My sister and I took the following 10 flights with Cathay Pacific using their All Asia Pass available to North American travelers. It was the first trip to Asia for both of us. Our routing was as follows: JFK-YVR-HKG-SIN-BKK-HKG-NRT//KIX-TPE-HKG-PEK-HKG-JFK. Total mileage was well over 26,000 miles but unfortunately we were unable to earn any frequent flier miles. Our tickets cost $1265 per person plus a $35 fee charged by our travel agent. Here is how our flights went…
September 5, 2005
Flight #: CX 889 (JFK-YVR-HKG)
Mileage: 2449 + 6392 = 8841
Gate to gate: 20 hours, 23 minutes
Aircraft Type: A340-313X
Seats: 56H and 56K
Scheduled Departure JFK: 11:15 PM
Actual Gate Departure JFK: 11:27 PM
Wheels Up JFK: 11:46 PM
Scheduled Arrival YVR: 2:10 AM +1
Landing YVR: 2:08 AM +1
Actual Gate Arrival YVR: 2:17 AM +1
Scheduled Departure YVR: 3:20 AM +1
Actual Gate Departure YVR: 3:27 AM +1
Wheels Up YVR: 3:42 AM +1
Scheduled Arrival HKG: 8:00 AM +2
Landing HKG: 7:47 AM +2
Actual Gate Arrival HKG: 7:50 AM (September 7th)
We had a short delay in departure waiting for our inbound aircraft and for British Airways to vacate the gate. For some reason BA’s 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM, and 10:30 PM departures were all delayed that evening (as well as IB’s MAD departure) with the 9:30 leaving first! Our first segment routed us south of Buffalo, across southern Ontario and Michigan, back into Canada at International Falls and a straight shot into YVR landing on runway 26L. During the Vancouver layover, passengers continuing to Hong Kong were not allowed to depart the aircraft. Both segments were completely or nearly full. There was a full crew change too. The second segment began with a departure on 26 L (I think), brought us across the Queen Charlotte Islands, across the Alaska Peninsula south of Bristol Bay, across the Bering Sea, down over the Kurile Islands east of Kamchatka, over Honshu south of Sendai, over Kyoto, across Shikoku, above Kagoshima, directly over TPE, and into Chep Lap Kok over the South China Sea.
The flight was full of screaming babies who conveniently took turns to maximize the screaming time. The most popular times to scream and cry was when they were required to put seat belts on – take off, turbulence, and landing – which was quite often. We were served meals (dinners) after both departures and breakfast before arrival in Hong Kong with menus in Economy. The flight attendants were all incredibly perky for such a late hour of the flight and the food was pretty decent with free alcohol including hard liquor.
Our JFK-YVR-HKG aircraft.
In Hong Kong, we disembarked into level 5, the arrivals level and had to go just a hundred yards or so to one of four transfer points. We went through security and proceeded upstairs to our new gate which conveniently right next to our inbound gate.
Our HKG-SIN aircraft.
Continental 777-200ER for their New York/Newark service.
China Eastern Airbus bound for Hangzhou or Shanghai Pudong.
September 7, 2005
Flight #: CX 717 (HKG-SIN)
Gate to gate: 3 hours, 26 minutes
Aircraft Type: 777-267
Seats: 34J and 34H (I moved to 45J since 34J has no window)
Scheduled Departure: 8:55 AM
Actual Gate Departure: 8:55 AM
Wheels up: 9:09 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 12:25 PM
Landing: 12:16 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 12:21 PM
Passenger load was incredibly light – perhaps 25 passengers at most. Our flight routed us across the South China Sea, slicing across southern Vietnam east of Ho Chi Minh City with the Mekong Delta in view, then headed towards peninsular Malaysia but turned south only crossing land just north of Singapore. We got a second breakfast on the flight. Changi Airport is incredible! It’s a shopping mall that happens to have aircraft gates.
September 9, 2005
Flight #: CX 712 (BKK-SIN)
Gate to gate: 2 hours, 39 minutes
Aircraft Type: 777-267
Seats: 32J and 32K
Scheduled Departure: 1:35 PM
Actual Gate Departure: 1:26 PM
Wheels up: 1:40 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 2:55 PM
Landing: 3:02 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 3:05 PM
Our flight took off southward and immediately turned eastward and then to the north following the east coast of the Malay Peninsula up to but just short of the Thai border. We then crossed the Gulf of Thailand to eastern Thailand, circling several times before landing southward on the runway closest to the terminal (sorry, I don’t know the number). The food was quite good and so surprising for such a short flight. The terminal was really busy with several large arrivals at that time of the afternoon.
