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December 15, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Several friends have mentioned the new Noah Baumbach movie “Marriage Story” to me recently, which is a sign the movie is having an impact on audiences considering it was only released to Netflix on December 6. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as couple struggling through the realities of divorce.

The New York Times on why the movie can be so uncomfortable:

The most painful parts of “Marriage Story” act out that revisionism, as idiosyncrasies are made to look pathological and mistakes are treated as potential crimes. The German social critic Theodor W. Adorno wrote that “divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people, is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches,” an insight that Baumbach illustrates with vivid precision. He shows how “the sphere of intimacy” (to continue with Adorno) “is transformed into a malignant poison as soon as the relationship in which it flourished is broken off.”

I enjoy movies that tend to be emotionally uncomfortable, especially when they deal with real issues that real people face in real lives. There’s no superhero here, no computer-generated explosions or characters coming back from the dead. Just two people, hurting, struggling, and thrust into a legal and living situation neither are familiar with. I definitely recommend it.

After you’ve watched it, don’t forget to check back here for the punchline to Alan Alda’s joke.

December 15, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Several friends have mentioned the new Noah Baumbach movie “Marriage Story” to me recently, which is a sign the movie is having an impact on audiences considering it was only released to Netflix on December 6. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as couple struggling through the realities of divorce.

The New York Times on why the movie can be so uncomfortable:

The most painful parts of “Marriage Story” act out that revisionism, as idiosyncrasies are made to look pathological and mistakes are treated as potential crimes. The German social critic Theodor W. Adorno wrote that “divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people, is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches,” an insight that Baumbach illustrates with vivid precision. He shows how “the sphere of intimacy” (to continue with Adorno) “is transformed into a malignant poison as soon as the relationship in which it flourished is broken off.”

I enjoy movies that tend to be emotionally uncomfortable, especially when they deal with real issues that real people face in real lives. There’s no superhero here, no computer-generated explosions or characters coming back from the dead. Just two people, hurting, struggling, and thrust into a legal and living situation neither are familiar with. I definitely recommend it.

After you’ve watched it, don’t forget to check back here for the punchline to Alan Alda’s joke.

December 14, 2019 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m working on a number of big projects at the moment, projects that take months of planning before being rolled out — which is exactly the opposite of what I did on Wednesday night this week.

I have written before about my affinity for RSS readers, but the constant development of Inoreader by the team at Innologica has transformed RSS from a handy reader into an incredibly powerful productivity tool. I now have dozens of high quality feeds on a number of topics that I like to track, filter, and tag, including, of course, communications and marketing. I’ve always used RSS as a way for me, personally, to isolate the signal amid the ever-deafening noise, but it never occurred to me to actually share the highly distilled and valuable articles coming through my reader. This week, it did.

I pressed “send” and published the first, hastily-compiled issue of Digital Bits, a simple, weekly newsletter with some of the best articles on corporate communications, PR, internal communications, and digital marketing. Some of the blogs and sites referenced in the newsletter have been invaluable to me over the years, leading to the implementation of actual software programs and workflows at the exchange that we use literally every day. The newsletter isn’t long and isn’t meant to be; it simply contains links to a couple of articles that I think would be worth your while if you work in communications, are studying it, or are just plain interested in the field.

It’s the first time I’ve done a newsletter like this, so I’m wide open to feedback and suggestions for making it better. I’m considering these first few issues to be a relatively quiet beta test until I work out the kinks and slowly find the newsletter’s voice.

The first issue looks at the immense need for content that goes beyond writing words, something that a shocking number of organizations have yet to grasp. There’s also a look at how comms people can find “influencers” inside their companies and leverage their voices to drive change and communicate better. The newsletter also includes an article on holiday video fails and links to free internal HTML newsletter templates that can be dropped into Outlook or Gmail.

If you work in communications or are just interested in the field, please give the newsletter a shot. I’d be very grateful and love to know what you think.

You can quickly share your email address here.

October 16, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

A petition to bring back the Green Day song “Holiday” as the Vancouver Canucks’ goal song:

Canucks fans should feel energized and hyped after a goal, and Holiday by Green Day accomplished that. Holiday is our goal song, and will be the best one the Canucks ever had. We cannot let our home games during the 50th anniversary season get ruined like this. BRING BACK HOLIDAY!

