Nelson is a beautiful city (although more of a town), and the weather was beautiful during our stay (27C on a couple of days).
We arranged a 6am wake up call and a 7.15am taxi from our hotel in Nelson. We woke up and had breakfast, before packing away those last few things. It was a beautiful sunrise again this morning, and as our taxi picked us up the driver quite rightly said “The start of another beautiful day in paradise”. I only wish we could stay longer – but once we live in NZ we can visit as often as we like anyway!
The journey from downtown to the airport took 15 minutes, and we arrived at the Air New Zealand terminal in plenty of time to check in.
On the ramp this morning were a lot of the Origin Pacific fleet, and 6 Air New Zealand Link (Air Nelson) aircraft consisting of 4 Saabs and a 2 DHC-8s.
First stop was the self check in machine where we had to insert our credit card, the rest of the booking came up then. We picked seats 2A and 2D, so we both got a window seat! We then dropped our bags at the counter and headed outside to the garden to watch some of the movements, away from the stuffiness of the airport. The hedges and fences here are very low and offer easy photographs onto the apron. There is also an open viewing deck upstairs. Here’s some of my photos while we were waiting:
I noticed that row 2 on the Saabs seemed not to have a window, so I decided to go back to the machine and change my seat to row 3A. We could then swap seats to get the window if we wanted to. As I entered the terminal, I noticed the huge queue right out of the doors. Nelson’s terminals are tiny at the best of times, but a PA announcement soon cleared up what the line was for. Wellington was currently fogbound and closed, and there was no sign of it clearing until at least 9pm that night! The first flight was cancelled and passengers moved onto the next one, which would go to Palmerston North rather than Wellington, and passengers would then be roaded back down to WLG. There were some pretty upset passengers there!
We watched a Saab 340 being towed from Air Nelson maintenance to let a Cessna taxi out – now that’s service! The Saab was eventually towed round to one of the stands and would eventually become our aircraft up to Auckland.
We were called for boarding, and proceeded through to the “Gate”. I emphasise the word “gate” there as it was basically a door from the check in hall straight onto the open air ramp.
As in Auckland on domestic, there was no security, we walked straight out across to the far side of the ramp to our waiting aircraft.
Date: 29 January 2006
STD: 09:20 ATD: 09:20 Take-Off: 09:25
STA: 10:35 ATA: 10:35 Touchdown: 10:30
Aircraft: Saab 340
Photo © Colin Hunter
We boarded the aircraft and turned right, and I was pleased to see I had made a wise choice changing to row 3, as row 2 did indeed just have a wall. As it was however, there were plenty of seats available for this flight first thing on a Sunday morning, with the flight only being about half full.
The seats were in 1-2 configuration, and the 1 was very comfortable. The entire cabin benefited from leather seats, and although the leg room was a bit tight, you can stretch out into the aisle from here. I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in a window with someone next to me though, they can be very tight!
The captain for today’s flight was Gary Chappell, and as on the way down there was one stewardess. She closed the doors shouting “see you later” to the guys on the ramp, and the engines were started. She did the safety briefing as we started to taxi out, with the flight deck doors remaining open until we reached the runway.
Sitting right next to the engine on the Saab sure is noisy, and you feel every single vibration they have to offer! We lined up and the captain throttled up the engines as we took off towards the east.
Welcome aboard/Takeoff video
We started our climb quite sedately before levelling off overhead the city of Nelson. Capt Chappell then came on to say that as it was such a clear day, and we had a bit of time, he would be manually flying a visual departure from Nelson, and would take us on a low flight off the coast and across the islands. He explained that those on the right would get a view of the Rangitoto Islands, and us on the left hand side would get a view of D’urville Island and French Pass off the north coast in a few minutes. Once we had done this we would turn on course for Auckland where we would have an on-time arrival.
We got a spectacular view of the islands off the coast, with a running commentary from the captain. The stewardess was also taking the time to come around the cabin asking if we were enjoying it, and pointing out some local landmarks. We were offered a hot drink during this flight, but I was too busy videoing and taking photos so politely declined!
Soon after, the throttles revved up again and the captain came on again to say that we were now climbing towards our cruising altitude to proceed up to Auckland. He said that those of us on the left would get a view of Mount Taranaki Volcano on the south coast of the north island, which soon came into view.
