Review: Cathay Pacific Airways Malé to Hong Kong (MLE-HKG)

Boarding the Airbus A330-300


Flight Details:

  • Date of flight: March 20, 2019
  • Where: Malé (“MLE”) to Hong Kong (“HKG”)
  • Flight time: 6 hours 20 minutes
  • Flight #: CX504
  • Seat: 16G


Check-in counters for Cathay Pacific open 3 hours before scheduled departure time. Cathay only has 1 flight per day to Hong Kong (CX 602) departing at 10:35pm, which means check-in opens at 7:35pm. I arrived on a seaplane from the Conrad Maldives roughly 2-hours before check-in was due to open. Since I had checked luggage my only option was to wait pre-security.

Malé Velana International Airport was a zoo! It was crowded, hot and a total buzzkill after an amazing 5-days at the Conrad Maldives. I attempted to use the Wellness Lounge, which is located pre-security using my Priority Pass Card, but was turned away because the lounge was at capacity.

Pro tip: There’s an enclosed area that houses a Burger King, fast food Thai restaurant and coffee shop that’s air conditioned, has lots of seating and free WiFi. If you arrive at Velana Airport before check-in camp out here.

Promptly at 7:35pm I headed to the Cathay Pacific check-in located in the international departures hall. There was a separate line for business class / Marco Polo and One World elites. I was second in line and waited roughly 2-minutes before being helped by a friendly Cathay Pacific agent who checked my bag, printed my boarding pass, distributed a fast track immigration pass and an invitation to use the Leeli Lounge.

The Lounge

I don’t feel like the lounge experience at Malé International Airport is worthy of its own post so I’m combining it with the in-flight experience. Most airlines contract with the Leeli Lounge, which is located on the first floor of the departure terminal, opposite to duty free.

I managed to take some pictures of the beverages and food so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. One thing you’ll notice missing is alcohol. Like elsewhere in Malé there’s no alcohol allowed.

The lounge has a lot of seating, but it was quite crowded given the number of late night departures. The setup and lounge itself is unremarkable.

To the right there was a cooler with various sodas and water. There was also a small amount of juice available, which wasn’t refreshed during my rather long visit.

Sad looking apple, mixed fruit and orange juice

Healthy options were quite limited, but consisted of a selection of salad and fruit.

Canned peaches, questionable looking lettuce and dressings

You can’t go wrong with potatoes and pasta right? Maybe you can.

Oily sweet potatoes and overcooked pasta

There was also some over salted cashew chicken, which was dry as a bone. It was basically inedible, but I was a hungry giraffe and ate it.

Dry chicken and rice

There was a selection of sweets available, but none of them looked too appetizing. Definitely not worth the calories.

Stale carb fest

The Flight

Cathay Pacific Flight 602 leaves Malé at 10:35pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 7:55am. The flight time is scheduled for a duration of 6 hours and 20-minutes. I wasn’t able to find any award space on this route so ended up purchasing a business class ticket.

Boarding was scheduled to begin about an hour before departure, but didn’t start until roughly 30-minutes before departure. All of the flights at Velana International Airport depart from remote stands. Business Class was called first and there was a mad rush to the gate. We were then packed into a bus like sardines for the short ride to the remote stand. There’s something special about boarding a wide body plane on the apron using stairs.

The A330-300 has 3 cabins in this configuration, with 2 Business class sections at the front of the plane followed by a Premium Economy class section and 2 Economy class sections. The business class cabin features a 1-2-1 configuration. I watched Expertflyer for a few months ahead of the trip and noticed the center seats in business class filled up first, which makes sense given the Maldives is such a popular couples destination.

Business class cabin

Pro Tip: You can check to see what movies are available on your flight ahead of time by following this link.

The IFE was fairly dated, but I was planning on sleeping for most of the flight so it wasn’t an issue.

First Class Giraffe checking out the A330 cabin

The seat controls are intuitive and easy to use. A reading light is well placed and is activated using a push button underneath the light. The remote for the IFE is fairly responsive, offers easy navigation, operates the overhead lights and serves as the flight attendant call button.

Seat control panel

Noise canceling headphones are provided and are waiting at the seat upon boarding. While not as good as the Bose headphones you get on other carriers they’re more than adequate for a short flight.

Shortly after boarding menus were distributed and pre-departure beverages (“PDBs”) were offered. Champagne isn’t offered on the ground in Malé so the choice of PDB was limited to orange juice or water.

A variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were available. They were serving Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne on this flight, which retails for around $40 a bottle. 

Champagne and white wine

There was also a selection of red and dessert wines.

Red and dessert wine

A variety of hard alcohol is available including Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin if you fancy a gin & tonic after takeoff.

Cocktails and liquor

Cathay offers a lovely selection of teas from Jing along with sodas and sparkling water.

Non-alcoholic drink selection

There were 2 options for the main course on the flight: stir fried seafood or braised lamb.

Dinner menu

I opted for the stir fried seafood, which was bland, but markedly better than the food in the lounge. Flight attendants came around several times proactively offering drink refills.

Stir fried seafood with mixed vegetables

Shortly after meals were cleared the flight attendants dimmed the cabin lights and I was able to get 4-hours of sleep before landing in Hong Kong.

Overall Verdict

First Class Giraffe Approved

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