Cathay Pacific Business Class
Credit: Courtesy Cathay Airlines

Cathay Pacific Business Class

We'd be the first to say skimp on fancy flights in favor of investing in your actual trip on the ground, but if you're flying from the U.S to Asia, that advice goes out the window. Your comfort had better be a part of your calculation when buying a ticket, because no matter how you dice it, it's a long, stressful haul (16-and-a-half hours for a nonstop from New York to Tokyo, for example). Consider how a bad cross-country redeye flight can ruin your day, and then multiply it a few times with the jet lag from nine to 12 hour time differences. We won't regale you with the girth of our swollen feet or the size of the knots in our back on a recent 15-hour cross-Pacific flight, but it doesn't have to be that way. One airline in particular, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airlines, offers what would be first class amenities for other airlines, but at its business class level (specifically, the new Business Class service available on long-haul flights). As such, it's among our favorite flight experiences anywhere.

Cathay Pacific's new Business Class seats include access to heavenly private airport lounges that feature complimentary noodle bars, regional snacks, fresh juice, a full bar, free Wi-Fi, and a bevy of big-screen HDTVs. You also get priority check-in, boarding, and baggage services. On-board, each seat is a veritable cocoon of comfort. Surrounded by a private semi-circular wall – no need to talk with the person next to you as on some less private seating designs on other business classes – the 6-foot 6-inch long seats recline completely flat at the touch of a button. For in-flight entertainment 15-inch personal TVs are stuffed with programming options (a rotating library of 100 movies, 500 TV shows, 888 music CDs, and 70 games) and noise-canceling headsets are standard. If that's not enough, you can work or watch movies without fear of running out of juice, thanks to the individual power outlet and USB port at each seat. Our flight attendants have perfected the art of service, frequently checking in to make sure you're comfortable, laying out white tablecloths before dinner, and even knowing your name by breakfast. They'll even tuck you in with a smile, as if they actually enjoy their jobs, which they probably do (none of this haggard, "we are here for our safety, not to wait on you" attitude typical of so many U.S. airlines).

For the pleasure, you're certainly going to have to pay; expect to shell out more than three to four times the cost of flying economy (a recent economy ticket was $1,300 from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, versus $6,000 for business) which, it's worth noting, is still less than half the price of first class tickets that can cost up to $15,000 round trip from LAX to Hong Kong (tip: you can often score discounts on business class seats around big holidays, since there are fewer business travelers making tickets scarce).

Getting gently woken up on our descent to Hong Kong with coffee and a smile after a good night's sleep beat the hell out of the body odor stink and creaky back we're used to. And jet lag? Not a drop of the filthy stuff for us, thanks. [cathaypacific.com]