Pictures can be found here:
05 August 2005
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG/VHHH)
Emirates EK 384
Economy Class, Seat 23K (Exit Row)
Photo © Snorre - VIP Vienna International Planespotters
Photo © K.H. Ng - HKAEC
Checking the Emirates website in the morning, the inbound from Dubai was expected to arrive just a few minutes late instead of 3 and 1 hours late on August 3 and 4. A taxi to Don Muang was quick from Rama 4 as usual, and thankfully the queues weren’t long at all at the EK counters. I can only imagine what they could have been with all 434 passengers there. The two-class 777-300 is a true cattle truck, seating 49C and 385Y passengers.
The Thai Airways agent was very friendly, gave us exit row seats as requested, and confirmed that our UA numbers were in the booking. We then quickly cleared immigration, and headed to the very basic Lufthansa Business Lounge for some snacks and drinks. They have only chips and cookies, as well as a small selection of drinks. I had a few shots of JW Black Label.
Boarding was from gate 46, not too far from the LH lounge. Activity at Don Muang was the usual afternoon traffic from Europe, including AY MD11 and KLM 747 at the nearby gates. Boarding time came and went, no announcements whatsoever were made. Finally, about five minutes before the scheduled departure time, the agent announced “Emirates to Hong Kong now boarding”. How about trying to board a 434 seat plane in some kind of an order? Funnily enough, Garuda and PAL, who don’t have the greatest reputation, were doing just this at the nearby gates and were on time as well. PAL had sent an A340 to Bangkok today.
We took our seats in the exit row – the aisle seat was occupied already and a guy was praying on top of a blanket in front of the door. I needed to use the toilet – one of them was in a horrible shape with some liquid and tissue on the floor. An announcement was made that we will be delayed due to late arrival and technical problems. Hot towels and menus were distributed – nobody bothered to smile at all. Yet, I was impressed to get a menu. The flight was maybe 60-70% full in cattle class. Despite having 3-4-3 configuration, the seats were ok compared to Thai’s 10-abreast config. However, 9-abreast is obviously much better, and I don’t understand an airline claiming to be world class putting 10 abreast seating to its 777 fleet.
We finally pushed back after a 35-minute delay, and taxied to runway 21R for departure. Nose camera was switched on for the takeoff. We rolled for an eternity, and seemed to use most of the runway before finally lifting off for the short hop to Hong Kong. Meals were quickly distributed once the seatbelt sign went off, and I was glad to see proper sized trays still used. I chose the fish main course, and it was great as was the rest. One of the best economy class meals for sure. However, the roll was cold and rock hard, drinks were served only once, and the crew attitude left a lot to be desired. My girlfriend’s request for a cup of tea was met by a rather rude “later”. It indeed came about an hour later.
I ordered a Tia Maria on the rocks after the meal – it was listed on the bar service part of the menu. It never came, despite pressing the attendant call button six times. A few F/As passed by as well, nobody bothered to stop by although the light was on. Actually, the bar service part is waste of paper on the menu as a proper drink service was never offered. The purser announced that duty free is available on this flight – so I finally stopped a flight attendant as I wanted to buy something. Her rude reply was “I don’t think we have time” and she then disappeared. Airshow did not work on this flight – nothing on the PTVs, and other screens displayed a white screen with AIRSHOW on it.
I then snapped a picture of the cabin, and used the toilet. By this time, also the second toilet was in dismal shape – I couldn’t help taking a picture as I had my camera with me. All world class Asian airlines clean their toilets in flight. Litter from the trays was all over the aisles, nobody bothered to collect that. The crew had disappeared at this point, and later took their jumpseats for landing. Particularly the flight attendants in our section of the cattle truck had this “we couldn’t care less” attitude.
We landed late on runway 07L, and taxied to gate 66 for disembarkation. I grabbed a business class menu on the way out – it looked just like economy with an added shrimp appetizer. Business seemed to have very tight legroom and rather old style seats. A thank you to the crew was met by a blank stare, and we then quickly cleared immigration and took the Airport Express to Hong Kong Island.
