Cathay Pacific Premium Economy – Is It Worth Upgrading From Economy?

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. The aircraft is parked at the boarding gate at Hong Kong International Airport, against the city skyline, mountain and blue sky.

I got to travel on Cathay Pacific Premium Economy class last summer, when I returned from Hong Kong to Singapore on CX711.

My original trip was booked on Economy seats. Just a few days before my return trip, I received an email to ask if I wanted to bid for an upgrade (it’s only restricted to one class upgrade). I thought I would put in the lowest bid, at SGD250 for the fun of it. Who knew? I got the upgrade just like that!

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore. Seen here is a flight safety card showing the aircraft type (Boeing B777-300ER), partial boarding pass, Inflight Entertainment System screen showing the opening menu page on the seat back. A partial view of the cabin can be seen in the background.

Trip Overview

Flight: CX711
Aircraft: B777-300ER (B77H)
Cabin Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 34A
Seat Configuration: 2-4-2
Flight Time: 4.36pm – 8.32pm (slight delay of about half an hour)
Flight Duration: 3h 56m

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. The aircraft is parked at the boarding gate at Hong Kong International Airport, against the city skyline, mountain and blue sky.

Business or Premium Economy?

When I first entered the cabin, I got a deja-vu feeling; the seats in Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy looked hauntingly like their regional Business Class seats that I took before. From the colour theme of the seat covers, to how the seat back wrapped around the IFE screen to the armrests.
It takes a side by side comparison to spot the difference.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. Boarding at Hong Kong International Airport.

For example, the seats are definitely narrower width-wise; in my Business Class experience, I could fit my travel pouch comfortably by my side, while in the Premium Economy seat, it had to be squished in. This as a result, allowed the airline to squeeze in one more seat per row, so that they could arrange them in a 2-4-2 configuration, which was quite standard across airlines in the Premium Economy class.

Which photo above do you think was the Business Class seat I was in, and which one was the Premium Economy?

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Seats

That being said, a 2-4-2 configuration in a Boeing B777-300ER in Cathay Pacific felt roomier than the Premium Economy cabin, also set in a 2-4-2 configuration, on Singapore Airlines. In fact, throughout my 3.5 hours on Cathay, I felt rather comfortable in my seat. My bad knees didn’t ache to be extended, thanks to the ample seat pitch. SQ in fact has a larger seat pitch (at least on paper, it has 6 inches more than Cathay), but I always feel very constrained while on SQ.

The other difference was that the seats do not have a seat shell, meaning when the person in front reclines his seat, he will inevitably eat into your space. This is not so much a problem with the ample seat pitch; my knees weren’t even near the seat back when he reclined.

Like I mentioned, the other aspects of the seats are similar to that found on the Regional Business Class seats. The armrest between my seat mate and I (I was at the window seat) was still the wonderful Doraemon, housing the remote control to the Inflight Entertainment System (IFE), magazine rack, headphone jack, tray table and power socket (found near the floor).

There was even a small cup tray you could pull out from the arm rest (on top of the one that was already on the arm rest), although I have a feeling that a cup placed there would be prone to being elbowed off, since the tray would effectively be eating into the seat width and above your thigh.

The USB port and coat hanger are still flanking the IFE screen on the seat back in front; what was different was that they installed a ledge beneath the screen, across the width of the seat back, where one can place their smaller belongings, which is good when you are charging your handphone with the USB port by the screen. In fact, this design meant that the size of your handphone won’t be restricted by the size of the ledge, unlike the handphone cubby that was provided on SQ’s new Economy seats.

The seat controls are found on the other arm rest, and they were not electronic ones like the Business Class seats. Still, they maintained a calf rest, which was easy to keep even though it had to be done manually, which helped to make the whole seat feel like a recliner when you feel like having more rest.

Last but not least, if you need a power socket to work on your laptop, they are located in between the calf rest of both seats. Luckily, there is one power point for each traveller, although I found that position to be very challenging for one to reach without burying his face into the lap of the seat neighbour!

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. View out of the window, over the wind. China Airlines tail could be seen behind the wing.

