Warning -- this trip report is typical Carfield detailed style... it is rather long...
and I hope you will like it.
Happy New Year! I wish you all great health and more happy and safe flying in 2004.
Here is my annual holiday trip report back to Hong Kong. I decide to try a new airline, so I take advantage of the American Express Platinum Airline program and buy a business class ticket to Taipei from Los Angeles. My sister and I are traveling together, so the price for each person is $650. Then we purchase a separate ticket to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. Originally, my sister and I will spend a few days in Taipei on our way over, but due to other matters, we have to travel directly to Hong Kong and we are heading off to Taipei next week. (Another new airline, Dragonair, will be used on our return TPE-HKG flight.) Well here we go!
December 28, 2003
MH 95 LAX-TPE Lv2335 Arr0610+2
Boeing 747-400 9M-MPO “Alor Setar”
Due to the holiday seasons and new restrictions on private vehicles into LAX, we used Super Shuttle to LAX, which was a smart move. Since private vehicles cannot drop off passengers at curbside, they have to park at the relatively parking structures. That arrangement will be valid till January 6, 2004, so I recommend using all means to LAX except private vehicles. Together with the new security rules, it took us about 25 minutes to get from the entrance of the airport to Tom Bradley, and I saw the landing of CX’s late evening A340-600, which was using a bus gate this evening.
Surprisingly, Tom Bradley was not as crazy as we thought. We got a porter to carry our suitcases to the check-in counters of Malaysia Airlines. The porter told me that it was so crazy last week that the MH counters were moved to Terminal three (or I guess he meant the baggage screening stations). The premium line was relatively quiet, but both lines were occupied. The party in front of us was checking in fifteen pieces of bags all together. Then the first class line opened up and the lady wearing a MH green sweater (awful if you ask me) – every agent was wearing the neon green MH sweaters. She was able to check our bags all the way to Hong Kong; despite the second sector was on a separate ticket. It took her a while, but she was able to do so. Then she gave us the boarding passes, tagged our bags with Golden Club “purple” bag tags, and a lounge pass to the Golden Club lounge. She was not particularly chatty, but efficient and polite.
The carryon checkpoint was not so crazy, and we were left with two hours to spend in the secured area. Flights were all over the place, as expected, and we headed towards the Golden Club Lounge at fifth floor. It was one of the worst lounges I have ever been. I know about the situation in LA, but the GCC was so small to the point that it was disappointed. There was no separate beverage and snack buffet area, but a small beverage and snack station located next to the reception desk. If you want a cold drink, you will have to ask the agent to get it from the refrigerator inside of a closed area. My sister had a warm drink and I had a cup of pineapple juice. Snacks were all junk food – full Hershey’s chocolate bar was almost too much, but the other choices are more chocolate bars, pre-packaged cheese and crackers, muffins and cakes. We left the lounge around 10:45pm and headed to gate 105. Boarding did not begin till 11:08pm. There was no explanation for the late boarding. Next to our gate were a Korean Air’s HL7489 Boeing 747-400 and then two Boeing 747-400s of Eva Air (B-16402 at gate 103 and a combi at gate 102).
Once comfortable boarded at a clean, although a bit tired-looking, cabin in the upper deck, we were offered a choice of orange juice, apple juice, or champagne. The Golden Club cabin was pretty nice, with comfortable purple colored chairs. The legroom was fifty inches, and if you have flown CI or Finnair, MH uses the same exact chairs with the enlarged TV screens and an additional electronic legrest control. I think it is more comfortable than CX’s old business class seat. A blue blanket and a think blanket were already placed in each seat. The blankets are economy class looking if you ask me. J cabin was almost full this evening. Door was closed at 11:50pm and the newspaper trolleys was rolled out. Due to traffic, we won’t be able to push back till midnight. Amenity kits (a separate ones for men and women) were passed out next, followed by menus and headsets after takeoff. I spotted the Go Wallaby’s QF Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEJ at the AA terminal and China Southern’s Boeing 777-200ER B-2056 on our way to R/W25R. After an American Airlines’ Boeing 757 took off, we took our turn at 12:25am, and a TACA’s A320, the CX’s A340-600 (using a bus gate this evening), and a few Boeing 747-400s were following us for the last midnight flights rush. A beautiful evening along the LA coastline, and we passed by the coast of Santa Barbara and Camarillo, before leveling out at 28,000ft and then 32,000ft, before hitting Monterrey and Santa Cruz. We climbed further into 33,000ft before hitting the Alaska coastline and passing Cold Bay. We climbed up to 34,000ft, 36,000ft, and 37,000ft throughout the evening, until we hit the Japanese cities of Iwaki, Maebashi, Nagoya, and Osaka. Then reached 39,000ft before reaching South of Takamatsu, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. Flying time was long – fourteen hours and five minutes due to strong head winds.
