Continental or Cathay Pacific Airlines

Oct 17th, 2006, 05:46 AM
  #1  
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Continental or Cathay Pacific Airlines

My good friend recently took a new job in Hong Kong and I'm thinking of going to visit him. From New York I can choose either fly Continental or Cathay Pacific for about the same price. Both of them offer direct non-stop service and the flight times are similar.

Do any of you have experience flying either airline direct from New York to Hong Kong? Which one would you choose?

Thanks!

Jenn

p.s. I prefer to fly non-stop, that is why I'm concentrating on these two choices.
jenn24 is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 06:15 PM
  #2  
 
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I have flown the Continental flight about a half dozen times. I have flown Cathay too many times to count here in Asia and flown Cathay from Hong Kong-Vancouver twice. I think the service is a bit better on Cathay. Food to me is about the same, its all airplane food and pretty average. Entertainment is probably better on Continental.

ďDirectĒ and ďnon stopĒ mean TWO different things. The first means you have a stop but you may or may not have to get off the plane during the stop. The second means you donít stop at all. Check to make sure. The Continental flight is a true non-stop, it takes off and lands once each. However, there are some Cathay flights which go out of JFK which make a stop in Vancouver on their way to and from Hong Kong (CX 889 and 888). To the best of my recollection, everyone landing in Vancouver has to get off the plane during the stop; which on the way out to Hong Kong is late at night and on the way back is early in the morning. In any event, it does add to the overall length of the flight, and if you are trying to sleep, will disturb your sleep, as when the new passengers get on board, lights will be on etc. Then they will serve a meal which means lights will be on for the first 2-3 hours or so.

I prefer going out of Newark to JFK. Itís smaller and easier to handle IMO. Immigration and Customs arrival is pretty smooth and they have a big area. Continental has its own dedicated terminal there which is nice as well.

You donít indicate what class of service you are considering. I have never flown in coach on either (but hey I have only had to pay for it myself twice in 20 years of doing this route), so canít speak for comfort in economy class. In general, Cathay tends to use Airbuses, and I find that their seats are not that comfortable. Their aircraft is also a bit older. However, on the US route they may use newer planes with flat bed seats, this is something you would have to check. I last did the Hong Kong-Vancouver flight in March, and they did NOT have flat beds in business class. Continental business/first does not have flat beds, but their seats are comfortable, IMO.

Finally, you should look at the mileage program for both and whether and where you can use the pretty big number of miles you will be earning for this flight. Can you use them on a partner airline? If Cathay has better partner airlines, then go with them. If you donít expect to be doing much more travel in Asia, then Continental may be better as you can use the miles for US or European travel.

Otherwise, if you can really get the Cathay ďnon stopĒ (CX 831 and 830) and donít mind going out of JFK, donít mind Airbuses, can use the miles with their program on them or a partner airline, and the fare is the same, then you could certainly go with them.


Cicerone is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 09:33 PM
  #3  
 
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Aircraft:

CO uses the 777-200ER for the route, while CX uses the A340-600 for its non-stop 830/831. All very new planes. CO's Boeing has a higher cruising speed, so flight time is about half an hour shorter than CX's, each way.

Seat:

CO has two classes, coach and BusinessFirst; CX has three classes. I think you're flying coach. CO is 3-3-3 with 31" pitch; CX is 2-4-2, 32" pitch. CO's seats are tiny bit wider than CX's.

If you're flying business, then you have a choice to make. CO has cradle seat (not flat), but most find them pretty comfortable, and are wider. CX has angled lie-flat (not horizontal). Some like them, some don't.

Entertainment:

Both have individual screens, and CX has slightly more video choices, though neither has AVOD (Audio/Video On Demand, which you can start/stop/pause).

Food:

CO's coach food is very mediocre, though they do give you ice-cream midflight, usually. CX should be slightly better. However, if you're going business class, then CO's BF stuff is pretty decent.

Flight attendants:

CX's definitely more attractive, if that's important to you. That includes the males too.

Lounge:

If you're flying business or first, then you can use CX's lounges at HKG. Those are some of the nicest clubs in the world. CO uses Dragonair's instead in HKG.

Airport:

EWR vs JFK basically comes down to which is more convenient for you.

FF miles:

Even though the fare may be the same for you, don't overlook FF miles. Roundtrip on CO earn you 16,120 miles on CO, NW or DL's program. That's over half a domestic roundtrip ticket.

Most discount CX fares earn you zero CX's Asiamiles or AA's AAdvantage, though check with Alaska Airline's program to see if you earn AS' miles.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 11:16 AM
  #4  
pep
 
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What's and angled lie-flat?? I'm booked business class on Cathay's flights from jfk-Vancouver-HK and returning HK-LA next month. Just curious what I'm getting.

