Welcome again to another set of trip reports. This time, it is a routine trip to Singapore, and a mileage run to London and back. You’ll probably think I’m nuts, but I have to say 36 hours in London, was not that bad.
First the London Mileage Run
I kind of wanted to do this run in peace, since the flight leaves at 23:55, I figure I would have dinner with friends, go home, pack, and go to the airport, and no one would be the wiser. When I got through the entire process no problem, I was looking for BK, and it was being renovated! Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was an ex-colleague who had just joined a competitor. Yikes! Anyways, he was going to London too.
Well, it made the time pass anyways, and on the flight he was actually sitting in an “A” seat three rows ahead of me. So we went to the far end of the terminal for a pre-flight snack (note that the London flights always leave from gates 2-3), by the time we can back from there they were boarding. I took my seat in 62A and saw that it would be a full 13 hours this evening.
While we boarding the captain’s announcement said that due to traffic over Southern China (last time in April it was due to thunderstorms over Southern China) and we would be delayed 32 minutes. Again, right on cue, the flight pushed back and made our trek down the far end of the runway for takeoff towards the east.
We took an interesting route at takeoff. We first turned to the south, then completed a very large circle (I assume for traffic) which took us back over the airport and I was able to get one decent night photo of the airport out of 3-4. Then we went over China, and I started to see what a real metroplex is, it is crazy how far those lights went on for. While I was snapping away, the guy next to me who was stuck in a middle seat kept deep sighing. I guess he’s never encountered an aviation enthusiast before.
After the meal, which was standard, I watched “Dinner for Schmucks” which had me laughing my ass off for a good two hours. Then I decided to take some sleep. When I woke up, I was impressed, we were just under Helsinki. I wonder how much Russia makes in overflight fees (how are they calculated too?)?. By then the headwinds were up to 143mph, so the last part of the flight, took forever.
I could watch the towns coming in under the plane until it became cloudy. Finally passing Amsterdam, we began to make our way down. Crossing over London proper at about 4:55am before landing at 5:09am. Which was more or less on time. I met my friend again, we went to passport control together, when I was at the desk, the lady asked how long I was staying. To which I replied two days, then she asked what I was going to do. I said I would hang out with friends, and sightseeing, and then I said, I took the trip too so I could get the miles. To which she said “uh-huh” and stamped me.
I had no check-in luggage, but waited for my buddy to show up. He took longer because he’s Pilipino, and I think they just assume that he is moving to London just to work illegally or sing in a hotel lounge band. After about five minutes he showed up, and he had to justify his visit, by saying who was training him in London (he is there three weeks for training on his new job), proof that the accommodation was employer provided, and his onward ticket.
Ever since the “black incident” with me in London immigration a few years ago, I think is an issue now that these people need to work on at these desks.
Enough preaching. We agreed to meet later, and I went to look for Heathrow Express, got lost and ended up on the Piccadilly Line. Whatever, it was 5:45am and I was not feeling it, so I got an Oyster card (I’ll be back in London again in January anyways for work), and rode this to Hammersmith? To change to the Bayswater, only to learn that the train was going one stop, and the other lines (Circle and District were not running to Bayswater). So I came up and got a cab, and he got lost. But he was a super sweet old man “we’ll find this hotel together…” and eventually we found the Phoenix Hotel, to which he charged me only GBP5, when the meter was over 8.
Of course, no rooms yet at 6:25am
But they too, were really cool. She said through her Polish accent that invariably rooms open up because people check out to catch 9am flights out of Heathrow. She told me to come back in an hour, and sure enough a room had opened up by then.
I have to say, what a great place, For around ~$100(us) you get a clean room, though tiny, brekkie, and free internet.
And the location is pretty good too, for bee-bopping and scatting around town. Well, at least the Central line was operational on the weekend which made it easier.
We agreed to meet at Liverpool Street Station, since it was near where he was staying and it was his first time in London. We met there and had a round at the pub across the street. Then we wondered past St. Paul’s and I was showing him the sites. He had purchased a bottle of vodka and a redbull at one of the grocery stores, and he would stop every now and then to take a swig of each. That was a new one for me.
