Here is another special trip report! I went back to Hong Kong to see a concert of my teenage idol (wow, I have listened to his songs since his first album eleven years ago) – Leo Ku, and he finally got his first major concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum. I flew from NYC to NRT on AA F (using VIP), and then CX from NRT to TPE via HKG), and with a side trip to Macao airport – my first flight with Air Macau and first time using Macau. So I am just going to select some of the segments to report back. I stayed at the Harbor Metropolis at Hong Kong and it was surprisingly fine, despite the harbor view room does not really provide much of a harbor view (I don’t recommend folks paying extra for a harbor view room), and the location is conveniently located next to the train station, and there are shuttles to Tsim Sha Tsui throughout the day. The room was clean and amenities were fine. I paid HK$999 per night. Anyway, back to the flights – AA continues to suffer more cutbacks in F and J. I know the argument but I find cutbacks at F are unacceptable. I like the complimentary EXP upgrade system, but if this comp system meant so many cutbacks, I am willing to go back to the original coupon system. International first is fine and the new Atlantic suites were nicer than the old coffin seats.
March 3, 2005
AA 201 JFK-LAX Lv0700 Arr1012 Boeing 767-200ER N319AA
Well the set of flights began with a chaotic check-in scene with long lines at economy, as well as premium check in. Since I am flying International, I will need to check in using the desk and the agent tried to coordinate the line. But everyone was really slow this morning and they had to keep on taking people out of the line for some of the earlier flights. The agent gave me all the boarding passes to Hong Kong and thanked me for flying American Airlines. I went straight to the security line and it was not too bad with and without the premium line. Well boarding began on time at 6:32am, and the F/A immediately served us orange juice, water, or champagne, a clean set of pillow and blanket, and a pair of headsets were handed out. Door was closed at 7:14am, but due to frozen water/pipe line, they need to warm them up using a warmer, so we could get some fresh water for the coffee machines and the bathroom. The pilots kept us updated and then menus were passed out. I was shocked to find out that the pre-arrival snack service had reduced to just a cookie (not even a cheese plate anymore). I asked the F/A and he said, yes for now, it was gone. So for breakfast flights, there are fewer incentives to upgrade. But once again, cutting back in F is unacceptable especially on AFS. Well we finally pushed back at 7:47am, and slowly heading to R/W31L for takeoff. Flying time was five hours and twenty minutes, with an initial cruising attitude of 36,000 feet and then onto 38,000 feet, and then further up to 40,000feet. We took off at 8:05am, and beverage service started soon and DVD packets were passed out. The selection is more balanced than p.s. (United’s mostly Independence selection)… here is the list for March:
The Affair of the Necklace
Head in the Clouds
Raise your voice
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Birdman of Alcatraz
Escape from Alcatraz
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Allman Brothers: Live at Beacon Theater
An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson
Cirque du Soleil: A Nouvelle Experience
Doobie Brothers: Live at Wolf Trap
On Location Las Vegas with Julie Chen
The Sopranos (Disc III)
The breakfast service began with hot towels, and then setup. The breakfast/brunch was served course by course with a fruit trolley. The fruit was served on a cup with melon dices and strawberries. The fruits were rather tasteless and not a good start. The bread basket were great though with lemon and cranberry breads, and the new baked on board biscuits were soft, fluffy, and delicious. Then the entrée was served directly from the galley and the lox and bagel plate was my favorite entrée – not too oily, but yet filling and fresh. Then Danon water bottles were passed out. The following is the wine list and menu:
Domaine Chandon Napa valley Brut
Wente Vineyards San Francisco Bay Chardonnay
Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc
Carmenet Sonoma County Merlot
Benessere Napa valley Sangiovese
Here is the menu transcript:
Fresh seasonal fruit
Pepper Jack Cheese Omelette
Fluffy Pepper Jack Cheese Omelette presented with Asiago Potato Cakes and Turkey Canadian Bacon
Smoked Salmon Plate
Smoked Salmon complemented by capers, onions, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, served with a warm bagel and a spread of cream cheese and chives
Fruit and Cereal
Café Fanny Granola Cereal with Almonds and Raisins from Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, presented with seasonal fruit and yogurt
Breakfast Bread Basket
Featuring a choice of Sweet Breads and Pillsbury Southern Style Baked on board biscuits
Well during the flight, the movie “The Incredibles” was shown, as well as CBS Eyes on American and the Everybody Loves Raymond marathon. Around 12:22pm EST, the F/A pushed out the cookie/tea/coffee cart, and there was the usual choice of chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies. I was okay since I had a longer flight ahead.
