Hello, flight-report community, and welcome to another of your humble flight-reporter’s signature quicky jaunts to Asia, this time, sampling the business class offerings of Hainan and China Eastern, as well as my first Asian LCC flight, with Cebu Pacific.
HU7976 YYZ-PEK - 1/22/2018 - 787-9 - J - Check it out here HX313 PEK-HKG - 1/23/2018 - A330-200 - J - Check it out here 5J151 HKG-CRK - 1/24/2018 - A320-200 - Y - You are here MU5046 CRK-PVG - 1/25/2018 - A320-200 - J - Coming soon MU207 PVG-YYZ - 1/25/2018 - 777-300ER - J - Coming soon
This middle flight in this journey was the last part booked — a necessary connector to get me to the dirt-cheap J fare between CRK and YYZ that prompted this whole journey in the first place.
Although I’m not crazy about flying an LCC like Cebu, it was an obvious choice in this case, as 5J appears to be the only carrier flying this route, and is absolutely the only one with a flight timed well to meet my needs.
I ended falling for the upsells — I booked myself an exit row seat so I’d have some legroom, and I pre-ordered a meal because it was only a couple of bucks, so it’s probably worth checking out.
Check in, etc.
I arrived back at HKG by airport bus at about five minutes to five in the afternoon after a busy but pretty nice day wandering some of my favourite haunts in Hong Kong.
Inside the impressive main T1 departures hall.
Inside, Cebu was already busy checking people in. There were two lines for my flight to CRK, and a few more lines for the much more popular flight to Manila, operated by an A330.
I join a line to get my boarding pass. It takes a while — and in particular, we seem to stall out for about ten minutes with the line not moving at all. But I eventually figure out why that is, when all seven or eight people in front of me all leave at once with their boarding passes. Once I’m to the counter, getting my boarding pass and on my way takes all of about 45 seconds.
There’s a bit of a line to get into security at this busy hour at HKG.
But I’m still through both security and customs formalities in just over ten minutes, and once again, airside at my old friend, HKG’s Terminal 1.
The Centurion Lounge HKG
American Express recently opened its first international Centurion Lounge here, out by Gate 60, and I’m quite looking forward to checking it out. Like most lounges at HKG — except a few by Cathay - the lounge is on the mezzanine level, and open to the concourse below.
The signature blue door, and the equally signature “living wall” of plants behind reception. The receptionist greets me, scans my boarding pass and Platinum Card, and invites me inside. She’s quite excited to share that there’s a tennis tournament on, and Federer is playing. I guess I look like someone who likes tennis?
The lounge starts with a long hallway, along which is a large boardroom — in which the receptionist is sneaking a glimpse of tennis when she can.
There are a few other smaller rooms, such as this telephone room.
Then you come to the end of the hall, and this odd little alcove of two seats.
Turn right, and you arrive in the main part of the lounge, dominated by the bar, and to a lesser degree, the buffet.
I’m shocked by how little seating there is in the lounge. There are small seating areas in the dining room, to the side of the dining room, and then a little alcove with raised stools along and a long table, which at least has ample power and USB outlets. But it really feels like there’s too little seating for this much space.
The bar is probably the most impressive thing about the lounge — it’s large and very well-stocked.
Let’s take a look at the buffet.
It starts with some bread and condiments.
Desserts, cheese, and cold cuts.
A few salads.
Turkey breast and sweet and sour fish.
Baked beans and cooked pumpkin.
Fried rice and noodles.
Dim sum — which is really just a few shrimp dumplings.
And a couple of soups.
All in all, not an impressive spread, especially compared to the rather unique and creative locally-inspired items common at the U.S. Centurion Lounge. All in all, the catering here feels like a Plaza Premium lounge. And not a good one.
I grab myself a small snack, and head back to my seat to plug in. I’m not impressed by any of the food, really. At least the Asahi was good.
Views are nice from this area — a good look at operations on the apron as the sun starts to set over Lantau Island.
WiF is pretty fast, and uses the same password as every other Centurion Lounge I’ve ever been to. It makes me wonder why they bother to secure it?
Well, there’s exactly zero chance for any champagne in-flight on this one, so I figure I’ll have some in the lounge instead. The bar pours GH Mumm’s, and it’s quite good. The little desserts are also much better than the hot dishes.
I spend a while puttering in the lounge, until a little after 6:30, when I head out. I like to walk the terminal in Hong Kong, but in this case, we’re departing from the new Midfield Concourse, so I have to head downstairs and take the train.
The inside fo the MFC is quite nice — it feels very similar to the main terminal, but a little bit newer — which, of course, it is. It’s good to see they made it a relatively consistent experience with the rest of the airport, given that the MFC is predominantly used by low-cost carriers.
Things are quiet when I show up at Gate 215, but the gate is manned, and the Cebu Pacific A320 that will take me down to Clark is currently offloading the people it’s just brought up from Clark.
There she is — though I’ve flown on A321s with sharklets, this will be my first A320 with them.
There’s no lineup for boarding until one brave soul starts the line — and quickly many others join. I manage to get in about ten back from the front.
Boarding starts promptly on-schedule at 7:00, and after holding us in the hallway for a couple of minutes while they load four wheelchair passengers, I head onboard.
