Flight Test: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy
Route: Auckland to Hong Kong
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Seat width and length: Not quite the lie-flat luxury of Business, nor the canned sardines routine of Economy, Premium Economy offers a seat pitch of 38 inches, six inches more than the cheap seats, and the seat itself is wider and has a longer recline.
The meals trays fold into the immovable armrest, stopping me from making the most of having no neighbour and turning the two seats into a DIY SkyCouch.
Configuration: The new Premium Economy 30-seat cabin is laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration and it is just over half full, which suits this tired traveller fine.
Flight time and performance: We were ten minutes leaving Auckland and landed ten minutes late in Hong Kong because of "air traffic control delays", not because we left Auckland ten minutes late.
Seat: 33A, which is the only seat in Premium Economy that shares the small window with my neighbour to the front, so between that and his insistence on persistent seat reclining means we're soon the best of passive-aggressive pals.
Being 6'2" I can appreciate the extra legroom and recline, but older travellers may think, 'Hey, isn't this how much space we used to have in cattle class?'
Luggage allowance: Plenty. 25kgs checked and two cabin baggage pieces, which is ideal for those heading to the shopping Mecca of Hong Kong.
Entertainment: The in-flight entertainment, dubbed Studio CX, is on a 10.6 inch touch screen offers a myriad of entertainment options, from TV series box sets, to Hollywood blockbusters and art house movies and enough K-Pop and Fleetwood Mac to make the most of the noise-cancelling headphones, which are standout.
Although at least four minutes of ads before each episode does gets tad annoying when enjoying a Parks and Recreation marathon.
Food and beverages: Menu options are 'enhanced' for Premium Economy passengers, with at least one meal mirroring the Business Class offering.
The beef noodle stir-fry and feta and spinach stuffed roast chicken are delicious, the NZ Natural Hokey Pokey was a nice touch too.
The bread, like all I have tried at 30,000ft, is rock hard (Why can KFC master soft bread rolls, but no airline I've flown can get them right?)
The wines on offer come from Bordeaux and Napa Valley, are exceptionally good and, like the onboard snacks, just keep coming.
Service: Efficient enough and Premium Economy passengers get priority check-in and boarding which was a huge bonus on a very full flight.
But the cabin crew were a bit impersonal and robotic, no "Hi, how are you?" around here. Getting my drink topped up and scoring an extra pillow was easy, but getting a smile was not.
Amenities: This is hot-towel-on-arrival territory. The usual blanket and pillow were complimented with flight socks, earplugs, eye mask, tooth brush and dental floss. The little things.
Toilets: Clean with nice touches like cleansers and moisturisers (which somebody eventually nicked off with), but being diagonally opposite from my seat, I have to keep passing through the curtained off galley each time I use them, which is slightly awkward.
Lounge access: Cathay Pacific's arrangement with Air New Zealand means travellers on either airline's Auckland-Hong Kong route can enjoy the Koru Lounge in Auckland if you're entitled to and on the return journey you can use one of Cathay's six lounges in Hong Kong's huge airport.
The verdict: The Premium Economy seat, itself comes with a premium of around 50-60 per cent on top of standard economy.
It is not overly lavish, but on a 10+ hour flight for work (read as: the boss is paying) this option lets you work, watch, eat and sleep in relative comfort and hopefully without the intimate details of your neighbour's life story.
However, holidaymakers might find better value opting for nice hotel rooms and retail therapy in Hong Kong.
Flight frequency: Cathay Pacific flies Auckland to Hong Kong twice daily throughout summer.
The writer flew Auckland to Hong Kong courtesy of Cathay Pacific.
- © Fairfax NZ News