This is really on oldie, published in French and never translated in English, unlike the report of the previous segment. I had fun finding details that have become obsolete in the eight years which elapsed since I flew this flight. This was the connecting flight after an AF flight from CDG.
CI910 - Business - Hong-Kong → Taipei - Airbus A330-300You are here
This FR begins on arrival in contact with flight AF188 at 5:20 pm. My neighbor from Hong Kong took her cell phone and shared her concern with me: the Level 8 alert was going to be declared no later than 6 pm.
Level 8 is the third of the five typhoon warning levels used in Hong Kong: it indicates a risk of having winds of force 8 to 11 on the Beaufort scale, taking into account the upstream proximity of the eye of the typhoon and its strength. At level 8, all public services are closed, the Star Ferry stops operating and all employees are encouraged to go home as soon as possible. This was Typhoon Vicente, whose trajectory predicted by the weather department in Hong Kong was displayed on this screen placed at the reception of the China Airlines lounge.
Level 8 was not declared yet, but the air traffic was starting to be disorganized, with serial flight cancellations. Flight CX464 to Taipei was canceled, but flight CI920 was only temporarily delayed by twenty minutes, departing at 8:30 pm.
A short walk to the nearest security check allowing access to the departures level on the upper floor.
A visit to the toilet; on the right, just before the overtly female section, there is a bay care room.
It is expectedly spotless inside. The room has a bend in the foreground.
In its outer curve to the right, the architect cleverly designed a double WC for a father and his son (there is a not very visible pictogram on the door which refused to remain in the closed position).
Next to the sinks, this socket allows plugging a shaver: it is the only place where I have seen a Type A socket, all sockets in HK being type G (British).
Now I was done with these mundane, but useful tasks, let's move to plane spotting, but the Level 8 alert was very bad news for me. A typhoon actually results in strong winds and especially torrential rains: not only does the visibility collapse, but also are the so plane spotter friendly windows of HKG transformed for the most part into artistic filters sponsored by Kärcher.
It was even more frustrating when I had for example a special Qantas Grand Prix747: there was no way I could take a decent picture of it:
Professional photographers seem always to have the right lighting conditions, but a rank and file Flight Reporters in bad weather can only grumble against this awful weather which ruins the fun of his connection and desperately looks for the few window corners spared by the raindrops. I could barely distinguish the fin of the Air Bar Code 777 which had brought me there. With some exceptions, I chose not to post-process my pictures photos, in order to show how it really looked like.
These probably Indonesian children play in one of the playgrounds
… without worrying whether their A330 Garuda will leave on time. I know I shouldn't have left the lighting post in the middle of the picture, but if I shifted sideways either way, I was in front of rain drenched windows.
The situation didn't look good for the passengers of this Jet Airways aircraft either .
But these Indian children didn't seem to worry either.
Granted, it was possible to do slightly better for this one, but the picture is far from being satisfactory.
With such dire weather conditions, the photos in this FR were not going to be included in an in flight magazine, but air travel is this too. I wouldn't want to try to sell that collection of 777 pictures to Boeing's communications department.
SQ in Star Alliance livery
It was no better for taking picture of Airbus aircraft PS A330
The following two picture are really poor, but I'm kep them to show this AE E190, maybe from Kaohsiung.
… which gave here the impression of sneaking through a jumble of planes on the tarmac
Night was gradually falling, bringing the effects of reflections from streetlights on the soaked tarmac
One hour delay announced for this CX / KA flight to Taipei, but it was not going to be better for mine
Arrival of a KA A330
There she parks right in front of me
… next to a TG A330
A row of tails from CX, KA, TG and 2P (I had never heard of that one!)
But she pushes back, providing me a view on the A320 from several angles through a less rain spattered than average window.
Two HX Airbuses
Focus on the A330
AU 747 (granted, I improved the original picture)
I had often seen these two business jets parked a bit far away. It was obviously even more difficult to shoot them that evening.
Another KA A330 at dusk
An EK whale which I had a hard time photographing (the bigger it was, the less it would fit between the raindrops on the windows)
A Virgin Atlantic 346 (identified as such on the fuselage)
I would never have cut a reactor of this BR 747 with a pole in normal conditions, but the weather was clearly abnormal. Twenty centimetres further to the right (or to the left), the glass pane was hopelessly splashed.
CI's lounge in HKG
A last children's space with saturated colors to cheer me up in this grayness…
… but under such conditions, I could as well go and visit the CI lounge, especially since I would seldom have the opportunity to go there.
Very friendly welcome at the counter where there was the screen displaying the weather forecast shown above. On the right, you can see the sign announcing the delay of my flight, and the resulting boarding gate change.
