Today (September 15, 2017): Travel tip: Singapore Airlines vs Cathay Pacific: which one is best?
Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines rank among the best airlines in the world for flying Business Class. Both carriers have scored numerous international awards for their revolutionary seat concept, world-class lounges, and refined service. Whether they like that or not, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are often compared (and even benchmarked) with each other because they both have their hubs in South East Asia (making both airlines an evident choice if you have to travel to, from or via this region) and simply because of the fact they both have a solid reputation as the world’s top carriers creating a standard which others find difficult to follow. Both airlines feature in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the best airlines for longhaul First Class, and the best airlines for in-flight meals. Over the past few years, I have published several trip reports onboard Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines (although I flew them many times as well before I started my blog 3 years ago):
- Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class Düsseldorf to Singapore
- Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City
- Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
- Cathay Pacific A350-900 Business Class Düsseldorf to Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Doha to Hong Kong
Recently, I was asked by several followers of my blog and Youtube channel whether there is any difference in the Business Class experience offered by these renowned Asian carriers, and which one is best. So I decided to write down a summary of the main differences in the Business Class products offered by Cathay Pacific versus Singapore Airlines, but keep in my mind that this is mostly a reflection of my own opinion. You can share your opinion below in the comments section or take my poll.
- Chauffeur service: I have to disappoint you here. Contrary to some of the Middle Eastern carriers (e.g. Emirates and Etihad Airways), Cathay Pacific nor Singapore Airlines offers complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers for Business Class passengers.
- Airport: Cathay Pacific operates from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), while Singapore Airlines has Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) at its home base. Both hubs rank among the best airports in the world, offering decent restaurants, world-class shopping with haute boutiques, and a wide range of leisure facilities, from movie theaters to golf courses (HKG) and rooftop pools (SIN). Although Hong Kong Airport has a more impressive look – with soaring spaces bathed in daylight under a vaulted roof – Singapore Changi Airport is my preferred airport, because of its clockwork efficiency (with one of the world’s best on-time performances), phenomenal shopping malls, and exceptional service.
- Lounges: Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific manage some of the most exclusive and luxurious airline lounges at their hubs of SIN and HKG respectively. There’s not much difference in experience here, since the lounges of both airlines offer restaurants with excellent buffet food, comfortable seating, plenty of showers, and state-of-the-art business centers (I have reviewed several of these lounges in the trip reports mentioned above). If I have to declare one airliner the winner in the lounge category, it would be Cathay Pacific, simply because its lounges feature a stylish and sleek ‘homey’ design that is somewhat lacking in the Singapore Airlines lounges.
- Fleet-wide consistency: Both airlines operate an all wide body fleet, composed of A380, A350, A330 and B777 planes for Singapore Airlines and B777, A350 and Q330 planes for Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific offers a consistent Business Class product across most of its wide-body fleet (with the exception a few B777s with a regional configuration), while Singapore Airlines offers a more variable Business Class product across its wide-body fleet, with its top-notch Business Class product available only on its A380s, A350s and most of its B777s (including all B777-300ERs), while all of its A330s and some B777-200ER feature a less impressive but still excellent regional product.
- Cabin interior & design: All aircraft of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific boost an elegant decor in their Business Class cabins. The cabin interiors of Singapore Airlines were developed by James Parker Associated – the company that also created the opulent interiors of the Orient Express – with a color palette that is a mix of bronzy gold, beige, purple, and chocolate-brown, with plush checked throw pillows and dark leather seats. Cathay Pacific’s planes feature a more understated, white and minimalist kind of modernism, which is more to my liking. The neutral white color palette of the cabin and suite shelves is given a subtile touch of vibrancy with green seat cushions and light grey carpets, while small but elegant white floral displays decorate the cabin, adding to the overall luxurious feel.
