Flight Report: HKG-MNL on Cathay Pacific Flight CX 919 (28 January 2020)

I can’t help but feel a touch of sadness as I write this report, given that it concerns the last flight I took before the pandemic put an end to non-essential travel (for the moment, anyway). Nonetheless, with 2020 drawing to a close and 2021 offering the promise of better days ahead, let’s look back on this journey as a reminder of what we can all look forward to once it’s safe to take to the skies again.

Welcome aboard Cathay Pacific flight CX 919.

Note: The details presented here are only for the specific flight reviewed. This information might not hold true for previous or future flights, even if operated by the same airline on the same route and/or under the same flight number.

For the sake of brevity, IATA airline and airport codes have been used throughout this report in place of full names (e.g., “CX” instead of “Cathay Pacific”; “HKG” instead of “Hong Kong International Airport”).

This review covers the final segment (HKG-MNL) of a round-trip MNL-ICN-MNL journey, where HKG was the transit point on both outbound and return. Please click on the embedded links to read my reviews of the first (MNL-HKG), second (HKG-ICN), and third (ICN-HKG) flights.

IMPORTANT! This report does NOT reflect pandemic-related operational changes introduced after my January 2020 flight. Additional check-in requirements, immigration controls, pre-boarding procedures – such as temperature checks – and modifications to in-flight service and amenities should be expected.

ROUTE MAP

OVERVIEW

Note: All times are local. There is no time difference between Manila and Hong Kong (both GMT+8).

Flight details

Airline and flight number : Cathay Pacific (CX) 919
Route : Hong Kong, China (IATA code: HKG) to Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL)
Ultimate origin : Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (IATA code: ICN) via CX 417
Route type : International
Date : Tuesday, 28 January 2020
Scheduled departure time : 14:20
Actual departure time : 14:31
Scheduled arrival time : 16:35
Actual arrival time : 16:12

Equipment and cabin

Aircraft : Airbus A330-300
Manufacturer : Airbus
Registration number : B-HLU
Passenger capacity : 24 Business, 293 Economy (317 total)
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site (note: select the variant “33P” from the drop-down menu on that page)
Travel class flown : Business Class

Here’s B-HLU on the tarmac at HKG, getting ready for our afternoon flight to MNL.

B-HLU was delivered in September 2003, making it the oldest amongst the four CX aircraft I flew on throughout this round-trip journey. It was given a fresh lick of paint – featuring special Oneworld livery – in 2009, but this doesn’t seem to have been updated since then (judging from the old-style tailfin insignia).

BAGGAGE

CX’s baggage allowances depend chiefly on your travel class, but there are also different rules for specific routes – along with general limits on dimensions and piece weight. For example, no single bag can weigh over 32 kg (70 lb) no matter what allowance you’re entitled to. Further details are available on your ticket and on CX’s official website.

My Business Class ticket came with a complimentary checked baggage allowance of two pieces totalling 40 kg (88 lb). I was also permitted to bring one piece of cabin baggage and the usual small item on board, weighing no more than 10 kg (22 lb) all together.

AT THE AIRPORT

Origin

My ultimate point of origin was Terminal 1 (T1) of Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (IATA code: ICN)…

…but my immediate point of origin for this particular segment was Hong Kong International Airport (IATA code: HKG).

Check-in and transit

All of the check-in formalities were completed at ICN ahead of the first segment (ICN-HKG on CX 417). Read my separate travel report about CX 417 to learn more.

I was issued two boarding passes at ICN: one for the initial ICN-HKG leg on CX 417, and another for the succeeding HKG-MNL leg on CX 919. I was also given two lounge invitations, the first for ICN (valid at the Asiana Business Lounge West) and the second for my transit in HKG (valid at all four CX Business Class lounges there).

The transit formalities at HKG were smooth and painless, since I was already holding an onward boarding pass to my final destination (MNL). This meant undergoing the abbreviated procedure described on HKG’s official website. I must stress again, however, that additional checks should be expected due to the ongoing pandemic – hence, the process as described here might no longer reflect the present reality on the ground.

From the gate where CX 417 docked, I simply followed the “Transfer” signs until I reached one of HKG’s dedicated transit zones.

A staff member checked my onward boarding pass before allowing me through to the security screening lanes.

After making my way through the gauntlet of body and luggage scans, I mounted an escalator that brought me up to the departures hall of HKG’s main terminal. At that point, I became just another departing passenger waiting for his flight.

Lounge

My HKG connection was too short for a proper lounge visit, so I headed straight for the gate after completing all transit formalities. If I’d had a longer layover, I would have visited one or more of the four CX Business Class lounges at HKG, including my personal favourite The Bridge (covered in a separate lounge report).

