Cathay Pacific Economy vs Premium Economy Dining

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

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I recently had the opportunity to fly with Cathay Pacific in both economy and premium economy classes. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:

Cathay Pacific has recently upgraded its premium economy experience, which includes serving meals from the business class menu. The food is served on larger trays with fancy Chinaware – a definite improvement. (Thanks to Cathay Pacific for the below photos)

LONDON TO HONG KONG PREMIUM ECONOMY

On my flight from London to Melbourne in premium economy, I was thrilled to see the Do & Co catering truck servicing the aircraft. Do & Co is known for providing delicious meals on airlines like Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines.

Cathay Pacific passenger jet parked on airport tarmac.
A windowed airplane with two seats.

Lunch was served shortly after take-off and consisted of beef with potato gratin and bulgur salad with salmon. The meal also included a Lilly O’Breins dessert, which was quite enjoyable. In between meals, snacks were available in the galley, and hot noodles could be requested.

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

An amenity kit with essentials like an eyeshade, socks, toothbrush, and toothpaste was also provided. Breakfast before landing was a satisfying omelet with bacon, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, jam, yogurt, a croissant, and fresh fruit.

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HONG KONG TO MELBOURNE PREMIUM ECONOMY

The premium economy experience on the flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne felt like a different airline. I had the entire cabin to myself on this 8-hour flight, and the service was top-notch. The crew was lovely, professional, courteous, and friendly.

Empty airplane seats in economy class.

There were two meal options on this flight – Chinese fish with rice and baby Chinese cabbage or pork with stir-fried vegetables. The meals were accompanied by fresh fruit and desserts. The dining experience in premium economy was definitely a step above economy class.

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!

MELBOURNE TO HONG KONG ECONOMY

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.

A line of machines in an airport, with a Cathay Pacific Economy Class review available.
A person is standing in front of a machine at an airport while getting ready to board their Cathay Pacific flight in economy class.

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.

HONG KONG TO PARIS ECONOMY

Here’s a look at the inflight menu:

A menu on a table.

The second flight from Hong Kong to Paris showed improvement compared to the previous one. Meal portions seemed larger, and there were three meal choices available for the first service: pork, chicken, or pasta.

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 to find that I had to clean the tray table myself, especially considering it was a departure from the airline’s home port.

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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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On the positive side, there was a well-stocked galley where passengers could help themselves to snacks and drinks. The inflight entertainment options were excellent, including an LGBTQIA film section.

For breakfast, there were two options: egg noodles with chicken or scrambled eggs. Both options were satisfactory, with the Western breakfast being particularly enjoyable. The portion sizes of all meals were generous.

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.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Cathay Pacific’s economy class experience is average when compared to 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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