Daily Pampering: Three most luxurious first-class cabins

America can learn a lot from the Far East in the way of air travel. We rounded up the three best first-class cabins for your flying pleasure. After all, if you’re going to travel around the world, you might as well do it in style.

Singapore Airlines: They call them SkySuites, we call them ‘heaven.’ There are only 12 on each plane and if you’re lucky enough to grab one you can expect luxury like never before. Sit down in your leather-upholstered, Burrwood-trimmed seat that fully reclines and comes complete with a turn-down service and down-filled mattress and duvet. The first-class meals are prepared by world-class chefs, and you can choose your meal before the flight. Enjoy some Dom Perignon and Krug while you fly through the skies.

Cathay Pacific: From the concierge-style service at check-in to the on-demand prepared food in-flight, Cathay Pacific is worthy of a ‘most luxurious’ status. Once you sit down, amenity kits with Acca Kappa Italian products and Shanghai Tang pajamas await. The seat is easily extendable into a full-length bed with pillows and duvets and, thanks to a privacy screen, the seat is transformed into a cozy bedroom. The first-class ‘bedrooms’ give a whole knew meaning to sleeping in the sky.

Emirates Airlines: The first class, fully-enclosed cabins are relatively new to Emirates, but a welcome amenity to first-class fliers. The doors to the cabins can be opened and closed at will, and like your hotel comes with ‘do not disturb’ signal. The best part? Tall passengers will appreciate the no overhead bin space, but don’t worry – there is plenty of space to stow your carry-on. Our favorite part? The personal mini-bar is your pod.

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Cathay Pacific to launch in-flight WiFi; mobile device connectivity

It’s one thing to connect in-flight from coast-to-coast, it’s another thing to connect when you’re flying across the world! Travel writers, business executives, and Internet-junkies rejoice: Cathay Pacific has just announced it will launch long-haul in-flight WiFi in 2012!

The Hong Kong-based airline plans to roll out broadband Internet onboard their fleet and Dragonair planes starting in early 2012, thanks to some help from Panasonic Avionics Corporation, a worldwide supplier of in-flight entertainment and communication systems.

The in-flight fun will feature eXConnect broadband service and eXPhone GSM phone service but here’s where it gets really exciting: as part of the service, you’ll get the Cathay Pacific-branded free-of-charge entertainment portal, which is accessible through all passenger devices (read: iPads, PDAs, etc.) and seatback screens. Readers: take a moment to digest that information — we realize it’s pretty big news.

Here’s more straight from Cathay Pacific:

eXPhone, offered in collaboration with AeroMobile’s GSM mobile phone technology, allows passengers to use their mobile phones, smart phones and BlackBerry devices onboard to make voice calls, send SMS text messages or utilise data services and stream content wirelessly to their iPod, iPhone and iPad. eXPhone gives the airline flexibility and full control over the services offered including restricting certain services when appropriate.

According to Cathay, the in-flight entertainment options will include a range of content updated during the flight, access to airline and partner sites, e-commerce, airline-specific advertising, and live television with pay-per-view capability for special events.

Couple this with Cathay Pacific’s business class cabin and I might just move into the plane.

Cathay Pacific donates travel package to Los Angeles music charity

In celebration of Cathay Pacific Airways’ 20 years of nonstop flights between Hong Kong and the United States, the airline is awarding an Anniversary Giveaway package to Education Through Music – Los Angeles. The prize: 200,000 Asia Miles, a Business Class dinner for 20 volunteers, and $2,000 in cash.

Charities from throughout the greater Los Angeles area were invited to participate in the “Giveaway” by submitting something creative that shared how they could benefit from receiving a Volunteer of the Year Hong Kong air and hotel package. Education Through Music took home the prize after submitting a DVD presentation for the judges that included how the giveaway would benefit the organization, and creating an airline poster that inspired children to ‘soar to new heights’.

Education Through Music – Los Angeles provides quality in-school music education to support both creative and academic achievement. Through its programs, children become more proficient in music and work to boost their academic skills, as well as focus on self-esteem and self-motivation.

Cathay Pacific Airways launched nonstop flights from Hong Kong to Los Angeles on July 1, 1990.

Daily Pampering: Cathay Pacific Business Class flights

If you’re going to fly to China, you might as well fly in style. After all, the 15-18 hour flight (depending on flight path and departure city) can seem like an eternity in a 777.

Having just completed a round-trip flight to Australia I was mentally prepared for the long flight across the Pacific. I’ve learned that if you’re going to make the journey, you want to be comfortable, thus, my first trip to China started in Business Class on Cathay Pacific. I stepped into pod 27A, and prepped for the 16-hour flight from New York’s JFK airport to Hong Kong: eye mask, noise-cancelling headphones, cashmere wrap, lip balm, iPod, computer – check. What I didn’t expect was an amenity kit, courtesy of Cathay, filled with face wash, lotion, more lip balm, another eye mask and eye cream.