At cruising altitude, the noise and vibration from the engines were phenomenal, it is not hard to see why these are being replaced with the DHC-8s. After 1 ½ hours I would certainly ready to get off this aircraft!
I continued to snap away as we crossed into the North Island, and viewed the farmland below. As we approached Auckland, it clouded over and we began our descent into the clouds. The stewardess came around with sweets as we descended, something I really like about flying in NZ. Flying here is reminiscent of the good old days of flying I am too young to remember. Security is sensible, (if there even is any on domestic flights), the stewardesses are all extremely friendly, you get a high level of service with free drinks etc, and the sweets before landing are the icing on the cake.
View from my seat
We passed through the clouds and did the same approach that we did in a Cathay A340 a week prior – over the bay. This time however we were on the other side, and got a gorgeous view of Manukau City and downtown Auckland in the distance with the Sky Tower. I watched the landing gear come down under the wing, and could see the reflection of the nose landing gear in the cone of the prop.
Approach and landing into AKL
We touched down smoothly on runway 5R, and vacated to the left as always (vacating to the right would mean a paddle in the sea).
We taxied in to the NZ domestic ramp, and took our place among Beech 1900s, Saab 340s and ATRs.
It was humorous to see tiny little electric carts milling around, the surreal sight of a face appearing outside my window and stopping the prop spinning! I suddenly realised just how small our aircraft was, and a face at the window was not a sign that we were in the land of giants!
We got off the aircraft and I got that good feeling of landing on terra-firma you get when you get off a boat – only this was from the vibration on the aircraft!
We walked through straight into the departure hall, and had to walk across the departure hall to the baggage belts. The effects of WLG’s closure were very apparent here, the hall was absolutely packed with passengers sitting on bags, waiting for their call. There was an announcement that a Great Barrier Airlines flight had been cancelled, again due to bad weather closing Great Barrier Airport.
We collected our bags from the belt. Another thing I noticed here is that the baggage claim for domestic flights is in a public area – something in the past in a lot of places. It is so much easier to just collect your bags on the way out, and if you have people waiting they can help you with your bags.
We then proceeded on our epic trek across to the International Terminal at AKL. What a trek – it’s about a 15 minute walk. I think there’s a bus, but the exercise would do us good. On the way in I spotted a Swedish bizjet on the ramp – certainly a long way from home!
We walked into the international terminal and headed for the Cathay check in. We asked a guy if we had to queue with the other passengers as we had already checked in online, to our relief he said if we headed through to the business class check in we could drop our bags off there.
Business class check in for CX at AKL is in a separate room, you have to go through some automatic doors into an area resembling a hotel lobby. It was very quiet here, we just had to drop our bags at the belt and we could proceed through to departures. We collected our boarding passes, and paid our $25 departure tax, getting a sticker on our boarding pass saying we’d paid.
We then had to find lost property, to see if my coat had been handed in from last time. I had to head between two check in desks, into a secret maze behind the scenes, walking through groups of cabin crew and flight crew. Across a little road with direct access airside, and into the airport company’s building, where they hadn’t had it handed in. Never mind I thought, the coat was a freebie anyway, I would just be bloody cold when we landed back in the UK!
We headed upstairs to the departure level, and found a McDonald’s to have some lunch. I had a really nice burger, and while here noticed a set of wings hanging from the ceiling.
Further investigation found a poster on the wall explaining these were the wings from a De Havilland Heron which was in the NZ Air Force. We headed through to security, passing through another desk en-route to check we’d paid our fee and to take our exit cards. Security was fine and we had a nice guy who wished us a pleasant flight (and called us by our first names), and we were on our way.
As we walked through to departures, there was another plane hanging from the ceiling:
I wondered how much weight those roof tiles must be supporting, and wondered what damage it would do if it fell off.
Mrs G headed for duty-free, and I headed for the window to get some photos. There were some nice planes in today, highlights being a Freedom Air A320 in special colours, and the Air Tahiti Nui A340.
“Get off my gate!”