Freshly baked on board Cookies
Around 12:56pm, descent began and we landed at R/W25L at 10:25am PST. We parked at gate 48B four minutes later. Then I walked towards the Flagship lounge.
AA 169 LAX-NRT Lv1230 Arr1710 Boeing 777-200ER N797AN/”7BF”
The Flagship lounge was very nice with a tall ceiling and the first class section required an access card from the counters below. The agents were all kind and polite. The First class lounge was separated and had its own bathroom and shower facilities. There is a wide selection of food and drink buffet – sushi, fruit (watermelon, melon, pineapples, and grapes), yogurt, cheese and crackers, and the full alcoholic drink selection including Grey Goose vodka (citron, orange, and original). It was a good lounge and hopefully this flagship lounge will be kept for a while (I guess as long as QF still operates from T-4, AA has to keep this FL).
Aircraft spotting – JL’s Boeing 747-400 JA8076 Classic, JA8909 New, China’s Boeing 747-400 B-18209, El Al’s Boeing 767-200ER 4X-EAE, Aeromexico’s Boeing 737-700 XA-DAM with winglet, Singapore’s Boeing 747-400 9V-SMP (I will later spot it at NRT), Air Tahiti Nui’s A340 F-OSEA, and Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400 D-ABVS Saarland.
Boarding began at 11:41am at gate 41, and I was excited to see the new Atlantic suites, and the load was rather light in all three classes. The service was also much better on this segment than the return, and we had a Japanese F/A up front, and she was the best out of all the first F/As – more attentive and willing to refill drinks, but the rest of the crew was just fine as well. Once on board, the usual array of pre-takeoff beverage was offered, as well as amenities, slippers, BOSE headphones, menus, and a choice of newspapers – LA times, NY times, USA today, and some Japanese newspapers. A word about the seat, it was an excellent improvement and I like the individual suite design, and the seat can rotate a couple of positions. The PTV was the same though with no AVOD system, but the VCR system is used as well. The only regret is the poor amenities – the amenity kit is average with a spa collection, a pair of slippers, a pillow, and just a wool blanket. With this excellent seat, an investment on better blankets will much improve the experience, but we know it is not coming. We pushed back at 12:32pm, and due to some traffic at the alleyway, we did not taxi towards R/W25R till ten minutes later. We took off at 12:47pm, and the flying time was eleven hours and nine minutes with the typical LAX-NRT routing – Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, 34,000feet, 36,000feet before passing Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the Bering Sea, and then slowing climbed to 39,000feet with 1000 feet climbing increment.
Hot towels began the lunch service, and there was a beverage service with a choice of nuts and Japanese crackers mix.
Perrie-Jouet “Belle Epoque” Vintage Champagne
Bouchard Aine Chablis
Chateau Souverain Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Rosemount Diamond Estate Bottled Shiraz
Emilio Lustau Sherry
Choya Umeshu Plum Liqueur “Excellent”
Gekkeikan Horin Daiginjo Sake
Graham’s Vintage Port
After a beverage service, the lunch service began, and on this segment, I was offered the salmon appetizer, before my Japanese dinner. The salmon was as fresh as ever, and the Japanese meals were nice.
