Review of Mandarin Airlines flight Kaohsiung Hong Kong in Economy

Airline Mandarin Airlines
Flight AE 981
Class Economy
Seat 7K
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 01:35
Take-off 27 Nov 16, 09:00
Arrival at 27 Nov 16, 10:35
AE 19 reviews
By SILVER 1248
Published on 9th December 2016

This series covers a trip to Kaohsiung (高雄) and Kinmen (金門). Refer to Part 1 for a detailed background. As a reminder, the routing for this series is:

Part 1 – LAX-ICN [OZ 203, Boeing B777-200ER, Economy] – Here
Part 2 – ICN-HKG [OZ 721, Airbus A330-300, Economy] – Here
Part 3 – HKG-KHH [CI 948, Airbus A330-300, Economy] – Here
Part 4 – KHH-KNH [B7 8915, Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-600, Economy] – Here
Part 5 – KNH-RMQ [AE 770, Embraer ERJ-190, Economy] – Here
Part 6 – KHH-HKG [AE 981, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – You are here
Part 7 – HKG-ICN [OZ 722, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Business] – Here
Part 8 – ICN-LAX [OZ 204, Airbus A380-800, Economy] – Here


This report starts at Formosa Boulevard’s MRT station on a rainy morning in Koahsiung. This station is special in that it has the famous “Dome of Light.”

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IKEA has invaded Taiwan.

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The MRT ride is very short to the airport. Arriving, I head towards the international terminal.

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My flight is at the top of the FIDS as I leave the MRT station.

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The international terminal’s check-in area was bustling at this hour. I wasn’t sure what the deal with my flight was. It was sold and marketed by CI, but it was an AE flight number so didn’t know if I qualified for SkyPriority privileges since AE is not a ST member (or affiliate).

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I had done OLCI the day before to pick my seat, but wanted to get a paper boarding pass. I tried to use this kiosk, but it told me that since I already did OLCI, I needed to see an agent for a boarding pass.

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I go to the designated area for the AE 981 flight and am just astonished by the crowd there. A bus full of ladies from Hong Kong must have just showed up and were queuing for my flight. I decided to just bail and use my mobile boarding pass.

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Security was really quick and immigration was also a breeze since my passport qualifies for the e-channels, which had nobody in line for using them. A quick scan of my fingerprints and the gates open. The only downside is the lack of a passport stamp ;(

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Airside, I ponder the layout of KHH.

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I think I’ll try my luck at the CI Dynasty Lounge.

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The beautiful halls at KHH. It’s a light and day difference from the old industrial domestic terminal.

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Outside a BR A321 departs.

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The entrance to the CI Dynasty Lounge.

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Inside, 2 agents great me with a big smile. I hand over my cell phone. The CI mobile boarding passes don’t show your credentials so they kind of look at it and then at each other. I quickly pull my AZ card out of my wallet and the 2 of them huddle over it. They point at the ElitePlus logo as they speak to each other in Mandarin and pull out a piece of paper to start recording the data manually. They exchange glances trying to figure out what airline my card was from after recording my FFP number. I can sense their confusion, so I point and say “AZ.” They quickly scratch down AZ and hand me back my card with a smile and gesture for me to enter. I have a hunch that they didn’t ever do anything with my info, but at least it made for a good show. I also asked about getting a paper boarding pass and they said that they didn’t have a printer in the lounge so I would need to ask at the gate to get it reprinted.

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Entering the lounge, I head towards the buffet.

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Refrigerated area with desserts and tofu and some other items.

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Sides for congee.

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Some pastries and pizza^^

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The limited liquor offerings.

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The other side of the buffet had some more offerings.

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Noodles and eggs.

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Dim sum.

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My offering.

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View of the main seating area from my seat.

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I later got up and moved to a different area that was less crowded.

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Suddenly, a sliding door opened to the side of me and 2 guys came out of this private room. I wonder what super CI status you need to get access to this private enclave ;)

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CI branded Taiwan beer.

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My makeshift boarding documents.

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Leaving the lounge, I noticed my plane was parked outside. It will not be an AE plane today, our flight will be operated by CI.

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The concourse lined with shops.

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Plenty of places to do family photos^^

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Spotting is not very convenient at KHH since all the windows have an unusual tint. The best spotting was actually from the porthole in the bathroom. CI A333 waiting outside.

