After a later-than-expected arrival due to the weather in Hong Kong, it was almost 9:00 pm by the time I made it to my hotel in Sheung Wan. From there, it’s the all-too-familiar first-night-in-Asia routine. Although this time, it would be my only night in Asia. Despite getting a couple of decent naps in on the flight across the Pacific, I was out like a light upon arrival at my hotel in Sheung Wan. Upon arrival, I threw myself in a heap on my bd, and immediately fell asleep, getting a good hour and a half before I found myself waking up, pushing 11:00 pm Hong Kong Time.
No longer tired, I set about my day — did some work, even did a couple of calls back home, and watched some TV. About 4:00 am, I started feeling a bit tired again, and by 4:30, I had tucked myself back in for another nap. Another couple of hours, and I was ready to face the day. Well, with some help from some coffee.
Shower, breakfast, out the door and into a rainy Hong Kong morning. Make the short jaunt over to Central for the meetings which necessitated this trip, then a quick trip across the harbour to Jordan for a very quick model shopping stop. Because #avgeek. Then back across to the island and back to the hotel. By this point, about 4:00 pm, it was no longer raining, but a hot (about 29 C) overcast day with humidity of about 500 per cent.
I grabbed by pre-packed bag and made my way to the nearest airport bus stop, just about a four-minute walk from my hotel. Sure, it lacks the refinement of the Airport Express, but I really like the airport bus to get to/from HKG. It feels like such a quintessentially Hong Kong thing to me, and you have to love the views from the long bridges between the islands between the city and HKG. Unfortunately, very few of those views translated into good photographs, but here’s a few looks at the drive to the airport.
We arrived at HKG a little before 5:00, and the weather, which was already less than stellar, was taking a turn for the nastier and darker. HKG, as always, was bustling but a pleasing experience, and as I already head my mobile boarding pass on my phone, within a few minutes I was into a short lineup for security, another short lineup for passport control, and then free airside in a great airport for spotters.
So it turns out Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong now. This 330 and the Korean 777 parked next to it would be racing each other up to Incheon this evening.
Then a pair of CX 777s at the end of this particular wing, one in regular livery and one special.
A China Eastern A321.
A South African 340-300.
A Cathay 747-400 in the distance.
The always-cool Fiji livery on an A330.
An LH 346 getting ready for its trip back to Germany.
A China Airlines A330 gets ready for pushback as its big sister and regent taxis in.
And that CI 744 pulls into its gate.
An Air India 788 against an increasingly threatening sky.
And a hometown 744.
A BR A321 gets ready to head back to Taipei. Just how much metal moves between HKG and TPE in a single afternoon/evening?
And of course, the pre-requisite Emirates 388.
A Hong Kong Airlines A330 as the rain begins to fall.
She hasn't sold particularly well, but the 747-8i is a favourite of mine, a beautiful melding of THE classic of aviation with some of the best looks of the new generation, like the serrated engine nacelles, and especially that blended wingtip. Such a gorgeous plane.
Meanwhile, an Air France A380 pulls in just down the terminal.
And a BA 777 has arrived since last I wandered by this gate. It’s clearly high time for arrivals from Europe.
The other side of the terminal is getting the worst of the weather, but the rain-streaked windows add an interesting effect to this LX 343.
Oh, and hey… there’s my ride, freshly arrived from Vancouver. She’s a little bit late this afternoon, but decided earlier than the previous day’s flight.
And rounding out our spotting for this afternoon, a TK 777, which I’m looking forward to experiencing for the first time in just a few short months.
Sighting complete, and with still about half an hour before our theoretical boarding time — more likely at least an hour since my plane is likely still offloading at this point — I head for the nearest Star Alliance lounge, Thai’s Royal Orchid Lounge. I spent some time here earlier this year on my side-jaunt from my trip to Seoul, and this is a quick stop, so it won’t be much of a review. At this point, having moved quickly through the terminal to do as much spotting as possible, I’m pretty warm, and I have exactly two priorities here — drink some water, and grab a shower. I quickly grab a bottle of water, and grab a few pictures. I do love how open this lounge feels, hanging over the concourse.
Rehydrated by slamming down about a litre of water as quickly as I can, I set about my second goal, and inquire about the shower. No problem. I’m given the key, and pointed towards the men’s washroom. A bit of an odd setup for a lounge, in my limited experience, to have the shower rooms be gender-specific and part of the washroom, but who am I to judge?