An assortment of warm roasted nuts or fresh vegetables served in a ranch dressing to accompany your preferred cocktail beverage
Smoked Salmon accompanied by Capers, Red Onion and Sour Cream, garnished with Lemon wedges and served with toast points
The Salad Cart
Fresh seasonal greens offered with creamy garlic-dill dressing or an individual bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Lobster Tail with Lemon wedges
Your choice of fresh vegetables including julienned zucchini, yellow bell peppers, button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, offered with Uno’s Focaccia bread
Assorted Breads or Japanese steamed rice
Fillet of Beef
A tender cut of Beef accented by a Mustard Caper Demi-Glace, accompanied by oven-roasted carrot slices and lemon mashed potatoes
Fillet of Fish with Olive Sauce
Fillet of Halibut light breaded enhanced by a roasted Red Bell Pepper and Green Olive sauce with fresh Cilantro, served with parslied New Potatoes
Seared Chicken breast marinated with Miso presented with Japanese Eggplant, Red Bell Pepper Saute and steamed rice
Should you care for additional options, Buttered Asparagus, Grilled Yellow Squash and Whipped Potatoes are available uopon request with any of our entrées.
The Fruit and Cheese cart
Fine cheese complemented by fresh seasonal fruit, served with selected crackers and offered with Port and other fine wines
Fruit includes white grapes, and the choice of cheese include Michangelo, Gorgonzola, and blue with crackers and rolls
The Dessert Cart
Vanilla ice cream with a choice of hot fudge, butterscotch, or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans
A variety of fruit, cheese, sweets and other snacks is available to you upon request at any time after the meal service.
Japanese Cuisine Early Spring Menu
Seared Crabmeat and Oyster Mushroom complemented by Japanese Egg Yolk Vinegar, presented with French Beans and Chives
Herring Roe with dried Bonito Flakes, grilled Duck Roll with asparagus and simmered Water Chestnuts mixed with Plum Paste on a sliced Lemon
Foie Gras and sautéed Kairan Green served with roasted walnuts, accented by Balsamic sauce
Simmered Oyster and Japanese Leek with Eggplant enhanced by seasoned Butter
Japanese Pot Dish with Beef, Halibut, Scallops, Prawn and Mizuna Leaves
Miso Soup with Wakame Seaweed and Tofu
I had the Japanese lunch, which was okay. I think the Western appetizer was rather heavy, but the rest was fine. The herring roe is a bit challenging to me. The entrée tray was better, and I like the oyster and the Japanese pot dish except the beef (strange), and I like it. For cheese, I had a bit of each, and the ice cream was the usual stuff. After lunch, Danon water bottles were passed out. Duty free service began at 3:02pm. I went to sleep for a few hours (so to adjust to the new time zone), and got up around mid-morning Hong Kong time. I decide to try the soba service, since it is highly recommended. I love it, and there were about four bites. I can use another tray of soba noodles. The Japanese F/A kept on asking if everyone want the cheese plates.
Available Upon Request
Japanese Soba Noodles
Fresh Fruit and fine cheese
Around 10:04pm, hot towels were offered, and then there was a beverage offered with crackers. Then the salad was passed out, and then entrée. I had the onion soup, which was surprisingly tasty (and not overly salty), and then the dessert tray was rolled out, and the F/A served the cake piece by piece.
Tender Baby Salad Greens garnished with Cherry Tomatoes and complemented by Black Sesame Vinaigrette
Chilled Snow Crab legs
Crab legs complemented by a Peanut Cucumber sauce, presented by a grilled Shiitake mushroom salad and fresh mango
Caramelized Onion Soup
A heart caramelized onion soup with a Jarlsberg Cheese crouton
Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake
Nice presentation, and then we got the news from the pilots about the snow situation at Tokyo Narita and we were slowed down. It ended up to be a nightmare for me, as Tokyo was hit by a major snowstorm for years. Lots of flights were diverted at Tokyo (more later), but we landed on R/W 34R at 4:56pm local time. It took twenty-five minutes to taxi to our gate at the other end of the airport. But I got to see lots of planes – Swiss’ A340-300 JMB (parked at NRT overnight), Air New Zealand’s Boeing 747 NBV, Mongolian’s Boeing 737-800 with winglet EI-CXV, a JAL newly painted Boeing 747-400 with a large print of Yokoso Japan JA8919, Korean’s Boeing 777-200 HL7526, and a pair of NW’s A330-200 N851NW and N852NW. We finally parked at gate 18, and I immediately noticed that the CX 747 flight from TPE had not arrived (CX 450 rotate into CX 505 nonstop to HK).