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Mandarin Airlines, AE 981
Equipment: Boeing B737-800 [B-18656, delivered May 2014]
Departure: 9:00 (ATD: 9:06)
Arrival: 10:35 (ATA: 10:28)
Flight time: 1:22

My gate area was quite festively adorned with lanterns and filled to the brim with the aforementioned HK tour group wearing matching red jackets.

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On time, boarding was called. There was only one other passenger boarding in the SkyPriority line. She was the sole passenger in J on this flight. I’d imagine most of the business traffic would be on the 7am flight operated by an A333.

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Down the jetbridge we go.

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I stop to admire our twin next door.

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At the end of the jetbridge, there was a cart with newspapers on it. I already had a Tapei Times from the hotel so skipped it. Entering the plane, 2 FAs greet me as I turn in.

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The J cabin.

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A FA was placing pillows in the seats so I couldn’t do a full cabin shot, but here is the left side. I really like the color of this cabin, their choice of purples are nice and not as bland as the older seats I had in the previous CI segment.

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She hands me a pillow as I take my seat.

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A view back during boarding.

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A view down my row and the seat details.

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Seat pitch is decent.

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The CI pillow.

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The FA blocks me in as she continues to greet passengers.

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Audio controls are in the armrest.

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During boarding, they play classical music.

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The seatback contents.

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Safety card for this B738.

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Dynasty in-flight magazine.

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As boarding wraps up, the ground crews finish loading up our belly on this rainy morning.

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The purser startles me when she comes out of the J cabin when boarding completed. She came straight to me so I thought there was going to be a comment about my photography. Instead, she greets me with a “Good morning, Mr. NGO85.” [Sorry Numero_2, I didn’t correct her ;)] She welcomed me aboard and asked me if I would like an English newspaper. I said, “yes,” just to be polite. She returned 30 seconds later with 2 different English newspapers letting me know that if there was anything else she could do to make my flight more enjoyable, to let her know midflight. Very nice to get recognized for my ST Elite Plus status. The previous CI flight didn’t have this same gesture so it might not be a general occurrence on CI.

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The safety played as we pushed back.

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Thumbing the newspapers during taxing, an interesting article talking about how AE is quickly acting to take over the GE routes that were pulled. There was also an article how the GE bigwigs were being arrested on suspicion of insider trading as many board members conveniently sold their stock the day before they company tanked.

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Aligning on to the runway.

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We lift up to the east and follow the same looping route around the industrial park south of the airport and head west towards HKG.

We disappear above the clouds where it is always sunny.

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Service started immediately. I was trying to take a picture of the drink cart, but before I knew it, food was incoming^^

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As on the last flight, no option. A tray was placed down, which was described as “pork and rice” again. I didn’t ask for any other drinks, but the guy in the middle seat asked for a coke, which was brought out after the meal carts finished their run.

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The main. It wasn’t as tasty as the HKG-KHH meal, but this one had more vegetables. There were several pieces of bok choy on the bottom.

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Plastic cutlery, toothpick, napkin, and oshibori.

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The dessert on this flight; not as good as the cake on the last sector.

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Coffee and tea service was done after the meal.

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We continue our run to HKG with our shiny new B738 winglet.

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The overhead monitors played some Anthony Bourdain cooking show that had Max Zorin, aka Christopher Walken, as a guest on it.

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After the show, it switched back to the moving map.

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We were scheduled to arrive at 10:10, but the captain came out and announced that due to flow control into HKG, we were going to be in a holding pattern for 20 minutes and would land at 10:30. We did 2 loops east of HKG before continuing our descent.

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A cloudy morning in HK, with only cracks of the city visible through the clouds.

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We descend over the new causeway being constructed.

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Reaching the seawall.

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A CX A343^^ A plane that has eluded my heart with such great skill. 3/3 on aircraft swaps in my attempts to catch one.

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The infield terminal.

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Fire brigade mobilizing to drive off somewhere.

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HKG control towers.

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UA B744 awaiting its return to SFO for ashleyau^^

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Some locals.

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We pull into a gate near the Bridge.

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A look back as we prepare to deplane.

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Down the jetbridge and out as I head towards the transfer desk to pick up my OZ boarding passes.

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I’ll leave off this series here as I begin my layover at HKG with Numero_2^^

***BONUS***: Kaohsiung – Part 1

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Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (龍虎塔).

