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oneworld First Class Battle Royale – Cathay vs. JAL

This past March I had the pleasure of experiencing both Cathay Pacific First Class and Japan Airlines First Class on each airline’s Boeing 777-300ER! They were both wonderful and you can read all about them in my previous reviews, but today I am here to provide a side-by-side comparison for those that may be choosing between the two oneworld carriers for their next award redemption!

The Mileage Cost –

Cathay Pacific JFK – HKG: Continental US to Asia – Booked with 70k Alaska Mileage Plan miles (or 110k AAdvantage miles)

Japan Airlimes (JAL) NRT-ORD: Asia 1 to Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Booked with 80k AAdvantage miles (or 70k Alaska Mileage Plan miles)

Note: The routes are not completely comparable considering American Airlines separates Asia into two regions – Asia 1 & Asia 2 – where Japan fits into Asia 1 at 80k AAdvantage miles and Hong Kong fits into Asia 2 at 110k AAdvantage miles. 

The Mileage Cost Winner – For the purposes of this comparison I will consider the mileage cost a non-factor, though I would advise against the 110k AAdvantage miles required for a US to Asia 2 redemption.

Mileage Cost Winner – Tie

The First Class Cabin –

Cathay Pacific: The 777-300ER features a 6 seat First Class Cabin in a two row 1-1-1 configuration. While the 6 suites are open, the cabin feels private and closed off. What made my experience even better was the fact that only 4 of the 6 seats were occupied!

JAL: The 777-300ER features an 8 seat First Class Cabin in a two row 1-2-1 configuration. This configuration is nice if you are traveling with a companion since you can travel in close proximity in the two middle seats, and it was perfect for me and my wife! Of the 8 seats, 7 were occupied on our flight and while the cabin was nearly full, there was still an element of privacy.

Cabin Winner – Cathay Pacific – More privacy!

The Seat/Suite –

Awake Time – Cathay vs. JAL

Cathay: Comfortable cloth seats and overall spacious – plenty of room to store carry-on luggage.

JAL: The 777 Sky Suite – Also quite comfortable with plenty of room and storage space. The seat is leather, which I prefer…

Sleepy Time – Cathay vs JAL

Cathay: Fully lie-flat, and a nice fluffy mattress pad down comforter for extra cushion. I was able to catch about 4 hours of sleep… not a ton, but enough!

JAL: Similar to CX, fully lie-flat, with the option of firm or soft mattress padding! I chose soft, but didn’t actually fall asleep, but am sure I could if I wanted to!

Seat Winner – JAL – I love the leather!

The Entertainment –

Wifi –

Cathay: None.

JAL: Complimentary throughout the flight! It wasn’t blazing fast, but it did the trick!

IFE Monitor & Bose Headphones – Very comparable between the two, no clear advantage here…

Entertainment Winner – JAL! Free wifi… nuff said!

The Food and Drank –

Champagne – Comparable! Cathay serves Krug, while JAL serves Salon. They are both amazing and delicious and make you feel like a real baller!

Meals – Comparable for the most part! Caviar and multiple dishes/snacks to follow… but I’ll note that my best meal during the two flights was the Beef Fillet with green Asparagus accompanied by Egg Yolk Soy Sauce on JAL!

Food & Drank Winner – Tie!

The Amenities –

Amenity Kit –

Cathay: The First amenity kits are gender specific, featuring Aesop products – lip cream and face moisturizing lotion – both of which came in handy as my lips typically dry out so bad on long-haul flights that I have trouble sleeping! The rest of the kit was pretty standard with the essentials – toothbrush, comb, mouthwash, and earplugs.

JAL: The JAL First amenity kits just underwent a change, moving from Lowes to Porsche design. Despite the change, the gender specific Shiseido product offering remained constant in a separate container – and came in especially handy during the long flight!

Jammies –

I’ll start by saying I am not a pajama guy and typically just bring my own shirt and shorts to change into. However, I had to test out the First pajamas on each of the flights!

Cathay: The PYE pajamas were super soft, though didn’t fit me very well as they were 2 inches short in both the legs and the arms! that said, they were super soft and I actually still wear the high-water pants around the house! The top was the most awkward sized and didn’t last long as I ditched it within a few minutes.