I noticed this abomination – an annoying Van Halen song from 1978 – during the Canucks’ first two home games of the season. It was the only glaring downside to scoring eight goals in a dominating win.

I have never signed any petition in my life, nevermind a campaign over song selection at a major league sporting event. But this is serious. We can’t allow this to go on. The world needs you. Sign.

Now.

October 12, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Buzzfeed has just published an article looking at how Apple has been appeasing the Chinese government:

When Tim Cook tried to explain away its actions this week by saying protesters were using HKmap.live to “maliciously to target individual officers for violence” without providing evidence, even longtime Apple observer and blogger John Gruber, couldn’t stomach it.

“I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny,” Gruber wrote. “For a company that usually measures umpteen times before cutting anything, it’s both sad and startling.”

I completely agree with Gruber and the general tenets of this piece. US companies — and Hollywood, in particular — have been appeasing China for a long time in exchange for access to its giant market. This has mostly flown under the radar because it didn’t affect customers elsewhere — but that has changed with the NBA’s PR stumbles this week.

Apple had no justifiable reason for removing the Hong Kong protester app, and the internal email to Apple staff explaining the removal is downright embarrassing. I’m a long-time Apple customer who has spent tens of thousands of dollars at Apple stores over the past decade, but CEO Tim Cook’s decision to side with a dangerous, authoritarian government and against people asking for the very same rights Cook enjoys makes me never want to spend another cent with Apple again.

Hopefully Cook reflects on his own conscience and shows some sign that he believes his own rhetoric on human rights. If he doesn’t, Apple is going down a dangerous path.

I’ve never been more disgusted with Apple than I am today.

October 11, 2019 -

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The iPhone and iPad have made computers accessible to people all over the world, both young and old. They’ve done away with the mouse and made interacting with apps much more natural, using touch. The result has been an explosion in apps, including some excellent productivity apps for the iPad in particular.

Apple is now trying to take some of that magic and bring it back to the trusty ol’ Mac.

The latest iteration of the Mac operating system, macOS Catalina, rolled out earlier this week alongside several apps making their debut on the Mac. Apple had previously released a new framework to developers called Catalyst, which makes it much easier for developers to take their existing iPad apps and move them to the Mac. The framework, announced in 2018, was met with some early skepticism after the first couple of Catalyst apps, like Apple News and Stocks, didn’t look great on the Mac. In fact, some were concerned that bringing apps designed for a touch interface to a keyboard-and-mouse old school computer might be an awkward fit, making the Mac less streamlined and consistent.

It’s still probably too early to call Catalyst a success, but early returns are looking positive.

As a guy whose life revolves around RSS feeds, seeing Fiery Feeds in the Mac App Store probably got me far more excited than I should be. Someday I will do a deep dive into the combination of Inoreader and Fiery Feeds, which does an excellent job of filtering and tagging important articles. Reeder has traditionally been the standard-bearer for RSS apps on the Mac, with version 4 coming out in April, but the addition of Fiery Feeds and Lire will certainly shake things up. I use Fiery Feeds multiple times a day on my iPad and iPhone, so having everything sync via iCloud and being able to check new articles while on the Mac is huge.

Mac  Fiery Feeds

Another app with a big, dedicated user base is TripIt. I began subscribing to TripIt Pro a couple of years ago to help manage travel, and it has generally made keeping flight and hotel information as well as confirmation numbers easily accessible and in one place. I think the app’s UI is a bit dated, but functionally it’s been successful at what it sets out to do.

TripIt’s new Mac app doesn’t bring any surprises, and that’s probably a good thing. It provides all of the same information as the iOS app, but from the desktop.

I have only been testing out Catalyst apps for a few days, and there are still some rough edges that need to be smoothed out. Right clicking is common on the Mac but not on an iPad, obviously, so right clicking sometimes does nothing. I’ve also had each Catalyst app crash on me at least once, so there’s that, too.

Mac  TripIt

Another thing to consider is the price — some of these apps probably cost more than you would expect. I think it’s high time that developers are compensated fairly for their work, so I have no particular issue with paying higher prices — but it will impact sales, regardless. Cocoacake, the maker of Fiery Feeds, is charging US$34.99 for the Mac app, justifying the price on the company’s blog by saying it’s a one-time cost that will cover the next three to five years of app updates. Lire is listed at $19.99.

