Hello from Kaohsiung, Taiwan! I came over from Hong Kong yesterday (4 May 2016) and will be here for a few days before I set off again.
Anyway, if you’ve been reading since Part 1, thank you so much! Otherwise, please do join me on this trip as I will have SO much to share with all of you. Believe it or not, I added two more flights to my itinerary! This was decided just two days ago and I have already edited the list of flights below. Since the introduction in Part 1 has been edited so as to include the additional flights, I’ll be duplicating the whole introduction in this instalment. Scroll down to skip to the flight report if you’ve already done the intro back in Part 1, or maybe you can try and spot which are the two new flights? =P
(This is a repetition of the series introduction, duplicated here in Part 3 for the convenience of those who’ve not read it, and also since there has been an addition to the list of flights.)
A few pointers before we proceed:
1. I intend to do this series semi-live; i.e. I shall type as I fly and publish the FR soon after arriving at a destination. I do apologise if there are delays but I will try my best to be as up to date as possible.
2. I will do away with my usual “timeline” style (see my past reports), otherwise it will take me much, much longer to get my reports ready.
3. Those square brackets in italics will give you an idea as to when exactly I was writing parts of the reports in this series.
4. And lastly for now, my apologies for not catching up on those previous series of mine. Was so super busy in school and also, busy preparing for this massive trip of mine. (:
Alright, let’s go!
It all dates back to October 2015, when Qantas announced an enhanced partnership with American and offered double points promotion for flights from Australia to the United States. It really looked like a great offer, so after some research and planning, I hopped on the offer and got myself a round trip Qantas itinerary for May 2016, from Melbourne (MEL) to Los Angeles (LAX).
(Background info: I frequent the SIN-MEL hop on Qantas/Emirates and got myself a oneworld Sapphire status with Qantas last October)
Happy with my first ever transpacific flight itinerary in my inbox, I went on with life. And began to start planning how I should kill time on the 15-hours flights to and fro. Oh, I was kinda excited to be booked on the AA flight from Sydney (SYD) to LAX too! It’s a codeshare with Qantas and I was to be travelling on a QF flight number. How cool it is to fly coach in AA for 14 hours? (You don’t need to answer me…) I shall look forward to it.
Moving on, two months passed and near Christmas 2015, my friend and I began pondering on the idea of going on a short graduation trip together. He suggested Hong Kong, and I said “Why not add in Taiwan?” So after a few more conversations, we decided on an itinerary from 1 to 8 May 2016; for this round trip, the airlines we’ll ride on shall be CX and KA.
Alright, one more intra-Asia sector booked! Now, it was time to plan the details of my first trip to USA. I asked my mom if she would like to join me in LAX but she said if she has to fly by herself all the way to North America, she’d prefer not to. (Background info: My mom is based in Kaohsiung (KHH) so I actually get free accommodation there)
After further discussions with her, I decided to amend my flights to USA and fly out with my Mom from KHH. There were of course quite a lot of implications stemming from this decision: potential QF bonus miles lost, QF itinerary change fee which was AUD200, and the cost of another round trip air ticket from KHH to LAX. But hey, if I get to travel with and accompany my mom on these long, long flights across the Pacific Ocean, why not?
I managed to sort out all the math and reduced my “net loss” to minimum (I am an accountant by profession, by the way. Or maybe, in just a few more months, I will be). With regards to how we want to get to LAX, my mom told me to make all the final decisions and just let her know when I am done. Oh well, even if she didn’t give me the discretion to do it, I will. Haha!
So the QF/AA combination disappeared from my itinerary and a whole new set of itinerary was added in. Keen to guess what’s the new airline I booked us on? =P
Situation now is: the itinerary for my mom and I is a new one, my original itinerary consisting of the QF/AA combination had been turned into a voucher and was displayed on Qantas’ website as “VOUCHER”. I found it nice that QF allows this flexibility, despite at a cost of AUD200. Nevertheless, it was still better than cancelling the ticket altogether at a cost of AUD400. Now, with the “voucher” in my QF account, what should I do with it? Tell me, what will you do? I mean, any AvGeeks on this website would be excited at the thought of having an “airline voucher” right? It lets us run our imagination wild and start figuring out all the different kinds of routing possible. Woohoo!
