Hi here is my first trip report in 2004! It is a relatively short report, but involves a brand new experience for myself. Cathay Pacific’s post-SARS lunch service on the HKG-TPE flight was disappointing, especially for a business class cabin. It has reached a new low, but Dragon Air seems to serve excellent cuisine. However, KA offers no entertainment on the short HKG-TPE segment (personally, it is really not a big deal, but in terms of competitions, BR, CI, and CX all offer some forms of entertainment, and KA’s A330s have audio equipment. I don’t think it is really that big of a deal to pass out some headsets. Hopefully the renovations going on with KA’s fleets will be completed soon.
January 7, 2004
CX 564 HKG-TPE Lv1310 Arr1445
Airbus A330-300 B-HLK
Due to some reasons, we arrived at HKG three hours prior to departure, and check in took a few minutes to be completed, and we decided to take advantage of shopping at CLK and the Wing First class section. We first relaxed a bit with a nice cold drink and some recent newspapers and magazines, and then surf the net a bit and then took part in a nice lunch buffet. The lounge was really quiet (we were the only ones for a while) during the late morning and early afternoon hours). My theory is that most intra-Asian premium passengers will rather check in late and therefore only during the peak hours for long-haul flights (like the 2-4pm North American rush) and late night Australia and European rush, the lounge becomes very busy. Anyway, in terms of plane spotting, a relatively busy day at CLK with KLM’s Boeing 747-400 (PH-BFD), an Aeroflot’s Boeing 767-300ER (VP-BAV), a Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 (9V-SQJ), and Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A340-600 (B-HQA) at the bay. Our gate was one of the preferred gates, 4, and parked next to a Boeing 747-400 (B-HUD) heading to JFK via YVR.
Boarding began at 12:40pm, and the load was relatively light in both J and Y. The usual pre-takeoff experience at CX took place in no times – a glass of CX Delight, a fresh copy of Apple Daily, headset, printed menus, and a nice fresh hot towel… The service was nonstop from the moment you boarded to after the meal services. Doors were closed at 1:06pm, and we pushed back three minutes later. We had to travel all the way to the other end of the runway 7R for takeoff. We followed a CI’s Boeing 737-800 (B-16814), and an AC’s A340-300 and KE’s Boeing 777-200ER (HL7714) followed us. We rolled down the runway at 1:24pm, and the flying time was an hour and thirteen minutes with a cruising attitude of 33,000ft and the usual Makung routing.
Lunch was disappointing, as there was no longer a “real” hot lunch, but a refreshment. There was no hot entrée, but a gross-looking pizza… I would rather have the hot sandwich served in economy. Here is the menu transcript –
Assorted Fresh Fruits
Mesclun Salad with Marinated Chicken served with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
Mini Pizza with Mixed peppers and Ham
Tea and Coffee
Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne
Louis Max Pouilly Vinzelles 2000
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2001
Vacqueryras Les Armes De Frances 1999
Chateau Haut-Vignoble Seguin, Saint-Estephe 2000
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1996
(CX 400, 402, 406, 408, 462, 464, 466, 468, 470)
Well, this lunch was served in one tray – fruit has three pieces – a piece of watermelon, melon, and cantaloupe each. The salad was the entrée – sort of… served in the white square china. The greens were fine with few bits of feta cheese – the chicken was three slices of apparently not so marinated chicken breasts. The F/As came out with a basket of mini pizzas, which tasted awful and looked worst than pizza hut’s pizza. That is unacceptable, if you ask me. The salad is fine, but I will rather serve some garlic breads. Well, I paid full fare J for this segment, so I guess I am not too happy about this low quality meal served. After the meal, the tea and coffee trolley was rolled out with a box of CX chocolates.
Inflight entertainment was turned on as usual with a range of short subjects, and no AVOD. Descent soon began around 2:08pm (duty free started around this time), and we soon landed on R/W06 at 2:37pm. We parked next to a Japan Asia Airways’ Boeing 747-200 JA8155.
January 9, 2004
KA 483 TPE-HKG Lv2050 Arr2235
Airbus A330-300 B-HYG
Due to possible evening traffic, we took the earlier Airbus bus back to TPE and checked in two hours and thirty minutes prior to departure. Dragonair’s check in area was at section 7A with separate lines for first, business, elite, and economy class passengers. We arrived really early and there was no line. Each counter has one passenger checking in. We were checked in within seconds and my bag was labeled with a nice gold priority tag. We were given lounge invitations and Dragonair uses EVA’s lounges. Terminal two was really nice and there was a new bag checkpoint. Before, each gate has its own security checkpoints, but now there is a general bag checkpoint after you go through the immigration services. I guess that must be the new security arrangements, and it makes more sense. However, I find the Taipei security officers rather lax… a bit too lax… they were talking among themselves while we walked through the sensor. I guess that explains why the USA bound flight had a secondary hand search checkpoint.