I suspect performance issues to be worked out over time as more developers use Catalyst and Apple continues making improvements. Even today, in the early days, it’s encouraging to see so many developers embrace Catalyst and have apps ready on day one. If you want to see if your favorite iPad app is ready for the Mac, you can check this handy list put together by 9to5Mac.

If the launch of these early apps is any indication, it looks like a safe bet that Catalyst will breathe some new life and a bit of excitement into the Mac app ecosystem.

October 10, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Quartz reports the NBA-China spat draws global attention to Hong Kong protests:

Politicians from across the spectrum—from Ted Cruz to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—have warned the NBA not to compromise America’s respect for free speech and bend to China’s will. The Washington Post (paywall), the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal (paywall) have advised the league in strongly worded editorials not to be complicit in Chinese censorship. The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah devoted a segment to the NBA firestorm, with a pretty comprehensive list of China’s offense-taking in the last two years.

And basketball fans have added oil to the issue, as Hong Kongers might say, by taking protest messages directly to NBA games. Fans attending pre-season NBA games in the US have worn t-shirts or held up placards bearing messages of solidarity with Hong Kong, including during an exhibition game between the Washington Wizards and the Guangzhou Loong Lions.

China has a long history of bullying American companies, but this is different. China wants a major US company to punish an American-born citizen, who lives in America, for speech made while on US soil. And unlike other companies that have been forced to change their websites or pull products, the NBA is a company with millions of fans who follow its every move.

There are also few things Americans hold dearer than freedom of speech — it is one of the few issues left with bipartisan consensus, where Americans of different backgrounds and religions and socioeconomic status have common ground. Now millions of people — including millions of sports fans who previously knew nothing about the Hong Kong protests — have been galvanized in opposition to China and in support of freedoms in Hong Kong.

Make no mistake, this was a massive strategic blunder by China.

October 4, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Hong Kong ‘not in a state of emergency’, says city leader Carrie Lam as she introduces anti-mask law (SCMP):

Hong Kong’s embattled government has announced plans to ban people from wearing masks at public assemblies, as it struggles to control the increasingly violent civil unrest gripping the city. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration, under mounting pressure from its political allies to put a stop to nearly four months of anti-government protests, imposed the ban on Friday through legislation by invoking a tough, colonial-era emergency law that has not been used in more than half a century. Sources have said the new law could entail a jail term of up to one year or a fine of HK$25,000, and would apply to lawful assemblies as well.

Blocking traffic, throwing Molotov cocktails, setting fires, vandalizing MTR stations, and hurling bricks at police station windows are also illegal, so why would protesters suddenly obey this law?

Furthermore, police are usually badly outnumbered and struggle to arrest even the most violent of protesters. Why do they think they’ll be able to arrest potentially thousands more people illegally wearing masks?

Protesters in Central on 4 October

Protesters take to the street in Central, Hong Kong, minutes after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the mask ban on 4 October.

September 23, 2019 -

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Apple Watch has grown and evolved so much over the years that the latest iteration, the Series 5, is basically an entirely different product from the original (now termed “Series 0”).

The Siri watch face was introduced in 2017 to fulfill the watch’s initial promise: provide the information the user wants in the context and moment the user wants it. It sounds like the ideal reason to own a smartwatch, but it didn’t really work. The watch face, which presents bits of data on cards (pictured below), mostly contained the weather forecast and reminders to stand up and breathe.

Last year Apple opened up Siri to developers, greatly increasing the amount of data that could potentially be shown. Relevance is the most important for a service like this, so users were given the option of selecting which apps should have access to Siri. Here’s the key: it was easy to figure out how to do that. Open the Watch app on the iPhone, tap Siri watch face, and voila: a selection of data sources that can be turned on or off. Great!

Ah, maybe not so great.

Watch Screenshots

I love the idea of the Siri watch face and think it could be the primary and most useful face for most people. I’d love to see the weather when I wake up in the morning, the time of my first meeting, maybe a news headline or two, and when the Canucks game starts (they are played in the morning here in Asia). Throughout the day different apps could push information to me that I want or need, when I want or need them.

