Business Class vs. Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific Airways

cathay pacific business class vs premium economy

I wish I could say I fly business class all the time and this is nothing new to me, but I’m normal, so I can’t say that (yet). But I can say that — I get it now. I get why people spend thousands of dollars on flying in business class. I’ve flown first class on domestic flights a handful of times. Just the ones with larger seats and free wine, nothing too fancy. When I went to China in 2014, three of my flights were in premium economy, and one (a short flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong) was in business class (all on Cathay Pacific).

That one short business class flight (in a “pod” as they are sometimes referred to) didn’t really give me the full international flight business class experience because the flight was so short.

My most recent trip to Hong Kong was roundtrip business class from New York to Hong Kong, and wow does it make a MAJOR difference. I’ll tell you why.

Premium economy is a great option if you don’t want to/can’t spend what a business class ticket costs, but you also really can’t handle economy for 15 hours. In premium economy on Cathay Pacific, the seats are like recliners. They are large, much more comfortable than economy, and they recline really far. When I flew in premium economy it was half empty, so everyone had their own row on top of basically having a recliner.

On my first premium economy flight (from NYC to Hong Kong) I slept on and off, but had a major crick in my neck upon arriving in Hong Kong. I wised up and bought a neck pillow while in Hong Kong, and I slept much better on my flight home. My sleep was still on and off because you aren’t fully flat, but it was considerably more comfortable than economy.

business class on cathay pacific airlines

Business class is a completely different ballgame. I mean it is SO NICE for so many reasons but these were the five main reasons:

1 // You have your own private pod. You literally don’t have to see/talk/sit next to anyone, it’s great.

2 // You can lie completely flat. Your seat basically turns into a bed. This my friends is a major major difference. Lying down flat meant that instead of sleeping two hours here, one hour there, and frequently waking up to change positions, I literally slept for eight hours straight. On a plane.

Being able to actually sleep well on a flight meant that even with jet lag, I was a much more normal person when I arrived half way around the world (and jet lag from the US to Asia is no joke). I see why this is so important if you are traveling for business. Can you imagine getting off a 15-hour flight and going straight to a meeting where you have to present something, or be on your game? Being comfortable, having privacy, and sleeping means that you can be on your game. You can feel normal after a 15-hour flight.

The difference (for me at least) was massive, and I see why people are so crazy about airline credit cards points for traveling and upgrading because it’s amazing. When you start to get into flights that are 10+ hours, I think that the upgrade can change how you feel for several days.

Because I could lie completely flat I actually didn’t even need my neck pillow. I was shocked by this.

3 // Pillow and cozy blanket are provided. This was the first time on a flight I actually didn’t need my scarf (which I always bring with me) because the blanket was warm enough for me.

4 // Table, shelf, cubbie, plugin. Having space to set things down, and store things near your seat is great. In premium economy I had my inflight pouch (with things like lip balm, moisturizer, and eye drops) just sitting on one side of me, and a bottle of water on the other. In business class, you have a place to put those things next to your seat (not in your seat with you or in the overhead compartment above). It’s just much nicer to not have to fish out your water bottle from behind your back or have your in-flight pouch constantly fall on the floor.

There was also a USB plugin for your phone, and an outlet for your computer cord. So you can work longer than the three hours that your laptop battery lasts, and you can arrive with a fully charged phone.

5 // Business class bathrooms. It’s not that the bathrooms are any nicer or bigger, but in premium economy you share the bathrooms with economy, which just means that they are constantly being used. In business class the bathrooms were just much cleaner because they weren’t used nearly as often, simply because there are far less people in business class than economy and premium economy.


To me, those were the main differences between premium economy and business class on Cathay Pacific. I know the food and menu in business class is better, but honestly, my main food takeaway was the ice cream. I had my choice of multiple flavors, and then asked the flight attendants for more, which they gladly gave me. This might be the same in premium economy and economy, so I don’t know that that was any different. I can say that I was never hungry or thirsty because they were happy to give me whatever I wanted when I asked for it. But the flight attendants in premium economy were the same. The service on Cathay Pacific is wonderful. They are the nicest people who seem like they really enjoy their job.

The TV was fairly large for a plane and the selection of entertainment was great. I actually don’t see a ton of movies out in theaters so when I fly I catch up on them. I watched three movies on the way to Hong Kong, and three movies on the way back. On a 15-hour flight, you can watch three movies and still sleep for eight hours.

After two 15-hour flights in business class, I can say that once it’s something I can afford, I would definitely always fly that way for long flights. I just felt like a completely different person versus flying economy. It makes the experience of flying so much more enjoyable. You really don’t feel like you are on a plane. I felt like I was in a movie theater, and then in a bed.

I obviously haven’t experienced enough to compare business classes on different airlines (yet) but I was extremely pleased with the service, the plane, and the experience.

Have you flown in a business class pod? Did you feel the difference was worth upgrading for?


Items shown in photo: Luana Italy Circe Satchel / Kate Spade Colbie Flats (sold out, similar and similar) / Cuyana Leather Passport Case 


Thanks to Carolyn for snapping the first pic.

My flights were provided by Cathay Pacific Airways. My opinions are an honest account of my experience.