Hello, this series covers a total of 34 flights that I have flown and will be taking over the next few weeks. You are strongly recommended to the full introduction in Parts 1 or 3, I’ll just duplicate a small portion here as a reminder.
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 know I’m quite behind time now but I promise to keep the reports coming! (:
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, for example, I am now writing this report on a British Airways flight.
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. (:
A look again at the map and flights included in this series:
After a night of proper rest in Kaohsiung, it’s now finally time to head to Macau, my final destination (for a few days).
This will also be my first time flying on Taiwan’s third-largest airline, TransAsia Airways (復興航空, IATA: GE).
The journey begins on a Kaohsiung MRT train.
Unlike the country’s main international gateway, Taoyuan International Airport (IATA: TPE), Kaohsiung International Airport is conveniently connected to the city’s metro network.
At the Kaohsiung International Airport MRT Station, the exit number 6 will lead you to the airport’s international terminal.
And today, we will be travelling on TransAsia Airways.
For this flight (and the next seven in this series), my mom will be joining me and thus I won’t be flying alone.
We headed to the GE counters at about 12.04pm (UTC+08:00, Kaohsiung time) but found out that they will only open at 12.30pm, 2h before departure. To kill time, I walked around the counter and came across these information boards – Regulations of Portable Electronic Devices.
There seems to be a lot of rules but basically, the message is simple – handheld electronic devices can now be used during all stages of flight on board GE aircrafts, regardless of whether you are flying domestically or internationally.
However, laptops are still not allowed on all stages of a domestic flight. Taiwanese domestic flights are really short, anyway.
(Left) GE’s cabin crew uniform. (Right) Information about hand carry baggage – though the English translation seems a little weird: “If it fits in here then it is allowed through.”
We decided to start queueing at about 12.20pm.
There were 2 priority counters, 3 Economy counters and 1 group check-in counter.
Here comes the catch for this flight. If you were sharp enough when looking at the previous two photographs, did you realise that we were queueing at the priority queue?
Theoretically, we shouldn’t be there because – not only were we flying Economy, this was our first time flying with this airline. Thus, we were neither Business class passengers nor the airline’s high-tier members. So who were we to use the priority counters!
The thing is – we were making this trip to Macau on one of the airline’s “2-to-go” promotion. We bought our tickets back in March 2016, and the promotion included not just a discounted ticket price but also a GE priority card that allowed us to use the airline’s premium service when departing from Taiwan (i.e. KHH in this case).
The “priority cards” were delivered to us in this envelope.
This card was valid only when departing from TPE, TSA or KHH.
With those cards, we could happily use the Business class counters and skip the queues at the Economy counters.
There was also a self check-in bag drop counter, but apparently, most passengers ignored the self check-in option that day. Or maybe it wasn’t even actually available?
TransAsia luggage tags were also provided at the check-in counters.
The ground staff started to arrive at the counters at around 12.27pm and the check-in process began punctually at 12.30pm.
What happened after that was, while we did manage to check-in at a Business class counter, the ground agent that was at that counter seemed rather inexperience and he took a very long while before successfully checking us in. During that time, his colleagues at the Economy counters have already cleared 2-3 groups of passengers. Hmm…
Nonetheless, we still managed to get our boarding passes and lounge invitation cards eventually!
Not knowing how long the queues at security and immigration will be, we headed straight to the airside and eventually cleared those formalities in just about 5 minutes.
Looking at the destinations on the departure FIDS, you can clearly see that KHH is indeed a regional airport.
Managed to get into the airside in just 5 minutes – it was about 12.55pm, 2.5h to our flight.
A quick look at a Dragonair A320 before we head to the GE lounge.
Dragonair / A320 / B-HSQ / KA443 KHH-HKG
The layout of KHH’s airside area is simple. If you turn right after immigration, you will easily see three airline lounges lined up by the side of the corridor. In sequence, they are the EVA Air Lounge, the Dragonair Lounge and the TransAsia Airways Lounge.
The EVA Air Lounge looks classy and I thought it’d be cool if I managed to get in and take a look one day.
The lounge of the day, however, was the TransAsia Airways lounge that looked much less interesting from the outside.
Let’s head in to see how’s it like inside. The friendly lounge staff granted our access instantly and welcomed us into the lounge.
And, tadah! This is it. The lounge was nothing more than a just tiny room. It was clean, quiet and actually quite nicely designed. But it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s really small. A few photos will do to show you almost the whole of this lounge.
Given GE’s international operations out of KHH, the size of this lounge actually is quite appropriate.