The Flight Report
Flight: 5J151 From: Hong Kong (HKG) To: Angeles City (CRK) Date: 1/24/2018 Aircraft: Airbus A320-200 Registration: RP-C3272 Seat: 14A ATD (STD): 20:06 (19:30) ATA ( STA): 21:34 (21:25)
For this flight, I’m in 14A, the port window seat on the second emergency exit row, and one of about 12 seats on the Cebu Pacific A320 that is not packed in like sardines. Overall, the seats look okay, but I find the seat quite “short” in terms of depth, and hard. I didn’t find it terribly uncomfortable for the short hop down to Clark, but I wouldn’t have wanted to go much farther in this seat.
Needless to say, no IFE — unless you find the emergency exit instructions entertaining. In which case, have at it!
The seat isn’t uncomfortable for lack of leg room, though. Here in the exit row, it’s more than adequate. My backpack would have to go into the overhead bins just in case of an evacuation a bit after this — the flight attendant helpfully put it up for me, since I was already blocked in by other passengers at that point.
A look out the emergency exit window as boarding continues — just us and some hometowners.
Boarding starts out slow, so here’s a look across the cabin. Notice the banner ads just about everywhere except the emergency exit rows. Shortly after this, a gentleman would come in and sit down in 14B. Curses. I was hoping at least the middle would remain empty. We’d end up with all three seats occupied in our row — I think just about the only full row of three on the plane, from what I could see. I doubt the load was half-full.
After boarding is complete, we’re held at the gate for a few minutes after the safety demonstration, we’re told due to operational patterns on the apron. But we push back at about 7:42 pm.
After a slow taxiing procession out to the end of the active runway, we’re first in line at about 8:02, with American Airlines right behind us.
We’d take off just a couple of minutes later, heading into the night sky and quickly into the clouds.
As we climb, the seatbelt sign is quickly extinguished, and the team of four young flight attendants get right into it. First, arrivals forms for the Philippines are offered.
They distribute the pre-ordered meals before they start the buy-on-board service, and two of the attendants are quickly coming down the aisle — one carrying stacks of meals and drinks, and the other the forms that indicate who gets what. When she gets to me, the one with the paper and doing the distribution — who was also the one who put my backpack up before departure, asks if I’d like my backpack back. I’m impressed that she remembers this detail — although I guess it’s pretty easy to remember who’s by the emergency exits. Still, good attention to detail for an LCC.
The meal is okay. As expected, the rice is pretty much boring filler, but the kebabs are actually quite good. They’ve got a bit of heat to them, and the texture reminds me of kafta, which I love. There’s also a tiny bit of grilled tomato under the top kebab — I presume just so they can say they include “veggies.” The accompanying drink — and apple-flavoured iced tea — wouldn’t have been my choice. But then, I didn’t get a choice.It’s also just okay.
After they distribute the pre-ordered meals, it’s sales mode! First, the crew passes through with the buy-on-board cart, featuring sandwiches and drinks and cups of noodles. They follow that with a more general sale — a cart with Cebu Pacific blankets, toy planes, and other memorabilia.
Garbage and other unwanted items are promptly picked up.
I while away the time listening to a podcast on my phone — and I think I might even doze a bit. And about an hour after I finish my meal, the captain comes on the PA and tells us we’re on our descent and should be arriving about on time into Clark. Soon enough, there’s signs of life below us.
And touchdown — pretty much right on time at 9:33 pm.
It’s only a couple of minutes taxiing before we turn in. There aren’t any planes on the few jetways at the terminal — but hey, you’re flying a low-cost carrier, so you get a bus gate even at a tiny, and empty, airport.
As we pull in, we’re reminded to place stay in our seats with our seat belts fastened until the seatbelt sign is extinguished. But a couple of people just can’t resist hopping up and gathering their stuff immediately. It doesn’t seem there’s much the FAs can do, aside from a somewhat sarcastic, somewhat passive-agressive “thank you for your patience” to everyone once the light is turned off.
Arrival into Clark
Deplaning is done via both front and back doors — being right in the middle of the plane, this doesn’t help me very much. The bus serving the front door fills up just as I reach the end of it, so I’m held waiting for the next bus.
It quickly arrives, and the bus ride is basically short enough that we probably could have walked it.
I’m behind a couple of buses in the line for customs, but it goes quickly, mostly because these agents seem to be putting the “formalities” in “immigration formalities” — I’m let through without a single question — which is good, because explaining what I’m doing here could get interesting.
About 15 minutes after getting off the plane, I’m outside the arrivals section at Clark, with would-be taxi drivers competing for my attention. I ask a security guard how to get to departures, and he tells me it’s just straight ahead — and that’s where we’ll pick up the story for the China Eastern flight, number four in this series.
Thanks for joining me on this part of this trip — not the most exciting leg, I know, but worth it, I suppose, for a complete picture. I hope you’ll join me for the last two segments with China Eastern when I get them done.
American Express Centurion Lounge
Hong Kong - HKG
Clark - CRK
I was pleased with my first experience with Cebu Pacific for what it was. Service was basic, but friendly and competent, the catering was acceptable for economy/buy-on-board. The seat wasn’t great, but one doesn’t expect a great seat from this kind of airline. At least it had legroom — bought-and-paid-for legroom, but legroom nonetheless. For the price, I feel like it was a solid value.
I won’t call it a great flight — but let’s put it this way — I’m not dreading my next flight with Cebu Pacific.
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