Orlando – Dallas
First Class: 5A
Photo © Jonathan Derden
Check In: I had my roommate drop me off at the airport. We had left Daytona roughly 9:30am for this 1:20 flight. We arrived at MCO around 11:00, parked the car and headed to the check in counter. For once I was happy I could beat the holiday crowd and head straight to the First and Business Class counter. There I was swiftly checked in all the way to Hong Kong with all 3 boarding passes. My seat for this flight was 5A. The woman then said that I my bags were to be checked so I headed with them to the curtain behind the counter. First my big bag was emptied and searched by a friendly lady, then my second smaller one. While all of this was happening, there was this Israeli man flying to Tel Aviv and he was screaming his head off. “If my bag is lost or anything left behind I am going to sue the American government!” The response to this was “We are not US government officials. You have to sue American Airlines not the government.” That guy seemed really pissed off. The lady checking my bag smirked and said under her breath that if they were US government employees they would be paid much more. Once that was done my bags were sent on their way and I was off to the parking lot to drop of my roommate, who most of you know as “phatframlines.” I then headed back to the terminal and went towards security, here is where the fun started. I showed my boarding pass and my Indian passport as identification. Guess what? I was searched as was my hand baggage, then once more at security. Anyway once that whole ordeal was done it was 12:20. I had another 45 minutes to kill. I sat round and waited watching a 757 in full TWA colors board as American Airlines flight 1573 to St. Louis, sad really but what can you do?
Boarding: Boarding commenced at 1:00 with First Class passengers boarding first. At this point I showed my local Florida Drivers License and was whisked through to the jetway while another man with an Indian passport was told he had to searched since he was a security risk. Well is this how American Airlines does security? If I use my American driver’s license, no one gives me a second look; yet if I use my Indian passport I am a security risk? I got on and was seated in the last row of the MD-80, I’ll take a guess and say it was a MD-83 but no real way of telling. The seats were wide and comfortable for me, legroom was standard, around 37in or so. The Captain introduced himself and we pushed back at 1:30, 10 minutes late due to baggage loading.
Photo © AirNikon
The Flight: We lifted off at 1:40 and lunch was quickly served 20 minutes after take off. First it was a cocktail with a choice of trail mix or cashew nuts. I had the trail mix and coke. After that was the main tray with a choice of a Turkey croissant sandwich or chicken salad. I had the turkey and the first thing I noticed when the tray came was the plastic fork and knife. There was mayonnaise and mustard in two small packets. There was also a bowl of cold pasta a hot chocolate chip cookie. Everything was pretty good especially the pasta. Once the tray was cleared we still had an hour to go. At this point I wished I was on United, Channel 9 or any music would have been great at this point. I started out of the window for the rest of the flight and saw the coast as we were flying right over it. Landing commenced around 3.
Arrival & Transit: We hit the wet Dallas runway 10 minutes late due traffic congestion because of the weather. We manage to have a 20 minute taxi to the gate. We landed on the 3rd most outer runway and then taxied all the way to the other side of the airport, terminal B, the place where American has only 6 gates or so. We sat there for about 5 minutes before the seatbelt sign was turned and the door opened. I walked easily out since my connection was at 5pm. My flight was at gate A27 so I hoped on a train to get there. Now I don’t know how many of you have tried that train at DFW but it was one of the jerkiest rides of my life. I walked over to the gate, which was pretty much empty. I walked around a bit, pretty much a dull airport. As for spotting it was pretty much just AA tails and nothing more.
American Airlines 367
Dallas/Ft. Worth – San Francisco
First Class: 3A
Boarding: Around 5pm boarding was announced and I showed my drivers license as ID and was let on the jetway without a second look. I was ecstatic to find the fact that the 767 was configured in the International configuration.
Photo © Danny Fritsche
The seat was gorgeous, blue leather and wool. There must have been 75 inches of legroom. I was really impressed. The one thing that was lacking was the PTV’s so I imagine they get DVD players. The guy next to me was very chatty and asked me where I was going and when I told him Kuwait he got this look on his face, not one of horror but one of delight. Apparently he was to travel there in March and was full of questions. 5:24 rolled by and we had not pushed back, in fact the door was still connected to the jetway. There seemed to be some activity going on in the galley, I could not quite make out what. At that moment the head steward grabbed the mike, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid I must ask everyone to collect their belongings and exit the aircraft. There has been a security breech. Please collect all you r belongings and exit the aircraft, this plane shall be hand searched for a bomb so anything left behind shall be destroyed.” So up we all got, took our bags out of the bins and headed out the door to the gate. We then sat in the gate area, which became full, the plane was probably 70% full. As we were sitting down the captain came by and told us that the metal detector was not functioning for the random searches that had taken place. He requested that everybody keep our boarding passes out so that we could get back on the plane as soon as possible. I grabbed my cell phone and called one of my roommates who I thought would get a kick out of this. He sure did! Boarding commenced once again around 7:15.
The Flight: The plane eventually pushed back at 8:10 and we lifted off at 8:30 after a long wait at the runway. I was getting very nervous at this point since my flight left San Francisco at 11:30. Cocktail service commenced with warm nuts a drink of my choice. The steward came round to take the order, we had no menu’s but he verbally gave us the choices, Salmon Teriyaki, vegetarian pasta, and chicken with bell peppers. I had the pasta, which was pretty good. After that meal the ice cream Sunday came by and I had vanilla with butterscotch. After that was cleared, I put my seat back and put the headphones on and managed to snooze for 30 minutes before we started our decent. I thing though, during this flight there was no movie or anything shown on the main screen which I found strange, cost cutting I guess.