As for the lounge catering, it wasn’t amazing and the hot food options available weren’t actually enough to make a proper meal. But if you were really hungry like I was that day, you can go for two rounds of almost the same foods and you’ll still become really full after eating all those dim sums, buns and drinking the soup (that was actually quite tasty).
Even though the lounge was small in size, tables were still not cleared promptly. So these used plates and cutleries basically remained there for almost 45 minutes, until we left. I am guessing they clean the lounge after every flight departs.
Oh, and there was of course Wi-Fi provided in the lounge.
Initially, we were told at check-in that our flight would be delayed by half an hour. And the expected departure time was 3pm.
But at about 2.05pm, the lounge staff came around the lounge to inform us that boarding has commenced.
After hearing his announcements, we left the lounge and headed to our gate.
Immediately after exiting the lounge, I was able to photograph the aircraft that would be sending us to Macau that day.
And here’s another angle of the aircraft from the gate.
We arrived at the gate at about 2.09pm and right at that time, a delay in boarding was announced. Clearly, there seemed to be a lack of communication between the gate agents and the lounge staff.
Since there was a delay, everyone was still seated.
Here’s the “Boarding Priority” (i.e. boarding sequence). Allow me to quote exactly what’s written on this noticeboard.
“After Boarding for Business Class and Travelling with Infant Children or Needing Special Asistance Passengers, Economic Class: (1) Row 18 To Row 29, (2) Row 6 to Row 17.”
Hmm… Yup, I was travelling on “Economic Class” that day. We weren’t travelling with “infant children” and we did not need any “special asistance", and our promotion ticket didn’t include priority boarding as one of the benefits. So we have to board by rows along with other “Economic Class” passengers.
I had a bit more time so I walked around the terminal a little to see if there’s anything interesting.
Nothing much except for this Peach A320 departing for Osaka. Peach is a Japanese LCC and has hubs in Osaka-Kansai, Okinawa and Tokyo-Narita.
Peach Aviation / A320 / JA804P / MM36 KHH-KIX
Boarding commenced at about 2.29pm and it was done in an orderly manner.
The Business class seats on this aircraft didn’t look particularly comfortable, and the Economy class seats seemed to be just like what you will find on budget airlines. In fact, it seems like the cabin and seats on TransAsia’s very own subsidiary LCC, V Air, were much better in terms of both comfort and design.
If GE really wants to operate both a full-service airline brand and a low-cost carrier brand separately, then they must make the distinction really clear. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have done it, and this isn’t good in the long run. (For example, it’s extremely clear between Singapore Airlines and Scoot who’s the full-service one and who’s the LCC. Another good example will be Qantas and Jetstar.)
We moved on quickly to our seats and quickly settled down. On this flight, I was on the centre seat – luckily it was a short flight.
Well, at least the legroom seemed slightly more spacious than that on an LCC. At least something that’s better here.
The “seat pocket” on the other hand, looked almost exactly like what you’d find on an LCC (e.g. Jetstar).
In addition, some of the seat covers looked like they were going to tear soon. It’s just so ugly and unsightly. I can’t help but to compare this with China Airlines’ B737-800 cabin (the aircraft type that I’ve reviewed in my previous report). I’ll put a photo of the Economy seat on CI’s B738 here for comparison purposes.
This is GE’s A320 Economy seat.
And this is CI’s B738 Economy seat.
Back on the GE A320 – the overhead panel with adjustable air vents and individual reading lights.
I found the exact same information about “Regulations of Portable Electronic Device” in the seat pocket.
It was also interesting to note that the safety information cards were printed for specific aircrafts – i.e. B-22318 in this case.
Another random card I found in the seat pocket was one containing information about duty free promotions.
We’ll continue to look through the seat pocket contents after take off.
Cabin doors were closed slightly after 2.40pm and we took off soon after. So eventually, we departed just slightly behind time.
(UTC+08:00, Kaohsiung time) 1442 Cabin Doors Closed 1443 Pushed Back 1447 Began to Taxi 1451 Crew to be Seated 1454 Took Off 1459 Signs Off
This is the take off video that I took using my iPhone in a portrait configuration. The video isn’t that good since I was trying my best to avoid filming the stranger seated next to me – sorry about that. You can see that our take off roll seemed quite long for such a short flight.
Seatbelt signs were turned off just before 3pm, after which, the cabin crews sprung into action since this was a very short flight and they had loads to do.
The purser made a very nice welcome announcement in three languages. She also apologised for the delay due to extended ground operations.
Before the meal service, let’s look through GE’s in-flight magazine.
The magazine had a really pretty cover photo featuring Zhangjiajie, a famous tourist destination in China.