September 12, 2005
Flight #: CX 708 (BKK-HKG)
Gate to gate: 2 hours, 42 minutes
Aircraft Type: A340-313X
Seats: 54H and 54K (exit row)
Scheduled Departure: 9:50 AM
Actual Gate Departure: 9:50 AM
Wheels up: 10:00 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 1:40 PM
Landing: 1:24 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 1:32 PM
At the airport, we had to pay a departure fee before proceeding through passport control. While the amount was relatively small (200 baht per person I think), we didn’t plan to have that much baht leftover and had to find an ATM just to get to our gate! I don’t know why this fee is not just included in the ticket price.
The flight departed southward on the runway closest to the terminal and turned immediately eastward, then northeast crossing the Mekong River into Laos. Quickly across Laos and Vietnam, the flight took us out over the Gulf of Tonkin, passed over the northwest coast of Hainan Island, and approached Hong Kong from the south. Though we thoroughly enjoyed the extra legroom of the exit row, the window was somewhat out of view. Interestingly, that aircraft was continuing on to YVR and JFK as CX 888.
For our second Hong Kong transfer we had to use their train which runs the length of the main terminal which was a very efficient way of covering long distances in such an enormous terminal.
Chep Lap Kok's extensive shopping.
Flight #: CX 500 (HKG-NRT)
Gate to gate: 4 hours, 21 minutes
Aircraft Type: 777-367
Seats: 65A and 65C (no middle seat that far back on a 777)
Scheduled Departure: 3:05 PM
Actual Gate Departure: 3:02 PM
Wheels up: 3:13 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 8:20 PM
Landing: 8:14 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 8:23 PM
We departed north over Kowloon and out over the South China Sea, crossed over Taiwan just north of Taichung and exited south of Taipei. We sliced across southern Kyushu, passed south of Shikoku and Honshu where the air became bumpier. We crossed over Honshu just to the east of Narita before landing southward next to Terminal 1. At this point in the trip, the food on offer was already getting a bit boring as it was usually some variety of meat plus rice.
At Narita, we had to fill out health forms in addition to the regular immigration forms in order to enter Japan.
September 18, 2005
Flight #: CX 565 (KIX-TPE)
Gate to gate: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Aircraft Type: A330-342
Seats: 34F and 34G (no window seats left)
Scheduled Departure: 11:15 AM
Actual Gate Departure: 12:10 PM
Wheels up: 12:23 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 1:10 PM
Landing: 1:36 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 1:40 PM
We found out at check-in that our flight was delayed. Once on the aircraft the pilot informed us this was due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft. We took off southward, made an immediate u-turn to the right, and then another u-turn to the left eventually heading southwest over Shikoku. We crossed southern Kyushu, passing just north of Kagoshima and then across the East China and landed northeastward on the eastern runway (sorry I don’t know runway numbers).
Kansai's very long terminal.
KLM's 777 bound for Amsterdam.
Austrian's A340 bound for Vienna.
Northwest 747-400 inbound from Taipei and bound for Detroit.
Royal Nepal 757-200 inbound from Kathmandu.
On arrival in Taipei, like in Japan, there were health inspection areas with heat sensing cameras to look for fevers among arriving passengers. I noticed the special windows in the immigration hall for passengers arriving with passports from the PRC, Hong Kong, and Macau. I’d be interested to know what happens to travelers from these places when trying to enter Taiwan.
September 19, 2005
Flight #: 565 (TPE-HKG)
Gate to gate: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Aircraft Type: A330-342
Seats: 57A and 57C
Scheduled Departure: 2:10 PM
Actual Gate Departure: 2:14 PM
Wheels up: 2:28 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 3:55 PM
Landing: 3:39 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 3:45 PM
We took off on the eastern runway, going north and made a left turn over the Strait of Taiwan before turning south southwest along the Taiwanese coast. We crossed the Penghu Islands and headed southwest, avoiding Chinese airspace. Once at the same latitude as Hong Kong we turned due west, passed north of Kowloon and turned south for a landing on 25L.
I was really impressed to be served a meal on such a short flight. We were also surprised to find out that our inbound aircraft from Taiwan would be used for our connecting flight to Beijing. We did have to deplane of course but we were going to use the free internet by gate 61.
New airline Hong Kong Express!
Peter Max in Hong Kong for maintenance at HAECO.
Flight #: CX 318 (HKG-PEK)
Gate to gate: 2 hours, 59 minutes
Aircraft Type: A330-342
Seats: 64K and 64H
Scheduled Departure: 4:50 PM
Actual Gate Departure: 4:56 PM
Wheels up: 5:04 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 8:00 PM
Landing: 7:50 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 7:55 PM
We took off on runway 7R towards the northeast, crossing over Kowloon and turning north over the New Territories and Shenzhen. From there it was basically a straight shot north passing west of Wuhan. We approached Beijing from the south, passing the city to the east and landing northward.
Kai Tak as seen during climbing out of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Disneyland opened September 12th.