Ok, here I think the crowd was waiting for Princess Anne:
Someone was getting married:
Pirates Invaded Liverpool Street Station, but Londoners just didn’t care:
Needless to say, he was getting more aggressive as the day was going on. We went through Leicester Square, China town, and Piccadilly Square. By then jet-lag was sitting in for me, and my buddy was absolutely trashed, trying to pick up anything in a skirt. I told him he could probably find what he was looking for in Soho, but he believed he shouldn’t have to pay for it. After a couple of plates of nachos back in Leicester Square, we parted ways to nap, then meet again later that night.
He called me at 8pm and said he was not going back out. Well, at least I went back out, it was pretty happening even if a bit crisp. I returned at almost 11pm, completely exhausted, and stopped at one of the many Lebanese restaurants in Bayswater. Delish!
I woke up at 7am, and my flight was at 11:30am. I took a stroll to Paddington Station and loaded up on Dr. Pepper Zero, something I cannot find in Hong Kong, and then went back to pack. After packing, I walked around the corner, and had a little debate. Should I take the Central Line to Ealing Broadway to transfer to Heathrow Connect? Should I walk back to Paddington Station for Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect? Well, when I saw that a car service had a special, GBP25 to Heathrow around the corner from the hotel, the choice was easy. Take the car!
It ended up being a Mercedes van. Wow, all for me—all the way to terminal 3. Check-in was a snap since I could use the business queue, and from the line showing for economy, it seemed like it was going to be a full flight again. Clearing security and random immigration was a snap, and soon I was in a shopping mall. I picked up a few goodies, and I recalled from my customer advisory board meeting, that there was a new Cathay lounge in Heathrow. I decided to check it out.
The lounge was really nice. There were some good airfield views, though only in one corner, but we could watch arrivals quite easily. However, we did have a close up of the SAS activity. The food was great in the lounge, and then boarding was called and I made my way to the plane. I remembered that the strong headwinds to London, would probably work for us on the return. Well, the monitor was showing less than ten hours to Hong Kong.
The captain confirmed this, but said that due to traffic leaving the UK, it would likely be about 10:20min to HK. Once airborne the winds worked their magic, and sure enough it was at times over 140mph in our favour. I went to sleep and woke up around Almaty. By then the winds were not so much in our favour but still positive. In about four more hours we were approaching HK, and took a long loop around Hong Kong Island before landing towards the east again.
Taxiing into position: http://www.flickr.com/photos/5553318...97960356/in/set-72157625444040000/
Emirates A380 Landing:
Singapore A380 Pushed Back:
MEA A330 viewed over our wing on our pushback:
Sunrise over Belarus (I think):
Sorry, the battery died on landing. We landed towards the East, it was dark and exited the runway near where the cargo area starts.
This time I had to wait a really long time for bags, and a lot of non-priority (any level) was not coming off the plane, which sent one gweilo (not me) into a rage against the Cathay rep at the carasel. Shortly after that his bag came out and mine too, and I was off to Disco Bay again.
All pictures from this trip:
Pictures from London, if you haven’t been:
Only to leave on Wednesday for Singapore
Hmm… my LHR-HKG miles have not shown up. I mean why bother putting myself through this if it is not going to happen?! I think I threw out the boarding pass too, you know it has never been an issue in the past, so you just think it will work every time.
On Wednesday, the wife landed in the morning from her business trip to Bombay on Jet Airways. She doesn’t do trip reports, sorry, in fact, she rolls her eyes when she sees me on A.Net. But she did mention that they serve a lovely champagne in business class.
So after a few hours working from home, I left on the 12:30pm bus to go to the airport to catch my flight to Singapore (CX735, 772 non-ER, leaving at 14:20).