The contents featured in May 2016’s issue of GE’s magazine, Renaissance.
An advertisement about GE’s Japan routes; Japan is one of GE’s largest market, they have several routes to different cities of Japan, as you will see in the route maps later.
It was around the Duanwu Festival (端午節) that time so the magazine also featured an interesting article about rice dumplings, which are commonly eaten during this festival.
There were also several articles about various destinations, Yuan-Shan (圓山) in Yi-Lan County (宜蘭縣) and Tokyo in Japan.
The next article discusses “coffee culture” in various East Asian cities.
Isn’t this statistic interesting? A Chinese person drinks just 4 cups of coffee per year. And this is probably because most of the people in China still prefer to drink tea. Taiwanese people drinks about 100 cups per person. Japanese – 400 cups. And, Koreans, 600! That’s more than 1.5 cups per day.
This is the featured article about Zhangjiajie.
It’s probably also one of the airline’s featured destinations for that month. GE flies 5 times a week to Zhangjiajie from TPE.
There’s an article about Taipei in Japanese. I have learnt a little bit of Japanese over the past few months, but I still don’t think I can read this article in full. Nonetheless, reading the Chinese characters (i.e. Kanji 漢字) can still give me a general idea about what this article is about.
Anyone wants to take on the challenge to translate this article? Hahaha, just kidding! Don’t do it! Just enjoy reading my flight reports. =P
This part of the magazine contains news, promotions and network maps of the airline.
In my last report, I briefly mentioned about TransAsia’s catering on board their domestic flights. And here’s an article about it!
They are right to be proud of it since no other Taiwanese carriers are providing food on domestic flights. (Do correct me if I am wrong.)
And here are more updates related to Japan. According to this article, “the airline has seen the number of Japanese passengers triple in the first quarter of 2016, in comparison to the same time last year.”
These are some of the air tickets and/or hotel promotions available on the airline’s website or its partner travel agency.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this airline, here’s their network map. As you can see, even though TransAsia is the third largest airline in Taiwan, its operations are much less extensive than its other two biggest competitors – EVA Air and China Airlines.
Most of GE’s destinations are concentrated within Mainland China and in addition, there’s Macau.
The other country with the second most number of destinations is Japan – Asahikawa, Sapporo, Hakodate, Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa. (As of the time of posting this report, GE has announced that Okinawa flights will be ceased soon.)
The airline also encourages Taiwan-based passengers to purchase open-jaw return tickets between Taiwan and Japan; quite a good strategy I would say.
Other than that, the airline doesn’t really operate outside of the North Asia region, except for Siem Reap and Palau.
And these are the domestic routes. As of now, GE is the sole operator of the Taipei-Hualien and Taichung-Hualien routes.
Here’s the airline’s fleet information, most of its domestic flights are flown using the ATR72. I’m not aware about any scheduled A320 domestic flights.
Recently (just a few days before I’m writing this report), the airline’s new CEO has announced that the A330 will be removed from GE’s fleet by the end of 2016 and all international operations will be operated using A320s/A321s.
Oh, he also announced that they would be ceasing flights to Macau and Okinawa from October 2016 onwards. If that’s true, it’d make this report a little more special because we may not have the chance to fly GE between Taiwan and Macau in the near future.
It’s sad that the airline is downsizing, but they probably don’t have a choice since it’s performing badly ever since the two ATR72 fatal accidents in 2014 and 2015.
The final section in this magazine features the entertainment guide. I won’t be looking at this in detail since it’s irrelevant to this flight. (There weren’t even “main screens” on this aircraft.)
Before the meal service commenced, the captain came on the PA to provide us with some flight information updates.
The tray tables on this aircraft were quite large in size as well, so at least they aren’t tiny like those on V Air (the airline’s subsidiary LCC).
Lunch was served at about 3.20pm, so that’s about 25 minutes after take off – really efficient.
The main dish consisted of rice with chicken and vegetables, which wasn’t too salty and on the overall is perfectly acceptable. The dessert was a sponge cake that was just edible.
Hot drinks were served soon after. I got myself a cup of coffee.
I wasn’t very hungry after eating so much in the lounge, but still managed to finish the meal.
After the meal, it’s time for a walk in the cabin, and also to take a look at the lavatory.
The flight was quite full and I don’t recall seeing any empty seats. It’s quite surprising that the airline decided to cancel its flights on this route.
My mom left her seat to use the washroom too, so here’s three more photos to show you more details of this seat.
The seat cushion was actually not too uncomfortable.
