Review of Hong Kong Airlines flight Haikou Hong Kong in Economy

Airline Hong Kong Airlines
Flight HX108
Class Economy
Seat 49A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:25
Take-off 13 Jul 16, 13:35
Arrival at 13 Jul 16, 15:00
HX 23 reviews
marathon
By SILVER 1025
Published on 1st August 2016
This is the third segment of an extended week of vacation in China:

CDG - HKG : AF188 (A380-800)
CAN - HAK : HU7010 (B738-800)
HAK - HKG : HX108 (A320) You are here
HKG - CDG : AF185 (A380-800)

It was a short flight, but be warned that this is long report ;)

The report starts with the taxi ride to the airport. The right lane on that major thoroughfare is reserved for police cars 公安车, but the other drivers do not seem to care about that.
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A major thoroughfare in China may have 8 lanes per direction, including one for turning left and two for turning right.
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It was indeed the direction of the airport 机场, but you needed to read Chinese to know it.
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Note at this crossroads the shelter with a tin roof protecting moped drivers from the searing heat of the sun or the pouring monsoon or typhoon rains.
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Going underneath the high speed train line which links Haikou to Sanya on the east coast of Hainan island.
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And going underneath a station
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The route of Freeway G98 is simple : it circles the island.
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It was a wavy ride by our taxi driver, a Chinese all the way to his very long finger nails (I had never seen that in China).
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An HU A330 in final shows that we are approaching the airport too.
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It was getting more and more obvious, and was in English too.
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Arrival at HAK’s terminal : the ride from the city center cost 70 yuan, i.e. the amount negotiated with the taxi driver on the way in, and the distance was only 10 meters less than the 25 km distance that I had reckoned.
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The international terminal was indicated overhead, but where was the access ?
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I only needed to ask these policemen who were not overworked with their explosives detection task.
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We had to get out of the terminal, and that is where I realized that I had made a bad mistake in not specifying to the taxi driver that we were on an international flight (HKG is considered as being abroad from an immigration point of view).
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That international terminal was far away.
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Very far (no, we did not go through that construction area)
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Endlessly far
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It seemed forever, in a searing mid-day heat
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It appeared at last
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It took us only eleven minutes, according to the time-stamping of my pictures, but I had the impression that it was three times longer because of the heat.
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OK, HAK is an international airport, but international flights are few in the middle of the day
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What is more, the flight to Seoul is actually via Guangzhou.
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We were slightly ahead of time : checking in was from ETD-100’ to ETD-40’
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There was a sign reminding that in the line
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Have you ever wondered what is written on these very showy red sashes worn by the airport staff guiding passengers in Chinese airports ?
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The one on the right was simple, with an accurate translation in English of the Chinese 美兰机场欢迎您 ("Meilan Airport welcomes you")

On the other hand, I had to ask a Chinese friend for help for the other one : the slogan 星美兰馨服务 is a hard to detect pun between the characters 星 (star) and 新 (new) which are pronounced nearly the same in Mandarin (xīng et xīn, respectively). « Star (or new) caring customer service in Meilan » : according to my friend’s research on the internet, this is an allusion to HAK’s targeting a Skytrax 5-star award, but a standard Chinese passenger is unlikely to understand it.