Check-in was suspicious. I am cautious with CX now on picking my seat, and when I book online, I check with seat guru, because some seats are missing a window altogether, or have a misaligned window which negates the window seat. I had booked 42A, I assume, I can’t really recall specifically, but she had printed my boarding pass and had it in front of her which said that. Then she asked if I knew what seat I had booked. I said, looking at my boarding pass, it was a window seat in the front section. When she saw me looking at the printed boarding pass, she quickly flipped it over. She typed some more and printed a new boarding pass 36A. She had the nerve to tell me that this was the seat I booked! Catherine Woo, you are a sneaky devil. Normally, I would not have minded at all, except 36A has a misaligned window something I realized when I was onboard
Security, everything else, like always at HKG was a snap. And soon, it was boarding time, and ironically our gate was next door to the Singapore Airlines A380 going to SIN at 15:25 or so. Anyways, we were all boarded, and then there was a delay because of a drunk Chinese passenger being removed by ground staff, but not the Police. He did not seem aggressive, so he must be one of the drunks that tells everyone he loves them.
Funny enough, when boarding began, there could not have been more than 50-60 people in the waiting area, but the flight ended up being full! With businessmen! Same thing on the return flight, when I was at the gate in Singers, nobody was around, and then they started showing up in waves (which makes me think that they were transferring in from another flight, or a tour group—they were old. Real old).
The drunkard’s luggage was removed and we pushed back about 45 minutes late. We also had a lot of cargo to be loaded on this flight too, which delayed us a little bit as well. It is funny though, when I flew Singapore Airlines SYD-SIN-HKG five years ago, and they had a drunk passenger being removed on the SYD-SIN leg, the captain identified him by name repeatedly over the intercom. Ha!
We took the long way around to depart to the west, which means you have a chance to see a lot of airplane snaps at the terminal.
Empty gates…for now:
Korean horns itself in:
On pushback, it seems that BA horned in too:
Singapore A380 in HK:
Panda Jet (ANA):
Odd, because you can take the train from TST to Shenzhen, much faster:
After a Hong Kong Coast Guard prop plane landed we moved into position, and took off. Flight time was 3 hours 15 minutes, and mostly smooth. After landing I saw a co-worker who must have been on the same flight going to the same meeting I was, but he had luggage checked-in, and I didn’t. Soon I was on my way to the Mandarin Oriental (amazing hotel!).
HK Coast Guard (EMB I think):
The moon set against a deep blue sky:
Landing (the first one shows all the ships at sea and the CBD):
Couple of snaps from Singapore are here:
All pictures of CX735:
All Singapore Pictures are available here:
And soon, we were done with the conference, and a wicked night of drinks on Friday. The sun, deliberately, woke me up at 7:30am. To which I slowly gathered my things and texted my friend to tell her I was not going to meet for brekkie, and then made my way to the airport.
Check-in was super easy, this time no lies by the check-in agent, and then passport control is awesome as it is in most countries that promote international commerce. I was in seat 34A, and this was CX714, and again a 777-200, but this is B-HNL. B-HNL as I learned from A-Net was the first 777 ever built. It’s still in good shape.
Terminal 1 in Singers is a disaster right now with all the renovation. So not much fun, and I made my way to the gate.
As I mentioned before, it was relatively empty in the holding pen, but the flight ended up being full.
We pushed back on time, and I was excited as the traffic was taking off in a direction that would give me (read you) an overview of the airport on departure. However, right then it started pouring down rain, and we taxied to the other end of the airport, meaning a blah look at departure. We held our position for a few minutes, I guess until it had cleared enough for departure. Then we rolled. As you will be able to see the only place it was raining heavy was on that end of the runway.
The latter video is pretty cool overview of landing at HKG with the convention centre, Marriott, golf course, etc…
The flight back would take about 3 hours 10 minutes, and took about just that. We landed to the west too, which gives one of my favourite landing views of the HKG airport. After a quick taxi, we were stopped right where we took off.
All pictures of CX714:
Then I was off to home, and now I have no trips scheduled until January. I’ll see if I can sneak another one in here or there.