The service was mixed – flight attendants were mostly helpful and efficient, but were not as attentive as CX or SQ. They did not refill water glasses until asked. I personally think that bottled waters should be passed out these days – it made things easier. Well meal services were minimal as expected, due to the redeye nature of the flights. Supper service began shortly after the seat belt sign was turned off. Unlike taking beverage orders, beverage trolleys were used. About twenty minutes into the flights, linen was passed out and satays trolley was passed out at 1am. I was a bit disappointed by the one tray supper service, but the quality was very high. Compared to other airlines, which operate redeye flights, I think MH’s supper can use an additional course, like a separate dessert service. Well CX, CI and SQ all offer a multi-course supper with beverage and nuts, appetizer, entrée, and dessert service. Here is the menu transcript and a really short wine list.
Los Angeles to Taipei
Our Famous Charcoal Grilled Chicken and Beef Skewers
Topped with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Three chicken and two beef skewers were offered with two cucumber and onion skewers. Delicious and the most surprising part were refills – I got three extra skewers. Best part of the meal! A nice cold towel was served on a nice silver shell shaped plate.
Grilled Tandoori Fish, Prawn Skewer and Beancurd Vegetable Parcel with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Nice appetizer – the prawns were nice.
Succulent Prawns and Sea Bass Marinated in Garlic, Oregano, Black Pepper and Lemon Juice
Complemented with Saffron Cream sauce, Galette Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables Lightly brushed with olive oil
Fabulous… seafood was perfectly cooked, and the potato pancakes were nice.
Morsels of Chicken Cooked in Select Herb and Spices Northern Indian Style
Deliciously served with Steamed rice with green peas and mixed vegetables
Homestyle Cheese in Butter and Spices
A Delectable Vegetarian Dish of Cheese cooked in creamy gravy of select spices accompanied by vegetable pilaf
Seasonal Fresh Fruits
Pre-placed on the supper tray – papaya, melon, grapes, and strawberry
Bread Selection – Garlic bread, soft rolls, rye and sourdough too
After a round of tea and coffee service, hot towels were passed at 2am, and the lights were dimmed. Our aircraft was equipped with the Select Plus AVOD system with rich libraries of movies, short subjects, and CDs. I think the short subject selection was a bit weak… I like CX AVOD programs better, but MH is nice, especially a nice selection of Nintendo and multiplayer games… better than CX. I went to sleep for about eight hours. I checked out the snack station towards the end of the flight, but from I saw, there were two baskets – fruit (apples, kiwis, grapes, and strawberries, and unhealthy one (Tilmaook cheese – cheddar and American, Carr’s crackers, Summer Harvest Mix, and filled rolls (sandwiches).
In between the meal services, a selection of filled rolls, cheese and crackers, fresh whole fruits and chocolates are available for your complement
However, if you wish to have a hot snack, savour our specially prepared instant noodles with choice of condiments
About two and a half-hour prior to arrival, lights were turned on, hot towels were passed out, and followed by a tray of apple, orange, and tomato juice, and strawberry health drink. For fruit appetizer, it was a citrus based with orange and grapefruit segments, and some kinds of berries. I don’t like it. For bread selection, there was a choice of croissants, cinnamon rolls, cranberry muffins, and toasts. For entrée, it was the traditional trolley service like first class, like entrée placed on the dish with your choice of accompaniments. Well the Chinese dumplings were not so good, and deep fried stuffs did not work well with re-heated ovens. Steamed dumplings were better. After breakfast, hot towels were passed out. I think we can use another hour of sleep before breakfast is served.