Please note that as of this writing, all CX Business Class lounges at HKG are closed until further notice due to the pandemic.

Boarding

At our assigned gate, separate queueing lanes were provided for Business Class and Economy Class passengers.

The boarding pier was likewise fitted with two aerobridges, one for the Business cabin and another further aft for Economy.

ONBOARD EXPERIENCE

Cabin interior and seating

The 24-seat Business Class cabin in CX’s A330-300 (type 33P) occupies about three-fifths of the section between the forward and second doors. There are 4 rows in a 2-2-2 configuration, with the middle seats staggered slightly forward of the seats on either side.

Unlike CX’s long-haul Business Class cabin – as seen here and here, for example – this regional layout has all seats facing directly forward. There’s a lack of physical dividers or privacy-protecting “shells” at head/eye level, which means far less privacy for individual passengers than on a plane fitted with long-haul equipment.

Right, let’s take a closer look at those seats.

Whether one chooses to sit in the bulkhead row or further aft, there’s plenty of legroom for stretching out. That is, unless one wishes to stretch out fully, which isn’t possible in CX’s regional seats. Think of these as lounge chairs rather than sky-beds.

Less room, less comfort…and less storage space. No side-cabinets or floor-level lockers here; just a narrow pocket under the centre armrest and a niche for small articles (such as a phone or eyeglasses) next to the IFE screen. Note the seat control switches above the pocket and the headphone port within.

You’ll find a power point (not shown here) on the forward-facing side of the centre armrest.

The remote control unit for the IFE system is concealed under the centre armrest, tethered to its berth by a retractable cable.

The tray table is berthed in a slot below the IFE screen. Pull upwards on the silver tab, lower to a level position, and then unfold to full size.

Now for the obligatory glance up at the overhead instrument panel. Not much to see here, since the attendant call button and reading light switch are on the IFE remote control.

One feature of the Business Class cabin that’s a little less tangible than most can be found right outside the window.

I am, of course, talking about the view. 🙂

Thanks to my place in the forward section of the fuselage, I didn’t need to worry about the wing getting in the way of my picture-taking.

Right, so much for the hardware. Time to have a look at the soft product.

In-flight service and amenities

Thanks to priority boarding, those of us in Business Class had time to settle in whilst the rest of the plane was being loaded. This also gave the cabin crew a chance to start service.

First, a choice of welcome drink. Let’s start the journey with a drop of champagne.

A few minutes later, one of the cabin attendants offered me the customary hot towel. I suspect this refreshing amenity isn’t available for the time being (in view of the ongoing medical emergency); if so, perhaps disposable wet wipes will take its place until the crisis passes.

The menu card was also issued ahead of take-off, but we’ll have a closer look at that later.

Now for a peek at what’s in the seat pocket.

As for in-flight comfort, each seat had been supplied with a pillow ahead of boarding. Blankets were offered later.

Catering

Now for my favourite part of any airborne journey: the in-flight meal. 🙂

Let’s flip through the menu and see what’s on offer.

On my previous, longer flight – Seoul to Hong Kong on CX 417 – a cabin attendant set the table ahead of meal service by covering it with a starched linen cloth. Not this time, though: the tray with fruit starter, dessert, utensils, and my initial choice of drink (water) was brought out and placed directly on the bare surface.

These accoutrements were soon joined by the main course I’d selected from the menu, described there as:

Grilled Australian beef tenderloin in thyme sauce,
with pumpkin, French bean and new potato

Tender, juicy, and flavourful. Yum.

The steak soon gained a couple of neighbours: bread, and a second beverage of my choice (tomato juice).

Let’s end this bit with a final observation regarding the in-flight meal. On the previous longer leg, CX 417 (ICN-HKG), the service format involved distinct courses, where each element was brought out in sequence and the previous course’s empty dish would be cleared away to make room for the one following. In contrast, on CX 919, all courses were served at about the same time and accumulated together on the tray, with brief gaps for bringing out the main course and offering a selection of bread to choose from.

In-flight entertainment

I’m not one to demand a full IFE suite on a regional flight…but I’m not one to refuse it either.

And CX’s wide selection of movies, television shows and other media was certainly nice to have, even on the short ICN-HKG route.

Incidentally, the supplied headphones were of a robust design – far from the wimpy plastic bands usually offered in Economy Class (if they’re even offered at all on a short flight like this).

OVERALL IMPRESSION

Whilst more than a few rungs below Cathay Pacific’s fantastic long-haul Business Class product, this regional cabin still offered a pleasant and comfortable setting for my short flight from Hong Kong to Manila. I’d be happy to fly with the airline again on this route, as well as on connecting services to more distant destinations – once it’s safe for non-essential travel to resume.

Cheerio.

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