Cathay’s business class seats feature an amenities sections – everything fits neatly into compartments around your pod or under your foot rest so you don’t have to go far to get your in-flight necessities. The flight attendants, who are all impeccably dressed, continuously make their way through the cabins offering bottled water and champagne cocktails and within minutes you forget you’re 35,000-feet up in air.

The in-flight entertainment options offer dozens of movies, TV shows, radio stations and CDs to keep you occupied. I watched two movies, ordered a few snacks, indulged in some quiet time (otherwise known as “sleeping” for those who can sleep on planes), and thanks to the size of the pods, was able to comfortably stretch without invading anyone else’s space.While I didn’t indulge in any full means in flight, the menu was rather extensive. Each meal in business class came with three options and usually included a vegetarian option in addition to the typical salad that accompanies the meal. Desserts included fruit cups, cakes and cheese platters and when I got hungry about 10 hours into the flight, the flight attendants warmed up a cheese sandwich for me – the perfect midnight snack.

The combination of adrenaline and excitement kept me from sleeping on the flight to Hong Kong, but the comforts of business class made up for the lack of sleep. I arrived in Hong Kong at 6:30 a.m. local time, freshened up in the business class lounge and boarded the 2-hour flight to Shanghai. I arrived the Expo City by noon, ready to take on China.

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*Cathay Pacific sponsored my flight to China, but the views expressed in this post are strictly my own.

Galley Gossip: Enter to win two business class tickets to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific!

Until May 31, 2010 Cathay Pacific is giving away two free tickets in business class from any city to Hong Kong, as well as three nights’ accommodation at The Upper House, a portrait session with campaign photographer Andrew J. Loiterton, and eight times the Asia Miles you earn flying on Cathay Pacific from now until the end of May. Now that I have your attention, keep reading. Contest details can be found at the bottom of this post.

Whenever I’m just hanging out in the galley between services chatting with frequent fliers, I’ll ask them to name their favorite airline. On most occasions their eyes glaze over and this look of contentment washes across their face. I’ve seen the look dozens of times. I know what they’re going to say before they even say it. Cathay. The word is always followed by a long deep sigh. Sometimes I’ll even sigh along with them. What follows next is usually an awkward silence. That’s when I’ll ask about their favorite airport restaurant, just to get the conversation flowing again.

Last year when my husband’s original Cathay Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong canceled, I was thrilled. Because the airline generously bumped him from business class to first class free of charge on a flight departing the following morning. He was upset about losing 24 hours in Hong Kong, but I knew it would be more than worth the inconvenience. The husband had his doubts. As soon as his flight touched ground, he sent the following email.

This flight was better than anyone could put in words. I have my own little cabin with a desk internet and movies. I was given a Shanghai Tzen pajama set and amenity kit and a huge down pillow and comforter. My seat reclines to a full bed and I have a privacy shield. I even used all the cool lotions in the two bathrooms shared by fourteen people. The toilet was spotless the entire trip. The food and presentation was better than a restaurant. I have to list all that I ate before I forget…

Smoked salmon shashimi with Caviar. Cream of mushroom soup. Salad greens with scallops and shrimp. AND THAT WAS ONLY THE APPETIZER! Lunch consisted of lobster stir fry with soup bok choy and a cold tofu salad. After two more movies I had a hot panini with prosciutto grilled veggie and cheese. Another movie and noodle soup with duck breast. NO FAT. Pure breast. Dinner wasn’t as good. Large fruit plate followed by grilled rack of lamb and potatoes. That’s okay because the coffee is great.

The guy sitting beside me said I would never be able to fly in business class again now that this has happened. He might be right. If I can’t swindle an upgrade home I think I may pay the difference. If I had to turn around now and fly right back to LA I would be very happy. We’re about to land so I think I’m going to go to the bathroom and shave or something. Maybe a facial? Don’t be jealous. I love you!

Don’t be jealous? How!

What’s not to love about an airline that provides that kind of service? And is it just a coincidence that the airline also takes pride in the very people providing the amazing service? Have you seen the latest marketing campaign, Meet The Team, featuring the men and women of Cathay Pacific? Read their stories and get to know the flight attendants, pilots, and other staff as both members of the Cathay family and as individuals. Find out what makes them who they are and how they see their role at Cathay. Then you’ll be ready to play to win!

Each week until May 31, 2010 Cathay will post a question on the Meet the Team mini-site. Answers can be found in the staff stories. People who answer correctly will automatically be entered into the contest. Thirteen questions will be presented. This means there are thirteen chances to win! Also, don’t forget to connect with Cathay on Facebook and Twitter where staff will be sharing their favorite places to visit during their travels. Good luck!

Photos courtesy of Bernard SD and Steven W. Belcher