Well, here's the second leg of my RTW trip, taken this June/July. An itinerary recap..
SYD-HKG QF Economy (Award)
HKG-LAX CX Business (Award)
LAX-AUS AA Economy (Paid)
AUS-IAD-LHR UA Business (Upgrade)
LGW-GCI-LGW GR Economy (Paid)
LHR-HKG-SYD CX Business (Paid)
This sector was booked through QF Award Bookings, using 104,000 points each.
Route - HKG-LAX
Flight - CX 880
Date - 29/06/06
Departure at 23.35
Arrival at 21.50 (same day)
Aircraft - Boeing 747-467
Registration - B-HUD (premium config.)
Class - Business
Seat - 88A
Flight time - 13h 15m
Photo © K.L.Yim
As this was a late evening departure, I decided to leave HK central just before 7pm so we could relax in The Wing (CX's lounge). The Airport express makes the journey from Central to Chek Lap Kok in just 23 minutes and it is certainly the best way to access the airport from either there or Kowloon. It was very efficient, with plenty of room for baggage, as you can't check in at Central for direct flights to the US.
As CX check in US departures seperately at CLK, we had to wait until 20.05 for the check-in to open at Zone B (3h30m before departure). This was slightly annoying, but at HKG, you really can't complain. I just took a walk down the other end of the terminal, which took up a lot of the time!! As I waited for CX staff to arrive, a security guy arrived and set up a table, presumably to inspect baggage before check-in. He didn't really speak English, so we never found out if this was the case, and he didn't check our bags.
Check-in was quick, and we received our pre-allocated seats, 88A/C. Then proceeded through security and immigration, which took around 10/15 minutes. It was time to visit The Wing, which I was looking forward to seeing, having been only to The Pier before. The Wing has two receptions: one on the terminal floor and one in the lounge itself. A lift connects the two.
On first impression, the lounge is a bit confusing because of the panels which seperate different areas. It took me a while to find the best space to be. One thing you do notice in The Wing (for some, it's a positive, others not) is that it is like a raised platform overlooking the terminal floor. There is no glass, just height, to set it apart. This is a negative when the repetitive terminal announcements keep chiming in, sometimes at the same time as lounge announcements. You can actually stand at the edge of the platform which the lounge is on and look down on the gate areas. Maybe some like this, but for me, the ambient noise means the atmosphere is not intimate enough.
The actual lounge amenities are great, however, with masses of seating, a lounge entertainment system with noise-cancelling headphones, an impressive range of reading materials, and a wide selection of food, including noodles cooked to order and Haagen Dazs. In this respect, CX lounges are very pleasing.
With around 1/2 an hour to spare before Gate 67 closed, I left the lounge. The Wing couldn't be further away from this gate, while The Pier is right next to it, but I wanted to try The Wing out. In the future, I'll use The Pier, irrespective of my gate. Anyway, the walk must have been at least 1km long and it took about 20m. Boarding was a bit disorganised, with Economy lines coming in all directions.
Received a warm welcome from the Inflight Service Manager, Ms Shiba, who directed us to the Upper Deck where more F/A’s greeted us. A good range of pre-takeoff drinks (Cathay Delight, Champagne, OJ and Water) were served before Dermalogica amenity kits were handed out. The purser (or equivalent) for the Upper Deck came to personally welcome every passenger onboard, and to introduce herself and her crew. This is a very nice touch, although it might have been an idea to change a few words of her spiel for each couple of passengers. Every pax was addressed by name throughout the flight.
Photo © Luke Stephens
Photo © Luke Stephens
After take off, menus were handed out. A late supper would be served following departure and a refreshment prior to arrival in LAX. Dinner consisted of a salmon Caesar Salad followed by Grilled Sea-bass with Chinese vegetables and then Blueberry Cheesecake with fresh mixed berries. A pleasing feature of CX business is that the entrée and dessert choices are brought through the cabin on a low serving table (not the normal cart) for passengers to select with the benefit of seeing. The meal was fresh and tasty.
I decided to flick through StudioCX channels but was falling asleep, so converted the seat flat and settled down with thick pillow and blanket for at least six hours. I slept very well. Woke up with 4h30m to go and watched the Korean film ‘When Romance meets destiny’ (English subtitles). Despite its name, the movie was actually deeper and more thought-provoking than it might sound. It was then time for a refreshment of fresh fruit, yoghurt and Dim Sum. I did not particularly enjoy the Dim Sum but the rest was good.
Before descent, the ISM, Ms Shiba, came to personally ask us how we enjoyed our flight with Cathay Pacific. Again, a friendly, sincere and much appreciated gesture. She then announced over the PA that as we were just off the SFO coast, we would soon be beginning our descent. The view to the lights of the coast as we tracked south was very pleasant. Landed on time at LAX, taxiing to Gate 103 at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It was the end to a very good flight which did not seem anywhere near its length.
In fact, I wished I hadn’t stepped off the plane, because LAX Intl is such a hole. As soon as you’re off the airbridge it’s through a dirty tunnel with no windows to the rude immigration. There’s a feeling that you’re in a shed, rather than a major international airport. The arrival hall has few facilities and is a madhouse.. so many people in too small a space. Again, an unpleasant space. Outside, there are no taxis and no hotel transit bus, unless you request one. The taxi attendant didn’t react when it was obvious we were looking for a cab and seemed surprised to be asked. Much worse than any international airport I’ve been to, and a definite culture shock having come from Asia!
CX’s Business class product is overall one of the best around, with no areas I could think of for improvement. If possible, I will always choose an Asian carrier to fly the Pacific route; simply because they understand the concept of service and luxury. And certainly, if possible, I’ll use SFO as a transit point ahead of LAX.
Thanks for reading; feedback is appreciated.