The plane:

Formally known as the A350-900XWB, but you can call it A350. Cathay Pacific this month becomes the first airline to fly a regular commercial service of the A350 into Auckland. It will operate on CX198, the 2.30pm daily flight from Auckland to Hong Kong from October 28 until December, then all 10 weekly flights. From Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific connects to China, Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and Europe.

Class: Business. But I did check out the Premium Economy cabin and services too.

My seat: 20K, the window seat at the front of the smaller of two Business cabins. Cathay's herringbone configuration means it's completely private - perfect for the solo traveller. Porsche designed the Business and Premium Economy seats on this plane, and they're spacious - the lie-flat bed is 7.5cm longer than previous models - and incredibly comfortable. Premium Economy berths are darned close to Business offerings from some other airlines. The Economy cabin is configured for 3-3-3 rather than 3-4-3 rows. That's not a football formation: it means more sideways and legroom space for passengers there, too.


Price: Business Class to Gatwick from $5829 return. Check

Entertainment: The next generation. High-definition screens in all classes and they're possibly the largest around. You can tune in as soon as you've stowed your cabin baggage in the overhead compartment (though the PA must interrupt your viewing pleasure from time to time). You're connected: BBC, CNN and Euronews are screened live and you can use it as an e-reader for international magazines. If you prefer to use your own device, Business and Premium Economy seats have an eye-level mobile/tablet dock. Wi-Fi costs US$19.95 ($28.25).

How full: Absolutely chocka. That's 38 Business, 28 Premium Economy and 214 Economy - 280 souls on board. Plus crew, of course.

Food, drink and service: As someone who flies long-haul to Europe or the US six to eight times a year (and it's not always in a 'turn left at the door' seat), I have to say: we don't know how lucky we are. There are a lot of couldn't-care-less airlines out there; fortunately, few of them fly in and out of New Zealand. Leading airlines know the customer experience - food, wine, entertainment, seats - is what brings them repeat business. It may come down to personal taste or loyalty cards, but Cathay Pacific is constantly voted in the top echelon.

Toilets: First World discussion point, I know, but access to a Business or Premium Economy loo on a long-haul flight has to be one of life's simplest yet greatest pleasures. The facilities are spacious. They are well-appointed with the necessities of life and bonus unguents. Enjoy.

Anything else you'd like to mention?

That bed - nine hours' sleep. Better than most nights at home. The windows - bigger than usual. And (this is going to make me sound like a nerdy plane geek but... ) there's higher air pressure in the cabin, so your body thinks it's flying at 6000ft rather than 8000ft on older planes. Believe me, you really notice the difference when you stroll off the plane into a London morning - rather chipper, old chap.

Airport experience: This flight landed at Gatwick around 7am. The concourse was empty. I picked up my bag and strolled to Customs, was questioned politely and waved through in minutes. Compare that with Heathrow on any given... no, don't. Gatwick Express is 30 minutes to Victoria Station; best request an early check-in at your hotel.