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Lotus flowers.

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Spring and Autumn Pavillions (春秋閣).

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So cute^^

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龜山登山步道, some mosquito filled hiking with nice views of old pill boxes and views over the city.

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And some of the local wildlife.

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See more


Mandarin Airlines

Cabin crew9.0

TransAsia Lounge


Kaohsiung - KHH


Hong Kong - HKG



This flight was a total fraud from the start. I was promised AE, but the only thing AE about this flight was the flight number. It was a CI plane with CI crew. Aside from that disappointment, it was a good flight. This was a more comfortable ride across the Taiwan Straight than on the A333. I love the new CI cabins, nice touch of color.

Cabin comfort: New CI B738 with BSI and new cabin. I like the new two-toned purple cabins, not too over the top, but enough color to catch your eye. The seats are standard affair, thankfully not slimline.

Crew: CI crews don't look super groomed, with pretty varied appearances. I'm used to the strict dress codes of the carriers farther north. That said, they are friendly and smiling. Very nice of the purser to come out and address me personally. The FAs have hard jobs on these short flights, but they handle the pressure well.

Meal and catering: The breakfast tray is not as good as the tray I had on HKG-KHH, maybe some dim sum would have been more appropriate given the hour? Either way, about as good as you can expect in Y on a 60-minute flight.

Entertainment: Newspaper available on the jetbridge and the standard seatback literature. No personal IFE, but the overhead monitors had cooking shows and the moving map, so I was happy.

Information on the route Kaohsiung (KHH) Hong Kong (HKG)


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 377508 by
    FLIGHTEXAMINOR 16 Comments

    hope you can do a detailed review on SQ, UA ,lounges at HKG........You definitely can access all of them

  • Comment 377567 by
    marathon GOLD 9846 Comments

    The lighting of the MRT station and of the international terminal are amazing!

    The causeway seen before landing is the Hong-Kong end of the bridge-tunnel which will link HK to Macau and Zhuhai on the other side of the Pearl River estuary. This 50 km mega-project is running late because of severe soil subsidence problems on the HK side.

    Thanks for sharing !

    • Comment 377881 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      "The lighting of the MRT station [...] are amazing!" <== It's one of the Top 5 tourist attraction at Kaohsiung^^

      "The causeway seen before landing is the Hong-Kong end of the bridge-tunnel which will link HK to Macau and Zhuhai on the other side of the Pearl River estuary."
      - Does this mean jetfoils will become cheaper as buses add competition?

      Thanks for stopping by Marathon!

  • Comment 377574 by
    indianocean BRONZE 7302 Comments

    Quite confusing flight. Mandarin flight operated by China Airlines and SkyPriority lane. Good thing you were allowed to get in the CI lounge

    Quite a fair flight to HKG.

    Thank you for sharing Michael

    • Comment 377882 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      "Mandarin flight operated by China Airlines and SkyPriority lane."
      - My guess is that AE does not have enough B738s yet, so when aircraft swaps to anything larger than an ERJ-90 are required, CI operates the flight for them. The AE/CI relationship is very similar to MI/SQ where CI elites get AE benefits, but other ST elites get nothing with AE.

      "Quite a fair flight to HKG." <== Good to see they get the same service as the longer flights to TPE.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Comment 377620 by
    Razza_Pr 216 Comments

    Hello, NGO85, and thank you for this FR!

    Very interesting indeed regarding the Mandarin Airlines flight number despite practically all aspects of the flight being China Airlines.

    Wonder if one should expect the same STE+ benefits for international flights operated completely by Mandarin Airlines?

    • Comment 377622 by
      Razza_Pr 216 Comments

      Aside from that, I think the lounge buffet and the food on board aren't too bad. But now I'm wondering by how much the food portion differs for J-class passengers, and how they're expected to finish a bigger portion in time for descent! :D

      Nice photos of Kaohsiung! Taiwan is definitely on my bucket list, but since I will be relocating to JNB in January, I don't think it will happen anytime soon. :/

      Thanks again for this FR!

      (my apologies that it had to be a 2-part comment. I accidentally pressed "Send" whilst I tried to comment from my phone)

      • Comment 377884 by
        NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

        oops, I only did a half reply as well.

