Peter Reid flies from Auckland to Brussels via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.
New Airbus A350-900s for both legs of the journey.
Class: Cathay Business Class. The Business Class Cabin consists of 38 "open suites" in 1-2-1 configuration. My wife and I pre-booked adjoining seats 17D and 17G on the first leg and 18D and 18G on the second leg into Brussels. The arrangement can easily be adjusted to suit singles or couples. The fully motorised Porsche-designed seat transforms into a generous bed. Loads of storage space surrounds the seat. I found the noise-cancelling headphones and the adjustable, dimmable personal reading lamp most useful.
Price: $3100, one way.
Flight time: Brussels is a new destination for Cathay Pacific. At the moment, the route is available only four days per week. The 11-hour first-leg is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong at 9pm. The connection at Hong Kong links to the 12.35am departure for the 12-hour leg to Brussels.
Fellow passengers: The usual mix of unobtrusive business travellers, high-end tourists and retirees.
Not many spare seats to be seen.
Entertainment: A quality super-sized 18.5" touch-screen TV came with a second 4.3" video remote handset which allowed us to check flight progress, the four external cameras and all the other entertainment on its small screen without disturbing what was showing on our large personal TV screen. I loved being able to view the aircraft's take-off and landing manoeuvres from the tail camera above the fuselage, or switching to the pilot's view from the cockpit.
Wi-Fi is available at reasonable prices.
Service: The A350 is a quiet, spacious aircraft and the crew went about their jobs with little noise or interruption. Hot towels followed by chilled Piper Heidsieck Champagne and a Dining Menu helped us relax before take-off on both legs. The fine-dining meals were faultless throughout the trip.
Luggage: Generous 40kg checked baggage allowance per passenger in Business.
Airport experience: We had the use of the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge before the Auckland departure. In Hong Kong, we had a choice of four lounges. We decided to try The Deck Lounge adjacent to gates 16 to 19. Friendly lounge manager Alfred Lam recommended the two locally brewed craft beers. I am pleased to report both the Dragon's Back Pale Ale and Hong Kong Amber Ale were a credit to the Hong Kong Beer Company. The large mezzanine balcony is a plane-spotters delight, affording a wonderful view of at least 20 gates filled with aircraft from all over the world.
Destination: Brussels-Zaventem Airport is 15km from Brussels Central. Our politicians are currently in talks with EU officials exploring the feasibility of a free trade deal. With the EU headquarters in Brussels, this new direct service is bound to attract plenty of officials and business travellers from New Zealand. Belgian Rail provides frequent trains from the airport underground to the city centre, as well as convenient access to the ancient canal cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges.
Would I fly again: Absolutely.