One of the best use of British Airways Avios is for short haul/regional flights. For my March trip, I spent 7500 Avios for one way Club Europe between London and Munich. Intra-Asia flights are also a good way to use your Avios, where a one way Business Class from Singapore to Hong Kong cost only 20,000 Avios (vs 30,000 for Asia Miles prior to devaluation). The tax cost about SGD $50-60 per person.
I intended to redeem the SIN-HKG direct flight but due to mistake on my part, I did not manage to get the ticket on time and the availability was gone by the time I tried to redeem it. Hence, I ended up with CX 711 that flies thru Bangkok.
Cathay Pacific operates out of the new Changi Terminal 4 since 31 October 2017. Terminal 4 is serving mainly smaller airlines such as Air Asia and Cebu Airlines. Cathay seems to be the most prominent mainstream airlines operating out of Terminal 4, the other being Vietnam Airlines. The move allows Cathay to have their own dedicated lounge (previously, they contracted Dnata Lounge in Terminal 1).
Terminal 4 differs from Terminal 1 – 3 in that the terminal is heavily centred on automated kiosks. For Cathay Pacific, they have a small counter area dedicated to serving First, Business and tiered passengers only. The counters are so inconspicuous that one may miss it easily! Check in was very fast although the ground crew was a little unsure if we need to deplane in Bangkok. I read from Flyertalk that one will remain on-board but the info she gave me was the exact opposite. I was even issued a Lounge Pass for my Bangkok layover! Turnout that she was wrong, and I had to remain on-board during the layover (which was my preference as 1 hour was too short for me to do a lounge stop).
The other difference between Terminal 4 and the other terminals are the central security screening. Once one is through the immigration counter (or automated kiosks), you will come to the centralised security screening (similar to what you would encounter in major airports in Europe and USA). I personally like this system as I don’t need to trouble myself to go through the security check just before boarding. The disadvantage however is that when it gets busy, the queue will be long and there is no priority queue in Terminal 4. Thankfully, the crowd is still relatively light in Terminal 4 but having a priority lane in place would be good for premium passengers going forward.
Although CX711 has been using their new Airbus A350-900, I was unfortunate to end up in their older A330-300. Thankfully, the A330 was equipped with their long-haul lie flat Business Class seat which is configured in the 1-2-1 reverse herringbone arrangement (rather than their older 2-2-2 regional recliner seat).
The seat has an excellent pitch and is good for a tall person like me, but the seat width is more limited. Thankfully, I could still fit in nicely despite all the eating in the lounge! Unlike SQ seats, there is no need to flip down the back rest to turn the seat into a bed. The seat can be flattened using the controller and it will be flushed with the foot rest to make a flat bed. The seat is comfortable for seating but I feel that it is a little hard to use as a bed (I am not sure if padding is provided for long haul flights).
The arm rest is adjustable, where it can be lowered and stored into the seat. This feature comes in useful in bed mode especially for larger sized passengers. The foot well is a little small, just like those on SQ. The headphone storage compartment functions as a storage space as well but the amount of storage is certainly less than what you would find on SQ’s Business Class seats.
The TV screen is small, measuring only at about 12-14” max. It can be swivelled out even during take-off and landing (unlike those on Air Canada which need to be stowed back). The main tray table is a little small but it is enough for the meal tray. There is a fairly large triangular table next to the seats for drinks.
Noise Cancellation headphones were provided but unlike the Bose set on Singapore Airlines, the one being used by Cathay was not good at all on the noise cancellation. Sound quality was ok, but the inferior noise cancellation makes it less than ideal.
Pre-departure cocktails were served but for both legs SIN-BKK and BKK-HKG, no snacks/nuts were served. Although 2 meals were served on this flight, both were abbreviated meal service due to the short flight time. All 3 course came out simultaneously on a tray (and no table cloth were laid down before meal). You will get an entrée (no options), choice of 3 mains and ice cream as dessert (same for both legs).
The crew confirmed with us that we do not need to deplane in BKK (thankfully). During our one hour layover, we were the only 2 left on-board while the cleaning crew were busy cleaning up and preparing for the next leg. We get to see the entire cleaning process while enjoying our hot tea and some macadamia cookie!
There are 3 toilets serving the whole J cabin (2 forward and 1 rear) – which is much better than MH’s A330 which only has 1 toilet! The toilet is rather dull looking, with a dull green theme and no amenities provided.
How does Cathay’s short haul compared to Singapore Airline’s short haul? (Comparing CX711 to SQ176). Hardware wise, both were using an older generation long haul business products. While SQ seats is better in terms of seat width, the shorter pitch on SQ necessitates one to seat in a slanted manner. For CX, one can sit straight in relation to the axis of the seat in lounging position.
SQ seats felt more comfortable (as I preferred the leather on SQ over the fabric on CX). The reverse herringbone layout gives single travellers more privacy (especially those seated in the middle). Couples will find these seats a little less intimate due to the distance between the seats.
SQ cabin lacks overhead storage for their Business Class while CX cabin still has their overhead compartments intact.
Both flights did not provide any amenities, but at least slippers were provided on SQ (which was not provided on CX).
We were given warm nuts in bowl even on our short flight to Hanoi which was absent on our CX flight (on both sectors).
Although SQ has the advantage of BTC, that depends entirely on what you have ordered. You also get to see your menu prior to your departure. I had no such option on CX. I do feel that Cathay’s food stood out over SQ’s especially on their garlic bread (which was nice soft and fluffy). My wife however disagreed and she felt SQ’s garlic bread was better as it was crunchier. The main dish was quite nicely done too.
I am not sure how SQ short haul’s drink selection is as the only menu distributed was that of the main meal. It was nice of CX to provide a full menu (including a list of the beverage selection). The champagne on this flight was Piper-Heidsieck.
For 20,000 Avios, this is certainly a good way to spend your Avios. It would have been good if I managed to get the A350 instead of A330. It is cheaper than the 27,500 Krisflyer miles needed to fly on Singapore Airlines (unless one managed to snag a ticket during their Spontaneous Escape promotion). Although more limited in terms of transfer partners, British Airways Avios is a transfer partner for Citibank and American Express Cards.