This is Leg 6 of this vacation in Mainland China :
Taipei - Hong-Kong (Cathay Pacific), in French there, in English there Hong-Kong - Beijing (Dragonair), in French there, in English there Beijing - Datong (Air China), in French there, in English there Taiyuan - Guiyang (China Express), in French there, in English there Guilin - Jinan (Capital Airlines), in French there, in English there Beijing - Hong-Kong (Dragonair), in French there, you are here Hong-Kong - Taipei (Dragonair), in French there, in English there
I had bought this flight from Cathay Pacific as Flight CX6873, but all CX flights between HKG and Mainland China are operated by its subsidiary Dragonair. This FR starts at the tollgate (10 RMB) on the expressway from the city. Just before the toll gate,
… and just after, at the level of the no stopping signs, there is always a long line of cars stopped on the emergency lane: their drivers came to pick up passengers at the airport, and wait for their phone call to take them in front of the terminal, which saves the expense of airport's parking lot. I love this way of bypassing the rules (I saw cars doing the same close to CDG, recently) when it is not overtly dangerous.
Arrival at PEK Terminal 3, with its subdued outside design. The width of the end of the building is such that you do not realize that it is actually very high.
There are at most half a dozen passengers waiting to check-in at H-140'. The two staff at the business counters are idle, and refused to handle Y passengers who took the wrong line.
Hong-Kong (and Macau) have been given back to China, but keep a highly derogatory status with regards to immigration, and this flight is therefore operated from the international section of the terminal, together with the flights to Taiwan which against all evidence is always presented as being part of China.
(my apologies to those who already my other FRs, I keep repeating the same stuff..)
This is the map of Terminal 3: all entrances and exits from the terminal and luggage deliveries are in the south triangle (left) which handles the domestic flights, whereas the international flights depart from the north triangle, linked to the former by a people mover.
This is the people mover. At each end, the central platform is for boarding only, whereas the lateral platforms are for disembarking, the opening of the left and right doors are sequenced to separate the passengers.
Wifi access is free, but you have to register by scanning your passport on a machine like this one in order to receive an identifier and a password.
It is different in the domestic terminal: you must provide a Chinese cell phone number to receive these codes by SMS.
The conditions for use explain this procedure:
According to Management Measures of Computer Network and the Internet Security Protection (Ministry of Public Security Order No. 33), Technical Measures for the Internet Security Protection (Ministry of Public Security Order No. 82), we need to record ID of any expected user upon application for internet service. (…) To view adult content or other law prohibited contents are not allowed through our Internet services.
It not only porn (adult content, defined quite extensively) which is illegal on the Chinese internet, and the Chinese police wants to be able to identify whoever tries to access subversive websites like Flight Report which is blocked by the Chinese censors.
I had checked my e-mails before leaving the hotel and knew that there would nothing new coming from Europe which is still asleep, especially on a Sunday morning, which leaves me time to reconnoiter kids' corners for my FR.
They do not seem to attract much public; the kids obviously prefer the cartoons in the background to the mini-slide.
The design of PEK's T3 is ideally spotter-friendly, with spot clean ultra wide windows.
What are missing are the planes, because the end of the morning appears a low traffic time for international flights. See the display: it does mean many flights at any given time.
The small number of aircraft, and therefore of passengers, allow these pilots of this Air New Zealand 777 to hold their pre-flight briefing at this café without being disturbed.
Arrival of an Asiana A330, which parks next to its twin which is soon going to fly back to Seoul.
An Air China 737, in the standard livery
And an Air China 747
Arrival of the A330 from HKG which is going to fly me there.
This aircraft has of course never landed in PEK; this is the only model that I have seen that day. Note that the number F-BVFB is historically accurate.
This transport electric cart is so bored that he calls would be passengers, unsuccessfully. Note the green number plates: it is that of a road vehicle which never leaves an enclosed area, like a national park or an airport.
There are electric plugs on the ground everywhere, but their location is quite haphazard because has not been coordinated with that of the seat, like this one in the middle of a passage between seats.
Boarding begins, using two doors (First and Business, Economy). Contrary to a continuous rumor in the internet, the Chinese spontaneously form waiting lines in a quite, and sometimes very orderly manner. There are of course Hongkongese travelers on this flight, but very few Westerners. All such PEK-HKG flights are CX/KA/CA code shares.
A look at the business class:
And the economy class before it fills up, about 80%.
Takeoff Runway 36R, behind a Shandong Airlines 737…
And after the landing of an Air China A321
Distribution of the menu shortly before the takeoff,
Then a welcome glass of fruit juice together with the Hong-Kong immigration form that I am not going to use since I shall be in transit; it is not the one you see below.
I chose chicken. It was good, but not unforgettable, within Chinese quality standard with rather non-descript taste. The salad dressing is too cold: I had to manipulate the pack for a couple minutes to be able to pour it.
The glass on the right contains Coca-Cola, not wine, but apart from orange juice, apple juice, sparkling and non sparkling water, there was also a Chilean wine and a French white wine (saint christophe).
Now of course, it is a feast compared to the food served on a US domestic flight.
The 75 gram ice cream (vanilla or chocolate, without giving the choice) is distributed at the correct moment after receiving the tray, just after a decent coffee. Like the salad dressing, this ice cream is much too cold, which gives it a record Vickers hardness: this spoon made of a rather hard plastic only penetrated 0.1 mm before stopping the experiment due to the excessive flexion of this makeshift measuring tool.
There are opposite strategies: attack the content with the plastic fork, holding the container to warm up its periphery, or give up immediately, which my neighbor did.
My neighbor… a base level Mainland Chinese; I did not determine if his smell came from his breath, his body hygiene or his clothes lack of washing, or possibly all three simultaneously. The good news was that he spent of the flight sleeping, which reduced his throat clearing. Despite my experience in backwaters China, I still have a problem with people spitting indoors, or in a plane.
The IFE is limited to a small number of rather small overhead screens, which do not interest me.
The FA in the back winced when she realized that I had taken a picture of her… unvoluntarily, because she was walking up the aisle and turned around at the very moment I was taking the picture. When she came up to my level, I explained that to her with my excuses, which she accepted with a charming smile. A bonus point for the crew.
What did interest me is that in a flight supposed to last 3h35, there are some electric plugs in economy, according to the laminated safety card shown here with the welcome fruit juice. After a lengthy search, I found out that I was a lucky winner: it was hidden underneath and between seats 28A and 28C. It takes some contortionist skills to find it and plug in my laptop's power supply, you also must have a Type A or Type B adapter, but my laptop does receive power. I never received a milliamp in J on the flights between CDG and PEK, but you should not ask too much from AF. That is worth a bonus comfort point, flying in economy.
The tray is somewhat of a nuisance after the meal, but since I have a window seat, I managed to use my laptop to continue my FR until my tray was removed.
Arrival on time in Hong-Kong, what happened next is part of my FR on Flight CX402.
Beijing - PEK
Hong Kong - HKG
This was another flight above the excellent average level of domestic Chinese flights. The round trip TPE-PEK via HEKG was not cheap, but I got my money's worth. The bad rating of PEK's services (for check in) will be explained in the FR of the next flight.
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