Chinese is a language which is ideally suited to multi-level puns that the Chinese are fond of, not least in their continuous cat-and-mouse game with the censorship, but when a slogan becomes a riddle for specialist, it is a communication failure.
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I guess that our checking in was done by the book : the person on the left, slightly behind, was obviously a supervisor taking note of each action of the staff at the counter.
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A floral decoration on the counter
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HAK’s international terminal graciously offers to the passengers a few copies of the China Daily (one of the two English language Mainland newspapers).
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The size of the international terminal is adapted to that of the traffic : modest. Three pictures are enough to show the entire landside area.
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We had to fill in the departure forms that we had not received in ZUI.
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Going through immigration was as eventless as usual, and our passports were now decorated with two unusual Chinese stamps : enter through 九州 (Jiuzhou = ZUI, Zhuhai’ harbor), and departure through 美兰机场 (Meilan Airport = HAK).
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I saw from the Departing airside area where I was these overhead signs located in the Arrival circuit, indicating the counters delivering visas for foreigners (外国人签证) on the left and the "Permits for Taiwanese Compatriots" (quote) 台湾居民办证 on the right : Hainan Island is special in that some nationalities in some conditions can receive there a Chinese visa on arrival, and on the other hand, the Taiwanese cannot be mentioned as foreigners to whom a visa a delivered, since Mainland China claims sovereignty on Taiwan.
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The pictogram and the English title are neutral, but in Chinese, it is a room 室 for babies婴 and mothers母.
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A view of the airside hall
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The ceiling’s cloudy decoration
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Nothing special about the duty-free shop.
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… apart from these stuffed panda toys. I had learnt the day before in the excellent Hainan Province Museum that there had been pandas there in prehistoric times, but it has been a long time since the only place with pandas in the wild is faraway Sichuan.
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I needed to receive a code by SMS to access the internet by wifi, like in most Chinese airports, but this was the first time that a foreign cell phone number was accepted.
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This provided me Flight Report’s home page of the day.
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Some plane spotting : there were nearly no aircraft parked in the vicinity of the international traffic, due to the small number of international flights, but quite a number of aircraft operating domestic flights could be seen taxiing.
A330 HU
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HU B738
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CZ B738
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CZ A321
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MU A320
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A320 JD (Capital Airlines), in two different liveries
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QW A320 (Qingdao Airlines)
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It was possible to recharge your favorite toy
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The buildings create a central patio
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In a country where Twitter is blocked by the internet censorship (a.k.a . The Great Firewall), birds were twittering in a cage.
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And two passengers were having a drink at this bar
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On the other hand, there was nobody at this sun-drenched terrace: it was way too hot!
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The multicolored crowded under the bridge as soon as they see a passenger who might send them some food.
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I do not know if these giant clam shells are imitation, but this position partly above the water surface was unnatural, and the water was not salty anyway.
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I would not want to linger in overheated garden, especially since HX’s A320 had just arrived.
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The stairs were placed in position and a small train of containers arrived
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The liveries of these facing HU A330 and HX A320 clearly show that both airlines are part of the same HNA group.
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Arrival of the crew for our flight
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So, the wheelchair was not for anybody in the crew ?
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OK, then, I should bring it to the aircraft ?
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They could have let me load it into the minibus, with that heat outside
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It’s even worse for my colleague who has to bring two of them
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So heavy to carry up the stairs !
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They should coordinate when they do not need any, actually…
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And all that to show to a Flight Reporter that we have wheelchairs in HAK …

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I can’t read in the mind of the Chinese, actually, but that was what I imagined at the sight of this scene.

Let’s revert to facts : boarding was announced, and the passengers made a flawless waiting line
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This is the passenger bus, as seen just before boarding the plane.
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There was a sign on the bus to avoid any doubt on the flight reference
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In China, vehicles which are limited to a closed perimeter off the public roads have a green number plate. The plate here is marked民航 (civilian airport).
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The cleaning staff was waiting in the shade for a bus to take them
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The passengers were just as perfectly in line on the overheated tarmac as in the air conditioned terminal
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If it had not been for passengers traveling together (who could not be blamed for waiting next to each other), I would have seen a single head. So much for the cliché of Chinese crowds jostling to be first.
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The wingtip fence decorated with HNA group’s logo
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Some more plane spotting with a CZ A320
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And a taxiing FM 738
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Fuselage shot ; the bauhinia flower is the emblem of Hong-Kong (« Bauhinia » is HX’s call sign)
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The two rows in J (picture taken when deplaning) are as usual in 2+2 layout
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HX is another Chinese airline which numbers the Economy cabin from Row 31
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An unusually ample and varied offering of newspapers, both from Hong-Kong and from the Mainland.
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It was especially interesting the compare the front pages of the newspapers, just after the ruling of the arbitral tribunal stating that China had no historical rights on the South China Sea: the Mainland Chinese newspapers followed the official line that this tribunal had no jurisdiction on this case against the Philippines, whereas the Hong-Kong newspapers headlined a crushing legal defeat suffered by Beijing.