We headed for gate 3, to find a Korean Air 747 on stand. A few minutes later, the Korean Air was pushed back to a remote stand, and our A340 pulled on to the stand. I was surprised – we were less than an hour before departure and the aircraft was only just pulling on to the stand from the previous flight!
Everyone disembarked, and the flight crew all boarded. There was only one crew flying for this 10h34m sector, although there were three members of the crew – the captain, first officer and a second officer.
I headed to the loo which was an experience in itself. There were only two traps straight from the main area, a gents and a ladies. The gents was vacant so I opened the door to catch a bloke doing his flies up. “Sorry” I said, he said “It’s alright I didn’t lock the door”. I entered and a voice from above told me to lock the door. No it wasn’t the Kiwi wine talking, it was an automatic toilet! I duly locked the door. It then said “When finished, press the button to flush the toilet”. I did as I was told, then went to wash my hands. As I unlocked the door, the voice said “Thanks and goodbye. Please come again”. How nice, even the toilets are friendly here!
It wasn’t long before we were called for boarding, and being row 66, we were boarded first.
We walked down the airbridge to the A340, waiting patiently to commence her next sector.
Date: 29 January 2006
To: Hong Kong (Chep Lap Kok)
STD: 14:20 ATD: 14:30 Take-Off: 14:40
STA: 20:45 ATA: 20:25 Touchdown: 20:20
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Photo © Roy Loyson
As we boarded, we were shown to our seats at the back of the aircraft. I love the back rows on the A340, they are pretty quiet and last choice for passengers who will check in for seats near the front. The last few rows also have wider aisles as the middle row goes from 4 to 3.
Today’s load was pretty light, I estimated at around 40%. Most of the seats were empty, and where we were sitting there were 6 rows of empty window seats. This meant we could have a window seat each and stretch across the two seats. In the middle, there were a few empty rows, and a couple with just one person on them. The other side there were only a couple of people on the window side in the rear cabin.
Today was Chinese New Year’s day, so I guessed this explained the light loads. It was probably akin to flying on New Year’s Day back home.
The Cabin Manager Amy came on to wish us “Kung Hei Fat Choi” and “Welcome aboard Cathay Pacific Flight CX108 to Hong Kong”.
The captain came on soon after, like on the outbound he was an Ozzie. He explained our flight today would last approx 10h 34m, and the weather would be mostly clear, however there was currently a tropical cyclone passing over the north eastern coast of Australia. He would do his best to avoid it, but it may get a little bumpy so we were advised to keep our seatbelts fastened for the flight.
I had a bit of a chuckle before we left - about six rows in front of us, a woman took her jumper off, which inadvertently lifted her top up as well – which wouldn’t have been so bad if she was wearing a bra! Oh yes we all got a view of her Janet Jackson impersonation before she realised and quickly covered her shame It wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d been half attractive
Shortly after, the captain came on again to advise that a passenger hadn’t showed up for the flight, so they were in the process of finding his bags to offload them for security reasons. This would result in a short delay, but the winds en-route were such that we would still arrive early into HKG. I could see them from my window and we could hear them in the hold below us rooting around for the bags.
Eventually they emerged, successful in their attempt at the world bag finding record, and the pushback began at the same time as the safety announcement.
We pushed back from the gate, and held for a couple of minutes while an Emirates 777 pulled on to our stand in front of us. Gate 3 was extremely busy today, one in, one out seemed the way to go!
We started our taxi out to the active, down runway 5L, AKL’s disused runway. We waited a couple of minutes for an NZ 737 to land, and we pulled onto the runway behind him.
The engines spooled up, and we were soon starting our slow crawl towards V1. the takeoff today took a good 45 seconds, and we rotated gently about 2/3 of the way down the runway. We climbed took a gently left turn just after departure, to fly across the city of Auckland. We slowly climbed towards the north. I just love the long, slow climb outs when you’re on a heavy flight.
We climbed to the north of Auckland, getting a good view of the Whanganui Peninsular to the north of AKL.
We got a pretty good view of the northern tip of NZ, before climbing to FL340 and continuing across the Tasman Sea towards Australia. The crew came around offering drinks, I took my traditional Rum & Coke. Shortly after lunch was served, and we got our little amenity kits again.
I opted for the chicken, which was very nice, although I left the courgettes. Pudding was a delicious custard cake.