March 4, 2005
CX 505 NRT-HKG Lv1830 Arr2235 Boeing 747-400 B-HOU
Transit area was surprisingly quiet, as we arrived before SQ’s double arrivals (LAX and SIN), and I immediately headed off to the CX lounge. Once arrived, I saw a crowd of people at the entrance, with a CX staff answering questions. Well what happened was CX 450 ran short of fuel and was diverted to Haenda, and the new departure time was 7:30pm, and most of the connecting passengers will miss the onward flights except Johannesburg (since our a/c would continue to JNB that evening). Surprisingly most passengers were calm and the agent had already made arrangement for them to fly United to HKG (since it is the only flight running on time and even NW flight was delayed later than CX). Some folks asked if it was the only choice. Yes the agent said as JL and NH also experienced severe delays. After this crowd left, the lounge was rather quiet with the usual offerings. Finally I spotted the aircraft landing around 6:40pm. Well maybe 7:30pm was possible. Turnaround time was rather quick, since the same group of F/As will serve this onward flight back to HKG (yes the F/A flew both TPE-NRT and NRT-HKG). That will reduce CX cost by overnight at TPE rather than Tokyo. Catering is also done at TPE for both segments, so for this flight, the Japanese meals were catered at TPE. However, boarding did not begin till 7:25pm, and door was closed at 7:45pm, and pushed back at 8pm. We took off from R/W34L at 8:12pm. Flying time was four hours and forty-eight minutes, and the routing was 26,000 feet – 28,000feet – Nagoya – Nara – 31,000feet – Miyazaki – Kagoshima – 35,000feet – 37,000feet – Taipei – Hong Kong.
Well we are all familiar with CX service by now. So here is the menu and wine list:
Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic
Jaboulet-Vercherre Pouilly Fuisse 2002
Jamiesons Run Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2003
Chateau Roumieu “Haut-Placey” Sauternes 2001 “special insert”
Mercurey Domaine Louis Max 2001
Vieux Chateau London, Cru Bourgeois Medoc 2001
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997
Romaine Lettuce with Antipasto Vegetables served with Italian dressing
Smoked Salmon with Mascarpone Cheese and Jellied Beef
Soba Noodles with Crabmeat
I like the soba noodles.
Broiled Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce
It was an interesting presentation but the Japanese casserole dishes were specially designed. The sauce was a rather interesting tomato based sauce. The rice was not plain steamed rice or fried rice.
Fried Sea Perch with Spring Onion and Ginger
Steamed rice and Kailan
Beef Fillet with Red Wine Shallot Sauce
Fried Potatoes, Sautéed Yellow and Green Courgettes with Tomato Concasse
Cheese and Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Cheese – Camembert with two cheeses
Fruit – watermelon, melon, cantaloupe, and grapes
Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream
Choice of coffee or strawberry cheesecake ice cream
Assorted Breads and rolls
Tea and Coffee
Well it was a slow night and I decided to stay awake by watching CX’s selection of short subjects. Descent began at 11:38pm Hong Kong local time, and hot towels were passed out next. We landed on a very quiet Chek Lap Kok around midnight at R/W7L. We passed by a Swiss’ A340 HB-JME as we taxied into gate 4. The airport was actually quite busy with a number of late NRT arriving flights.
Skipping a HKG to TPE segment, I wanted to jump right into the Macau section.
March 5, 2005
BR 805 TPE-MFM Lv1620 Arr1805 Boeing 767-300ER B-16605
Eva Air once again offered a high quality flight. The business class lounge was not so busy at this early afternoon hours before the late evening North American flights, and the food selection is enhanced by 16 kinds of Chinese bread/buns, bread, cakes, Japanese & Chinese style Oden and fishcake bar, two kinds of soups – bamboo shoot with spareribs and chicken and corn rice porridge, rice vermicelli, fried rice, bean curd, egg, and seaweed. Our aircraft arrived on time from Manila, and our flight this evening was not full in either J or Y. J have five passengers.
