Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class

Written By: The Planet D

Wondering what the difference is between Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and Business Class? We compare the two and show you what it is like to fly both so you can make an informed choice. 

While flying from Toronto to Hong Kong, we had the opportunity to fly Cathay Pacific premium economy one way and business class the other.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class

We love visiting different countries, but I admit we don’t like flying to them. If we could be beamed up like Star Trek, life would be perfect. While technology isn’t quite there yet, there are ways to make airline travel more enjoyable.

Whenever we fly long distances, we try to take advantage of points to upgrade to business class. We can’t always make that happen, but Cathay Pacific premium economy is a good second option. So, we thought we’d do a little comparison to help you decide if it’s worth the money to invest in business class or not.

It’s showdown time. Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class.

dave champagne cathay pacific business class
Dave enjoying his champagne

Dave and I have flown a lot of airlines and from our point of view, premium economy is always worth the upgrade. Sometimes it’s not much more than the cost of an economy ticket. We’ve seen premium economy tickets as low as $200 for an upgrade.

Premium Economy gives you a lot of the perks you would receive in business class for a fraction of the price.

Cathay Pacific Business Class

cathay pacific premium economy vs business class 9
Deb enjoying her champagne and TV

But, before we tell you about Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy, let me tell you all the perks you get with business class. If you’ve never traveled business class, you are in for a real treat. It can actually ruin you for traveling in coach forever.

Alas, we are not a part of the 1%, so we don’t always get to travel in business, but when we do we relish every moment.

The Perks of Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class

For a flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, business class makes all the difference and can help to make a vacation better. When you get a good night’s sleep before arriving at your destination, you feel refreshed, relaxed, and ready to go sightseeing.

Many of us don’t have a lot of time to spend getting used to the time change, so every little bit counts. It’s hard enough battling jet lag with a night of good sleep. Check out our tips for Stress-Free Travel

Why do you sleep better in business class?

seat cathay pacific
Who doesn’t love a good lie flat pod seat when flying?

Business class has the state of the art pods where you can stretch out and sleep flat. During your flight, you are cocooned in your quiet and private oasis. Seats turn into a single bed where you can lay flat for the entire trip.

Flight attendants know you by name, When you board, flight attendants greet you with a smile and offer you a choice of champagne, orange juice, or sparkling or still water.

A welcome amenity kit is placed on your seat complete with eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, and moisturizer. And the food is comparable to a fine dining experience complete with wine pairings.

ammenity kits on cathay pacific

I must say, Cathay Pacific offers the best socks of any airline we’ve traveled. They’re great quality with non-slip soles, letting you roam around the cabin in comfort.

I love putting on the socks that are offered in business class for my flight. They let me take off my shoes without offending anyone. Usually, I’m in bare feet when I travel because I wear ballet flats or sandals, so the socks are a nice perk.

The menu in business class is impeccable.

cathay pacific premium economy menu
The menus in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and Business Class are awesome.

Most people don’t look forward to the meals on a flight, but when flying business class I can’t wait to look at the menu.

At the start of the flight, you receive a menu showing what will be served so that you can make your choice quickly and easily.

Our flight offered a tasty blend of bread served with our choice of fish or beef. On the side, we had fresh seasonal berries and a delicious mix of Prince Edward Island cheeses for dessert.

meals cathay pacific flight business class
Cathay Pacific Business Class food

If you don’t want the full meal, you can always opt for a lighter/healthier meal of soup and salad with grilled chicken or eggplant, and you can have that served anytime you wish.

In business class, you never go hungry.

If you want snacks during the flight, there are always nibblies at the service station for you to choose from.

Something unique to Cathay Pacific is the delicious noodle soup they offer throughout the flight. It gets you in the mood for the meals you’ll be eating in Hong Kong or wherever your final destination in Asia may be.

cathay pacific premium economy dinner
Dinner is delicious on Cathay Pacific.

When you awake near the end of the flight, your senses ignite with the soothing smell of the fresh bread that’s offered with your breakfast.

I love how they start with fruit, yogurt, and cereal before offering the main dish of eggs, noodles, or congee. A lot of times all I want is a mix of fruit and yogurt, so I fill up on the healthy good stuff and skip the main course.

First off the Plane

By the time we landed in Hong Kong, I had cleaned myself up in the Business Class lavatory, taken off my socks, put my boots back on, and had all my loose items stowed back in my carry-on.

