(Note times are: Pushback, takeoff, landing and blocks (all local time))
Well despite SARS and all that jazz, I decided to proceed with my little trip to HKG and back, booked on the 35,000 SA)">FF point deal which came out as few months ago (pre SARS).
The itinerary changed 3-4 times due to flight cancellations and my determination that one of the legs was to be on Australian Airlines. This meant my paper ticket had to be changed as well, which became an issue later.
Checked in at Canberra at 0600 on the horror red eye to Sydney. However it was a good move, because as is often the case at this time of the year, it was foggy and only the overnighting aircraft leave on time.
QF560 CBR-SYD, 737-400 VH-TJI, Seat 11C, 0644-0700(35)-0733(34L)-0740, 33mins, a/c full
Flight was uneventful. We flew TJI, my first trip on this aircraft. With the 733s now almost all Y class, we only get the 734s in CBR these days - 73Hs are still very rare. Makes life in CBR even more boring.
In Sydney I transferred to the international terminal. I was expecting OJT, as per info provided by Nick McT. However, obviously there had been a plane change since then and it turned out to be OEC. I was initially pretty excited as from a distance I was convinced it was a new ER. But of course it wasn't
However, it did have the new IFE system which I have been wanting to try out for a while. I realised that this was the first QF 744 trip in 6 years, and the second ever. About time to fix that...
QF127 SYD-HKG, 747-400 VH-OEC, Seat 54K, 1102-1120(34L)-1747(?)-1754, 8h27, 180 pax approx.
There was plenty of room on this plane, as is evident from the pax figures. Pretty sad considering it is the only QF flight to HKG at the moment, with all the others temporarily cancelled. Many of the pax were oz expat families returning to HKG now that SARS had calmed down.
IFE was great, watched The Recruit and Chicago, both for the first time. Food was SA Czech Airlines">OK, nothing special but not the worst I've had either. One very foxy F/A in my zone.
We arrived at the hugely impressive Chek-lap-kok airport a little behind schedule. My last visit to HKG was to Kai Tak, so it was most impressive to see this structure for the first time, though I missed the old approach sequence. What was sad was the rows of parked CX and KA aircraft out on the apron.
The quietness of the terminal shows how HKG and its airlines are suffering.
Before immigration, you go through this heat scanner, where you see your body in different shades depending on the body part's temperature. Quite surreal. Luckily they only show the top half of you...!
I hopped on the airport express rail link which was also deserted. I was one of about 5 people who alighted at Hong Kong Station.
The next day I turned up at the city checkin at about midday for the return flight (meant I could wander around the city bag free). I wandered up to the desk and handed over my ticket. "Sir there is problem. Sir want to go and sit down and we try and sort out problem". For some reason they didn't want to accept my (paper) ticket at face value. There had been date, flight and route changes, but it had been done at a QF office and had the proper stickers reflecting the changes.
45 mins later after various faxes and telephone calls they were happy to accept my ticket (at CBR on departure they had no problems). But no sooner than they had printed out my luggage label and boarding passes, they looked up and said "flight to Cairns too full. overbooked we put you on direct Qantas flight Sydney". Then the fight started, with me telling them that the whole reason I was in HKG was to fly Australian Airlines and that there was no way I'd forfeit my place on the flight. They tried and tried and even got the QF manager on duty (so I was told) in HKG to try and convince me. I understood their point of view, but I wasn't going to let this one go. I'm not usually a good one at fighting but this time I was determined and left another 30mins later with a precious AO boarding pass.
After a few hours looking around town, I was back on the Airport Express out the airport. I had a little more time to look around, which I did. The terminal is great - it is a very beautiful structure and easy to navigate. Another beautiful thing graced my eyes: 3 A340-600s - VS, SA and CX. Am I right in thinking they are the only 3 carriers operating this aircraft at the moment. If so I was very lucky to see them all on the ground at the same time. However of all the many and varied colourschemes on the tarmac, there is no doubt that the best and most striking is Australian Airlines.
With SARS, AO has reduced the HKG flight to 1x a week. To avoid dead-heading crew at huge cost, the plane flies up Friday night, and sits on the ground for 24hrs before leaving Sat am. Therefore I actually say OGJ on arrival from SYD the day before, so i had advance notice of my plane, which is a new rego for me in the 763 OG* range...
AO7876 HKG-CNS, 767-300ER VH-OGJ, Seat 2K, 1900-1915(07R)-0401(15)-0407, 6h46, 271 pax (full load)
Flight was really good. Seats are the same QF slimline seats with same fabric. They have their own IF magazine and safety cards etc however. Crew uniform for those who don't know it is very funky.
Interesting to note that all announcements (except by pilots of course which was later translated by a F/A), videos etc had chinese (cantonese i assume) first followed by English. It didn't bother me but did surprise me. However considering I was one of 3 caucasians on a full aircraft, I can't complain. It must make it hard for the F/As who only have English to communicate with (about half the crew).
Dinner was nice and was served on very funky ochre and black china, even with a simple paper tablecloth underneath. Nice touch. Just Married was the film on the screen. Its awful. Don't bother. I then got a little sleep before being woken up for a muffin and a 0400 arrival into Cairns.
We were the first aircraft of the morning to touch down (our 15min early departure made all the difference) so the terminal was deserted once I followed the transit signs and made it back to the departure area. However it soon filled as 2 more Australian 763s arrived (from Singapore and Fukuoka today) and a 747-300 from Tokyo, which was to take me on to Sydney.
QF60 CNS-SYD, 747-300 VH-EBW, Seat 28A, 0625-0636(15)-0902(34L)-0906, 2h26, 268 pax.
I was exhausted by now and spent most of the flight asleep. Breakfast was served, which was a omelet with bacon and sausage. Nothing too flash but something to eat nonetheless.
The 747-300 fleet interior is really dated now - no wonder they are slowly refurbishing them. In fact it was an embarrassment compared to all my other sectors. Then again, 10years ago it would have been fine and you can't refurb cabins every couple of years.
Arrival into Sydney was awesome with us flying directly over the harbour, swinging round and landing to the North on 34L. With the perfect weather I can't remember a more beautiful arrival into SYD. Pity my camera was in the overhead locker. Also a superb view of the airport.
Then after a long queue at customs (every bad X-rayed) a quick transfer to the domestic terminal for the last sector of the trip, the good old 146-200 sector to CBR. I was hoping for a couple of the NJx series I am still needing a ride on but I didn't hold out much hope considering we still get mostly the YAx series (ex Southern). And indeed YAE it was.
QF1509 SYD-CBR, BAe146-200A VH-YAE, Seat 4A, 1039-1051 (34R)-1123(17)-1125, 32mins, 59 pax.
Flight was pretty standard. The taxi to the 34R threshold was almost as long as the flight... Did any of you snap a piccy of me taxiing past. I saw quite a few cars on the mound. I'm still waiting for the picture of a plane with me in it!!
A very neurotic woman in 4C. As there was no seat in front of her, her bag had to go in the overhead locker. She refused saying she preferred to move seats than put the bag in the locker. In the end she put it under the seat adjacent to her. Weird. You could see the F/As having a bit of a chuckle about it in the galley.
Landed on time at beautiful CBR airport. Ahhh back home...
When's the next trip????