Nonetheless, I still think that I will only be able to sit comfortably in these seats for any flights less than 2h. Anything more than that, I won’t choose GE.
The seatbelt was red. It’s totally random and did not seem to have anything to do with the airline’s corporate branding. You can also see that there’s actually an audio entertainment system on the armrest. It was not activated on this flight.
This flight was really short and before I knew it, we were already in our descent. There’s still one last part of the seat pocket contents that I’ve yet to cover – the duty free catalogue. Let’s quickly flip through it.
The usual advertisements for jewellery and other accessories.
Some airlines souvenirs – there were the cabin crew bears, aircraft models and many more products. The A330 models were sold in two scales.
There were also the ATR72 models on sale.
To purchase duty free, passengers can choose to fill up these “in-flight order form”. A home delivery option is also available.
The cabin crews came through the cabin at around 3.40pm to collect trash and then the purser made the announcement for landing preparation.
The seatbelt signs were switched on at 3.49pm.
We touched down smoothly at Macau and taxied to a remote bay slightly after 4pm. I always think Macau Airport has a really interesting runway, one that’s constructed on 100% reclaimed land.
(UTC+08:00, Macau time) 1549 Signs On 1605 Touched Down 1609 Arrived at Parking Bay 1635 Collected Checked Baggage 1637 Cleared Customs
My seatmate at the window seat was eager to get out so I gave way to him first. While waiting to disembark, I moved to the window seat and managed to capture a Xiamen Airlines B737-700 that just taxied in as well.
The buses were already waiting for us as we walked down the stairs.
Interestingly, the bus didn’t drop us right outside the terminal but rather at a temporary walkway. Looks like Macau Airport was undergoing some renovation works.
Passing through immigration was a breeze. There was a short queue but the officers processed everyone quickly. Passengers travelling together were allowed to clear immigration together (instead of having to pass through one-by-one). The whole process was efficient but the officers seemed extremely tired, frustrated and basically just looked like they didn’t want to be there.
Anyway, we collected our bags from carousel 3 and it was tagged with the priority label. I took off this luggage tag and kept it properly as a souvenir since I don’t think I will ever fly that much with TransAsia to get this label on my luggage again.
This was my second time arriving in Macau Airport and everything still looked quite familiar.
A glimpse of MFM’s arrival hall.
There’s a Gloria Jeans outlet in the arrival hall.
We went to the tourist information counter to collect our complimentary Macau Pass – Macau’s rechargeable public transport ticket. This was also part of TransAsia’s “2-to-go” promotion and the ticket had a pre-loaded value of MOP50; enough to last us for 1-3 days.
Oh by the way, the staff at the tourist information counter also looked as though they totally did not want to be there. Hmm, maybe Macau Airport isn’t really a good place to work at?
Anyway, that’s all for now as I finally complete my long trek from Melbourne all the way to Macau. As a reminder, I stopped at Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei and Kaohsiung before taking this flight to Macau. I hope you have enjoyed the series thus far!
I’ll see you at the next part as I leave Macau and begin my journey across the Pacific Ocean, for the first time in my life. (:
[Signing off from British Airways Flight BA16, bound for SIN]
(To be continued)
This report was completed on 24 Jun 2016 at 10.11pm (UTC+10:00).
TransAsia Airways: This A320 looked almost like an LCC airline’s aircraft, which is no good because GE is supposed to be a full service airline, and in fact has its own subsidiary low-cost carrier – V Air. The cabin crews however were of a high standard and performed the service really well. While this aircraft didn’t have any individual IFE screen, neither were there any overhead screens, the “entertainment” aspect still receives a decent score from me because the magazine was quite a good read! What’s better is that almost all of the articles are printed in both Mandarin and English, so non-Taiwanese passengers who may not be able to understand Chinese characters can also have a chance of reading these great articles. Last but not least, the meal was really decent for such a short flight. Even though it’s not exactly tasty, but it was a proper meal with proper hot and cold beverages.
GE Lounge @ KHH: This is tiny lounge. But hey, it serves its purpose well. And throughout our stay there, it was really quiet and we did not feel any space constraints as well. The service provided by lounge staff was adequate and friendly, and the limited hot food selection was actually quite tasty for a lounge of this size!
KHH: A good regional airport as I have mentioned before in some of my previous reports. Departing from KHH is always quite a pleasant experience, but sometimes, the queue for immigration might get a little long. Not this time, though!
MFM: This is a perfectly functional airport and the arrival experience was okay. Nonetheless, I didn’t quite like the service attitudes of those staff members we met that day, sadly. But no matter what, they didn’t find any troubles with us and all arrival formalities were cleared smoothly.
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