Having the extra room in business class gives you plenty of time to get sorted and ready for the exciting adventure ahead. See our Packing tips to help you pack smart

We’re also first off the plane, which puts us first at immigration and gives us premium bag check, so our luggage is first off the belt. Yes, flying business class has its perks.

Note: We always try to be at the front of the plane, even when flying coach. It helps beat the queue at immigration which can be a tedious process. 

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

premium economy seats
Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Cabin

So what is the benefit of flying Premium Economy? Premium economy on Cathay Pacific is well priced, for one. But there are a lot of benefits to the premium economy class.

On our way home from Hong Kong, we flew Cathay Pacific premium economy and were pleasantly surprised.

Not all premium economy airlines are created equal, and while I would have to say Air Canada to Dubai and Air New Zealand to Australia had better seat layouts with a 2-3-2 seating setup.

The Cathay Pacific premium economy flight to Hong Kong had a 2-4-2 set up which isn’t as good, but it was still quite spacious.

premium seats deb
Cathay Pacific premium economy seats were quite comfortable and roomy.

Plus, when looking at the seat arrangements on Air Canada’s premium economy to Hong Kong, we saw that they too only offer the 2-4-2 layout. So that could be the norm for the route to Asia.

There was much more room than we expected and our seats went back much farther than other premium economy flights we’ve taken. Plus, we didn’t notice the seats being any less wide than other premium economy classes. We actually slept like babies.

cathay pacific economy seats
Cathay Pacific Premium Economy seat

While Air New Zealand has great-looking premium economy class pod seats, the Cathay Pacific premium economy seats seemed to go back much further. So that was a huge bonus.

There was plenty of leg room and neither of us felt squished.

Entertainment systems on Cathay Pacific

cathay pacific premium economy entertainment
The Cathay Pacific Premium Economy screens are smaller than business class, but still a good size.

The entertainment systems are similar in premium economy and business class.

Business class obviously had a little bit larger screens, but the premium economy screens are quite large, making for a great entertainment experience.  The choices and channels are exactly the same as business class.

There are the new blockbuster movies, the classics, TV shows, and comedies. Cathay Pacific also offers a great choice of international movies to satisfy everyone’s needs. There are even games to play that can help pass the time.

Premium Economy Food

cathay pacific premium economy meal
Cathay Pacific Premium Economy meals were certainly better than coach.

Flying Premium economy gives you most of the perks that you get in Business Class.

When we arrived, we were again given our choice of champagne or orange juice, and we were given a care package complete with a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, lip balm, and my favorite…socks.

Like business class, we were offered a menu with our choice of meal.

Both classes serve meals on proper porcelain dinnerware and you get to eat with stainless steel knives and forks.

“I’ve never understood why the upper class passengers get silverware while economy seating has to eat with plastic. It’s terrible for the environment and rich people are capable of stabbing someone just as easily as us poor folk. But that’s a completely different blog post.

Flying premium economy is quite similar to flying in business class. They offer nicer blankets and full-size pillows, a great menu, and extra special service.

cathay pacific premium economy relaxing
We enjoyed Cathay Pacific Premium Economy class, especially for the long haul flight.

One thing I wasn’t too pleased about was the fact that we didn’t get our own toilet. We had to walk to the back of the plane to go to the bathroom.

I have been on other premium economy flights where we had our own designated toilet. That definitely makes it worthwhile. I snuck up to the business class toilet once but got in trouble after I came out of the bathroom.They kept a keen eye on me after that.

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy: Is it worth the money?

cathay pacific premium economy seats
Plenty of legroom

For the price, Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is an excellent option compared to Business Class.

Lounge Access with Business Class

the cabin lounge
Cathay Pacific lounge, The Cabin

Something Dave and I can’t live without when we travel is having access to airport lounges. Business Class travelers automatically gain access to Cathay Pacific Business Class lounges. If you gather One World Rewards, you are also eligible for lounge access once you reach Silver and above. Marco Polo Club members also receive lounge access.

As we said above, we have a Priority Pass card that gives us access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world. So it’s a good option to have if you are flying economy or premium economy. Priority Pass customers usually have their own separate lounges, but some airports combine Priority Pass with airline lounges. Compare prices here.

The Cabin Lounge at the Hong Kong Airport

dave working lounge
We love being able to get a little work done in the lounge.

We took sanctuary in The Cabin at the Hong Kong Airport, Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge. But there are several different lounges located at different gates in Hong Kong, so you don’t have to walk a country mile to get to your flight.

We’ve been in some airports where we’ve had a wonderful time in the lounge, but then end up frantically having to run to our flight because we’ve ended up at the wrong end of the airport.