We continued across the Tasman Sea for a couple of hours, towards Australia. I noticed some pretty cool looking reefs down there in the Tasman Sea, it looked so tropical down there!
By this point, half the cabin had closed their window blinds, but a few of us kept our blinds open. I don’t understand why, on a flight that leaves at 2pm and gets in at 8pm, people want darkness in the middle of the day!
We continued on our way across the sea for another hour or so, before we hit the Australian coast at Brisbane.
I got a cool view of the city as well as the airport, where I watched a 737 approach, land, and taxi in to the terminal. Pretty neat to watch this from FL340! There were lots of QF aircraft there, but I couldn’t make out most of them.
We pressed on across the Great Dividing Range, where it got a little bumpy. The clouds came across after Brisbane but they cleared immediately when we started to hit desert, as we climbed to FL360.
I watched an episode of “Mr Bean” on StudioCX, then opted to switch the Airshow on with a soundtrack of easy listening music, and sat staring out of the window. We crossed into the desert, which was completely empty bar for a couple of tiny towns (each having an airstrip that seemed larger than the town itself), see below:
I sat mesmerised, thinking about what it must be like to live in one of the tiny towns down there, with the only means of getting in or out an aircraft. There were hardly any roads down there. As I sat staring, I was jolted back to reality by the aircraft suddenly banking sharply left. I looked forward to see why – a huge bank of cloud that went much higher than the aircraft. This must be the cyclone, I surmised. We turned from heading northwest to southwest, as we hit the edge of the cloud. It didn’t take long for the seatbelt sign to be switched on, as the aircraft started jolting about. We passed to the south of the storm, but did take a right turn through the middle of one part of it. Things got very bouncy, and hail started hitting the outside of the aircraft. A split second and the windows were covered in ice, making it very difficult to see anything.
Our route around the cyclone:
After what seemed like an eternity (although only about 30 minutes), we turned back north to get back on track. We headed out towards the Gulf of Carpentaria, heading out towards Darwin. As we crossed the coast the clouds cleared revealing stunning rainforest heading to marine blue sea. I heard the throttles engage, and we climbed to FL380. We passed several islands in the Gulf, before hitting the coast again to pass over the Northern Territory. The cabin crew bought ham sandwiches round, as well as drinks if anyone wanted one. They were running backwards and forwards with drinks for most of the flight!
We were now a little over half way through our flight, and we were still over Australia! It really gives you an impression how big the place is, seeing how it took four hours to travel across the north-eastern corner from Brisbane to Darwin!
We went straight through another huge cloud as we passed to the east of Darwin towards the Aratura Sea. The seatbelt signs came on again and cabin crew were ordered back to their seats. This batch was a lot rougher than the first, it wouldn’t have been so bad if we could see the ground but it was just a total whiteout outside.
It wasn’t long before the cloud started to clear, and we were over the sea heading for Indonesia. I headed for the galley at the rear of the aircraft to see if we could get a snack. The galley at the back of the A340 is huge! It’s almost as big as our kitchen at home! There was a flight attendant in there having a drink, I asked if we could get a snack. She said sure, did we want noodles? Of course the answer was affirmative, she asked if we wanted a drink too. I asked if we could have a Coke, she said she would bring them to our seats.
Less than five minutes later our noodles appear along with chopsticks. They were very tasty and we’d polished them up within a few minutes!
We continued on across the Indonesian islands, towards the equator. We eventually passed the equator above the Molucca Sea.
Crossing the equator:
The weather was still beautifully clear, and we had a good view of the sea down below us. With a little over 3 hours left to run, we climbed to FL390. I was surprised that we were going to this altitude as we were heading westbound, and westbound flights normally fly on even numbers. This was the highest I’d ever been in an airliner – come on could we get FL400 before HKG?
A few minutes later we hit some quite heavy turbulence again. The aircraft was tossing and turning, we dropped a few times and a couple of times the aircraft banked quite sharply to one side. The captain came on sounding a bit panicked, asking for flight attendants to immediately return to their seats.
Within a few minutes this had cleared, and we were sailing through smooth skies again. By this time, the sun was getting lower in the sky, and the fuselage of the aircraft was casting a long shadow along the starboard wing.