Arrival & Transit: We touched down at 10:15. We had quite a bit of taxi to the gate and ended up parking next to the DFW flight that left 10 minutes earlier than us from DFW. I got out and walked all the out to find a sign of where the international terminal was. I had not been to San Francisco since the new terminals were built. I walked at a very brisk pace for 10 minutes and got to the new full glass terminal, wow! I stood in security line for about 25 minutes, it was a huge line! When I got to the front the guy took one look at my boarding pass and said “go to the Cathay Pacific check in counter.” “Why?” It turned out that they were not accepting boarding passes issued by American Airlines. So I ran half way across the terminal to the counter where a friendly Chinese check in agent issued me a new boarding pass and a lounge invitation. Then I ran back to stand in a line of close to 70 people. Eventually I got to the front and guess what? The China Airlines crew cut in front of us, all 18. When that was through my watch said 11pm. Atleast I was not the only CX person in line. I managed to get to the gate at 11:05, a very hot, sweaty, and exhausted guy.
Cathay Pacific 873
San Francisco – Hong Kong
Airbus A340-313X (B-HXJ)
Business Class: 12K
Photo © K S Down
Boarding: “You made it!” was the comment from the girl at the check in counter who was now doing the boarding process. It turned out I was the 3rd last person to board. The door was closed at 11:15 and we sat at the gate for another 5 minutes while the crew gave out amenity kits, menus and my late pre departure drink, they also took the order for cocktails after take off. The seats were the old ones, not the new full flat kind with Video on Demand. Its alright, I had spent many happy hours in these seats before.
Photo © Craig Murray
The A340 was wide and roomy and I was looking forward to getting some shuteye since it was really late. We pushed back at 11:30, 10 minutes late. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is you pilot, I would like to inform you that we pushed back 10 minutes late due to the fact that we were offloading some cargo so that we may be able to avoid our refueling stop in Taipei. Our flight today will take us south towards Hawaii, Wake Island and Taiwan before heading south to Hong Kong. The flying time shall be 15 hours and 45 minutes.” Well atleast I was on Cathay Pacific for the 16 hour flight and not…we’ll leave it at that.
The Flight: Lights were dimmed and the plane began its long role down the runway, fully loaded with passengers and fuel, I completely forgot how quiet the A340 is; it was wonderful. The cocktails arrived 20 minutes later and they were served with a bowl of sweet cashew nuts, the type Southwest serves with peanuts, they were fantastic. The menu was as follows:
Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato served with Caesar Dressing
Marinated and Grilled Eel Teriyaki Style served with Japanese Rice
Beef Filet with Green Peppercorn Sauce served with Roasted Red Potatoes
Smoked Salmon, Sardine and Scallop with Mushrooms and Potato Salad
California Blueberry Cheesecake
Your choice of : Garlic Bread, Olive Bread or Ciabatta Roll with your choice of Virgin Olive Oil or Butter
I found the salad to be moist and fresh and was wonderful accompanied by the hot and fresh garlic bread. I had the steak with the potatoes and Cathay serves this to you buffet style, you tell the cabin crew what to put in your plate. I just decided on the beef and potatoes and they were excellent as well. For desert I just had a tub of Hagen Daas Vanilla ice cream though you could have all three if you wanted, I was just too full. During the meal I watched Rat Race as it was the only one that interested me, though there were 12 channels of entertainment to chose from. After everything was cleared and the movie was over I put my seat back and leg rest up, put the fluffy pillow and thick blanket on and dozed off for a solid 6 hours. I woke up and was immediately asked by a cabin crew “Mr. Tamboowala, would you like anything to drink?” I asked for a glass of water and it was put down 2 minutes later with a basket full of sandwiches, pretzels and nuts. I played video games for some time, hangman, memory and others. Then a cabin crew approached me and asked me to fill a questionnaire on CX’s service, needless to say I gave them a very high score. Sunrise started outside and breakfast commenced with the following choice:
Assorted Seasonal Fruits
Yogurt and Cereal
Californian Style Egg Benedict
Treasured Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf with Chinese Dim Sum
Chicken and Black Mushroom Congee
All accompanied by your choice of Grilled Tomato and Sautéed Mushrooms
Croissant, Sour Cream Cinnamon Walnut Cake or Bagel served with Preserves, Light Cream Cheese and Butter
I found the fruits to be moist, fresh, and soft accompanied by a cherry yogurt. I had the Chinese choice which was full of flavor and I have to say filling. Once the tray was cleared landing cards were handed out and we began our decent 30 minutes out of Hong Kong. I handed the questionnaire back and a “Thank you very much Mr. Tamboowala” was my reply. I have to give credit to the crew here, They only had the manifest once in their hand before take off, after that it seems they had memorized every single business class passengers name and addressed each individual as such. They also came round the cabin every 15 minutes ask passengers if they wanted a drink or something to eat.
Arrival: We landed at 7:45 approximately 30 minutes late due to the strong headwind. We touched down smoothly into a misty Hong Kong morning. We parked at gate 1, the closest to immigration. I swear most of the plane was transferring, close to 75%. Immigration was breeze and I walked out to an empty arrival hall. My bags appeared after 5 minutes of standing and I was on my way to the airport hotel in a matter of 5 minutes.
Verdict: This was one heck of a long trip and far from over. I was happy with American and I was ecstatic with Cathay’s service. Legendary Asian warmth and service, something I had forgotten after flying so many Western airlines for so long. After this flight I may very well have to put Cathay on the top of my list, I know, I know, yes even before Swissair!
I know its long, sorry! Any questions, comments welcome.