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#TBT: Review of Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific – SYD to HKG – on an A330

#TBT: Review of Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific – SYD to HKG – on an A330
Series: #TBT

Let me take you back to 12 March 2016, at some ungodly time in the morning when I carted myself off to Sydney International Airport to catch a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong, and then on to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.


You may detect a theme here, when I say that I was heading off to Cambodia to celebrate a very good friends significant birthday, with a bunch of people from all over the word, but mainly from Australia.

I would be overnighting in Phnom Penh at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, and then be driven south to the modernist beachside resort of Kep where the birthday celebrations were to be held.

After a week there, back to Phnom Penh for a night, and then off to Hong Kong to join up with my partner – now husband – to spend some time in Hong Kong and Macau before heading back home to Sydney.

Premium Economy

If you follow the blog, then you probably know that my preferred cabin when travelling long haul international is Business Class. However, sometimes neither my bank account nor my frequent flyer points balance are sufficiently flush to afford Business. As a rough rule of thumb, we will look at Premium Economy if it’s a daytime flight, and Business if it’s an overnight flight and affordable. With Asia about 8 to 10 hours away from Sydney, a daytime flight, if available is perfectly do-able. Oh yes, and business class was ridiculously expensive at the time we needed to fly, and we were saving our frequent flyer points for First Class flights in 2017.

Oh, and this was the first time I would be travelling internationally on a flight by myself since 1988. That’s a gap of 28 years! I was kind of mildly anxious.

a screen on an airplane

Flight Details

Flight: CX 110
Route: Sydney (SYD) Hong Kong (HKG)
Date: Saturday, 12 March 2016
Depart: 8:45 AM
Arrive: 15:05 PM
Duration: 9 hr 20 min
Aircraft: A330-300
Seat: 31C (Premium Economy)

The Airport

I am no longer an early riser. I used to be, but now, not so much. Getting up on time to catch an 8:45 am international flight is not my idea of fun. Usually I regard a 2pm flight as just about right – time enough to wake at a normal time, pack and get ready to arrive and spend an appropriate amount of time at the lounge. So, my mood was not good.

a room with black chairs and a table
Qantas Business lounge – nearly empty

On arrival at the airport, I went to the checkin counter, and queued in the priority lane due to my then Sapphire OneWorld status. I wanted to see if I could get a cheap upgrade to business. The attendant needed to go away and find out how much. I had in my head a comfort figure of AU$500, although secretly, I would have had a dilemma if they had said AU$1,000. Today was not the day that dilemma would be my concern. The cost to upgrade was basically the difference between my fare and full-fare business class, at over AU$3,000. No last minute checkin counter discount here.

Clutching my Premium Economy ticket, I strode through departure and headed for the Qantas Business Lounge.

a plate of food and a cup of coffee

The Airport was relatively quiet for departures, and the Qantas lounge was almost empty! I hoed into some coffee and bacon & eggs, with a harsh brown, followed by my usual morning travel drink of preference – the Bloody Mary.

a glass of liquid with ice and a straw


Boarding of our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes – which is not what you want to hear, when you are not an early riser.

a man sitting in a chair with a television on the back
Menus and newspapers were distributed prior to takeoff

The Premium Economy cabin on the A330 is quite small, consisting of only 3 rows in a 2-3-2 formation totalling 21 seats. That’s 7 seats across the cabin, compared to 8 in Economy.