        "I think the lounge buffet and the food on board aren't too bad. But now I'm wondering by how much the food portion differs for J-class passengers, and how they're expected to finish a bigger portion in time for descent! :D"
        - I found the lounge to be quite good considering this is a secondary hub for CI, I was expecting much less hot food options. I can't imagine what the benefit of J is on a flight like this. When I booked the ticket, J was only sold for a margin higher ($60/sector), but I can't justify the price since ST benefits cover everything other than a more comfortable seat and a slightly larger meal.

        "Nice photos of Kaohsiung! Taiwan is definitely on my bucket list"
        - It was a nice city that is very easy to navigate with public transportation and almost always warm, which is good for a cold blooded person like me ;)

    • Comment 377883 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by an commenting!

      "Very interesting indeed regarding the Mandarin Airlines flight number despite practically all aspects of the flight being China Airlines."
      -I honestly wonder why they even bother marketing this as an AE flight. Checking flightradar, over 75% of the time this flight is on CI B738s.

      "Wonder if one should expect the same STE+ benefits for international flights operated completely by Mandarin Airlines? "
      - My guess is no. AE is not ST. It's like the MI/SQ relationship where *A tickets can be booked on MI through SQ without having any benefit on the carrier as a non-SQ elite.

  • Comment 377631 by
    757Fan 616 Comments

    Good report, Michael. Great photos as usual! It looks like you had a goof flight with China Airlines. Great that a meal was served on such a short flight in Y. Definitely a lot different from one you'd get on a flight in the US of the same length!

    • Comment 377885 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      "Definitely a lot different from one you'd get on a flight in the US of the same length!"
      - It's best not to think about it, when you come to remember that this flight is like flying ATL-IAD. That and the fact that airfare is also a lot cheaper than what you would be paying in the US.

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew!

  • Comment 377650 by
    Numero_2 TEAM BRONZE 10303 Comments

    Merci Michael !

    Pour ce FR sur China Airlines ;)

    Tu as eu de la chance pour entrer au salon en profitant de l'hésitation des dragonnes.

    Le vol ressemble à ce que BR propose sauf qu'ici l'équipage apporte aussi les boisson demandées qui ne sont pas sur le trolley.

    • Comment 377886 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      Bonjour Clement, merci pour ce commentaire^^

      "Tu as eu de la chance pour entrer au salon en profitant de l'hésitation des dragonnes." <== Un petit legerdemain avec ma carte AZ^^

      "Le vol ressemble à ce que BR propose" <== Comme on peut s'y attendre :P

  • Comment 377815 by
    marvin150892 42 Comments

    Thank you very much for this large China Airlines/Mandarin FR, Michael! Great Photos of places I haven't been yet.
    Looking forward for your next report :)

  • Comment 378291 by
    Rl 777 806 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    Cool lighting at the MRT station.

    “IKEA has invaded Taiwan”
    -Nice with some Swedish stuff (although I’m not the biggest IKEA fan), I can spot the Swedish name of that pillow.

    Beautiful shots airside at KHH and nice spotting shots.

    I am glad you could enter the lounge. Did you ever get that paper BP?

    The colours used in the cabin look really nice.

    Chances are slim to get AE’s only 738 on this route. It is usually doing the RMQ-HKG and RMQ-SGN runs.

    Meal looks great for a flight of this length.

    Stunning aerial shots, I love the shots where you can see glimpses of HKG in between cloud layers.

    Great spotting shots at HKG.

    Absolutely wonderful bonus at the end, seems like the weather was good down there.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 378907 by
      NGO85 SILVER AUTHOR 1755 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by!

      "Nice with some Swedish stuff" <== Probably everywhere nowadays, even showed up in Japan.

      "Did you ever get that paper BP?" <== I got distracted by duty free shopping so by the time I got back to the gate it was probably too late to ask.

      "The colours used in the cabin look really nice." <== Some of the best purple cabins I've seen.

      "Chances are slim to get AE’s only 738 on this route. It is usually doing the RMQ-HKG and RMQ-SGN runs."
      - Yet I was able to see it twice in this trip^^

      "Meal looks great for a flight of this length." <== CI did a good job on these short sectors, I had mixed opinions of CI before this trip. They don't have the best reputation given their big crash in Nagoya, but they definitely showed they are in the same class as BR in terms of Y service.

      "Absolutely wonderful bonus at the end, seems like the weather was good down there." <== Warm and sunny, sounds a lot like LAX ;)

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