I love how Cathay Pacific has different lounges near your departure gates. Because Cathay Pacific emphasizes “life well-traveled”, they have taken great care in designing relaxing environments with state-of-the-art designs.

You can enjoy endless food and drinks, free Internet, and a quiet environment.

lounge seats
The Cathay Pacific lounge offers a little bit of sanctuary before your flight.

The Cathay Pacific lounges throughout the airport boast their signature noodle soup bar as an added bonus. I just love noodle soup. I could eat it forever.

If you fly business class, make sure you take advantage of the lounge access.

No Access to Lounges with Premium Economy

If you are flying premium economy, get yourself a priority pass card so you too can enjoy the lounge benefits at the airport. You won’t regret it. It’s an excellent way to start the trip and freshen up between flights, like once you land in Hong Kong but before catching your connecting flight.

We’ve taken showers and naps during connections using our Priority Pass and it makes a world of difference once we reach our final destination.

Cost Comparison – Premium Economy vs Business Class

dave deb airport
We recommend Cathay Pacific Premium Economy for the cost.

I looked up flights to Hong Kong from Toronto and this is what I found in the breakdown.

  •  If you have flexible dates, you can get a round-trip economy ticket from Toronto to Hong Kong for about $2500.
  • An upgrade to Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is approximately $1200 more. Upgrading to Business Class is about an extra $4000.

That’s a huge price difference between premium economy and business class.

For affordability, I would choose Premium Economy over business class based on the price. If you are smart, book the two seats by the window.

The extra money does give you a lot more perks, a lot more room, and much better service than a coach.

If I could always afford business class, I would fly it every time. So if you have the budget, business class is by far a better option if for nothing else than the lay flat beds.

I don’t know about you, but a trip to Hong Kong is a dream trip for me. If I only have a week or two in the city, I want to be as refreshed as possible.

cathay pacific premium economy dave deb
You want to be refreshed when you land.

Premium economy and especially business class offer the chance to sleep well on your flight, which makes the first few days of your trip much easier to navigate.

So the verdict on the Premium Economy vs Business Class seating is that business class will always be the better option, but you will pay for it.

If you don’t have unlimited funds (like us) Premium Economy is a great choice. You’ll still feel like a VIP and have a comfortable trip, but you won’t be paying an arm and a leg for the service.

Final Verdict

So if you are looking for more travel perks and a more premium experience at an affordable rate, Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is the way to go.

Now, remember, if you are savvy and flexible, you’ll be able to find better flight deals, but this is from a quick search on the Cathay Pacific website punching in dates in January. Prices vary depending on months, days of the week, and how far in advance you book.

But this gives a good idea on price comparison between the three classes – Economy, Premium Economy, and Business Class – so that you can decide what class you would like to fly.

Enjoy our video showing our Business Class Flight: Watch it here from Beginning to End

business class vs premium economy
Business Class Vs Premium Economy

Have you flown premium economy overseas? What was your experience like?

Cathay Pacific offers 10 direct flights weekly from Toronto to Hong Kong and 14 flights weekly between Vancouver and Hong Kong.

The convenient hub of Hong Kong connects to over 40 destinations in Asia and over 22 cities in Mainland China. Check out all their routes here. Our Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and Business Class flights were a part of the #LifeWellTravelled campaign by Cathay Pacific Airways.

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

33 thoughts on “Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class”

  1. There needs to be a comparison between business class and economy. If you get to fly business class, that’s like a dream come true.

  2. Pretty sure Cathay lounges are *not* included in Priority Pass.

    However, HK airport as the Plaza Premium lounges for PriPass travellers, which are almost as good…

  3. I’m flying LAX-HKG on premium economy and got upgraded to business on HKG-MNL. Wondering if I would be able to get lounge access in LAX

    • That I am not sure of. Sometimes, they don’t let business into the lounge unless you have status. But I would definitely try. We didn’t have airline status with Cathay Pacific and got into the lounges, but I am not sure if it was because we used our Priority Pass or not. Sorry I can’t remember. We always do our best to get lounge access, so we might have just pulled out our cards so that they didn’t ask. I recall, the Cathay Pacific lounges were all a part of Priority Pass.

    • We flew premium economy YYZ-MNL via HKG a few weeks ago. For whatever reason they upgraded us to business class on the MNL to HKG leg on our return but my understanding was that the complimentary upgrade did not include lounge access. However when we checked in they gave us lounge passes. Very nice lounge they have at NAIA too. Surprisingly when we arrived in HKG from YYZ on our way to Manila, they upgraded us to business class as well. Both totally unexpected. By the way I don’t believe you can get into a Cathay Pacific lounge with a Priority Pass.