A quick note on planes – Dragonair’s A330-300 B-HYD, Asiana A321 HL7730, Eva Air’s Boeing 747-400 Combi B-16403 at C4 for Seattle and Newark, New Boeing 747-400 B-16401, as well as BR’s A330-200 B-16307 at gate C2…
Boarding began at 3:50pm from gate C3, and there was a usual pre-takeoff routine – orange juice or water, headsets, menus, newspapers, and hot towels. Door was closed early at 4:16pm, and we pushed back at 4:18pm, and spotted an Air Macau’s A319 B-MAM following us. We took off from R/W06 at 4:29pm. Flying time was an hour and forty-three minutes, with a cruising attitude of 35,000feet. Flight route is similar to TPE-HKG – TPE-Makung-HKG-TPE, and we got a nice view of HK on our descent towards Macau.
There was light meal service and there was no PTV – only ETTV and CNN news were shown. A word about the seat – it was better than I thought. The seats were similar to the classic business seated used by its international fleet of Boeing 747s, and the business were a bit classic, but the seat pitch was okay for regional, as well as recline. Indeed it was better than its Boeing 747-400s and 52” of legroom. Of course, Airbus A330-200s are better, but Boeing 767-300s are not bad.
Heidsieck Blue Top Monopole Brut N.V.
Hugel Gewurztraminer 2002
Fairhall Downs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Chateau de Fonbel 1996 (St. Emilion Grand Cru)
Yering Station Shiraz Viognier 2000 (Yarra Valley)
Burdon Dry Fino Sherry
Apple, watermelon, melon, & cantaloupe balls
Saute Grouper Fillet with Spring Onion and Ginger sauce with mixed vegetables and steamed rice
It was a very nice entrée – fish was fresh, and the sauce was tasty.
Pan Fried Beef Fillet with Cepes Mushroom Sauce with Mixed vegetables and smashed potato with olive oil
Rich Chocolate Coffee Cake with Mango Compote
The light meal was filling despite served in one tray. There was a choice of soft twisted rolls, garlic, and focaccia rolls. I love the soft twist rolls. The flight was gone by quietly and the view was nice this afternoon. At 6:12pm, we landed on R/W34 at 6:12pm, and it was interesting to land on a runway that is somewhat away from the airport, sort of like HNL’s R/W8R. The airport was busier than I imagined, as it was one of its peaks with lots of traffic between China and Taiwan. With strange reasons (possibly political reasons), all the Xiamen Airlines’ smaller Beoing 737s used the gates (four jetways at MFM), and EVA’s Boeing 767s were parked on the side. We arrived at gate A6 a few minutes later. We used the stairs, and it was a nice experience. Since the airport building was next to us, we did not even do the bus routine. We walked straight into the immigration hall, and then onto baggage claim. I was out at the arrival hall within ten minutes. I guess that is the benefit of using Macau airport, since it is so compact and user-friendly.
I stayed the New Century Hotel and Casino with a strange theme of Greek Mythology. Although people like to compare Macau as the Asian version of Las Vegas, it was still far away from the Las Vegas standard. Sorry for my honesty – the casinos are still not a pleasant experience, and the gamblers are very serious at Macau. Interiors really don’t matter to them, and Las Vegas was more relaxed and family oriented. However, the food at Macau was excellent and I ate so much food for the next twenty-four hours. The cost was also much lower than Hong Kong. We had shark fin soup, pork chop bun, cookie mousse, wonton noodles, almond cookies, and lots of local delicacies.
March 6, 2005
NX 520 MFM-TPE Lv2140 Arr2325 Airbus A321-100 B-MAR with Macau 2005 livery & Hao Jiang registration
Well, going to Macau airport was simple, and the check-in hall was not busy at all. Air-Macau counters were not occupied at all and the J line was actually busier (with one person in front of me), so I just jumped to another line. The staffs were efficient, but not overly friendly or welcoming. They like to talk among themselves, rather than giving me full attention for two minutes. I got the window seat as requested, and my bag was tagged with the priority labels. Despite of not told about a lounge, I found it at the really mini departure hall. No line at immigration and security, and the departure hall had about eight gates, but it has duty free shops, smoking rooms, news stands, two lounges (one NX and one owned by other airlines), as well as a food court and a full service restaurant. The departure hall was busy though – filled with transit passengers from Mainland China onto the last wave of Taiwan flights. NX runs two flights each to Kaohsiung and Taipei within an hour. But the interior was rather dull, but the window and tall ceiling was nice. I headed to the Air Macau lounge, and the attendant there was indifference – one of the worst agents I ever encountered including US ones. She was just sitting there doing her job and no eye contact and no thanks… The lounge itself was relatively large with two separate sitting area, some conference rooms, and a business center with one single computer but keyboards were missing some keys. Anyway, the buffet area had some hot savories, cup noodles, cakes, fruits, and an open bar. It was sufficient for a small airline.