- Cabin layout: One need to take the aircraft type into account when evaluating the cabin layout. In Singapore Airlines’ wide-body fleet, the Business Class seats all face forward, offer direct aisle access, and are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, except for its A330 and B777 planes with regional configuration which feature a standard 2-2-2 Business Class seat layout. Cathay Pacific’s aircraft – with the exception of its regionally outfitted B777s – have a somewhat similar 1-2-1 layout as found on Singapore Airlines, although the reverse herringbone configuration offers a slightly greater amount of privacy since seats on the side are angled toward the window, while the seats in the middle are angled towards each other. IMHO, the best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to mediocre):
- Cathay Pacific B777, A330, and A350
- Singapore A380, A350 and B777
- Singapore A330 and B777 (with regional configuration)
- Cathay Pacific B777 (with regional configuration)
- Business Class seat & flatbed: We have a clear winner here: Cathay Pacific. The Business Class seat on Cathay Pacific’s A350 is a so-called Cirrus seat, manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace and probably the best Business Class seat in the sky. It offers plenty of space, privacy, storage room, and turns into an excellent flatbed where you are not hampered in your sleep by any obstacles. Singapore Airlines on the other hand offers at first sight an impressive seat onboard its A380, A350 and B777 planes, a seat which is said to be the widest in the industry; however, while the seat is hard to beat in the upright position, it’s a different story when fully reclined since you need to lay diagonally on the bed and force your feet in a narrow cubby at the end of the bed instead of spreading them free. Also, onboard Singapore Airlines, when you want to turn the seat in a bed, you need to put the seat first to its upright position, stand up yourself, and then manually fold the seatback forward (or call the crew for some assistance), while deploying the flat-bed is a very easy straightforward process onboard Cathay Pacific, with just one push on the button while you remain seated.
- Duvets: Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offer duvets on longhaul flights to enhance the sleeping comfort.
- Food: While it still offers excellent, above average in-flight meals, I have never been wowed by the taste nor presentation of the food onboard Cathay Pacific, where all meal courses are often served at once on a single tray. My best gastronomic experiences in the sky ever (so far) were always on Singapore Airlines, which deservedly enjoys a stellar culinary reputation, guaranteed by its collaboration with world-acclaimed chefs who own Michelin-starred restaurants, like Singaporean culinary maestro Sam Leong, Suzanne Goin of Los Angeles’ Lucques, Carlo Cracco of the Michelin two-star restaurant of the same name in Milan, and Matthew Moran of one of Sydney’s finest restaurants. Singapore Airlines is also famous for its “Book the Cook” service where you can select your gourmet main course from a premium selection of dishes at least 24 hours before departure, although Cathay Pacific has recently started offering this feature as well on selected flights.
- Inflight entertainment: Singapore Airlines offers the best inflight entertainment product, with the industry’s largest TV screens (unfortunately, no touch screens though) and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options. Singapore Airlines now also offers a Companion App onboard its A350 planes that allows you to discover what is playing on its inflight entertainment system even before you step onboard. Via the app, you can browse content pre-flight and place movies and TV shows in a folder that you can access on board by linking your smartphone to your tv screen. That said, Cathay Pacific offers an impressive range of entertainment as well, with the added show-factor of cameras attached to the plane’s belly and tail (cameras are not installed on any of Singapore Airlines’ aircraft).
- WiFi: I’ll never understand why most airlines don’t offer complimentary WiFi to Business Class passengers – who already payed thousands of dollars for a Business Class ticket – and it’s not different for Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, who both offer WiFi for a fee. Singapore Airlines offers WiFi onboard all of its Airbus A380, A350 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at the following rates: US$11.95 for one hour; US$16.95 for 3 hours; and US$21.95 for the entire flight. Connectivity is also installed on Cathay Pacific’s A350s (albeit currently not available on the carrier’s B777 and A330 fleet) and charged at the following rates: for regional flights under six hours, unlimited internet costs $13 USD, and $20 USD for flights over six hours; to hop online for a single hour on any A350 flight will cost $10 USD. Quality of the WiFi speed is comparable onboard both carriers.
- Amenity kit: Cathay Pacific is the only one of the two carriers that offers a Business Class amenity kit. Yes, you read that right. Singapore Airlines doesn’t offer amenity kits in Business Class on any flight; passengers in its premium cabin only receive slippers, socks, and eyeshades, while bathroom amenities – such as shaving kits, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand lotion and perfume – are available though in the toilets. Cathay Pacific’s Business Class amenity kit has been created by Seventy Eight Percent, a Hong Kong-based design company that creates high-quality bags for globetrotting professionals. The wash bag contains Jurlique products (natural lip care balm, balancing day care dream, and citrus hand cream), anti-skid socks, eyeshade, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs and monitor-cleaning cloth.
IMHO, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offer a top-notch Business Class products that out-classes most of its competitors (with the exception of the Middle Eastern Carriers). Although it’s a close call, I slightly prefer the Singapore Airlines’ Business Class experience, because of the excellent facilities at Changi Airport, the delicious onboard food, the carrier’s legendary service, and the superb inflight entertainment (but why did they not install plane cameras onboard their aircraft will always remain a mystery to me).
What’s your favorite carrier: Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines? You can leave a comment below or take my poll!