It all sounds fantastic, but it’s never really worked that way. I tried the Siri watch face for a while when it was released with watchOS 4 before reverting to another face. When Apple opened things up in watchOS 5, I thought I’d give it another shot to see if it got any better. I was eager to pick the data sources, which were conveniently right where I expected them to be: on the Siri watch face screen in the Watch app on the iPhone. I mean, makes perfect sense, no?

No.

Today, with watchOS 6 installed, I again thought of giving it another shot. I went to customize my settings but there was nothing there. No data source selection. I tapped around both the phone and watch trying to find this mysterious setting before eventually succumbing to Google.

So, dear reader, I will save you the time and reveal the odd place this setting is located. These instructions assume you’ve already added the Siri watch face to your “My Faces” section. Here’s how to find the data sources:

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down until you see “Clock”, then tap it.

Clock
3. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where you’ll find “Siri Face Data Sources”. Tap that.

Clock Settings
4. Start tapping away.

Data Sources

I have no idea why settings for a Siri watch face wouldn’t belong in, you know, the Siri watch face settings. But who am I to second-guess a trillion dollar company?

Now that I’ve found it, I’m excited to see if the watch face is any more useful. Fingers crossed.

September 18, 2019 -

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Truth be told, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Hong Kong has been beset by protests and and unrest all summer, adding more uncertainty to a city already filled with anxiety. It was time to get out of the mayhem and take a break. I spent some time looking for seat availability using points and was shocked to uncover a business class ticket to New York City for just 85,000 Asia Miles. I’m in.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those 85,000 miles were going to get me a lot more than I anticipated. When I got to the gate, the Cathay Pacific gate agent scanned my boarding pass and the machine beeped. She looked up and shuffled through some boarding passes on the counter, then grabbed one and handed it to me: “You’ve been upgraded,” she said with a smile.

I travel a lot, and I’ve been upgraded a handful of times to premium economy or business class — but never to first. I have long wanted to give it a try, but it never made much sense: overseas business class on most airlines is plenty comfortable, and the food is about as good as you’ll get anyway. So why pay so much more, in cash or rewards points?

But who am I kidding — of course I was pumped when she passed me that new boarding pass, because this isn’t just any old first class seat. It’s the Hong Kong to New York flight — the flagship route on Cathay Pacific. It’s the pinnacle of what Cathay Pacific offers its guests, and something I may never experience again.

The first class experience

Cathay flies a 777-ER between New York and Hong Kong, with a 1-1-1 configuration in first class. There are just six seats — ahem, “suites” in Cathay’s parlance — right at the front of the aircraft. Back in business class (I love saying that) Cathay uses a 1-2-1 configuration. Each first class suite is about double the size of a business class seat.

There is no stepping over passengers and squeezing into this seat. Everything is extended and spread out, with plenty of table space, a private closet, storage, and a physical seat that is wide enough to leave items beside you and never bump into them. The flight attendants offered welcome drinks after I sat down, and being 9am I opted for orange juice.

A unique aspect of first class is the complete lack of overhead bins. The suites are large enough for each one to have its own storage closet, and anything that doesn’t fit in there can slide in under the ottoman. Having no overhead bins really opens up the cabin and makes everything feel more spacious and less crowded.

Each seat has a 17 inch touch-screen monitor for Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. I almost never use the in-flight entertainment anymore, instead filling up my iPad with magazines and podcasts before boarding. I wasn’t going to break routine on this flight, so my first act after sitting down was to switch off my monitor. (I obviously can’t review Cathay’s entertainment offering as a result, but I hear it’s pretty good!)

Underneath the monitor was a very spacious storage compartment where I put my Cathay-issued noise-cancelling Bose headphones, amenity kit for males, and other items like my boarding pass and passport.

It seems obvious, but one thing I really enjoy about flying in premium cabins is the table space, and this suite is no exception. There is plenty of room for a bottle of water, coffee, iPad, Kindle, a travel wallet, and any other reading material that I would want to keep close by during the flight. There’s even a hidden little compartment for valuables.

Caviar and champagne

After I put away my luggage and got comfortable, the fight attendant came over carrying two navy blue garment bags and asked me if I would like the pajamas in medium or large. This being Asia, and me being from North America, “large” was the much safer bet.

Then another flight attendant passed me the menu: we would get lunch and dinner on the flight, with a few options for the on-demand snack service. Full on-demand dining has been attempted by several airlines, often with mixed results. It’s a nice perk, but it’s not a deal breaker. Plus, on-demand dining is a lot more work for flight attendants.

