Tim McCready flew Business Class to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific CX198 and returned to Auckland on Air New Zealand NZ80.

Plane:

Cathay Pacific:

Boeing 777-300. Seven years old.

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Air New Zealand: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Brand new, out of the factory in August 2018.

The seat:
Cathay Pacific: I was sitting in 11A (directly behind the cockpit — Cathay starts its business class seating at 11). The cabin is configured with a 1-2-1 layout, and as the seats are angled gently toward the window, it felt very private. I was the only one sitting in the first row of the plane, and the rest of the cabin was fairly empty — it felt as though I had the entire flight to myself.

The seat was generous in size, and when reclined into a bed provided plenty of space with a 208cm length and a 70cm width (the width is boosted by the clever armrest extension). The blanket was a little thin, and the pillow was adequate, but nothing special. Convenient storage around the seat allowed me to store everything I needed throughout the flight within easy reach.

Air New Zealand: I was sitting in 9A — the last seat in Business Class at the left window. Air New Zealand's herringbone layout felt a real contrast to Cathay's. The 1-1-1 layout means no one has a neighbour, but instead of facing the window, in this configuration you are angled so you face into the cabin. From my seat, I could see every passenger throughout the duration of the flight. If you're after privacy or enjoy watching the world go by outside, this is not the layout for you. The ottoman provides storage but also doubles as a second seat, allowing another passenger to share the oversized tray table and join you for dinner. Several passengers travelling together on my flight took advantage of this.

The leather seat converts into a bed, but the mechanism requires passengers to stand while the seat folds forward. A bedding pack is provided (with high-quality sheets, a blanket, mattress and several pillows) that transforms the bed into something more luxurious. It was amusing to watch the passengers and crew struggle for space in the aisles as they all attempted to set up their beds immediately following the meal service — while I snacked on cheese and port. The bed was very comfortable, although its 200cm length and 56cm width felt noticeably more compact than Cathay's.

That said, it is hard to complain about a lie-flat bed on a long-haul flight. I had a comfortable night's sleep.

Food and drink:
Cathay Pacific: A great selection of food. The flight attendant brought all dishes around on a trolley so that I could look at them and decide — a nice touch for those who are indecisive with menus. I chose the braised pork for lunch and snapper for dinner. The range of wines was excellent, made up of New Zealand and French premium wines. The "international beer selection" was less so: San Miguel, Heineken, Steinlager… they offered a Fosters from "out the back" if I wanted. I passed.

Air New Zealand: The food was spectacular. My order was taken before departure so my dinner could be quickly prepared for me following take-off. I chose the sole with almond romesco sauce — it tasted as though it had come out of a high-end bistro. My breakfast choice (French crepes with apple and pear) had a texture that resembled cardboard, I had food envy when I noticed most of my compatriots had sensibly chosen the mushroom and cheese omelette. Air New Zealand had a wide range of wine, and even offered Emerson's craft beer from Dunedin.

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The service:
Cathay Pacific: The service was professional and polite — I was always addressed by name. Although the crew were incredibly responsive whenever I needed anything, outside meal times they remained mostly in the galleys — which added to the feeling of peacefulness in the cabin. Hot towels were provided frequently throughout the flight.

A Cathay Pacific 777-300. Photo / Creative Commons License
A Cathay Pacific 777-300. Photo / Creative Commons License

Air New Zealand:

As always, the Air New Zealand crew seemed as though they loved their job and would do whatever they could to make the flight enjoyable. The crew always addressed me by name, but unlike Cathay they were eager to have a yarn with passengers — we shared a bit of banter at the front of the plane throughout the flight. During the breakfast service when I pointed out one of my utensils was dirty, they apologised profusely and had it replaced immediately.

Amenities:
Cathay Pacific: One of the perks of flying Business Class is unwrapping the amenities pack. This came in a stylish pouch (which has since been repurposed as my toilet bag), and included a dental kit, lip balm, hand cream, and rosewater face mist — surprisingly refreshing. The socks were comfortable and featured a rubber tread on the bottom.

Air New Zealand: The purple and black faux leather pack seemed less high-end than Cathay's. It included a dental kit — the generous bottle of mouthwash lasted the duration of my stay in Hong Kong — lip balm and hand cream. The socks were shapeless and not particularly comfortable.
Entertainment:

Cathay Pacific: There was a great selection of films and television shows on board. Cathay includes several ads before each video, and although they can be fast-forwarded, they are extremely frustrating — particularly because the same ads are repeated every time. The screen was large, but couldn't be angled downwards, which made it difficult to watch when lying flat.

Air New Zealand: Again, a good selection of options to watch. There were no ads, which was appreciated, and the screen could be angled down (which allowed me to watch far too many movies when I should have been sleeping). The screen has to be stowed to the side during take-off and landing, which made it awkward to watch during those times.

Overall:
Cathay Pacific: The best thing about this flight was the privacy and the space of the seat, it felt as though I was in my own private jet. The service and food were both great, but not a patch on Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand: The layout of the cabin means you sacrifice a bit of space and a lot of privacy — but the service and the food are truly exceptional.

The verdict: Both flights were fantastic, as you would expect with the price of a Business Class ticket! I was truly surprised with Cathay's offering and wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again. Air New Zealand is like a reliable friend, you know you'll have a premium experience and will happily forgive any shortcomings.