On arrival in Beijing we had three forms to fill out: standard immigration form, customs form, and a health form. We had a pretty easy time getting through all of these checks. The passengers coming off the Ethiopian Airlines flight from ADD were having more trouble. Most of the passengers on our flight were joining tour groups in Beijing. There were some people who were met at the gate by their hotels, before passing through immigration! I don’t think that would ever happen in the U.S.
September 23, 2005
Flight #: CX 317 (PEK-HKG)
Gate to gate: 2 hours, 59 minutes
Aircraft Type: A330-343X
Seats: 41H and 41K
Scheduled Departure: 7:50 AM
Actual Gate Departure: 7:55 AM
Wheels up: 8:06 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 11:20 AM
Landing: 10:52 AM
Actual Gate Arrival: 10:56 AM
Our flight departed on runway 36 (not sure if it’s R or L) to the north, then turned west before finally turning due south. Just before crossing over Wuhan, we turned southwest, passing the city to the northeast, and then turned due south again. After about another 30 minutes, we turned southeast and then south, back on our original north-south path. At the mouth of the Pearl River we proceeded down along the western side and out over the South China Sea, turned east and then north for a landing on 7R.
Siberia Airlines A310 just in from Novosibirsk.
This flight to the exact same amount of time from gate to gate and yet is blocked at 20 minutes longer than the northbound flight. Back in Beijing we had to full out customs forms just to get to the airline check-in desks even though they were never collected. In Hong Kong, announcements were made for a Level 1 typhoon warning.
September 24, 2005
Flight #: 830 (HKG-JFK)
Gate to gate: 15 hours, 16 minutes
Mileage: 8072 (though our routing was much longer!)
Aircraft Type: A340-642
Seats: 58A and 58C
Scheduled Departure: 10:15 AM
Actual Gate Departure: 10:27 AM
Wheels up: 10:41 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 2:05 PM
Landing: 1:35 PM
Actual Gate Arrival: 1:43 PM
While in the terminal announcements were being made that the typhoon warning was now at Level 3, advising of high winds and periods of heavy rain. Indeed, by the time boarding began the rain had begun. Once on the plane the pilot informed us of a 10 minute ATC delay due to the spacing of aircraft over the typhoon nearing the east coast of Japan. The aircraft was really nice. The seatback screens were at least 8 inches and the seats had adjustable lumbar support. I especially liked the under-aircraft camera which unfortunately was turned off before arrival in New York.
Hong Kong's long terminal.
Several Cathay birds in view as well as a Qantas A330.
A Qantas 747-400 bound for Sydney in the boarding process.
Our A340-600 getting ready to head off to New York.
Our flight took a very southerly routing due to strong tailwinds on this routing, lengthening the distance traveled but shortening flight time. We took off on runway 7R, crossing east over Kowloon and proceeded out over the South China Sea. We headed southeast and then east for quite some time, heading in the direction of the southern tip of Taiwan. When we did turn northeast, we crossed Taiwan just east of Taichung and Taipei and flew over the East China Sea. We skirted the southern coast of Japan, crossing parts of Kyushu and Honshu. East of Tokyo we arced up to the Bering Sea passing near Attu. We crossed over the Alaska coast north of Bristol Bay and out over the Cook Inlet, staying north of the Kenai Peninsula and South of Anchorage whose lights could be seen out the window (it was dark). Heading nearly due east with a southward drift, we cross the southern portion of Yukon Territory north of Whitehorse. The flight clipped the northeast corner of British Columbia and crossed into Alberta. We crossed into Saskatchewan south of Lake Athabasca and then into Manitoba at Flin Flon heading southwest at this point. We crossed the northern piece of Lake Manitoba and crossed into Ontario, passing north of Thunder Bay and south of Lake Nipigon. We flew across Lake Superior running roughly parallel to the U.S. border and passed just north of Sault Sainte Marie where a Lufthansa 744 passed very close beneath us, probably heading for ORD as LH 430. We then flew between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron and then directly over Toronto, with YYZ’s runways visible on the under-aircraft camera. Once over Lake Ontario we made a sidestep to the northeast and passed directly over Rochester, then continuing southeast over the Finger Lakes. When north of Binghamton we began our descent from 39,000 feet, and then eventually down the Hudson Valley and into Bergen County, NJ before crossing over Manhattan, the Bronx, LGA, and east of JFK over the Atlantic before coming around to a landing on 4L.
Overall, Cathay Pacific was a wonderful airline to fly 10 times in about 20 days. The food was consistently edible and even tasty though lacking variety sometimes. Alcohol was always free and my sister always got her vegetarian meals - though she found many quite mysterious. Flight attendants were always superb and our bags were always delivered quickly. Chep Lap Kok is an amazing airport! Everything was bright and easy to navigate. The free internet by Gate 61 is wonderful (though often slow). While on the topic, there was also free internet in Singapore and Osaka.