JAL: The tops and bottoms were Porsche design and fit quite nice/awkward all at the same time. Again, I ditched the top shortly after trying it on in favor of my own t-shirt.

Amenity Winner – Cathay! Aesop and PYE victory over Porsche Design… love the cars, but the amenities are meh…

The Overall Service –

Cathay: The little things made all the difference here. From the personalized welcome note, to the flight attendants helping my wife move her things up to First Class so we would be able to depart together – First Class service all around!

JAL: Accommodating and attentive! Between the standard meal service and my snack requests my total meal course count came to 9! That’s a high number of meal requests and the JAL staff put them on one after the other without a hitch!

Overall Service Winner – Tie! The Cathay & JAL services were top notch!

Final Thought/Tally

The Mileage Cost – Tie

The First Class Cabin – Cathay

The Seat/Suite – JAL

The Entertainment – JAL

The Food & Drank – Tie

The Amenities – Cathay

The Overall Service – Tie

That brings the final tally to 3 ties and 2 wines apiece! Ties are boring… so I will make a quick tiebreaker judgement and give the crown to Cathay Pacific First Class! The overall experience felt a bit more exclusive and luxurious with excellent attention to detail!

So, there you have it! While you really cannot go wrong with either First Class product, in the head to head match-up, I give the nod to Cathay Pacific! Hopefully this little side-by-side makes your next redemption decision a bit easier to make!

Have you experienced either (or both) of these First Class products? What are your thoughts!?

Thanks for tuning in and make sure to check out the rest of the trip report!


Happy Travels!



  1. Are the number of English speaking IFE Movies / TV shows the same between the two? Does one have a broader selection of titles or more channels?

    1. Great question! I would say that Cathay has a broader selection of Western cinema and a better music album selection. JAL has slightly less of a selection, but makes up for it with wifi capabilities!


  2. Timely post. Just completed CX F legs to SE Asia, and will be taking JAL F on return. How about throwing in the ground/lounge experience as a component?

    1. Nice! I did consider that but it can vary based on the departure airport and unfortunately I did not experience the Pier at HKG but rather the International First Lounge at JFK… which was nice still! At NRT, the First class lounge is sweet and mentioned it in my full JAL First Review!

  3. I flew RT SFO-HKG on CX F so I got to experience the whole enchilada: 2 Long haul flights with 2 different crews, the SFO lounge, the HKG Arrival Lounge, and the Pier.
    The flight to HKG was just nothing special because the crew was mediocre. The flight back was wonderful because the crew was great. I have found CX crews to be hit and miss and SQ crews more consistently good.
    I thought the amenity kit was disappointing, just basic stuff and nothing special about it at all. While the amenity kit from SQ F I thought was exceptional.
    The food was OK, I thought SQ food was better in flight.
    I did love the pajamas though. Best pajamas I have ever had in my life. Far better than what you get from SQ F and BA F.
    Regarding the lounges: I thought the SF lounge was a vast improvement over the previous one they had in SF which I thought was a joke.
    The Arrival lounge in HKG was decent and while small and cramped, served its purpose well.
    The Pier of course was fabulous and I hope to spend more time there again some day.

  4. Last year I did Cathay first ORD-HKG, SQ suites from SIN-NRT, and JAL first from NRT-ORD. For me, the overall experience was best on cathay. I loved the wing over the pier, but the dining in the pier was fantastic.

    On SQ, I enjoyed the private room, but didn’t think it added much other than privacy. For the flight, It was my first time on an A380, and that made the flight really unique. I thought the service was great, but didn’t find the lobster thermidor to be anything amazing. However, that was after several glasses of krug, dom perignon, and johnnie walker blue…

    The JAL first lounge was pretty busy when I was there, but the sushi was great, as was the selection of self pour drinks. Hard to get tired of Hibiki 17. On my flight, the wifi was $18, which is definitely reasonable, but I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. I thought the seat was comparable in comfort to the other two, but there was a problem where i could only sit up straight, or lie flat, and that was a problem through the whole flight. Because of that, it ranked third on my list.

  5. Interesting…I did similar flights and found food and service on JAL to be head and shoulders above my two Cathay flights. There’s something I really love about the Japanese style of service. That being said, the seat on Cathay really is something special (especially the HND-HKG leg on the now retired 747 sitting in the nose). It’s definitely a tough decision but you can’t go wrong with either!

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