This trip report would not appeal to members who are looking out for technical details. I have no idea which flaps was set, neither am I good with ATC jargon and runway numbers. This report would probably interest members who are into looking for details about inflight service. I tried to be objective as possible in this report. Despite hearing rave reviews about CX’s inflight service, I personally thought this particular did not live up to it (or at least I wasn't awe struck). Service was efficient and crew performed their duties with the same conviction as other top Asian carriers, but like SQ, it still lacked that “umph”.
Flight Time: 3h15min
It would have been more logical to fly SQ direct to PEK…unfortunately, SQ being SQ, the price they quoted was, for want of a better word, exorbitant. Being the price conscious airline freak that I am, I decided to take advantage of CX’s winter offer to fly to PEK from HKG on KA, with 2 nights’ free accommodation in HKG thrown in.
As usual, I needed the assurance that I got my preferred seat on my flights. CX’s website provided me with this convenience and I easily blocked 58AC (window for me, aisle for a friend) for the next morning’s flight using my AsiaMiles account. That done, I was raring to go…
I dragged myself out of bed at 6am the next morning and was out of the house by 0630. The drive to the airport was hassle free as traffic on the expressway was extremely light at this time of the morning. Arrived at Changi Airport T1 by 0650 and proceeded to the CX check-in counters where my friend was in the midst of checking in. I skirted the long queue at the counters and went straight to the internet service desk where a nice lady (Irene) in red CX garb greeted me cheerily. CX is self-handled in SIN and today’s bunch of agents was chirpy and friendly. Irene greeted me but I didn’t hear her, so she jested in typical Singlish : “Sir, why so grouchy? Greet u also never respond”… I redeemed myself by saying that it was still too early in the morning (actually it’s because I hadn’t had my first cigarette for the day)… Irene then tried checking me all the way to PEK, but she couldn’t. The frown she had as she looked at her monitor was worrying. I asked if there was any problem and she affirmed that she was unable to check me in for my onward KA flight from HKG to PEK! My friend at another counter was experiencing the same problem.
10 min later, the problem was solved. Apparently my connecting flight on KA was cancelled! Irene didn’t know why it was cancelled either but rebooked us on the later flight, leaving us with a lengthy 3 hr wait in HKG…bummer!
I made my way through immigration (a breeze as usual) and proceeded to the smoking room after purchasing a carton of Marlboro Lights to keep me sane for the rest of the trip. It was a sunny morning with lots of aircrafts preparing for their morning departure.
Was at gate D49 by 0750 but the queue at security was still long. Waited a bit before going in. Noticed that B-HLG was operating today. The exterior of the aircraft looked a little tired and unwashed…probably the workhorse of CX’s regional routes.
For the first time in my life, handcarry was turned inside out by the zealous security personnel. I always thought I had a cherubic face that no security personnel would doubt. Guess I no longer have that impact on them…
I boarded the aircraft 5min before STD and was greeted by a middle-aged lady in purple uniform. I presume she was the chief purser of today’s flight. CX’s cabin interior lacked the vibrancy of SQ (I’ll be making lots of SQ/CX comparisons in this report, since 9 out of my 10 most recent flights had been on the former).
Personally, the green seat covers didn’t exactly have a calming effect on my eyes, as it looked worn and tired at the same time. The cabin was showing signs of age, as evidenced by the faded seats and dirt that was stuck in the crevices of the PTV consoles. Perhaps the seat covers were meant to look faded?
Christmas decors onboard
Nevertheless, the cabin looked clean and had a nice scent of stale coffee in it…typical cabin smell. Cabin crews lined the aisles at intervals, helping passengers with their hand carry and answering to enquiries. As I moved down the aisle in search of my seat, a crew (assumed she was a HK based crew) smiled and asked to see my boarding pass. She spoke to me in Cantonese and I thought it weird that she assumed that I was a Hong Konger coz I certainly don’t look like one. So I told her my seat number in my almost non-descript Cantonese. I know CX is from HKG, and they speak Cantonese there, but being an international carrier, I felt they shouldn’t assume that every Chinese spoke their “national language”, just like TG crew doesn’t speak Thai to every Asian looking passenger. Small issue, just thought I raised that point.
I found my seat (58A) and was soon checking out the seat features….I was done with my inspection within 30 sec. There weren’t many things to check out. They were comfortable, but I felt that I could use a foot rest (like those on SQ’s 744s, A340s and 777s). The adjustable headrest wasn’t user friendly and I had to use quite a bit of strength to move it up or down. The seat pocket contained a sealed package comprising the inflight magazine, some brochures and a barf bag) and the safety card.
My aisle was served by a stewardess called Lina. I have no idea which country she hailed from. Why did CX stop indicating the country flags that their multi-national crew came from on their nametags? When I was younger I took an interest in identifying where the crew came from and sometimes made comments to whichever family member seated beside me things like “oh, she’s Thai, no wonder her service is good” or “oh Singaporean, no wonder she’s is sulky” or “she’s Malaysian, that explains her Mandarin accent”. It was definitely a good lesson on the generalization of the different traits each nationality had…hehe
Back to Lina. She spoke with a thick American accent, she looked Korean but she didn’t have a Kim, Park or Song on her nametag. She was obviously a junior crew as her service was rather unpolished and had a penchant for frowning everytime she was asked a question. She would also walk down the aisle with her arms folded…something an SQ girl isn’t allowed to do. Lina also looked as if she didn’t get enough sleep the night before and was thus grumpy throughout the flight.