Okay, wait. There’s a few rules though. I need to originate and return to Australia. It must be a return ticket, not a one-way ticket, not an open-jaw one. And, the last rule is an optional one, I need to find an itinerary that is “of the same value of the voucher or higher”, anything cheaper, I lose out; anything more expensive, I will have to key in my credit card number again; no prizes even if you guessed correctly which option I chose!
Well, of course I could’ve just used the voucher on my usual MEL-SIN round trip, book it on a more expensive booking class and earn some additional QF points from it. But since I prefer an itinerary that’ll be more interesting, more research was needed and I figured I should just settle my round trip between Singapore (SIN) and Australia first.
Let’s shelf the “flexible” itinerary aside for now since I really, really couldn't decide where I should fly to from Australia. I figured I should settle the easier decision first and make up my mind as to how to get to Australia from Singapore. I began searching for QF flights (as I’ve already done so numerous times in the past few years), but after a while, I just wasn’t satisfied with the ticket prices. Then one day, British Airways came into the picture! All along, I was aware about the fifth freedom route between SIN and Sydney (SYD), operated by BA15/BA16, of which SIN is the intermediate stop on this pair of flights between London and SYD. The only thing was – my girlfriend stays in MEL and that’s where I want to end up in whenever I mention “Australia”. A round trip itinerary on BA from SIN to MEL will usually cost a lot, since the SIN-SYD sector will be priced at full fare and the SYD-MEL hop will be on a BA flight on Qantas metal, and furthermore, this earns me only a pitiful amount of QF points.
What happened was, as I browsed through the Internet, whoever that’s “monitoring” my online activities and surfing habits must have figured that “this guy desperately wants to get on a flight to Australia but he is stingy and does not wanna pay much” … So a random advertisement appeared, showing an offer ticket on BA between SIN and SYD. I got curious, so I clicked it. And opps, a few moments later, I received an email from “someone” called “British Airways e-Ticket”.
Moving on, I got myself a BA ticket and finally will be in Australia around the second week of May 2016. Back to the “flexible” itinerary, I have decided to use the “VOUCHER” in my QF account to fly from MEL to KHH, meet my mom, and then off we go to USA. Question is – How? On what (airline)? Of course there’ll be QF – it’s a QF voucher. But QF doesn’t fly to KHH, the nearest it can take me to is HKG, thereafter it will be China Airlines (CI) or Dragonair (KA). But a CI-numbered flight on a QF itinerary means I won’t get to earn points and get my OW perks. KA? It’s just a little… Boring? So I explored other Asian destinations to head to, and then connect on one last regional flight into Taiwan. Long story short, I considered PEK, PVG, ICN, SGN, BKK and finally, Tokyo (HND/NRT). Japan won the bid, hehe. So I successfully converted my “VOUCHER” into this routing: MEL-SIN-HND/NRT-BNE-MEL. All on QF flight numbers, but the SIN-NRT sector gets me a fifth opportunity to sample Japan Airlines on this trip. Yay!
From Tokyo to KHH, I gave up on oneworld because JL was just too expensive. I thought of BR so as to earn some Krisflyer miles. But it was still a little expensive, and since it was me making the decision for myself. Why not add one more airline in this trip? Alright, CI got it. I booked a discounted economy ticket with no mileage accrual implication at all. Ah, whatever. I just want to fly CI, furthermore, the B747 flight from NRT to TPE made it even more tempting. So this itinerary connects me from Tokyo to Kaohsiung (and back) – NRT-TPE-KHH-NRT. Some of you familiar with Taiwan’s aviation situation may be a little sharp to realise something wrong – a domestic flight from Taipei to Kaohsiung?! Yes, it’s a real flight! That’s the twice daily shuttle between the two biggest cities in Taiwan; these flights can only be booked in conjunction with international flights. And I get to try it!