The flight, only about 2/3 full:
The sun eventually set as we crossed the Philippines, and at this point I fell asleep.
I awoke two hours later to the sound of classical music being played into the cabin, followed by the lights coming on. The entire cabin rose from their slumber as an announcement was made that dinner would shortly be served. The cabin was filled with the smell of Chinese food being cooked (well, reheated at least). The service started and the crew made their way down the cabin with the usual “chicken or beef?”.
By the time they got to our row, all that was left was the beef. It was nice, but nothing special.
The captain came on to announce we would begin our descent into Hong Kong in seven minutes. The weather he described as a “typical Hong Kong evening”, with cloud at 2000ft, 5km of visibility and a temperature of 20c.
Shortly after, the crew began collecting trays, and the throttles were bought back for the descent. I got my first glimpse of Hong Kong by night, with the city nicely lit up. As we approached over the city, the Chinese New Year celebrations in the city were in full swing, with red fireworks exploding over Victoria harbour.
The cabin crew were then seated for landing, and the pilot was obviously missing the Kai Tak days at HKG. From my seat I had a view of the airport until it was almost at the side of us, maybe 3 miles out. We then did a 90 degree right turn at low level before straightening up over the end of the approach lights and touching down gracefully on runway 5L. We exited to the right, and I caught a glimpse of the delights in store for us on the ground. Highlight for this evening was a China Xiamen Airlines 737, there were also three British Airways 747s and an Air France 777. Finally gracing one corner of the apron was a South African Airways A340-600.
The engines were shut down, and we started to make our way towards the exit. On the third flight out of as many, the rear cabin was almost spotless, but the front economy cabin was trashed, with newspapers everywhere, rubbish all over the floor, biscuits trodden into the carpets and just generally messy.
We then entered the airport and headed for immigration. We waited in the queue, and were seen after around a 10 minute wait. We were stamped through and then had to try and find the entrance to the hotel.
We managed to find the entrance to the hotel whilst tying to remember “kung hey fat choi”, we then entered the hotel and checked in. We took a lift (one of 8 with hand sanitizer outside the lifts) to floor 8, and walked round a maze of corridors to find our room. The bed and settee were rock hard and the bathroom had a proper toilet seat and lid not plastic!!!!!! We settled down for the night.
30 January 2006
View from the hotel:
After waking at 4.30am (it was really 9.30am in AKL), we got ready, checked out of the hotel and wondered over to the airport. HKG was extremely busy this morning, mostly with Chinese people heading home after the New Years celebrations. We headed airside having our passports stamped in the process. We stopped at Burger King for breakfast, as we wondered why on earth people would eat noodles for breakfast!
We had a chuckle at the sign about dangerous articles in luggage:
I headed off down the terminal to see what was in this morning, taking photos so I could log up once on the plane! Personal highlight was a China Eastern MD90, as well as lots of private airliners, including 777s and A340s. I don’t know what was going on but there sure were some nice aircraft there!
Nice corporate jets on the remote stands:
I also snapped Peter Max, resting in the oriental morning light:
I headed back to meet the missus at the food court, and we headed for duty free. We bought two bottles of vodka (presumably to keep Mrs G sane on the flight back), and headed for gate 4. Ironically this gate was next door to the gate on our HKG-AKL flight. There was nobody waiting in the gate area, and we wandered down the airbridge onto the aircraft. Most of the flight had already boarded.
Date: 30 January 2006
From: Hong Kong (Chep Lap Kok)
To: London (Heathrow)
STD: 09:15 ATD: 09:15 Take-Off: 09:25
STA: 14:20 ATA: Touchdown:
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Photo © Otto Benischek
Our waiting aircraft was B-HXN. We boarded and headed to the back. This aircraft is one of the aircraft CX are leasing from Singapore Airlines. It appeared to have slightly more legroom, and the seatbelts were a lot longer than on the CX aircraft.
We took our seats, and the captain welcomed us aboard. It wasn’t long before we were being pushed back, and we would be on our way. We taxyed out behind a Malaysian A330, passing a NW 742 being towed in the opposite direction. We were soon lined up and ready to go, the captain pushing forward on the throttles to give us a gentle kick (sorry this is an A340 I’m in – maybe more of a gently tap then) up the backside and get on our way.