Selection of Fruit Juices
Seasonal Fresh Fruits
Cornflakes served with fresh or low-fat milk
Tomato and Cheese Omelette served with chicken sausages
Assorted Chinese Dumpling
Deep-fried Chicken Wonton, vegetable Wonton and Shrimp balls served with special chili and soy sauce
A Popular Indian Breakfast Dish of Semolina served with cheese in spinach and nan
Sautéed Button Mushrooms
Garlic Fried Rice
Jam Marmalade or Honey
Champagne & Wines
Champagne – De Saint Gall Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs
Fine Red and White Wines – The selection is according to your destination
Port – Taylor’s Special Tawny
A bit unprofessional if you ask me… and I am also sure that a different type of champagne is served. Piper Heidseck, I think, is served. I am not sure about wines.
Descent began around 2:08pm LA time, and seat belt sign was turned on at 2:19pm. We landed on a cloudy morning at R/W23 at 6:30am on December 30, 2003 Taipei time. After we landed, a China Airlines’ A340-300 touched down at Runway 23. We were parked at gate A7 shortly after. What a surprise when I walked into the airport. The seating area was updated with black leather seats, and signs were updated with a nicer sign. There were a few more eateries and book magazines. Well CX counters were located at the B area and it was a ten-minute walk to those counters. Unfortunately no one was manning the counter, and the nice CI agent called the CX desk for us.
December 30, 2003
CX 465 TPE-HKG Lv0745 Arr0930
Airbus A330-300 B-HLL
The agent finally arrived ten minutes later leaving forty-five minutes to our ETD. Well, she issued our boarding passes immediately and then traced and called for our bags. To give her credit, our bags were rightly delivered later and business class priority tags were also added on. I am always amazed at the efficiency of the staff at Asian airports, or the Asian airlines. We did not have time to go to the lounge, and chose to shop a bit. When we arrived at gate B4, boarding had already commenced, and indeed was at its final stage. There was a separate line for premium passengers, and we were at the almost empty J class cabin. One HK based and Japanese-based F/As helped us with our carry-on and offered us a choice of Soya milk, orange juice, and water. Newspapers and headsets were placed on our console within seconds – typical CX efficiency. The flight was excellent due to the light load. After a few more last minute passengers entered, door was closed at 7:39am and we pushed back a minute later. After an Eva Air’s MD-90 landed on Runway 24, we took off at 7:54am. Flying time was an hour and twenty-one minute with a cruising attitude of 39,000ft.
Well, a full breakfast was served on this short flight, and entertainment program was turned on shortly after too, with a choice of short subject programs. Meals were served in two courses – fruit appetizer and the entrée. Instead of trolley, trays and a la carte services were used. We also got to see the choice of entrées before picking it.
Taipei to Hong Kong
Fresh Seasonal Fruits
2 watermelon, cantaloupe, melon, and papaya ball
Pork Sausage and Prawn Frittata
Grilled Tomato and Sautéed Button Mushrooms
Stir-fried Noodles with Pork in Oyster Sauce
Assorted Chinese Dim Sum served with Chili Sauce
Nice noodles and the choice of dim sums include beef siu mai, and two styles of different pork dumplings.
Assorted Bread and Rolls served with Preserves, Honey and Butter
Croissants and some kind of Danish were offered a number of times.
Tea and Coffee
The flight was short, but I managed to read some newspapers and was terribly sad when I found out a great Hong Kong artist, Anita Mui, passed away during my transpacific cross. A great singer! Well, I read some other magazines and then filled out a CX survey.
Descent began at 8:56am and we landed on Runway 7L at 9:15am. We arrived at gate 3 nine minutes later. Bags were delivered shortly after at the claim. Our bags were among the first to come out. HK airport was really quiet at this time of the day.
Happy New Year!