B-LPK had entered revenue service on 1st March, 2013, but her cabin was so spotless that it seemed to be fresh out of factory.
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The carpeting did not have a single stain or trace of tear and wear
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A 27 cm distance between the seat and the magazine pocket,
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… a 46 cm width between armrests : this was the standard (and rather comfortable space) in a single aisle Chinese aircraft.
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The pattern of the seat’s cloth – my camera altered the colors for unknown reasons.
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The safety card, both sides
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This picture illustrates a typically Chinese anecdote : during the pre-take-off check, the FA had the passenger at Seat 49C straighten her seat, and she reclined it as soon as the FA had moved on in the aisle… and the same happened before landing.
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The overhead appliances
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The equally red flags of the airport, China and HNA.
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A panoramic view of the international terminal under a darkening sky
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Two unexpected Yun-7 (the Chinese copy of the An-24) seen during taxiing. They were not in flying condition (see the extremity of the wing of the nearest one) and I do not know if these were wrecks or museum pieces undergoing restoration. The livery appeared to be that of Wuhan Airlines which merge in 2003 into China Eastern Airlines.
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The safety demonstration used simplified cartoons. I found that of HU more attractive :)
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My wife discovered that in the duty-free magazine
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… it was stated that the cards and the cash were not included in this wallet. Would you have expected the reverse ?
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Take off from this runway with CAT I only rating
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Speeding up
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And take-off on time ; an FM aircraft on the taxiway.
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A probable business jet
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The end of the airport grounds
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The countryside beyond the airport
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A golf course
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The plane flew initially more or less due east and took therefore several minutes before reaching the east coast of Hainan Island.
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It was a short flight and I could not expect to have much to eat and drink : a small bottle of water and a bag of four small cookies.
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An antiseptic towlette was distributed too.
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First sight of Hong-Kong. I increased the contrast of most pictures from here on
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Beaufort Island in the foreground, and the two peninsulas of Hong-Kong Island on both sides of Tai Tam Bay 大潭灣
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The same two peninsulas, from an angle which makes them less easy to identify. Stanley Market is in the top left corner of the picture.
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A construction area in Fat Tong Chau 佛堂洲, a former island now joined to the mainland. Tung Lung Chau Island 東龍洲 barely appears in the foreground
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A glimpse of the former Kai Tak Airport runway in the background, spotted between the clouds.
What appears in the foreground are the straits of Lei Yue Mun 鯉魚門, i.e. the eastern end of the natural harbor of Hong Kong, with the Coastal Defence Museum on the left, located in the fortress with controlled it.
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The Ninepin Islands 果洲 archipelago, off south-east of Hong Kong Island
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Tung Lung Chau Island 東龍洲 on the left, and the highly indented south-east coastline of the New Territories. The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club is on the promontory behind the wingtip fence
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The islands of Tiu Chung Chau 吊鐘洲 (center) et Kau Sai Chau 滘西州 (right). Despite its reputation for being a skyscraper jungle, Hong-Kong has also lots of natural jungle too.
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The fleet of leisure boats at anchor in the Hebe Bay 白沙灣 (literally the White Sand Gulf).
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Shatin, around the heavily canalized Shing Mun River
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Shatin’s south-west end
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Shek Lai Pui Reservoir, in the foreground
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Rambler Channel, the harbor which is between the main land on the left and Tsing Yi青衣 Island on the right.
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Cheung Wang Estate, on the heights of Tsing Yi. See in the background the suspended bridge crossing the end of Rambler Channel, and Hong Kong Island behind it.
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Zoom on the harbor installation of Rambler Channel and Stonecutters Island (now joined to the mainland) at the extremity of the suspended bridge. In the distance, Hong-Kong Island.
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An illustration of the omnipresence of virgin nature on the heights and least constructible slopes, here on Tsing Yi Island.
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Also seen during the final approach on Flight AF188 a few days earlier, the viaduct leaving from Tsing Yi Island on the left
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… serving the small Ma Wan Island on the way
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And reaching Lantau Island on the right
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The freeway and the Airport Express tracks on the north coast of Lantau Island
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HKG expansion works
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Imminent landing on Runway 25R
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HKG welcomes aircraft from the world over
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But these are locals : CX A330
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Cathay Dragon A320 (ex Dragonair, but this aircraft has not received the new livery)
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The new livery of Cathay Dragon has the same tail as that of a CX, but on a red background
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Taxiing to our gate: a Malindo 738 (an Indonesian LCC)
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And a Myanmar Airlines738
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The same, after our own aircraft’s complete stop
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Winglets and tails