Inflight Meals on Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

The meals, I feel, were not different from those in the Economy Class; they were served in trays like those in the Economy Class and the food presentation was no different. I could not compare the meal options (SQ touts that passengers in their Premium Economy Class will have a separate selection of food from the Economy Class, along with 3 instead of 2 options), but I don’t remember having options that were more or different from the Economy Class.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. Seen here is the inflight meal, served as lunch: Braised chicken with rice and vegetables. Sides are: fruit platter, bread, orange juice and mineral water.

I chose Braised Chicken with rice for my meal; come to think of it, I seemed to always end up with Braised Chicken no matter what airline I take, as long as I return from China… Perhaps the only solace I have was that the chicken were unlike those I had in Economy Class (regardless of airlines), where the meat was indiscernible from the gravy…

However, food from Cathay Pacific, no matter the class, never disappointed me. Yes, I flew out from Hong Kong that time and it was the land of foodgasm, but if you fly out of Singapore, the food would be catered by Dnata, which has a better quality control than SATS catering.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. Seen here is the cabin overview. The cabin is set in 2-3-2 configuration, with 4 rows. In the background, you can see the toilet by the emergency exit, which pushes the section on starboard side back by 1 row. The last row over there is in Economy Class cabin.

Premium Economy Cabin Design

The Premium Economy cabin of this particular aircraft type had a very weird design. On the starboard side, the whole section was shifted 1 row back to make space for a toilet cubicle. This created a very awkward situation where the first 2 rows of the centre section, i.e. seat 30G and 31G were seated right beside the toilet entrance and exposed to whatever whiffs of mystery that would come with every passenger that visited it. Yes, it was the first premium class seat I’ve seen that is directly in the path of such odours.

The other anomaly made the last row of the starboard section “juts” out into the Economy class, such that seats 34H and 34K are abreast of the first row, row 39, of the Economy seats.

Seat Map of Cathay Pacific Boeing B77Z Premium Economy.

Here’s a screenshot from Seat Guru (click picture above for link) that illustrated how the row in Premium Economy “jutted” out into the Economy cabin.

Inflight Entertainment

The Inflight Entertainment System (IFE) was of the older generation, with no touch-screen capabilities (you control it with the remote found at the arm rest between the seats) and the colour on the shows were not vibrant. At times, the screen suffered from glares either from the window or from the seat light.

The selection of movies, TV shows and games made up for the lack in hardware. Along with the noise-cancelling headphones, it will definitely not be a boring flight, especially for long hauls!

Food counter (hot food) at Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 40 in Hong Kong International Airport

Lounge Options for Non-Premium Passengers

Unfortunately, Premium Economy passengers aren’t invited to use any of the Cathay Pacific Lounges in Hong Kong International Airport. Luckily for me, I was a Priority Pass member, so I went to one of the Plaza Premium lounges in HKIA to hide away from the packed open transit area.

Like I mentioned in my earlier blog post, which I also included the lounge experience of this trip, Hong Kong International Airport is crazily crowded. Luckily for me, I found the the right Premium Plaza lounge that was like an oasis from the chaos. Best of all, it was open to Priority Pass members, even if you are not flying on Business or First Class!

Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 40, interior, pod seating
Interior of Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 40, with pod seating

Parting Words

I found my general experience on Cathay Pacific’s new Premium Economy class to be rather enjoyable. In fact, I was all elated about the experience for a few days after the trip! The seats were definitely not on par with Business Class seats, but they were much much more comfortable than the ones found in Economy Class.

Never mind that the food or service (baggage, check in, cabin crew service) didn’t seem to be different from the Economy Class. I found that, after all these years of travelling, a good seat is the most important of all, especially for a long haul flight. Therefore, if my budget is limited, I would still be willing to fork out extra to pay for Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy seats should I be travelling for more than 8 hours (especially for red-eyes!).

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class Experience, Hong Kong to Singapore, onboard Boeing B777-300ER. Queuing up for boarding at Hong Kong International Airport.

If you enjoyed this post about my experience on Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy class, you can read more about my trip on their regional Business Class, or my trips on Thai Airways to Oslo,Norway via Bangkok and SAS from Copenhagen to USA!

If you travelled, or are going to travel on Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy Class, do share with me your experience too! Last but not least, remember to subscribe to my blog for more updates on food and travel 🙂

Stay wanderlust!

The photos were all captured with my Google Pixel XL.

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