I looked at the menu but, as usual, had no plans to eat right after takeoff. I’m a bit peculiar on flights because I would rather eat before boarding to leave more room to spread out and relax, read, or do some work. Sometimes busy flight attendants can leave empty trays on the table for extended periods of time, which has always been a minor nuisance to me.

I had grabbed a croissant and coffee in the lounge earlier, so I told the flight attendant I’d be happy with one of their signature Cathay Pacific drinks once we reached cruising altitude. Cathay actually has a track record of some pretty delicious signature cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, and rare is the day that I don’t enjoy one. The flight attendant told me the signature cocktail for the flight would be the Pacific Sunrise, a combination of champagne and Drambuie with a hint of orange and lemon. The non-alcoholic option was the Cathay Delight: a kiwi fruit-based drink with coconut milk and a touch of fresh mint. That’s the one I picked (remember it’s 9:30am, people).

When the Cathay Delight arrived it was even better than I expected, with a consistency more like a smoothie than a juice. As I enjoyed the beverage I thought of an article penned by Lucky, the eccentric personality behind the popular travel hacking site One Mile at a Time, about the more mundane parts of his job reviewing airlines — and one of them was ordering food for the sole purpose of writing about it, even when he wasn’t hungry. So, dear reader, in the spirit of a full and complete examination of Cathay’s first class offering, I decided to suck it up, take one for the team, and make the ultimate sacrifice: I ordered the king prawns. You’re welcome.

I’ll discuss the prawns in a moment because there were plenty of other dishes lined up first, and one of them stole the show: caviar and champagne. I am not a regular caviar consumer (is anyone?), but I developed a strong appreciation for it during a stay in St. Petersburg, Russia, a couple of years ago. Caviar can also be hit-or-miss, but this was a massive hit — a home run. Cathay serves Calvisius caviar, which comes from Italy, served with the traditional garnishes of blinis, chives, creme fraische, and chopped eggs. The flight attendant also poured a flute of Krug 2004, a rare treat. This dish alone made me grateful that I decided to order lunch.

Next up was a tomato, orange and basil soup, which was good if not particularly noteworthy. It was followed by a vitello tonnato with truffle mascarpone cheese, a dish I suspect you might not be familiar with. Here’s what our good friends over at Wikipedia have to say:

…a Piedmontese (Italian) dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna. It is served chilled or at room temperature, generally in the summertime, as the main course of an Italian meal or as “an exceedingly elegant antipasto for an elaborate dinner.”

This was probably my least my favorite dish during the meal, and definitely the least flavorful. I left enough of it behind to concern the flight attendant, who asked me if there was any problem. I replied that it was fine, but was saving room for the entree. (Hey, it’s partly true.)

Now to the main course: the king prawns arrived having been pan-fried and served with lemon herb garlic butter, asparagus, and millet. Putting lemon herb garlic butter on anything makes it better, so it’s no surprise the prawns were magnificent. The dish was also noteworthy because it wasn’t heavy, which can sometimes happen when “fried” and “butter” come together.

If the caviar was the star of the show, the runner-up was the dessert: a pumpkin coconut sweet soup. Hong Kong is known for almond tea and coconut or sesame desserts, so I expected something like that — but this was different. Unfortunately the flight attendant brought it over just before some fairly severe turbulence, so a lot of it ended up spilling onto the table. The parts that made it into my mouth, though, were absolutely excellent: it was sweet but not too sweet, not too heavy, and it’s coconut and pumpkin. Need I say more?

The most comfortable bed in the sky

I only got around three hours of sleep the night before, so after filling my face I was ready for a nap. I told the flight attendant I would probably nap a bit later — envisioning reading for a bit with the seat comfortably reclined — but she jumped to attention at the word “nap”, darting into the galley and coming back with a mattress pad. I stood to the side as she transformed my seat into a beautiful, cozy-looking bed.

This is one of the more notable differences between business class and first. Business class has lie-flat seats, but they are quite narrow without a lot of room to maneuver. The first class bed was much wider, longer, more comfortable, and the bedding was top tier. In short, this was basically better than any bed I slept in until I was about 35.