Four or five self-service PCs provided me an opportunity for the (then de rigueur) corporate screenshot. No code needed for wifi access in the lounge; all the power ports were G type in the lounge, but the reception staff gave me a converter in exchange for my boarding pass (I had not planned to spend that muche time in HKG).
The CI lounge was deserted: exactly four passengers (twice two) when I entered, and therefore absolutely quiet.
The magazines stand:
This was the catering area:
There was metal cutlery at the bottom, but chopsticks were disposable, a regrettably environment unfriendly choice.
All four dishes contained Chinese steamed specialties. Quite standard stuff, but very good. These were the dimsum:
Rice stuffed with meat, cooked in bamboo leaves
Why would anybody would prefer instant soup is somewhat beyond my understanding, but this showed that junk food is the most widely shared concept in the developed world.
The selection of drinks was very limited:
Fruit juices of which there is not much left, but I had a coffee.
Here is my selection; it was very good and the coffee was OK.
Not only there was a FIDS in the lounge, but I was informed by a bilingual Mandarin / English announcement on the PA at 6:45 p.m. that boarding my flight was beginning. Gate 32 was somewhat far away, so I couldn't tell how full the aircraft was.
The aircraft was this 333; the HKG-TPE route was operated with twin aisle aircraft only.
I overtly improved this picture, but I found the color rendering pleasant. The decoration recalled the 50th anniversary of CI (back in 2009)
B-18312 is still part of CI's fleet, but has been parked since August 2020, due to the sanitary crisis and quasi-sealing of Taiwan.
There is J / Elite access, but I arrived behind a passenger in a wheelchair: an employee asked me for my boarding pass and my passport and went to process them at the counter. I see her from afar leafing through the passport, finding a single Taiwanese visa which had long expired, discussing with a colleague… in short, I came up to show her my ARC (Taiwan's Alien Registration Card) which immediately reassured her about the legitimacy of my one-way ticket to what was then home for me. In fact, nothing in my passport indicated that I had a multi-year Taiwanese residence permit. At the most, one could determine through a tedious analysis of the numerous Taiwanese entry and departure stamps that I had sometimes stayed more than 90 contiguous days there. Ut would have been easier if I had taken the Economy waiting line: I had not been asked for my residence permit when I returned from HKG the last time in Economy, with a return ticket from Taiwan which was like a one-way ticket to TPE.
Short haul flight, long haul comfort
Due the limited duration of the flight, the turbulence and the meal, I didn't have time to go and see what the Economy class looked like, so we will had to settle for the front class for this time. The front row of business class was compatible with Olympic class basketball and volleyball players.
But at an average seat like mine, it wasn't that bad either..
..with two and a half windows
Another glimpse of the colossal seat pitch.
By the way, what do we have in J in Europe, for a 1,000 km international flight? (I won't suggest airline names)
The IFE was quite small, but it was a touchscreen (not very common ca. 2012), and I didn't used this remote control.
The only thing wrong in this cabin was that the power port was no more than that of the 777 AF of the previous flight capable of powering my electron guzzler laptop of yore. Back then a hard disk was real disks, continuously rotating thanks to an energy hungry motor, and the CPU was using also a lot more energy to do a lot less than they do today. Battery technology may also have improved too. This 2010 laptop required 90 W, vs. 45 W for the laptop I used to type this translation en 2020. The result was that the power port turned amber, a sign of an excessive current draw. (I was spending most of my frequent daytime Far East to Europe flight time using my laptop, rather than napping, and I was carrying two spare batteries for that sole purpose.)
The safety sheet, in a plastic material which has warped a little.
Food and drinks
The welcome drink tray: water, orange juice or champagne.
It's like always fruit juice for me, with a bag of dried fruit and mini rice cookies.
a cold oshibori arrived a little later. Welcome, Mr ??? Marasson: The PNC paused to decipher and imagine how to pronounce my exotic name on their PIL, but their goodwill was as credible as their smile when they showed me the menu. What about plane spotting while taxiing?
… I think we'll stop there. We cut in front of a BR A330 also leaving for Taipei.
I could guess more than I could see the line of plane at the start.
When the 333 turned to reach the threshold of runway 07R, she was briefly perpendicular to the wind direction and severely shaken, all the more that her fuel tanks were probably very empty for a 1,000 km flight.
The BR A300 following us was one of the Hello Kitty jets.
Of course, don't expect a night view of HKG during take off. Take off which is also worthy of a STOL aircraft, thanks to the wind blowing with storm force and the fact that the aircraft was very far from her MTOW. We were making out of HKG in the nick of time: Level 9 warning was declared at 11:20 p.m., and for the first time in thirteen years, level 10 was declared at 12:45 a.m. with the wind speed reaching 140 km/h. Another touching deciphering of the PIL by another flight attendant to serve me the menu of my choice by name, fish as often for me. The menu was rotated fortnightly, but I don't know if they changed it from month to month.