Another surprise – EVA has opened a new first class section labeled as the Premium Laurel lounge. However, I find the labeling very confusing. BR labels its new business class as Premium Laurel class, but yet J class passengers cannot use the Premium Laurel lounge. Will it be easier if BR simply labels the lounge as first class lounge? Maybe as BR has completed its transformation from a four-class (F, J, Evergreen Deluxe, and Y) to three class (Premium Laurel, ED, and Y class), it can change the F lounge into Premium Laurel lounge. Well, using the logic of naming the lounge, I guess as first class will be eliminated, full-fare paying and Evergreen Diamond card members will use the Premium Laurel class, with other passengers using the Evergreen lounge.
The New Premium Laurel lounge uses an open-air garden style with separate sections for relaxing, dining, and drinking. There are a nice sofa area (no more lame looking furniture), a restaurant area with a full buffet area with a noodle and Chinese soup bar, a bar with full range of beers and wines and hard liquors, a small computer station, and a newspaper/magazine station. The only disadvantage is that the toilets are located inside of the Evergreen lounge. The buffets were amazing with a hot soup area with various noodle soups, dumplings, and Chinese fish ball soup. Then the continental buffet features two kinds of soups – potato leek and double-boiled Chicken soup, Chinese dim sum, various Chinese buns, stir-fry rice vermicelli, fried rice with chicken, turnip cakes, and Penne pasta with meat sauce. Then there is an oven with assorted rolls and shepherd pie; and then there are Japanese dessert, cheese and crackers, various Chinese pastries, and then a full self-serve non-alcoholic beverage bar. Then there is a swirling dessert stations with Tiramisu and various Western desserts – almost forgot a fridge filled with Haagen-Daze Strawberry ice-cream. Food is abundant and the service is great. It was a great experience and will definitely enjoy my three hours layover at the Premium Laurel lounge later this month.
Boarding gate was at C-5. Due to recent threats received by Dragon-Air on possible attacks on its Taiwanese flights, there was a passport check by an agent before we entered the gate area in the lower floor. Boarding began at 8:22pm with a separate F/J and Y section. Two F/As were stationed at the door, as we entered. We were lead to our seats, 2A and C, and were the only F-class passengers this evening. The load was 109 tonight, and we were offered anything to drink as pre-takeoff beverage. Newspapers were offered, but with limited selections – no Apple Daily, and magazines were abundant in the racks. No more hot towel service on Dragon-Air as recent SARS alert! Antiseptic hand towels are offered instead, and then we are given a nice printed menu.
Well, B-HYG had the old cabin with a traditional first class sleeper seats with possible 55-60 inches of legroom and a separate recline, lumbar, and legrest control. I actually find it very comfortable and is not too bad even for long haul flights. However, there is no in-seat entertainment section, but audio entertainment is available. (With the new cabin, F class will finally has personal TV and a flat seat like CX’s NBC [not F suites… only NBC], and J and Y will get audio and video (main screen) equipment). But business class looks pretty sad… same seat design but legroom looks limited like 40” with seven abreast seating.
We were parked in between a BR’s MD-11 and a BR’s Boeing 767-200 (B-16625), and soon pushed back around 8:42pm. Despite no planes were in front of us, we had to wait for three planes – a Formosa’s A321, a EVA Air’s Boeing 767, and a CX’s A330 to land, prior to our departure. Not sure why…must ATC hold – we took off from Runway 06 at 9:02pm. Flying time was an hour and twenty-six minutes, with a cruising attitude of 37,000ft.
Seat belt sign was turned off at 9:06pm, and linen and the dinner trays were passed out two minutes later. The dinner tray consists of an appetizer plate, a dessert, and a beverage service. Breadbasket was passed out with nice garlic breads, soft white, and rye rolls. The appetizer was very nice with two summer rolls (like those served in Vietnamese restaurant) with chopped seafood and vegetables, and then a side noodle salad with seafood on top. The dessert was placed on the left side in a nice bowl. Soon the appetizer plates were collected and then entrées were served later. Similar to CX, the entrées were shown for us to pick. My sister picked the abalone entrée and I chose the salmon entrée. The salmon entrée was not so good and the abalone entrée was the better choice. After the trays were collected, tea/coffee service was served with two slices of Godiva chocolate squares (Milk and 5% Dark Cocoa). Then more antiseptic hand towels were served. Duty free trolley was rolled out next, and here was the wine list and menu transcript.
Mango and Shrimp Roulade with Noodle Salad
Braised Sliced Abalone with Vegetable
*Designed by chefs of the Dynasty Chinese restaurant at Hong Kong’s New World Renaissance Hotel
Grilled Salmon with Mustard Seed Sauce
Noodle with Spinach and Zucchini
White Forest Cake
Tea – Ceylon, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Camomile, Japanese, Jasmine, Oolong, Hong Kong Style Milk Tea/ Freshly Brewed Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee
Pralines – Godiva
Champagne – Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut
Chateau de Rully 1998, Burgundy, France
Bimbadgen Chardonnay 1999, Hunter Valley Australia
Chateau Loudenne 1999, Medoc, France
Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2000, Greg Norman Estates, Australia
Dow’s Port 96
Descent began at 9:53pm, and we were offered placed on a holding pattern. We landed on Runway 7L at 10:28pm and it was a busy night at CLK, and soon parked at gate 30 five minutes later. We were parked next to a nice South African Airways’ A340-600. Next report on EVA Air!