The seats are 19.3 inches wide, with a 38 inch pitch. That compares with a economy which has 18 inch wide seats, and a pitch of 32 inches. Seat backs have an entertainment screen, a sort of shelf, coat hook,

Premium Economy sits directly behind the business class mini cabin, which also has three rows. The Premium Economy cabin doesn’t have its own bathrooms, so you need to head forward into business class which is not encouraged, or back into economy.

a toilet and sink with soap bottles on the counter

Boarding was pretty efficient, and I settled into my aisle seat, with another passenger in the window seat. We acknowledged each other, but neither of us were big talkers until the end of the flight – fortunately.

a person looking at a shelf on an airplane

The Flight

Jenny, who was the flight attendant in-charge/purser/cabin manager, or whatever, introduced herself to all sapphire and above OneWorld status flyers. Next up hot-towels, and Amenity bags.

a fabric with birds design

Ammenities were meagre, when compared to business class, although I did quite like the printed felt ‘purse’ they came in from Goods of Desire (who are doing some rather nice face masks at the moment). Contents included socks, eye shades, ear plugs, discount card, toothbrush and toothpaste.

a group of items on a surface

I used everything except the discount card.

Menu’s were also distributed prior to takeoff, detailing breakfast and lunch options. Breakfast offered eastern and western options, while the lunch menu provided 4 options, including east and west and a vegetarian option.

a menu of a restaurant

The menu included a list of drinks options. It’s a fairly short list, as you can see, and not a sparkling or shiraz in sight, and only chardonnay if you drink white.

a menu of a wine list

We headed to the runway 35 minutes late at about 09:20 am and took off on the north/south runway, heading north and over my house.

Once we were in the air and the seat belt sign was off, we were offered drinks as well as bottled water.

a croissant and a container of yogurt

The Food

Given our flight was over 9 hours, there were two food services – breakfast and lunch.

I opted for the Cheese omelette and croissant, which was served with some fresh fruit and yoghurt and lurpack butter and roll, all on the one tray.

a tray of food with different types of food

On the 1 to 10 scale of aircraft served omelettes it was about a 6.

a close up of a device
I think this rail was for hanging your iPad from.

After breakfast, I settled down to some entertainment system viewing . . .

a group of people in a city

. . . some newspaper reading, and a nap until lunch time.

a group of newspapers in a pocket of a seat

Again, Lunch was served on one tray and I opted for the garlic herbed chicken, zucchini, beans and Lyonnaise potato, and some more chardonnay.

a tray with food in it

Look, the meal wasn’t remarkable, but perfectly acceptable for a flight of this length. I think I was more disapointed about the lack of wine options.

a tray of food on a table


We arrived just about the time, when the seat was becoming uncomfortable, and I was missing the ability to actually lie down, that a business class seat would have afforded.

We had made up some time in the air given our 35 minute delay in departure. I had a scheduled 55 min transfer in Hong Kong to catch a 16:00 flight on to Phnom Penh on a Dragon Air A320. Jenny had stopped by to assure me that I would be assisted on arrival to make my connection. Sure enough, there was a Cathay representative waiting on the air bridge, that guided two of us through security, immigration and the corridors of the airport, and got us to our next flight on time, despite my transfer companion needing a toilet stop along the way.

a group of people sitting in an airplane
Dragon Air A320 cabin

The transfer process was incredibly efficient – when you are guided by someone who facilitates queue jumping!

a white object with a switch
Dragon Air flight seat back

Next up was our 2 hour 40 minute flight on to Phnom Penh, with no seat back entertainment. I dozed.

2PAXfly Takeout

I love digital, except when my phone dies, which happened to me on the last night of my recent visit to New Zealand

The most important thing to note about Cathay Pacific Premium Economy – as I said to my partner back in Sydney, before he was about to fly out to join me a week later

Just remember its Premium ECONOMY, not Business LIGHT.

Premium Economy is much cheaper than business, and you do get a better seat with more recline, greater pitch, and on the A330, a nice intimate cabin. However catering, service and especially refreshments are not even close to business.

For a 9 hour daytime flight, Premium economy was fine, and definitely a step up from Economy. On a daytime flight – I would do this again. If the flight was overnight – I think I would go for Business.

It was also strange not having my partner to gossip with. The trip home together was much more enjoyable.

people sitting on an airplane
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Premium Economy in seat 31H on the return journey Hong Kong to Sydney
Other Posts in the Series
<< #TBT: The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, India#TBT: Review – Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia >>

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