Welcome and takeoff video
We climbed out into the clouds, and took a sweeping left turn on emerging from the cloud layer, with the winglet casting a beautiful vapour trail in the morning sky. The IFE soon started, and the food was started heating. A guy opposite was having problems with his PTV, he couldn’t get it to work. They restarted the system, cutting everybody’s in the meantime. His still didn’t come on, and the Cabin Services Manager bought him some vouchers for something. I sat and watched “In Her Shoes”, a fairly decent film starring Cameron Diaz. For breakfast I opted for the Spinach Omelette with hash browns and mushrooms.
I took a photo of a funny Chinese man in the aisle opposite who was fast asleep and snoring:
More about this idiot later…
The movie ended and I put the airshow map on, we were heading north across the city of Lanzhou. Suddenly the entire cabin’s PTVs went off. A few people called F/As, and after about an hour the captain came back to have a look at the panel, scratched his chin and went back to the flight deck. The cabin crew conveniently disappeared to the business/first cabins, leaving one poor guy looking after the entire economy section. Every PTV on the aircraft had gone off. Great I thought, two hours into a twelve hour flight, with ten hours to go and no entertainment at all.
I went to the rear galley to ask what was going on, and got a shrug from the sole F/A who looked as confused as the rest of us. There were no drinks rounds, people were told to go to the galley and “help themselves” as the crew made sure the first and business class passengers didn’t complain.
We collared an F/A as she went to the back for drinks, who said the captain had looked at the control panel and said not to touch it. We therefore now had an entire aircraft without IFE for a 12 hour flight – wonderful! She said that this aircraft is being leased from Boeing, being ex-Singapore Airlines, and that the IFE was always breaking down on the ex SQ aircraft.
The service was lacking somewhat on this flight, nobody was told why there was no IFE, and all through the flight there was a constant stream of people queuing for the galleys to get something to eat. We didn’t see a flight attendant in 3 hours, they had all disappeared to the front.
People were getting extremely bored, and took to wandering up and down the cabin, leaning across people to see out of the windows.
We passed into Mongolia, and then into Russia with the Siberian wasteland going on for miles below us. We were trailing well with vapour trails coming straight out of the engines and turning into a trail. We passed lots of little towns in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow. This flight dragged, and I spent most of the time just staring out of the window. We hit turbulence a few times, and each time the fasten seatbelt sign went on the guy opposite (asleep above) got up and refused to sit down. His wife was asleep on the floor between the seats for several hours, despite being asked to move by the flight attendants she just stayed there.
Later on while half the cabin were sleeping, the guy got out his portable DVD player and played a DVD on full volume (with no earphones). Everyone around him was giving him dirty looks and he eventually switched it off when asked by the cabin crew.
Inflight video (includes the vapour trails coming out of the engine for anyone with an interest):
We continued on westward-bound, in a flight that seemed to drag on forever. I was content snacking on noodles and watching the beautiful scenery below us, although it was a shame we couldn’t see where we were due to the airshow being on the IFE. I saw a silver flash pass by, and on closer inspection of a poor quality photo I summised it was an Aeroflot TU154 in the new silver colour scheme.
We passed overhead a beautiful city that I tried to work out what it was. The head stewardess came on to say “Ladies and gentlemen the city below is St Petersburg, St Petersburg everyone!”.
We continued over the sea and into Finland, as the ground became increasingly more populous. The captain came on the intercom to apologise for us not being able to see the airshow, but we were now approx 700km to the northeast of Copenhagen, overhead Sweden. We would pass overhead Malmo with a view of Copenhagen, before heading down overhead Amsterdam and across into London.
We followed alongside a KLM Fokker jet for a while before he passed underneath us:
A couple of Swedish cities:
We then had a great view of the Denmark-Sweden bridge.
Shortly after, a Cathay Pacific 747 flew by at the same altitude in the opposite direction, which I thought was pretty ironic! He was at the beginning of his long flight into Hong Kong whereas we were almost at the end of our flight from Hong Kong!