In the midst of all these, my sister is currently completing her internship in Macau. And mom asked if I want to accompany her for a short 3D2N in Macau? By now, you should know my response. “Why not?” A third Taiwanese carrier for the epic Graduation Trip – TransAsia Airways, KHH-MFM-KHH.
Then comes the end of March 2016, things got so super busy in school and the final weeks of my final semester as a student were just pure madness. You might have realised that my itinerary now still has a gap between SYD and MEL. Just as I was about to fill it up with a Jetstar ticket, QF popped an email in my inbox saying “Double Qantas Points on every eligible Qantas flight, everywhere!” The promotion ends 5 April 2016. That’s it, QF got my loyalty, again! Let’s join the dots between SYD and MEL.
Hmm… There’s one last portion of my trip to complete now. My girlfriend and I have been eyeing New Zealand since late last year, and we wanted to be there right smack in the middle of winter. Just as we were about to book the daily Emirates A380 service into Auckland, Qantas’ double points offer appeared and snatched our loyalty. Without surprises, we will be travelling Qantas into Auckland and out of Christchurch in June 2016.
Two more domestic sectors in New Zealand had to be decided and since these are intra-NZ flights, what’s better than Air New Zealand? Here are the itineraries: - The crossing from North to South Island: WLG-NSN; and - The hop across the South Island: ZQN-CHC.
Once done with New Zealand, we will go back to MEL via SYD (and spending half a day in SYD). And then I will return to SIN to settle some errands in the first week of July, this shall see me clearing the return portion of the BA itinerary. Once errands are completed, I will conclude my graduation trip with yet another simple round trip to MEL, to spend some time with my girlfriend before work starts for good. Argh… (Anyway, the final round trip to MEL was booked under the QF promotion too!)
Oh…! There’s one last round trip that I added in after everything else was confirmed. And it was none other than the EVA Air return trip that I made in Parts 1 & 2.
Finally! I am done with the introduction of this series, everything adds up to this:
(Update: 3 May 2016) Around the last week of April, Taiwan-based UNI Air announced its final MD-90 flight’s schedule. I’ve never been on an MD-90, nor have I travelled domestically in Taiwan before. After checking the final flight’s schedule, I realised that it will take place on the very day that I will be in Taiwan! I wouldn’t be able to make it if it was a day earlier or a day later. I was extremely tempted to book a ticket on this flight from Kinmen (KNH) to Taipei-Songshan (TSA). After working out my budget and schedule, I decided to go! Since I’ll be arriving in KHH the day before after my trip to USA, I have to fly from KHH to KNH. For that short sector, I chose the cheapest flight on offer – a Transasia ATR72 service; yet another first for me!
Presenting to you my latest series… 2016 Graduation Trip – The AvGeek Style!
Cathay Pacific CX710 Aircraft Registration: B-LBE Origin: Changi International Airport, Singapore (SIN) Destination: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) Date: Sunday, 1 May 2016 STD/STA: 0800h (UTC+08:00) to 1200h (UTC+08:00) ATD/ATA: 0751h (UTC+08:00) to 1146h (UTC+08:00) Estimated Duration: 04 hours 00 minutes Actual Duration: 03 hours 55 minutes Flight Distance: About 1,587 miles / 2,554 km
[Will try to complete this report before leaving Kaohsiung, so that I’ll be just one flight behind schedule]
I arrived at Changi Airport (SIN) early in the morning around 6.15am. Crowds were slowly building up in Terminal 1 but when I was there, the terminal was still quite empty.
I waited a while for my friend who's travelling with me to Hong Kong and Kaohsiung this coming week. We bypassed the self check-in kiosk and headed straight to the Marco Polo counter where my Qantas card was accepted.