The meal was not exceptional, but nevertheless very good, and the service was flawless for a flight lasting only an hour and twenty minutes (there was a 20 minute margin in the schedules of all HKG <> TPE flights) and which had started with typhoonic turbulence. The occupancy rate of the J was low, less than 30%, which accelerated further the passage of cabin crew.
The cutlery was made of 18-10 stainless steel (18% chromium, 10% nickel)
The bread basket:
It seemed necessary to both confirm that butter was spreadable, and to warn against the fact that it contained milk. Such a wonderful world…
Coffee was OK, a welcome change from the awful beverage then served by Mandarin Airlines, its regional subsidiary.
A interesting minor detail: this buttonhole probably intended to attach this towel to a child's clothing. There was no stain, but a decorative pattern in the foreground.
The quality of the IFE screen was decent; I did not try to watch anything other than moving map. Note that the air route was not in a straight line, in order to avoid Mainland China's airspace.
Welcome in Taipei
Kiss landing at TPE, and arrival at the gate. Only there could I get a shot of the winglet.
With a view of the plane, unfortunately from the gangway side.
The path is short until immigration, where I was as usual greeted with that adorable smile which appeared to belong to the Taiwanese police officers only. I waited only a couple minutes until my checked luggage appeared, among the first ones on the belt.
Fifteen minutes after the plane had come to a full stop, I was a the taxi stand; I let you compare this feat to your timing in favorite international airport, then and now. What about this taxi? this is still one of my countless Taiwanese love stories
No problem telling him my destination, but I have a bit of trouble understanding that he was not going to take the standard route because the freeway was blocked (I did not know the word traffic jam in Mandarin and the driver's pronunciation in English was especially creative). I eventually understood, admittedly with difficulties, but he wasn't sure of that and he called his call center, basically telling them I have a foreign client going to such and such place, could you please him explain in English that the highway is blocked and that I have to go elsewhere? Several radiotelephone calls later, I had understood both the message and his request for assistance in Mandarin, when he waved me over to hear someone say this to me in English. The traffic on this backup route was fluid from start to finish: crossing the suburbs of Taipei after leaving the expressways, I mentally reconstructed the route by passing in front of known landmarks, and I gradually reassured him that not only was am on familiar ground, but that I understood correctly that he had no intention of increasing the distance and the fare. He relaxed gradually, and eventually said me goodbye in the friendliest manner. It had taken just the same time as usual, and the fare was the same too. This is a story of the past: Taipei's Airport Express line eventually went into operation, after many years of delay, and I did not take a taxi last time I flew to TPE. And today, anybody would have a GPS navigator and an online translator on his smartphone.
Thanks for reading this story from an already distant past!
China Airlines Dynasty Lounge
Hong Kong - HKG
Taipei - TPE
My ratings may look like a fan-club score card, but what is wrong about being good ? CI's J cabin provided long haul comfort on a short haul flight, the crew did a great job serving a good meal in the relatively little time they had, doing their best to address me by (unpronounceable) name. The at seat power was not enough for my laptop of that time, but I did not need it and other major airlines were then no better in this regard. I connected enough times in HKG to have experienced severe weather or delays, and each time they handled it superbly; this time was no exception. Accessibility was not relevant, but I know also from experience that there are many convenient ways to go to/from town. TPE is also an efficient airport. It's even better now with the AIrport Express rail link, but the taxi ride has always been easy, and there were buses to various destinations in town too. The only thing slightly wrong about CI's lounge was that it had no windows to the outside - not that it mattered much in such a terrible weather. It was smallish if my memory is correct, but the number of passengers was even smaller.
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thank you for your FR.
What a torrential rain! Absolutely pouring down!!
At least the planes were clean after that for the good spotting session you are sharing with us.
The A330 is a nice aircraft, especially for such a short distance flight. I am not a big fan of 2-2-2 business class configuration.
The Catering seems good for such a short flight as well, but I think would lack a bit of higher standards if it were to be a long haul flight.
Thanks again for the report of China Airlines, not that often reported!
I experienced several typhoons in the Far East - you definitely do not want to venture outside when the authorities prohibit it, and can wonder if it was safe to take off if you did.
(Back then, China Airlines had the local dubious reputation of being the last airline to cancel their flights in case of bad weather, meaning that they were the one taking the most risks. )
I wish I could travel and meet my Taiwanese friends again !
Thanks for your comment !
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