This report will mark the end of my summer in Asia and it will be another familiar report on CX business. The nonstop HKG to JFK flight is better than the return for sure, and the food is somewhat better, but the planning for the meals is still rather poor and I feel like that CX switch the meals of CX 830 and 831. Thankfully, the F/As are much better on the return and the service is more organized. I guess the somewhat light load helps too, but the F/As are still very passive in offering refreshments to passengers still up. I don’t know if I am demanding too much, but when you see a passenger wake up from a long nap, the F/A should ask if he or she wants some snacks. I guess ANA spoils me much and NH F/As in F or J always persist on serving you more food, while some CX F/As like to do their rounds by rushing through the cabin with the fastest pace one can ever imagine. I think the Airbus A340-600s also need more galley space and CX obviously designs the layout of the A340-600s without thinking about needing more galley spaces to carry more food and drinks for these ultra-long haul flights. Anyway, I also include my return TPE to HKG flight and my surprise birthday cake (thanks to a fellow FT-talker).
August 30, 2004
CX 408 TPE-HKG Lv1515 Arr1700 Airbus A330-300 B-HLK (Regional)
Well, the check-in was carried easily and the agent notified me that a birthday cake was reserved and wished me a sweet happy birthday. The airport was relatively quiet but I did not have times to use the lounge this afternoon, and then I headed to the duty free shops for some last minute shopping. Boarding began at 2:44pm and the load was relatively light in J, but almost full in Y. I overheard the F/As being thankful for more passengers – it is better to have a full load, then nobody. As usual, newspapers were offered, as well as some nice cold drinks. I flew B-HLK a number of times and was not surprised to see those regional seats. The aircraft was cleaned and everything was kept in good conditions. Door was closed at 3:11pm and we did not push back till 3:17pm due to ATC delays at TPE. We parked next to JAA classic Boeing 747-200 (JA8154) and a brand new Boeing 747-400 EVA Air (B-16401). As we headed to R/W24, we passed by JAL’s Boeing 767-300 JA8987, and followed Dragonair’s A330 B-HYG heading back to HKG and EVA Air’s Airbus A330-200 B-16302 heading to NRT. While we were waiting for takeoff, the purser passed out menus to each J passenger individually and wished me a happy birthday. We took off at 3:30pm and we climbed to 36,000feet, as we reached the normal route path to HK via Makung. Flying time was an hour and nineteen minutes.
Seat belt sign was turned off at 3:39pm, and refreshment was served immediately, followed by beverage trolley. It was served one tray and once again, the beloved warmed sandwich made its appearance. The meals were okay and after the tray was collected, the F/A passed around with tea and coffee, as well as more CX pralines. The wine list and menu transcript were stated as below:
Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne
Louis Max Saint Veran 2001
Jamiesons Run Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2003
Louis Max Mercurey Domaine La Marche 1999
Chateau Vieux Barrail, Puisseguin Saint Emilion 2001
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997
Smoked Salmon Rosette
Caesar Salad with roasted chicken
Cheese and Ham Ciabatta
Panna Cotta with Peach
Tea and Coffee
The meal was not J class standard, but that was the new reality, as prices were hitting new low and the fuel costs continue to rise. At least, no need to eat those disgusting pizzas… the Caesar salad was relatively fresh, but the dessert was rather plain, and the peach was canned peaches, which were a bit cheap. Anyway, after the meal, the purser and a number of CX female F/As came out with the birthday cake, which was a good size and sang a happy birthday song. The purser also gave me a birthday card with signatures of F/As and cockpit crews. The purser then told me to take it home, as there was not enough time on board and I don’t think they had anything to serve it. I only wish the cute male F/As were there to wish me a sweet birthday as well… ha ha… the flight was wonderful, and the service was as attentive as always. Thanks to my fellow FT talker in Vancouver.
Descent soon began at 4:15pm and landed on R/W25R at 4:50pm. We parked at gate 4 a few minutes later and I was back to Central by 5:30pm. After an evening of celebration, I made my way back to the airport at 8am.