0810, the Captain came on the PA and explained that the slight delay was due to the loading of some last minutes bags as well as waiting for 3 remaining passengers. He gave us the flight time, weather forecast enroute and wished us a pleasant flight. The cabin crew came on shorter after with her welcome announcement, followed by a translation in Cantonese and Mandarin. The last 3 passengers boarded at 0815…3 male Indians who made a hell lot of noise throughout the flight. It didn’t help that I also had a screaming toddler seated across the aisle.
0820, push back and the necessary safety checks were made. The Safety Video came on on our PTVs and the mainscreen. The video was very similar to SQ’s, only difference was that CX had a male and female crew on it while SQ had 2 sarong kebaya clad Singapore girls. The male crew explained the safety procedures in Cantonese, and the stewardess explained hers in English. The ending of the video was also identical, with both crew standing together wishing us a pleasant flight. Chinese subtitles were also available btw.
The powerful RR engines roared and the aircraft rumbled down the runway towards the North of Singapore, and rotated after about 30 sec. Quite a light flight, with lots of empty seats about. CX does not switch off the cabin lights and no crew objected if your window shades were down during takeoff or landing. So I guess switching off cabin lights and keeping your window shades up has nothing to do with safety…
Flying over Malaysian airspace shortly after takeoff from SIN
Cabin service commenced promptly after the seatbelt signs were switched off. Hot towels were handed out at this time, followed by bar service. Lina came down the aisle and offered drinks to passengers on a tray. The drink selection consisted of apple and orange juice, and soya bean milk (SQ only offers soy bean milk in P and J class and only on Asian routes). Noticed that there was no headphones in seat pocket and stopped Lina to ask for one. She answered: “I’ll get you one” and off she went. She returned shortly dangling the headphones precariously on her middle finger (hmm… how rude) while trying to balance her tray on the same hand. She handed it to me and continued her service without a word. Searched without luck for the phone jack that I could plug the headphones, and soon realized that she had given me the 3 pin plug headphones that could not be used on this aircraft. Called her again about the problem. She frowned at the headphones and replied unapologetically that she would get me another one. Got the right one finally and caught the movie “Signs” on StudioCX. Inflight selection was similar to what SQ was offering that same month. CX is one up over SQ by offering different inbound and outbound movie/audio selections. But that also means that I may not be able to watch the movie that I missed on my return flight. Hard to please everyone, but selection was good nonetheless.
Finally a 1 pin plug headphone that fitted into the console snugly.
An announcement informing passengers of the breakfast selection available on this flight preceded the actual meal service. No menus were given on this flight, which came as a surprise. Guess everyone is cutting cost these days. Oriental and Western selection was available…refer to pictures for details. SATS catering should really work on improving their meals…
Asian selection - notice the little green X'mas card on the tray?
Western selection. Comments about what I thought of the meal can be found in airlinemeals.net
I must admit that CX’s serviceware look much better than SQ’s. The little ¾ trays that they serve their meals on are aesthetically pleasing and the bamboo painting tray mat gave an oriental touch to the overall meal presentation. Little touches such as a tiny Christmas card and specially designed cutlery displayed CX’s attention to detail.
A round of coffee/tea and plain water followed the meal. Lina spoke minimal on this flight, and walked down the aisle mumbling “warderr?” (‘water’ for the uninitiated). Crew cleared our tray tables shortly after, and Lina made her second error on this flight by pushing her meal cart down the aisle alone instead of pulling it (SQ crew always pull the carts down the aisle if they are handling it alone). As a result, she did not notice that the little toddler had her head sticking out of the aisle. So as Murphy’s Law would have it, Lina’s cart ‘rammed’ into the toddler head and of course this was followed by a sharp scream by the latter. Lina pouted and smiled apologetically to the toddler’s parents and said “oops, sorry!” to them. Without a second look to see if the child was ok, she moved off, pulling the cart this time.
A couple of minutes later, a senior purser from the J class cabin (she was wearing a long skirt instead of the knee length one) came by with a warm towel and started to help the distraught parents with the screaming toddler. Lina stopped by, smiled and then went about her duties! The purser did an excellent job cajoling the child and all was calm soon after. Amazing what a little experience can do to turn a bad situation around. I guess those J class passenger must feel pretty pampered by the senior crew members.
The rest of the flight was peaceful as evidenced by this sleeping pax. Always admired people who are able to fall asleep in the sitting position on flights...I wish I could do that!
1120, the aircraft began its descent into HKG and cabin crew were once again busy carrying out their safety checks. Gate assignments were displayed on our PTVs and immigration cards were distributed to those who needed them. We touched down in HKG on schedule.
The overall service on CX’s Y class is not dissimilar to what we would typically experience on SQ. I personally felt that the crew serving Y class lacked the warmth and friendliness that CX is renowned for. Apart from those wearing long skirts who always had a smile on their face (what rank are they?) most of the Y crew hardly stopped to chat with passengers and had seemed to have a forced smile as they went about their duties. I would rank CX’s Y service 7/10. Most of them were a tad better looking than SQ’s Singapore girls though…
I will continue with my following sectors soon.
There's always a better way to fly...