We were served lunch, I opted for the fish this time. This was nice, I also managed to polish off some of Mrs G’s beef that she couldn’t eat. We were given what I thought was a fortune cookie, but it was kind of a sweet cake thing full of sesame seeds. Not bad, but a little different!
We flew directly overhead Amsterdam, and the captain came on to announce that’s where we were.
We then started our descent over the North Sea, seeing some ships passing down below us. It started to cloud over so we didn’t see the ground again until just before touchdown in LHR.
The crew came on to announce our descent, and came around to collect the headphones (not that most of them had been used). The seatbelt sign went off, and idiot opposite got up to go to the bathroom. He was collared by an F/A and told to sit down. We were landing on 9L today, overhead Windsor and the M25. It was a little bumpy on the approach due to the looming overcast clouds. Mrs G said “Can you smell that?”, as a wave of electrical-burning smell filled the cabin. A few others noticed it too and were commenting on it. We passed over the M25 which looked pretty clear, and the T5 site passed by. There was a huge “T5” written in flowers on a roundabout, looked quite pretty!
Landing video (includes idiot Chinaman opposite):
We touched down and spoilers extended. We used some reverse thrust. Before we had vacated the runway, idiot opposite got up and proceeded to walk down the aisle to the bathroom. What followed was a scene that could have easily come out of Benny Hill. Two F/As shouted “Sir!” and ran down the aisle, getting him in a kind of rugby tackle, before escorting him to his seat. She asked him “Do you need the restroom?” He said “Yes”, and one of the F/As said “Sir I understand that but you have to wait until we’re in the terminal now”. “But I need the bathroom!”. “Sir, would you like me to come with you and hold your hand?” The entire rear cabin watched and started laughing together. The idiot seemed pretty embarrassed, and the F/As retreated to the back. I noticed a fire engine went flying past us with blue lights on, I wondered if this was to do with the smell.
As we approached our stand, the captain came on to say “Folks there will be a short delay, we can’t proceed to our stand right now but will do shortly”. We held for about 10 minutes on a remote holding bay, before we started to taxi back to stand. I wondered if this was anything to do with the fire engines, but didn’t hear anything further.
We pulled onto stand next to an Air Canada 767, and waited to disembark. As we started to move, idiot and his partner pushed us out of the way, and started to push past other people. As he neared the front of the cabin, they noticed the other side moving faster and jumped across the middle row of seats to exit the cabin. As we left we were each handed a $25 services voucher, to spend on duty free onboard Cathay flights. A little late now I thought, we could have spent that onboard! Never mind it was a nice gesture I suppose. We hit immigration, and laughed to ourselves realising that the “natives” queue was practically zero, and the foreign national queue filled the entire area and went out the door. How would our little Chinese friend cope with that one then?
The guy asked us where we’d came from, and in a first, asked us what our relationship was! I thought about sticking my finger up and showing him my wedding ring, but something stopped me (maybe the prospect of being denied entry to my own country). We were first to the baggage claim and our bags were already on there. We scooted through the green customs channel, past a group of foreigners explaining why they had a suitcase full of cigarettes and alcohol.
We emerged into a sea of Asian people, waiting for their beloved from that part of the world. We walked outside and felt the bracing English mid-winter air. The next hurdle was to find our minibus back to the car park. I rang them and discovered we had to walk to Terminal 2 arrivals, as they didn’t pick up at 3. We had to enter the terminal again, and proceed through that vision of hell known as the Central Bus Station. Underground, in a dingy tunnel, we walked with our suitcases, before entering daylight on the other side. There was a short wait for our minibus which we used to ring home to say “We’re here”, and we made our way on the long journey back home.
Our holiday was over, next time it is for good. The cold, smoggy, congested journey home made us realise just what we’re missing over here in blighty. Cathay aren’t bad as an airline, the crew are the best I’ve experienced personally, although the last flight made us realise who the important passengers were to the airline (those in J and F). The seats although comfortable were very cramped (except on the ex SQ aircraft, but they do the job. The IFE wasn’t as good as I’d expected, the screen quality wasn’t excellent and the armrest remote thingy was slow to react, and hard to get to grips with.
All in all, I’d rate CX ahead of MH, but next time we go we will try NZ on recommendation. We may even push the boat out and do it in style in J class!