August 31, 2004
CX 830 HKG-JFK Lv1015 Arr1405 Airbus A340-600 B-HQC
Due to additional security requirements, check in on USA bound flights had to be taken care at the airport itself. I took the Airport Express train and used the first class check in counters. The agent was extremely professional and due to some confusion with my electronic ticket, it took a bit longer (only a minute longer, which was not a big deal), but she apologized a number of times. Then she proceeded to fine me a seat with the window blocked. I did not even say a word and the porter took my bags to the scales, and this check in experience was as much stress free as possible. The flight itself was rather light loaded in F and J and most passengers got a pair of seats to themselves (12 H and K for myself). I used the lounge this morning and had a light breakfast of dim sum, fried noodles and papaya. For western passengers, smoked salmon egg benedict, deli meats & cheese, and various breads were offered, as well as cereal and yogurts. I reached the gate, 3, thirty minutes prior to arrival, and found a line for Y line, but an empty F and J lines. Security was improved with two armed police staffing at the gate, and random secondary checks inside the jet way. Once on board, newspapers were offered, as well as beverages and hot towels, prior to takeoff. Door was closed at 10:18am, as we waited for some late connecting passengers and bags-loading. We pushed back two minutes later and headed towards R/W25L. Planes spotting include a MH’s A330-200 9M-MKV, and two China Airlines’ Airbus A330-300 (B-16302). Another Airbus A340-600 (HQA) was parked at the bay as our backup, as well as two 744s (B-HOO and HOX). We took off from R/W25L at 10:29am and flying time was estimated fourteen hours and fifty-five minutes, but due to a late route change because of the Republicans’ Conventions at NYC, flying time was extended to fifteen hours and twenty-four minutes.
The pilot stated that we were using the North Pole route, but to me, it was more like a Great Circle route with a bigger circle and we did not really pass through the North Pole but very west of it. The routing was as follow – we flew North towards China after takeoff and first climbed to 29,500feet. We passed through cities of Shaoguan and Wuhan, before climbing to 33,500feet, as we passed by east of Beijing, Chengdu, and Harbin, before descending to 33,000feet. Then we headed towards Siberia, and the city of Blagovescensk, We climbed to 36,500feet…Aidan Plateau, Cherskogo Mountains, and the Artic Ocean… before climbing up to 37,000feet. After crossing the International Date line, we crossed Beaufort Sea, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, the cities of Winisk, Moosonee, Val D’Or, Montreal, St. Jean, North of Portland, Maine, and then turns towards south of Rochester, MA, Lawrence, MA, Providences, RI, Flat River reservoir, and started descending after passing Mystic Seaport. The routing was a bit strange, due to the Republican National Convention in New York City that weekend. We flew to the Northeast towards Maine before turning south towards NYC.
The service started with beverage service with a canapé – smoked salmon terrine with sun-dried tomato, and cashew nuts, followed by lunch, and then dinner was served three hours prior to arrival. A really handsome and friendly F/A, Kenneth, served our side and thankfully, for some genuine service. Here is the wine list and menu transcript –
Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic
Louis Max Saint Veran 2001
Wente Vineyards Reserve Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2001
Geyser Peak Sonoma County Shiraz 2000
Louis Max Mercurey Domaine La Marche 1999
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997
Seasonal Salad served with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
Mesclun greens with yellow pepper strips, sliced radish slices, and cherry tomato
Shrimp, crab claw, and smoked salmon, accompanied by asparagus tips and more mesclun greens
Beef Tenderloin with Leeks in Gravy
Steamed Rice and Baby Pak Choy with Mushroom
Special entrée designed by the Peninsula Hotel
Pan-fried Halibut Fillet with Olive, Zucchini, and Red Pepper sauce
Boiled New Potato Wedges with Parsley and Green Peas French style
Chicken Teriyaki Style
Steamed Sesame Rice and Japanese Mixed Vegetables
I had this chicken entrée – steamed rice with black sesame seeds, taro balls, carrots, pumpkin, and spinach with sesame sauce. It was a fine entrée.
