As Good As Vietnam Gets
Cathay Pacific Links Boston With Hong Kong And Vietnam
It still seems so improbable. For years, I’ve flown long-haul to Asia from Chicago and New York, with a preliminary jump from my home in New England to one of those hubs. But in the spring of last year (2015), Cathay Pacific launched a non-stop between Boston and Hong Kong, and this year Cathay expanded service on that route from four to five flights a week.
That did it. There was no longer any excuse not to fly Cathay from New England to Hong Kong, and then on to Vietnam. I made my inaugural leap on a Tuesday in early June of this year. The flight takes off at 1:45 a.m., which is just early enough that my mind processed the flight as a late Monday departure, not something I had to wake up for at an ungodly hour on Tuesday.
I was tired and ready for sleep as soon as I boarded, but not before I indulged my business class accommodation. Stepping into a herring-boned pod on a Cathay flight generates the same sort of frisson you get when you cross the threshold of a luxury hotel room. New business class berths bring out the explorer in every one of us.
I groped my way into comfort with a few gentle nudges from flight attendants that set up more like butlers than wait staff. First thing, I removed my shoes and tucked them out of the way on the floor until my butler saw as much, and directed me to a shoe locker with a door that closes. I liked that door, especially since I’d been hoofing it all day and feared offending neighbors.
Once I found that compartment, I sourced the others. The locker for the headphones became a stash for my books. A cubby at lower left, complete with a mesh pocket, was good for the phone, and a small bag. A 14-hour non-stop is, indeed, a long haul and getting stuff sorted is critical. Once I had my provisions laid out, I popped a button and a video screen levered out to within two to three feet of my face. It was as large as the largest laptop screen available, and touch screen operable.
My last move was with the controls on the chairs. Three buttons controlled the seat, the feet and the back, but mainly it was the middle button doing most of the work at bedtime. The chair goes fully flat as a bed, and was ample enough for my 5’9” stretch, and probably a few more if I’d been luckier as a growing teenager.
Soon after we got underway, the butlers made the rounds with amenity bags that included an eyeshade and ear plugs, mouthwash, toothbrush and a selection of balancing creams and balms by Jurlique that I didn’t use because, you know, I’m a man.
(Short digression: once I’d awakened from sleep and for some reason opened the headphone locker. Not sure why. Must have been sleep groping. I popped on a light by accident, and there was a mirror on the door of the locker. With the eye shade pushed up, the hair all a mess, and the two orange ear plugs jutting like nodules off Frankenstein, I had this weird thought: I should have used the Jurlique creams.)
I’m sorry to say I zonked on the big dinner event on my way to Hong Kong. On the way back to Boston, I was completely dialed in for the multi-course meal prepared by chefs from the Grand Hyatt, that started with smoked salmon and reached for the stars with an Australian tenderloin. The wine was French. The ice cream was Häagen-Dazs. Really, there wasn’t any reason to get off the plane.
On three separate occasions on the long-hauls, I rang for the butler. I’m not sure why. I’m usually not that needy. But she came so fast the first time – like, within three seconds – I counted the seconds on the second and third summons, and he or she never let me count past 10 before showing up. I didn’t ask for seconds on any of the Jurlique, but I think I did call for more Häagen-Dazs once, and probably for some more of the cabernet.
So, that’s Cathay Pacific business class on the long-haul from New England to Hong Kong. My hunch is that it’s the same experience from New York to Hong Kong, but I hope never to have to have to report on that stretch.