I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a recent flight from LA to Hong Kong. Sure, I was eager to get to Asia and commence a trip I was planning, but there was that 12-hour time span cramped in an aluminum tube hurtling across timezones to deal with first. We’ve all been there and know it can be a travel buzz-kill─ a dispiriting experience for even the most seasoned travelers. The dreaded “long-haulitis” of “Kingergarten Kop” quality films, tasteless food and bashed knees are all too common in modern air travel.
Thankfully, what I found aboard Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 747-400 departing LAX was something altogether different: the airline has just completed outfitting its entire long-haul fleet with new seat configurations that make flying ─dare I say it─pleasant. First Class passengers style-out in what the airline bills as a “private relaxation suite.” It is indeed pretty sweet, with a wide ergonomic seat that can be used as an armchair, chaise lounge or extra long (81”) and wide (36”) bed that is one of the largest offered on any commercial airline. Throw in the duvet and lumbar massage function and you have a pretty cozy nest for the ominous red-eye. I flew Business Class, which also has a welcoming flat bed configuration, along with in-seat power, mood lighting (trust me, after about 8 hours, this matters) and a 15-inch tilt panel screen loaded with cool fare ranging from Hong Kong action flicks to several seasons of Ali G.
And although it’s not unusual for an airline to pamper its higher paying customers with upgraded configurations, what’s also significant about the Cathay retrofit is they haven’t forgotten economy passengers. Tall travelers like myself who have had their knees abused by fellow passengers in the row ahead can now literally rest easy knowing precious in-flight slumber wont be interrupted by an unwanted knee-capping delivered by a full force recline into one’s patella. The new Economy seat configuration is a “fixed back” design, meaning even if the front passenger does recline, the space provided to the person seated behind wont be compromised, the first such seat in the industry. In addition, the seat frame and structure has been designed to maximize knee and shin clearance and remove awkward fixtures and fittings that undermine comfort.
Finally, my super gracious and efficient attendants named Maggie and Doodle (how does one not smile when saying that name) and meals featuring tasty dim sum, French wine, and Haagen Dazs certainly helped ease the hours too.