Thanks
pep is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 11:28 AM
  #5  
 
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pep - It means while the bed is flat, it's not horizontal to the floor. Your feet will be closer to the floor than your head. That's how they can put a bed in, with just a 55-60" pitch.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 12:06 PM
  #6  
pep
 
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Thanks for the quick response. I'll be in HK for 8 days. This my first time so I'll do the usual (peak, soho, star ferry, trams, escalators, closer-in islands). Any off the beaten path, less touristy things that you would recommend??
pep is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 01:42 PM
  #7  
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Thanks for the detailed reply's both of you!

I'm still waiting to see about the vacation days, but hopefully I'll be in Hong Kong for about 8 days.

Jenn
jenn24 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 07:57 PM
  #8  
 
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Cicerone and rkkwan, you guys make quite the team!! Your attention to detail and willingness to share is really really appreciated by all of us!

My family and I are planning a trip to the People's Republic of China next May-June, 2007. We leave from Boston and will go first to Beijing. On our return, we plan to fly out of Hong Kong back to Boston. From what you write and what I've heard from fellow Fodorites like rhkkmk, it sounds like the non-stop service Continental out of Newark may be a very good way for us to go. If you can offer any other advice or suggestions for satisfying flights to and from Boston, I will pay attention! Thank you for all that you offer on Fodor's Asian Board!

Terry
terryr is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 10:37 PM
  #9  
 
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terryr - From Boston, UA works just as well in terms of schedule. They have non-stop from Chicago and San Francisco to both Beijing and Hong Kong. So, it's one-stop for both legs for you, just like Continental.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 01:51 AM
  #10  
 
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I personally don't like changing at O'Hare, way too big, you often have to take a train between terminals. It's also such a busy airport and lots of delays in my experience. (I do have friends who flew home once from HK on UA via ORD and their connecting flight was cancelled due to thunderstorms and they were stuck in ORD overnight and literaly all the hotels were full, but that could happen at any airport so I try not to hold that against O'Hare.) But look at layover times, if one is longer that might be a deciding factor as well.
Cicerone is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 08:14 AM
  #11  
 
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Mind you that while I like CO and fly them often, transfering BOS-EWR-HKG isn't the easiest either. That's because BOS flights use Terminal A at EWR, and it requires a shuttle bus to get back to Terminal C when it is running, or have to use the monorail and reclear security in case it's not.

Also, while EWR doesn't see as many snowstorms as ORD, it can still happen. And thunderstorms in summer cause havoc - and I think terryr says she's going then.

Oh, I don't know about the timetable for next summer to PEK, but while UA's 777s have personal video screens, their 747s don't. [HKG is always 747.] CO's 777 on both routes do have them.

Anyhow, go check the schedule. I just don't think for BOS flyers, one airline is significantly better than the other.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 08:59 AM
  #12  
 
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Many thanks, rkkwan and Cicerone, for your additional feedback. It doesn't sound like you have a strong leaning for one of the USA airlines over the other (CO vs. UA). I will check into both's schedules and assess the cost of business vs. economy class as well...if we go business class, does this mean that our luggage for overseas travel can weigh in more? But then again, if we reach the airlines' maximum luggage weight for international flights, we will have problems with the weight maximum allowed on our interior flights with Air China while in PRC. How do travelers manage this (besides paying for the extra cost? is it very costly on Air China?). Other travelers, feel free to join in on the convesation...I don't want rkkwan and Cicerone to feel like they have to be the only ones answering! Thank you.
terryr is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:54 AM
  #13  
 
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CO or other US airlines allow at least 50lb x 2 of checked luggage. Do you have that much to haul. And the cost of a business class ticket is at least $4,000, compared to $1,000 for coach. You can ship lots of stuff to Asia for $3,000.

Do you have that much stuff to bring into or out of China. If you're buying lots of stuff, then just pay for the extra fees. Or fly domestic First Class within China. Or just mail the stuff home.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:58 AM
  #14  
 
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Wow, I have not yet checked pricing so am unaware that it was that much of a price differential. Rkkwan, your points are well taken! Thank you.
terryr is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 10:20 AM
  #15  
 
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Air Canada may be another option. You can fly NS (non stop) from Boston to Totonto, and NS Toronto to Beijing. Then, NS from Hong Kong to Toronto, and NS Toronto back to Boston.

Issues are if you can check your luggages all the way through in either direction. And if you have to go through customs and immigration at Toronto.
lxchiang is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 10:24 PM
  #16  
 
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Business class CO allows THREE checked pieces, has been for over a year. I believe other airline allowance is now the same, they are trying to encourage people to check. If you don't mind paying, business class is far, far more comfortable IMO for those long haul flights. Also, on most coach flights, coach passengers are not allowed to walk the entire lenght of the plane, i.e. you are not allowed to walk up into business class if you want excercise, but business class passengers can go anywhere they want. Crazy I know, they claim its for "security", but I think its just crowd control...on long haul flights you want to get up and move every once in a while. Also, if you are concerned with luggage, look into the cost of business class on intra-China flights; often the cost is not much more than economy, and then you can usually check more luggage. You also get much shorter check-in lines and a lounge.
Cicerone is offline  
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