Long haul travel has made the whole world more accessible than ever before. While it is extremely convenient, extended flights can also take a toll on the body.
If you have planned an incredible trip, and are short on time, arriving feeling fresh and ready to immerse yourself in a new country means you can make the most of every minute. So, if you have the choice, what is the difference in booking premium economy or business class seats?
In the interests of research, and thanks to Cathay Pacific, I compared the differences. Before you even arrive at the airport, the ability to check in online with Cathay Pacific is incredibly convenient – it cuts down waiting time at the airport, as you don’t need to be there two or three hours early, and only takes a few minutes to complete.
With 24 hours of flight time ahead of us, it was an absolute pleasure to sink into a much roomier premium economy seat. The fact is, personal space is important. If you are travelling with a friend or partner, my advice would be, let the taller or larger of you travel comfortably. Much is made of plane etiquette when it comes to reclining one’s seat, but with the extra space, you can lean back with ease, without causing the person behind you to feel boxed in.
The food and beverage service is also a step up, and let’s face it, we all love being a bit pampered. From hot towel to the glass of juice or bubbly as you arrive on board, little touches really do make a difference.
Half way to Europe, we had a short stopover in Hong Kong. Here’s where the details really kicked in. Cathay Pacific has six lounges at Hong Kong airport (available to business and first class passengers), and if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth spending the extra money on tickets which will include lounge access, it absolutely is.
Hong Kong airport is a massive international hub – which processes more than 68 million people per year. That makes for extremely organised chaos! The ability to be welcomed into a calm, luxurious environment as you transit is terrific, and changes your whole travel experience.
No matter how many face wipes and changes of clothes you pack, there is nothing like a real shower and a great meal after 12 hours on an aircraft to make you feel like yourself again.
The staff in the lounges are gracious, patient and professional. We had three hours in between flights, so stopped in at The Bridge, with a fabulous view over the runway. After a quick cleansing cocktail, we had a bite to eat – steamed dumplings and vegetables called to me, but whatever timezone your tummy was on, there was something to choose.
After a quick email check (there is wifi in all the lounges), I had time to shower before the next flight. As on board, the Cathay Pacific lounges are generously equipped with Jurlique toiletries, and the showers are spacious and really well appointed.
Out of Zurich, we flew business class, which was simply a treat. Flying across the world and back in a week is fantastic fun, but it does play havoc with your body clock. I had to ‘hit the ground running’ in New Zealand, so some good quality rest was essential, and had had some many wonderful experiences over the previous week, that a bit of solitude to ponder them was perfect. I was unaware of other passengers tucked up in my little pod. The food service was simply divine – how the crew are able to serve steak, so beautifully cooked, was something of a mystery!
I could lie flat with plenty of extra room and slept as well as I had all week, so it seemed like the blink of an eye before we landed in Hong Kong again.
This time, the stop over was much longer, 14 hours, so we had a look around Hong Kong, before returning to the airport to explore the lounges. There is a rail service between the terminals to assist travellers. Firstly, we visited The Wing, where there is both a business class and first class lounge. Both are beautifully appointed and serve an amazing array of food and beverages and offer many options to relax or work, as you need to.
They are light and airy and modern, and have a very welcoming atmosphere, whether you are travelling alone or with a companion.
In preparation for the final leg home to Auckland, I visited first class lounge The Pier. The Pier offers next level comfort for its guests, including a massage service. There were several masseurs working, and I chose a back and neck massage to keep me nice and relaxed for the coming flight. There were other treatments, including hand and foot massages to choose from. It was a gorgeous half hour, and I emerged feeling very spoilt.
To top it off, the showers in The Pier lounge are stunning. I love a rain head shower, and this rivalled the rain storm I’d encountered in the city earlier in the day, only far more luxurious!
My travelling companion and I ordered dinner from a very comprehensive menu, deciding to go for the more Asian style menu, to try something new. It was all superb, accompanied by a lovely glass of bubbles. Very happy, we curled up on the couches in the bar area and waited for our flight to be called.
If you are ever in doubt about whether to spend the extra money on flights, particularly when they include lounge access for long flights, it is absolutely worth it for how you feel during and after the flight. You arrive feeling clear headed, well rested and ready to experience your destination. And rather than feeling somewhat displaced in a bustling airport, the lounges offer a haven where you can recharge and prepare for your next journey.