JW Marriott Hong Kong
Took a taxi to the hotel from the AEL station as we didn’t want to wait for the free shuttle. Traffic was bad, and the journey took about 20 minutes. An upgrade to executive floor was provided as usual, and we were escorted to our room on the 34th floor. Nice if a bit small typical Marriott room, with all the amenities you would expect from their flagship Asia-Pacific property. The lounge had excellent snacks in the evening, and the breakfast wasn’t bad either. They let us take a shower and change at the health club before heading to the airport on the second day. Very nice health club – Bvlgari toiletries were provided for example.
06 August 2005
Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG/VHHH) – Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD)
Emirates EK 385
Economy Class, Seat 38B
Photo © CLS
Photo © Micheil Keegan
After a refreshing shower at the Marriott, we took a taxi to the Airport Express station and went to the Emirates check-in desk. The agent first made a big fuss about the one way tickets to Bangkok – she was within her rights to do so but this has never ever happened to me on flights to Thailand. She then commented that our small cabin bag and the Marriott shopping bags were too much, and that the roller bag must be checked in. “It is too heavy as well”. It was 10kg, and EK allows you a ryanairesque 7kg. Worth noting that Tiger Airways, Air Asia, Thai Air Asia, Jetstar Asia and Orient Thai have never made me check this exact same bag. I was getting extremely pissed off at this point.
We were at check in 2.5 hours before departure, and she could not assign any exit row or front cabin seats. “You’re lucky if I can seat you together!” Now, somebody explain to me if EK offers no advance seat selection, and we were 133 and 134 to check in, how the hell is it possible only shitty seats in row 38 are available when economy seats 385?
The ride to Chek Lap Kok was fast and comfortable as usual, and I enquired at the check in if she could assign us better seats. The agent looked at me with this “Why the hell do you stand there with boarding passes” look on her face. Reply to my mopite request was “no, full”. Even the cheapest of the Asian low cost carriers would say “I’m sorry sir, the flight is full”. Passport control and security check was fast, and we made the awfully long trek to gate 66. I bought a tube of Pringles at the Watson’s and wondered why on the earth we are flying on this airline instead of TG/CX whilst staring at The Pier CX Lounge entrance.
Boarding started 60 minutes before departure, and we made our way to the back of the long Triple Seven. Even with this, doors were closed 75 minutes later – i.e. 15 minutes late. Menus and hot towels were offered, and we pushed back for the 2h10minute flight to the Thai capital. Takeoff from runway 25L was extremely long again, and the plane was full in both classes. I had trouble seeing any quality image from my PTV as the brightness control had gone crazy. Headphones didn’t work. Nothing in the ridiculously thick entertainment guide matched what the system had. Same thing on A6-EMP.
We had fish for the meal again, same high quality as from Bangkok. Drinks were not offered until I asked the guy “could we please have some drinks?” “Yes, what do you want?” was the reply. Obviously I was seriously delaying his service. No refills whatsoever were offered. Crew decided to skip coffee/tea service in our section. I asked for another small bottle of wine, and this f/a with seemingly nasty attitude said “You see I need to really collect the trays? Maybe later!” Never mind that the galley was 2 meters away with the guy working there. She later literally threw a bottle of white whine to me…
We landed a few minutes late at Don Muang, and used a gate at Pier 5. Immigration had horrendous lines, but thankfully the “Thai Residents” line had only one family ahead of us. Picked up our bag and took a taxi home.
Service on both flights was absolutely appalling. Way below what I expect from low cost airlines in Asia, let alone from a quality airline. It doesn’t matter to me if EK wastes money on these 600-page timetables, 200-page duty free magazines, and plastic name tags for bags or what. Their service made the trip miserable. From Hong Kong check-in agents to cabin crew. If HKG ground staff is not EK’s own, the airline should monitor their service levels and switch to CX or whoever if they can’t act professionally. Everybody acted like they did a huge favor when providing service.
I’m not in a hurry to board an Emirates plane again.