  4. I am flying premium economy to Melbourne in March 2019 and being 5 foot tall with short legs I am feeling concerned that the distance from the seat to the foot rest will be too great for me, so may not be comfortable. So please could you advise me. thank you.

  5. I flew Business Class 0162 from SYD to HKG on January 23, 2019 and iut was the worst business class in the air. I read these comments and it can’t be the same airline. The food was not as tasty as KFC; the roll was stale, the wines third class, the salad was six rocket leaves and two cherry tomatoes. My recommendation is to avoid CX at all cost. It is a rip off and a third tier service.

  6. It is possible to access the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge on a Premium Economy ticket by paying for a ticket etc. say like in some Lufthansa lounges. ? We plan to take an 8 hr lay over in HK on way to the US this summer ..Can you help? We need a place to lie down and most Priority Pass lounges do not have such a facility.

    • I believe you can get into the business class lounge if you bought a business class ticket. An upgrade does not give you automatic access though. You have to buy a ticket. I would just double check with the airline though as things change all the time.

  7. Flying Manchester to HK, then onto Ho Chi Minh city. We are booked premium economy for the first leg and have been upgraded for the second leg to Business, presuming there is no premium economy class on that leg.
    Trying to decide if it’s worth upgrading to Business for the whole trip?

  8. Am flying premium economy MNL-Paris Frankfurt Manila this Sept. when I inquired from CX, was told food is the same as business class, is this true? This was a factor to my opting for premium economy.Also, how can we get priority card for lounge access. Am a CX frequent traveler (Asia Miles), and a senior citizen. Thanks for your reply.

  9. I flew CX premium economy from Singapore to Bangkok last week. Apart from the upgraded seat. the service and food served is EXACTLY the same as those served in the economy class. For short distance, save your money!

    • 1) I was just about to comment something similar. Do not waste your money on Premium Economy. In my opinion, it is absolutely NOT worth it. I personally thought choosing a BULK HEAD seat in economy is way worth it.

  10. I am going to fly early august premium economy with Cathay,and would like to use the Cathay Pacific lounge. What is the online contact address to be able to buy a priority pass card?

  11. in the Premium Economy class do the seats lay flat to sleep like they do in Business. This is my first long trip (I’ve done 8hrs and 9 but this going from
    Ft. Lauderdale to Hong Cong i gather with no lay-overs is 19 Hrs. I’m really working myself up into a tizzy and I think if I can get a good night sleep I will be in better shape. Thank you for your help and advise.

    • The seats don’t lay flat like business class, but they are wider and go back farther than economy. If you don’t want to pay the higher fees of business, this is a good option. Business class does have the pods and complete beds, but premium economy is a good second option. We slept very well in premium economy and we flew from Toronto, it’s about the same amount of hours in the air as Florida. There was enough room to roll over on my side and get a good night’s rest. Have a great trip and good luck!

  12. Premium economy sounds good
    A) how does one get priority pass so can use lounge…
    B) HK to LA Boeing 777…how is seating. 2-4-2 or 2-3-2?
    C) where are toilet.. Separate for premium economy or far behind?

    • Great questions! You can buy one online for a yearly fee. It’s very worth it. I believe the Boeing 777 is 2-3-2. That was one draw back for us, Cathay Pacific didn’t have separate toilets for Premium Economy unlike Air Canada. But they were close, just behind the curtain.

      • May I give you a small correction concerning Toilet placing in Premium economy.
        According to the actual seat plan of the B777-ER Version H Cathay Pacific Premium Economy has a seperate toilet in PE.
        Concerning Priority Pass some people do not know that Priority pass is not a Cathay advantage. It has to be bought seperately.
        It´s only worth the money when you travel very often and in different countries and on diff. airlines.
        Sorry for this corrections.
        I recently flew Lufthansa, Cathay and Air New Zealand and I can strongly recommend Premium Economy on these airlines.
        Guenter Kinzler

  13. well, it´s all a question of money, but a good advice, if there are cheap premium economy options
    i guess you have been invited?

  14. Configuration is typically due to size of plane, not destination. AC 2-4-2 in Premium Economy is because it’s a 777 vs 2-3-2 on the 789 as it’s slightly more narrow.

    Good tip on the bathroom situation re: Cathay’s premium economy on the 777. I wonder if it’s the same issue on the AC 777?

    Photos and video were well done!