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The Y cabin while deplaning
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There were two ground staff at the gate waiting for connecting passengers. My wife had a particular liking for their uniform, with a red bauhinia flower (the emblem of Hong Kong) on the skirt.
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Long walk in the brand new Midfield Concourse, whose windows provide a view on some aircraft parked at their gates.
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Jetstar A320
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Royal Brunei787
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Fiji Airways A330
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It is seldom the case in my experience, but the waiting time was reasonably short in HKG this time, possibly because the middle of the afternoon is not a rush hour.
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The suitcases emerging from the conveyor belt were straightened up by a “Luggage Ambassador”. Only after taking this picture did I notice this sign forbidding photography which I found quite pointless, because this may be the most ordinary and least sensitive area of the airport. Our suitcase was delivered shortly before we had reached there.
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There seems to be many ambassadors in HK, because I saw this “MTR safety ambassador” endlessly asking the subway users to please wait along the whole length of the platform after the end of this escalator, at rush hour.
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A sculpture made of bicycle wheels, in the landside hall
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The trip with the Airport Express is expensive by HK public transport standards, but no more expensive than the train from CDG to Paris, and much more comfortable and faster for the same distance. When two or more people travel together, there can use “group tickets” which come cheaper than individual tickets: these tickets to be used simultaneously cost 170 HKD, vs. 100 HKG for a passenger travelling alone.
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This is the end of this FR, and the beginning of a tourist bonus on Haikou which was never described on Flight Report, since this flight and the preceding one are the first ones to/from HAK on this website.
Haikou is the capital of Hainan Province, and consequently has a Province Museum, which like all other Province Museums in Mainland China (I visited a dozen of them) is brand new, somewhat far from the city center because it is brand new, free, requires showing your passport of Chinese ID card, and most important remarkably laid out and didactic, with fully bilingual explanatory signs. In short, when you visit the capital of a Chinese province, visiting its Province Museum (not to be confused with a possible City Museum) is a must.
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Hainan Island, like Taiwan Island much later, has been during over a millennium a place where disgraced top level officials were being sent off. Falling out of grace with the emperor was not necessarily a sign of incompetence, and some of these exiles were so appreciated by the population where they had been exiled that the Hainanese built this Temple of the Five Ministers, honoring five individuals who were sent to Haikou at very different times in history and proved to be remarkable administrators.
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Where could you go for food ? It was very hot at lunch time in this excellent food court
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But after nightfall, the temperature and the atmosphere are very pleasant
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You can either eat outside on rather rugged chairs
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Or inside the building on solid wood chairs which would command top prices in European furniture stores
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A local peculiarity was that you need to buy and load a contactless card at counters outside the building, so that the food stalls inside never handle cash. The card and the leftover credit are fully refundable, which makes this system financially transparent for a short time visitor who knows when he will never come back.
There was ample choice as usual, sometimes translated in an interesting Chinglish, and always very cheap (1 EUR ~7 RMB at time of visiting).
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Unlike too many Chinese cities which razed their historic centers, rebuilding make-believe “new old towns” on part of the original surface and modern skyscrapers on the remainder, Haikou still has an authentic old town, partly in an unfortunately shabby condition.
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This does not dissuade shops from using the street level, which makes it a very lively neighborhood.
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The buildings inside the blocks are much less attractive. This renovation work provides a glimpse of the reality behind the more opulent buildings lining up the streets.
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A curiosity of the old town of Haikou is the persistence on some buildings of slogans from the Mao Zedong times, which have often completely disappeared elsewhere, written in a font which is typical of that time. There is here 伟大的中国共产党万岁!(Long live the great Chinese Communist Party!)
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全世界人民 (Workers of the World) : there was not enough space here, but everybody knows the last word of this famous communist slogan: Unite !
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中国共产党万岁!(Long live the Chinese Communist Party!)
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The two preceding pictures have been taken in Zhongshan Street 中山路 which is the only one which has been restored (or rebuilt ?) and transformed in a pedestrian street.
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The buildings are back in a mint condition, but there is an artificial feel in this avenue, despite the shops which are open for business.
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There was a particular building that I knew about only through a tourist information leaflet in Chinese in our hotel room, no taxi driver seemed to know where it was, but I eventually found this sign at the entrance of Zhongshan Street 中山路
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… which directed me to this narrow lane.
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On top of the portico, written traditionally from right to left :天后宫 (Tianhou Temple). The sign on the left, written with the font used for administrative buildings, says 海口妈租文化流协会 : Matsu Cultural Association of Haikou.
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In this island which provided a significant share of the Chinese diaspora in South-East Asia, I could do no less than pay a visit to the temple of the traditional deity protecting seamen, and prayed by all the seaside Chinese and Taiwanese.
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This was arguably the smallest sanctuary to Matsu, and the ugliest representation of the goddess that I ever saw, but I like fantasizing that I owe this uneventful crossing of the South China Sea to Honk-Kong to her protection.

