This is an archive FR (the flight was before the creation of Flight Report) that I expanded significantly from its original French version. Even though there is not so much on the flight itself, I thought that what happened in both origin and destination airports was worth sharing.
This FR starts in the taxi to HKG. Rows after rows of cranes in the industrial harbor seen from the expressway remind the traveler of the importance of trade in Hong Kong's economy.
The two bridges spanning the gap to Lantau Island have a different design: the first one is a suspension bridge,
Whereas the second one is a cable stayed bridge.
With its continuing traffic, off the background of Lantau Island
Entering the terminal, decorated with a model pioneer plane
Actually, this should have been a FR on flight MU594 HKG-HGH, but in the longish line at the check-in of China Eastern's flights, a quarter of an hour before the deadline, an employee asks each passenger about his destination:
- Hangzhou ? flight MU594 is cancelled, you will be put on another flight.
Indeed, the display has changed
And the next flight to Hangzhou is displayed
I can address only compliments to the successive employees who did not leave us until we were in the check in line of Dragonair, at the far end of the enormous terminal, with the new references on flight KA620, and a phone number to call in case of problem, but there was none. I had no status with China Eastern or Dragonair, I was in economy, and yet I seldom have had so much support in similar circumstances.
Going through immigration and security check was quick and we were airside. A look at one of the book stands is clear proof that Hong-Kong is out of reach of the Chinese censorship : some of these books could be not be sold in Mainland China.
Top left : the posthumous memoirs of ex-Premier Zhao ZiYang, who opposed the military crackdown of the TianAnMen Square protests. Below, the same book, one printed in traditional ideograms (中國不高興, vertically) for readers in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in simplified ideograms for Mainland readers (中国不高兴, horizontally), a very nationalistic call for revenge of China on the West. 聽說西藏 (Voices of Tibet), and 個解放軍的1989 (The 1989 of a People's Liberation Army soldier) are not the kind of testimonies that can be read in China.
I was going to board a Dragonair A330-300 similar to this one
There were occasional showers, and the cleaning staff do not have access to the jetbridges to be sheltered from the rain
A TG 747 going home
An incoming EK 777
Half an hour extra wait: I had left the hotel uselessly early. At least, I can spend this time to check my e-mails: HKG is one of the few airports that I know with free wifi access airside… on the condition that you have a Type G (British) plug adapter!
We boarded an A330 which was full – I suspect that Dragonair replaced at the last minute an initial A320 with a wide body to accommodate the stranded passengers of flight MU594.
Take off from Hong-Kong: the sky is somewhat hazy, but we can nevertheless see the island of Lantau.
No remembrance of the meal: it must have been as usual.
One country, two systems: Hong-Kong, with regards to immigration, is like a foreign country. The sanitary declaration form, together with the immigration form, is much more detailed than the one that had to fill in a few days earlier to enter Hong-Kong: itinerary of the previous and next days, phone numbers, and even the seat number.
The plane descends above this strange landscape organized in long east-west bands
I landed once in Hangzhou at night with 平安夜 playing on the PA system. It was a couple months before Christmas, and hearing the Chinese version of Silent Night, the popular Christmas carol, was unexpected. But this time, it was bright day light, and a trilingual (Cantonese-English-Mandarin) PA announcement requests all passengers to remain seated during the temperature checks.
Temperature checks? Look at these two men who walk with a military gait towards the plane which has just stopped.
Wearing surgical masks, equipped with electronic thermometers that they point at each passenger, they do record the body temperature of each and every passenger. With his sunglasses, his mask and white vest, this employee looked more like some Star Wars robocop looking for his prey.
And when some passengers started to stand up, a firm reminder: no way anybody moves before each has been checked.
Note that in this random sample of passengers in my row, five out of six wear a face mask
We eventually left the plane in bright sunshine
Arrival in the airport: whereas the sanitary declaration forms where collected without much care in boxes at the arrival in Hangzhou, the employees in Hangzhou check carefully each and every piece of information against the passport and ask additional questions.
This was a flight between Hong-Kong (2 confirmed cases, at that time) and Mainland China (3 confirmed cases, at that time) of Year I of the H1N1 epidemic.
Back in 2003, the management of the SARS epidemic in Mainland China had been a disastrous, with local officials hiding bad data, and others isolating their territory with roadblocks in the panic, resulting in medical and economic chaos. Hong-Kong had paid a dear price too, with 299 casualties, including these eight medical staff remembered in this monument in HK's Victoria Park.
China had learnt the lesson the hard way, and had decided not to repeat the same mistakes again. At that time, anybody with flu-like symptoms in China was quarantined, and there was no exception, even for visiting New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin.
A curiosity typical of China ca. 2009: this man standing on the expressway from the airport is not hitchhiking: he is proposing his services as a guide to drivers from outside who do not know the city, in a country where printed and GPS maps could not keep up with the urban expansion.
I was not sick, and could visit Hangzhou. Its West Lake is so famous for the Chinese that it decorates the 10 RMB banknote.
This is what it looked like from the terrace of the Shangri-la Hotel
It was arguably as beautiful by night
A few years after my visit, it has been ushered in the prestigious Unesco's World Heritage List, but I do not consider it as a positive must-see in China.
Hong Kong - HKG
Hangzhou - HGH
The flight in itself was not noteworthy, but the welcome committee at the destination was. And MU / KA managed the cancellation of my flight the best way.
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