The shower suite is fairly small, and basic in amenities, but in the end it does its job, and I’m quickly refreshed and ready for my long flight back to Vancouver.
Someday soon….. someday soon.
Then it’s back down to the gate, where surprisingly enough given the late arrival of this plane into Vancouver, boarding is beginning just about on time.
I joined the already-forming lineup for Zone 1, and go through the usual procedure of having to get a paper boarding pass because the agent checking passports can’t scribble on the boarding pass on the screen of my phone. And after loading a bunch of passengers in wheelchairs, boarding is called.
As I cross the threshold onto the plane, the service director greets me and inquires as to whether I’ll be helping with the service today, since I’m keeping the same layover schedule as the crew. I reply that the flight down was so good, I just have to take her flight home as well.
For this flight, my upgrade cleared at the opening of the request period — and in fact, when I checked on ExpertFlyer with just over 24 hours pre-flight, the flight was still R9 — so I was able to snag one of the “thrones,” the lone window seat on the even-numbered rows on the HD 777. These are generally preferable for single travelers, as they provide the greatest privacy as well as window and aisle access. But they do have the smallest footwell of any seat on this plane. AC has reserved these seats for reservation by its Super Elites only, at least prior to gate upgrades being processed.
The seat is adorned with the typical gear — a nice duvet, a great pillow, and the standard AC amenity kit and earphones, along with the slippers only offered on flights to Asia.
As I sit down, I notice this seat is suffering a problem that seems to plague these seats far too often — the “inflatable” seatback is well-inflated (perhaps over inflated) in the lower half of the seatback, but the upper half is not inflating at all, so it’s straight back to the frame of the seat with just the empty airbag and fabric covering “cushioning” the upper half. I point it out to the service director as soon as I get a chance, and she tells me she’ll get a technician over to check it out.
Meanwhile, menus are offered — although I somehow failed to get a picture of mine — and pre-departure drinks are offered. I go with champagne to drink, and choose the salmon offering for my main course.
About this time, the technician shows up, and works his magic — which seems to involve crawling around on the floor in front of the seat behind me, and hitting things very hard. After a few minutes of smashing this and crashing that, the seat inflates properly, and I thank him kindly for his efforts.
The IFE for this flight has seemingly been updated to the October movies selection, unlike my flight down, so there are some new choices to make. I cue up the third episode of a documentary series on African American history I’ve been watching on previous flights, and let it start, and it’s only interrupted briefly by the pre-flight safety video as we push back into the rainy darkness at HKG. Unlike previous generations of AC IFE, this one actually seamlessly resumes what you were watching after cutting out to show the safety video.
I watch takeoff out the window, and as I sit back, I notice that my inflated seat is no longer inflated — it’s in exactly the same condition as it was before the technician worked his magic. I point this out to the service director, who apologizes profusely, but there’s nothing she can do about it now that we’re in the air. She suggests that if I want to, 1 J/K and 7 J/K are empty, so I can move. I reply that I likely will, after dinner. At this point I had just started the movie Scout, so didn’t want to be bothered with cueing it up again, and with a strategically-placed pillow, I find the seat just fine in a seated position.
About this time the noise-cancelling headphones are distributed, and they’re about the same as the ones on the flight to Hong Kong. But these ones also mysteriously avoid my camera’s gaze. You’d think I was tired at this point or something.
Service in the air begins with hot towel service, followed by the drink cart. I request some champagne to accompany the warmed cashew and almond pre-meal snack.
This crew is working fast for dinner service, and the tray of appetizer and salad are brought around hot on the heels of drink service. Bread is offered along with the tray.
The appetizer is a pleasant mix of this and that, with a scallop, a prawn, and a bit of gravellax with some celeriac julienne and the occasional grape tomato and walnut.
The salad is nothing special but nothing offensive, and comes with the only salad dressing AC seems to acknowledge the existence of, balsamic and olive oil.
The main of salmon on barley with a tasty and light lemony sauce to it. With capers, olives, and some red peppers, on a bed of barley, the dish has a Mediterranean vibe to it, and is much better than I was expecting. I’ve not been a big fan of AC’s catering ex-HKG in my limited experience with it.
Cheese, again offered with fruit and port, is next up.