Thanks for reading me up to here!
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Verdict

Hong Kong Airlines

7.8/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Meal/catering6.5

Haikou - HAK

9.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Hong Kong - HKG

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

An aircraft in super-mint condition despite three years of operation, no IFE but a significant newspaper offering, and a minimal catering, but you hardly get more than that on an intra-European one-hour flight.

Being dropped at the domestic terminal was my mistake, on the other hand, there is no shuttle for whoever makes this mistake (I doubt many passengers need to connect between both terminals). HAK is somewhat far from the city center, but there is both an expressway and a high speed train line. The international terminal was rather pleasant, and the access to the (censored) internet did not require having a Chinese SIM card.

Nothing to say about HKG, which was up to its reputation of excellence. In daytime, plane spotters have the bonus of seeing very diverse aircraft.

Related

2 Comments

  • Comment 361833 by
    Rl 777 809 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    Plane spotting from the taxi? Great! Very nice shot!

    I'm sorry to hear you had to walk so long (outside) just to get to the international terminal even if it was a mistake, it's interesting that it's located so far away.

    Great tarmac shots!

    The cabin definitely looks clean!

    Fantastic aerial shots!

    Thank you for the interesting bonus.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 362503 by
      marathon SILVER AUTHOR 9734 Comments

      "Plane spotting from the taxi? Great! Very nice shot!"
      - Actually, the taxi driver was first to point out to that landing plane, apparently to reassure me in case I was worrying about our direction. ^^

      "I'm sorry to hear you had to walk so long (outside) just to get to the international terminal even if it was a mistake, it's interesting that it's located so far away."
      - That's the positive way of looking back at it (and also a reminder to always mention Domestic / International when going to an airport) ^^

      "Great tarmac shots! Fantastic aerial shots!"
      - Chinese airports are usually plane spotter friendly, but the arrival in HKG was really a treat.

      "Thank you for the interesting bonus."
      - My pleasure, and thanks for the comment !

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