Noodles in Soup with Barbecued Duck
Fresh Seasonal Fruits
I had a piece of white cheddar cheese, grapes and crackers, and the fruits include watermelon slices, grapefruit, orange, and pineapples.
Mississippi Mud Cake served with Whipped Cream
Not CX’s best… but it is okay.
Assorted Bread and Rolls
Olive puff pastries, wheat rolls and garlic focaccia
Tea and Coffee
After meals, lights were turned off, and Evian water bottles were passed out. I took a few hours nap and the seat was relatively comfortable, as I was used to the slope. The F/As make their rounds. After a nap, I asked the F/A to prepare a noodle soup for me. The wonton was very nice – chicken and shrimp with some choy sum. The snack bar is relatively disappointing today – only muesli bars, CX peanuts, almonds, Otsumamis and pineapple cakes – the selection can be improved and CX needs to work on it.
Noodles in Soup with Shrimp and Chicken Wonton
Beef and Mushroom Pie
Haagen Dazs Ice cream
I watched a number of short subjects, including a good episode of Will and Grace (with Will dating a cop), and a funny episode of Queer Eyes for the Straight Guys. About 10pm HK time, the lights were turned on again for the dinner service – a rather awkward time. Hot towels were passed out, as well as our choice of beverages. Then the appetizers were passed out, followed by entrée trolley, and dessert trolley. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to serve the meal. Then lights turned off again and I wondered why the meal had to be served at this awkward time.
Chicken Vegetable Roll with Smoked Yellow Tail Fish and Plum Sauce
Mixed Berries with Crème Fraiche
I had this appetizer plate a few weeks ago – scallops replaced the smoked yellow fish this evening. The mixed berries had strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Bread selection includes garlic bread, olive rolls, and focaccia. It was a nice appetizer.
Pan-fried Spring chicken with Brown sauce
Kipler Potato, Roast carrot and zucchini
Lamb Chops with leeks in gravy
Steamed Rice and Chinese Seasonal Vegetables
I had the lamb chops, which were tender and tasty – more substantive – the choice of Chinese vegetables today was stir fried squash with garlic and red dates. This was also the Peninsula Hotel dish, but I found it a bit repetitive to serve the same dish with leeks in gravy sauce in the second meal of the same flight. More variety will be better.
Linguine with Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Pesto sauce
Baked American cheesecake served with Cherry sauce
Assorted breads and rolls
Tea and Coffee
After the meal, lights were turned off again, until the pilot made its final announcement. Descent began at 1:24pm NYC local time, while we passed the Fall River Reservoir. Seat belt sign was turned on at 1:31pm. It was a beautiful day among the Northeastern coast. We landed on R/W31R at 1:53pm, and parked on gate 4 at 1:57pm between All Nippon Airways’ Boeing 747-400 JA8097 and BA’s Boeing 747-400 G-BYGD, and a British Airways’ Boeing 777-200 G-YMMJ with the additional sticker of Official Airline England Football team. Once again, the immigration and custom offices were empty, and the bags came out a few minutes later after I passed the immigration counter. I was at the curbside at 2:10pm. That was very impressive for an US airport.
In conclusion, CX 830 scores higher than CX 831, but CX still faces the fundamental problem with its catering department. The business class catering needs a major renovation, in order to catch up with other airlines. The casserole dishes need to be replaced by either the return of the trolley service (but very unlikely) or a larger casserole dish, or an individual entrée with F/As plating each main course in the galley. The meal planning for this flight once again fail – the lunch service was fine, but the dinner was served in awkward flight. If a dinner has to be served, it should be served during evening hours in HK time (maybe around 6pm, especially we all had an early lunch). The problem is that why CX does not want to serve a third meal –- is it due to limited space of galleys? A light continental breakfast should be served an hour prior to landing for those wanting to get adjusted to NYC time. Anyway, the friendly F/As, especially Kenneth, and a really kind purser, rescued CX’s rating on this set of transpacific flight.
I hope you enjoy this report!