork, chicken, or pasta. We selected the pasta and chicken options, the pasta being quite good. The ice cream was delicious and of better quality than what was offered on the previous flight, and the appetiser of beef pastrami and quinoa salad was enjoyable.

A review of Cathay Pacific's economy class food tray, featuring pasta, meat and cheese.
A meal consisting of meat, potatoes, and green beans in Cathay Pacific's economy class.

However, I was disappointed that I had to clean the tray table myself, especially since we departed from the airline’s home port. I expected the cleaning standards to be higher here.

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Despite the onboard reminders about post-COVID cleanliness, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I used my antiseptic wipe to scrub down my tray table. But that wasn’t the only surprise I encountered on this Hong Kong to Paris flight. In between services, the cabin crew were nowhere to be found, leaving passengers to fend for themselves when it came to drinks and refreshments.

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But it wasn’t all bad news. I was delighted to find a well-stocked galley, where I could help myself to snacks, drinks, and even request noodles and fresh fruit. And let’s not forget the fantastic inflight entertainment, complete with an LGBTQIA film section. Bravo, Cathay!

When it came to breakfast, there were two options: egg noodles with chicken or scrambled eggs. The noodles were decent, but the Western breakfast was the real star of the show. The eggs were perfectly cooked, with no hint of dryness, and the portion size was spot on. In fact, I was impressed with the generous portion sizes of all the meals.

Cathay Pacific economy class review: tray of food and drinks on plane.
A tray of food served in Cathay Pacific's economy class with a hot dog, potatoes, and fruit.


Overall, while Cathay Pacific’s crew may not quite measure up to the likes of Japan Airlines, Emirates, or Qatar Airways, they do get points for offering printed menus and a choice of three meals for the first service in economy class. And let’s be honest, in the world of economy class travel, “adequate” is often as good as it gets. Don’t believe me? Check out these economy class meal options from their competitors.


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