Transport : Airlines

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are some of the best airlines in the world for flying Business Class.

Both carriers enjoy international accolades, excellent airport lounges, staff who go that extra mile, delicious food, wine and stylish cabins on their planes. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are often compared with each other because they both have their hubs in South East Asia.

I have published a number of trip reports reviewing my Cathay Pacific Business and First Class flights and reviewing my flights in Business Class on Singapore Airlines.

But which one of these excellent airlines should you choose when booking your next Business Class flight and which offers the best Business Class in-flight experience. Which is best? Cathay Pacific versus Singapore Airlines?

Chauffeur service

Unlike the Middle Eastern carriers (e.g. Emirates and Etihad Airways), neither Cathay Pacific or 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 theatres 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.

Of course, your opinion may be swayed by which destination you want a layover. Both cities are fun and lively and both offer an excellent array of luxury hotels so from this perspective, the destination choice is purely personal.

Lounges

Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific manage some of the most best luxury airline lounges in the world at their hubs of SIN and HKG respectively. I have reviewed the best airline lounges at Hong Kong airport, but there is little to choose between the in-lounge experience between the two airlines. The lounges of both airlines offer restaurants with excellent buffet food, comfortable seating, plenty of showers, and state-of-the-art business centres. My personal preference is the Cathay Pacific lounges, simply because its lounges feature a stylish and sleek ‘homey’ design that is somewhat lacking in the Singapore Airlines lounges. But like I say, this should certainly not be a deal breaker for you.

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

Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific offer impressive and luxurious 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. The neutral white colour palette of the cabin is given a touch of vibrancy with green seat cushions and light grey carpets, while small, elegant white floral displays decorate the cabin, adding to the overall luxurious feel.

Cabin layout

On 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 features a standard 2-2-2 Business Class seat layout.

Cathay Pacific’s aircraft, with the exception of its regionally outfitted B777s, have a 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.

I think the best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to OK):
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

Cathay Pacific has the best Business Class flatbed. The “Cirrus seat”, is one of the best Business Class seats in the sky. It offers plenty of space, privacy, storage room, and turns into an excellent flatbed.

Singapore Airlines, on the other hand, offers an impressive seat onboard its A380, A350 and B777 planes, a seat which is said to be the widest in the industry. This seat is hard to beat in the upright position, but when fully reclined, 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).

Deploying the flat-bed is much more 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 long haul flights to enhance your sleep experience.

Food

I have never been wowed by the taste nor presentation of the food onboard Cathay Pacific, which is good but not great and which serves all meal courses at once on a single tray.

My best gastronomic experiences in the sky ever have always been on Singapore Airlines, which works with 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 well known 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.

Cathay Pacific also recently started offering this feature on selected flights, but the food remains less impressive.

Inflight entertainment

Singapore Airlines offers the best in-flight entertainment product, with the industry’s largest TV screens and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options.

Cathay Pacific also offers an impressive range of entertainment, 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

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines 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 (although it is currently not available on the carrier’s B777 and A330 fleet) and is 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. 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 (shaving kits, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand lotion and perfume) are available 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.

Conclusion: Singapore Airlines vs Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines both offer an excellent Business Class product that out-classes most of its competitors (with the exception of the Middle Eastern Carriers).

I like the Singapore Airlines’ Business Class experience, because of the excellent facilities at Changi Airport, the delicious onboard food and the superb in-flight entertainment, but they do not have plane cameras onboard their aircraft.

But it is easier to sleep on the Cathay Pacific seats, I really enjoy having an amenity kit plus I like the cameras with the views.

Bottom line, if the food and entertainment are the most important to you, choose Singapore Airlines, if sleep and amenity kit are more important choose Cathay Pacific. If the cost of the Business Class ticket is the most important to you, go for whichever is cheapest as you will enjoy both experiences and they are so close in quality that there is not an overall winner.

It is worth reading my 10 tips to find cheap long-haul Business Class flights for a way to save money on your next First, Business and even Premium Economy flight booking.

This article was inspired by our friends at The Luxury Travel Expert.