The friendly agent processed us quickly and we received our boarding passes and lounge invitation card soon after. CX uses the Dnata lounge in SIN.
At this point I'd like to point out that this report will be relatively shorter, due to two reasons: (1) I was really tired that morning after only 3h+ of sleep the night before and (2) My friend was travelling with me so I didn't want to stop everywhere for photo-taking.
The second reason will however only hold true for this flight. Thereafter, I guess my "flight-reporter" inner self resurfaced and on the next flight I just kept clicking away on my camera. HAHA.
Immigration was a quick affair thanks to the automated clearance, and we went into the Dnata lounge immediately. It was my second time visiting, and in general I think this lounge is quiet and cosy enough, but just a little small in size when it gets busy in the afternoon.
Some quick pictures before I settle down for breakfast.
The choices on offer for breakfast were quite limited. Basically, I took almost everything available as you can see in the next two photos.
It's interesting that there's Hudsons Coffee in the lounge. This is a brand from Melbourne and I've tried it in Melbourne before. Not extremely amazing in my opinion but still good coffee.
Early in the morning, however, there were still no baristas on duty so I just got some espresso from the coffee machine.
Wi-Fi in the lounge had quite a decent speed.
We left the lounge at 7.15am, 5 minutes before the scheduled boarding time. But when we were at the gate, boarding was already well underway and the boarding lounge was already quite empty.
Here's our aircraft for the day! An A333 registered B-LBE was operating CX710 to Hong Kong that morning. This aircraft arrived in Singapore at about 7pm the day before as CX735, and it spent the night in SIN. Interesting that CX didn't turn the aircraft around immediately.
If I remember correctly, this was my first time flying Economy on Cathay Pacific’s A333. The Economy seats on CX’s A333 are much better than those on the B772/773s, in my opinion – more comfortable in general, better IFE screens and more storage space.
Here’s a cabin view from my seat.
The legroom was decent.
A quick look at the seatback. The screen’s angle cannot be adjusted but it has a high resolution. Beside the screen is a coat hook, and below the screen is a large space where many small personal items can be stowed. In fact, even my iPhone 6 Plus can fit in nicely.
And a closer look at the seat itself. The headrest was quite comfortable and I managed to catch 50-minutes of sleep on this short flight.
The above photographs were taken at different stages of the flight. Now, let’s get back to the beginning of the flight as we were about to push back early, at around 7.51am. The aircraft doors were closed at 7.46am.
Before that, the captain gave a welcome announcement.
IFE was not usable yet, but the flight map was available right from boarding.
(Photo above) There was a Singapore Airlines Cargo B747F quite a distance away.
(Photo below) But the only aircraft that I could take a decent photo of that morning was this Xiamen Air B738, registered as B-5308. It was operating flight MF856 from Singapore to Tianjin via Xiamen.
On our way to Runway 02C.
We took off at 8.16am and had some nice views of Johor as the aircraft climbed and set course to HKG. This is the take off video – you can see a China Southern aircraft lining up for take off before us.
A view of the aircraft and our screens after take off. I watched a Korean movie titled The Phone (더폰) and my friend watched Jurassic World. If you are about to fly in the near future, I do recommend catching these two movies during your flight!
A packet of wet tissue and drinks were distributed half an hour after take off.
And I went to the lavatory before meal service commenced. Sorry that my elbow intruded into the photo – I must have been really tired to not have realised it at all.
Breakfast was served at 9.12am.
Both of us chose the bacon with frittata choice and I was quite satisfied with everything in the tray! The frittata was good, hash brown wasn’t too bad, and the bacon + tomato tasted quite nice too. So, catering ex-SIN isn’t always that bad – I agree with you, Socalnow!
The muffin was okay, though I already don’t have much impression of it 5 days after the flight.
I had two yoghurts ‘cos my friend wasn’t interested in eating it.
I decided to take a short walk around the aircraft because the meal made me feel really full. As you can see, the flight was quite full and there were very little empty seats.