We were using another bus gate this evening, and boarding did not begin till 9:26pm (but the 9:50pm was already boarding by then). There was no priority boarding and no explanation for the late boarding. The aircraft was sitting there for two hours, and I ended up noticing the flight crew arrived late. Well the F/As were much better, but strangely, only mandarin and English was used on P/A, as well as the boarding music reflects its affiliation with Mainland China. It was an awful selection of songs that you will hear at a bad “karaoke” night – some Chinese music mixed with English oldies. There were four rows of business class seats, and the design was the old kind used by United on its A320s – lots of lumbar supports. Nevertheless, the cabin was rather tired looking. A pair of headsets was already placed in the seat pocket, as well as a pillow and a blanket (for some reasons, that blanket fell into my bag). No videos are shown, but only audio was available. Anyway, door was closed at 9:48pm and we taxied to R/W34 shortly, following another NX’s A319 heading to Kaohsiung. To my surprise, there was a menu service – despite the design was simple with a green color design (strange), but it is still cool. Entrée and beverage orders were taken prior to takeoff, and we took off at 10:07pm and had a great view of Macau when we headed towards South China Sea. Flying time was an hour and eleven minutes with a cruising attitude of 32,000feet.
For pre-takeoff routing, water or orange juice was offered, as well as a selection of Macau and Taiwan newspapers, followed by towelette (those SARS towels – not real hot towels). After takeoff, linen was placed on our table, followed by the meal and beverage, and then bread was passed out – plain rolls and garlic bread – nothing too fancy. Wines were available on request, but not many takers (no wine description – only a selection of fine Portuguese red and white wines), and followed by tea and coffee. Here is the full menu transcript –
Hot Light meal
Cut Seasonal Fruits
Braised Fish in Brown Sauce
Fried Rice Noodles with Shredded Chicken
Mixed Fruit Almond Pudding
Ten Wu Oolong tea
Yellow Label Lipton tea
I had the noodles, which was not rice noodles, as told by the F/A earlier, but it was fine. Cut seasonal fruits have watermelon and melon cut in heart shapes, as well as grapes and dragon fruit. It was a sufficient meal especially for such a short flight. The flight was relatively short, and as the F/As were still doing duty free service, we were already on final approach, and the F/As had to rush through the galley packing. We landed on R/W6 at 11:18pm, and parked next to JAL’s 767-300 JA8264. Air Macau was an interesting experience, and the service was better than I expected. However, I am not willing to say if I will fly NX out of my way or using Macau airport. HKG and CX are still my preferred airport and airline. I am not going to bother with the next series of flights back to HKG and return to the US. However, I want to say that this trip is well worth it and seeing Leo, my teenage idol, at this first evening of the first ever major concert. This concert will always remain in my mind and it is the best one ever. Anyway, enough personal thoughts, but it was very touching to finally seeing him being successful at a series of ups and downs at his career as a singer.
I took pictures and will post them as they become available. If there is any request, I can type out the return menu – CX TPE-NRT, and AA NRT-DFW. Yes, on my DFW to LGA, I experienced the new domestic dinner – it was a major shame for AA. The new soy nuts were fine, but I missed the old mixed nuts. The new pizza dinner was unimpressive, and for last half of the cabin, you can expect getting the pizza dinner, as seven out of eight passengers in the first two rows picked the salmon entrée. Not surprising here – I hated cooked salmon, so I had the pizza. It was average at best, and the most offensive part of the dinner was the pack of lemon cookies. Can AA serve a nicer dessert? I don’t mind one tray dinner as of this point, but a cookie baked on board should be served.