And the finale is a slice of cheesecake with a faintly cinnamon flavour to it. Nothing exotic, but quite nice, especially paired with a little Baileys.
All in all, a better-than-average dinner for an AC flight out of Hong Kong, although not nearly as good as the lunch served on the way down.
As dinner wraps up, so does my movie, and I decide to check out the seats available to me. I sit down in 1K, but quickly notice it suffers from the same problem. How about 7K? Yep, under-inflated too. I finally decide that 1K is the best of the bad lot, and settle in there, somewhat disappointed and wondering how many of the seats on this plane have this kind of defect.
We’re out over southern Japan by this point, and I decide it’s time to finally get some sleep. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep.
And I am. I actually sleep solidly through the night, and by the time I wake up, the cabin lights are up and pre-arrival breakfast is being served around me. Wow. Checking the moving map, I’ve basically slept all the way across the Pacific. So I guess the seat wasn’t too bad after all. Either that or exhaustion had set in too far to be denied. I hadn’t even bothered with an eyeshade, and just slept with the noise-cancelling headphones on to keep things mostly quiet.
When the service director notices me putting my seat up, she quickly brings around a tray, offers a danish or croissant, and reappears moments later with one of each of the breakfast entrees. “What would you like for breakfast,” she asks, and in the same motion, is preparing to hand over an omelet. But she’s surprised when I ask for the congee with chicken and mushrooms. She gives a little laugh at her own presumptuousness, and swaps the omelet out for the congee.
While the rest of the meal is unremarkable, I really enjoy AC’s congee in J. It’s always been pretty good when I’ve had it, and it’s offered with a little bit of a chili paste to make it more interesting. Why can’t they do this with oatmeal? (Present a good one in the air, I mean… not necessarily have one with chicken and mushrooms and green onions.)
Oh, and once again I wake up to find a formerly-hot towel sitting next to me. Not sure why they do that.
With breakfast, I put on a short documentary about the Roman Colosseum, and manage to grab a few quick snaps of the window-side two-seaters on the HD 777. While these seats are fine for passengers traveling together, I struggle to recommend them even for that, because of the lack of aisle access, and only having one counter area that is shared between the two seats. It’s a perfectly fine seat for a single traveler, though, as long as that aisle seat remains empty. And the seat inflates properly.
Customs forms for Canadian arrivals are handed out, a sure sign that we’re getting pretty close to arrival, and as my show ends, I decide to get a little bit of a leg stretch in before arrival into Vancouver. I head forward, where one of the flight attendants who’s primarily worked the galley on this flight strikes up a conversation, inquiring if I’ll be joining them this flight next week. “No, not quite….” I reply. In two weeks, though….
We chat for a while about this and that… preferred routes for flight attendants, her routine on a layover, etc. She’s a big fan of the Asia flights out of Vancouver, but doesn’t so much enjoy the longer flight to Sydney, although many flight attendants do because it allows them to get their hours in in the fewest-possible trips and days away from home. We talk a little about our respective brief stays in Hong Kong, and about our flights onwards from Vancouver — hers commuting home to Vancouver Island, mine commuting home to Toronto.
With that, the chime sounds and it’s time to sit down and buckle up for a smooth arrival into Vancouver.
The big Boeing settles onto the runway, and we’re into Vancouver, parked next to an LH 744, just a bit behind schedule. Which is good, because I don’t have a very long connection in Vancouver to begin with, and it’s not exactly a short process at YVR.
With a goodbye to the now-familiar crew working business class on my flights, I head out onto the raised hallways that lead to Vancouver’s customs hall, one of the prettier arrival areas in Canada, to be sure, with lots of design hints taken from native art.
With the help of a Nexus card, I’m quickly through immigration. But then one has to walk the length the baggage hall, take an elevator up to the connections security area, line up to show boarding passes, get in a fairly long lineup for security, go through security, and the finally head downstairs and loose in the domestic concourse.
I make it in plenty of time for my next flight, which is where we’ll pick up the travelogue in the next flight-report.
Thanks for reading!
Thai Royal Orchid
Hong Kong - HKG
Vancouver - YVR
All-in-all, this flight did what I wanted it to do, in that I got a good night's sleep. And that's something. Still, I had to mark down cabin comfort a bit because of the seat inflation issues.
Catering was better-than-expected for AC ex-HKG, and the crew was great. I'd fly with them again. And perhaps I will.
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