Back at my seat, I completed the movie and took a nap at around 10.30am.
Our captain came on the PA to inform of us about the weather in HKG – cloudy with a ground temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.
The seatbelt sign came on again at 11.15am and I woke up fully a while later. (I wasn’t really in deep sleep since I managed to note down these timings in my phone. =P)
I could have slept through the descent and just open my eyes after the aircraft has landed. I’d have done that if I wasn’t seated on a window seat, but since I was, I can’t miss the chance of videoing the descent and landing.
There were beautiful “crystals” forming on the window; it’d be such a waste if I didn’t manage to photograph this.
As we approached HKG, the Hong Kong-Macau bridge came in sight. It’s a spectacular infrastructure currently being constructed and I’m extremely curious about how it will change the commuting patterns between these two places after the bridge is completed.
This is the video of our approach into HKG. It was nice looking at the engines during the descent; since I usually have a habit of choosing seats at the back of Economy.
First aircraft in sight after landing – a UA B747.
And then Philippine Airlines’ A333 which was flying the short-hop between HKG and MNL.
This Mandarin Airlines E190 was operating the KHH-HKG-TNN-HKG-KHH rotation that day. Its flight numbers were AE981, CI7868, CI7867, AE986; the Tainan flights are operated for its parent company, China Airlines. It must be the low season for the newly introduced TNN-HKG route now since CI was still sending its own B738s up till a few months ago.
Interesting airlines up next! South African’s A346 from JNB and Mongolian’s B738 from ULN.
In all, HKG really has an interesting line-up of international carriers, always! (Tell me the number of airlines you can see in this picture!)
This was our full flight route as seen in the IFE. And we arrived at our gate early at about 11.46am.
Another interesting I observed on this flight – a message popped up on the screens requesting passengers to “lower window shades before leaving aircraft so as to keep the cabin cool”. This is the first time I saw such a message and I definitely found it interesting.
Oh well, apparently Business Class passengers were too lazy to bother about the instructions…
Immigration queues that day were decently short and we were through in about 10 minutes. If we reached the immigration counters 5 minutes later, we would have had to queue behind many, many Chinese tour groups – that’s why we decided to brisk-walk and rushed to be ahead of the queue.
I thought our bags would be delivered quickly, but after waiting for 10 minutes, the message “bags delayed” was shown on the carousel information screen.
We finally collected our bags 40 minutes after arriving at our gate, and were out of the airside at 12.25pm.
This time, we took the efficient Hong Kong Airport Express service to Kowloon, the journey was comfortable and really fast!
Upon arrival in Kowloon, we were able to use the free airport shuttle service which brought us directly to the doorsteps of our hotel.
In conclusion for this flight, the comfort level was increased by quite a bit because I personally prefer the seats on CX’s A333 than those on the B772/773s. I will see if I can discuss the differences in more detail after I fly the return leg of this journey (HKG-SIN); it's now scheduled to be operated by a B773, but EQVs are common on CX's regional routes.
For now, I’ll see you in the next report featuring Dragonair’s A320. Stay tuned!
[Signing off from Kaohsiung, Taiwan]
(To be continued)
This report was completed on 7 May 2016 at 12.12am (UTC+08:00).
I strongly prefer this type of Economy seats over those used in CX's B772/773s. It was comfortable and I didn't have any issues with it for this short 3h flight. The cabin crews were efficient and polite but not exceptionally friendly. CX has a great entertainment system - we know this. And this time round, catering ex-SIN was not bad!
The Dnata lounge is a good place to relax and chill before your flight. However, the sofa seats aren't very user-friendly if you are intending to do some work on your laptops; use the dining area instead, but it may be a little noisier there. I found there to be a lack of food choices, but those choices on offer were decent. Edible but definitely not memorable.
Departing SIN early in the morning was a pleasant experience.
Arrival into HKG was nice too. Only thing was that baggage delivery got slightly delayed. Getting out of HKIA was super convenient with the Airport Express too!
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