Being first class, the pampering couldn’t stop with just the mattress pad. Passengers flying long haul are also given pajamas — and not just any pajamas. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled enough to actually compare pajama offerings by major airlines, and Cathay beats American, Etihad, and United hands down. These are made with 100% pure cotton and come from a stylish, boutique fashion shop in Hong Kong called PYE. But don’t be calling them “pajamas”; Cathay and PYE are proud to offer “sleep suits”. Here’s a description from PYE’s website:

The sleep top, featuring a double sided collar, can be worn either up as a Mandarin collar or down in a classic pajama style. A single button sewn with a bright red thread adds a subtle signature to this special co-branded product. The sleep suit also comes with a pair of matching slippers and an eye mask, packaged in a variation of PYE’s reusable tote bags.

Decked out in my “sleep suit”, exhausted and with a full stomach, I fell asleep almost instantly after my head touched the pillow. There would be no reading. I slept for about five hours, waking up periodically by some turbulence along the way.

Post-nap munchies

When I woke up I was extremely hungry. I saw the flight attendants had left behind a box of pralines and bottle of Evian, but I figured now was a good time to try the snack service. My heart was set on the hamburger purely for novelty’s sake, but I have had it before so wanted to try something new. My options included roast duck with lai fun noodle soup, shrimp and fishball laksa (this was tempting), and Movenpick ice cream. I opted for the afternoon tea set and a latte.

This is a good spot to mention Cathay’s coffee service, which has been on point for a while now. Their lattes and cappuccinos are much better than one would expect, if not quite at the level rivaling the best boutique coffee shops. I remember the days of re-heated black tar on board aircraft, so almost anything is an upgrade on that.

The tea set was basic but hit the spot. The scone and clotted cream with strawberry jam were excellent, while the key lime cheesecake and savory options were just okay. I didn’t want to eat too much because dinner service would begin in a couple of hours. As I nibbled on mini cakes I hauled out the iPad Pro and began writing this review, making use of all of the available table space.

Descent into New York City

There was still about six or seven hours to go, so I went back to sleep. This time I regret to report that I selfishly slept right through the dinner service. Here’s what I missed:

  • Starter: Seasonal fresh fruits
  • Main Courses (choice of):
    • Pan fried black cod, asparagus, shimeiji mushroom, capsicum, carrot mash and parsley cream sauce
    • Stir fried chicken, black beans, broccoli and steamed jasmine rice
    • Tagliolini, porcini and Kalamata olives
  • Dessert: Key lime cheesecake and mixed berry compote

If I was awake at the time, I probably would’ve opted for the cod.

It was a flight attendant who eventually nudged me awake to inform me that we’d be landing in New York soon. The shades were being opened and it looked like a spectacular day with blue skies and sunshine.

Having just woken up, I asked the flight attendant if I could bother her for one more latte. She glanced at her watch and looked a bit nervous, as we were getting closer and closer to landing. To her credit, and my great appreciation, she agreed and brought me back a hot latte shortly thereafter. It hit the spot as I gazed out the window.

Before wrapping this up I should also mention the amenity kit. Cathay Pacific has teamed up with Aesop to give customers a male or female travel kit (I guess Cathay didn’t get the memo). The male kit contained the usual items: toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, comb, moisturizer, disposable razor, shaving cream, that kind of thing. I don’t think it was missing anything and appreciate the kit as a perk in first class, but it also didn’t stand out either. It was one of the few items on the flight that was run-of-the-mill — good, just not great. The problem is good stands out when everything else is great.

Wrapping up

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I didn’t see enough value in first class to justify the cost – in points, miles, or cash – when business class is already so comfortable. That still holds true today, and it’s partially why this flight was so special: it may never happen for me again. It was a glimpse into a different world, with different service standards, different food, different amenities, different snacks, and even nicer hardware like the Bose headphones and 17 inch touchscreen monitor. It’s a luxurious experience geared towards passengers who don’t think twice about dropping US$20,000 for an airline ticket, but still can’t quite afford to fly on their own Gulfstream.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t have the prestige that it once had, even before it got tangled up in Hong Kong’s summer of protest. But the airline remains one of the best in the world, and service on their Hong Kong-New York route was a good reminder of why. Today’s upstarts from the Middle East and Singapore might have more bling, but Cathay still has that quiet, classy confidence that has served it well over the years. I suspect that will keep many of its customers — at least first class ones — loyal for a long time to come.

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