To give you a bit of background, this trip to Hong Kong was a post A Level holiday. While most of our friends were boozing on beaches in Magaluf my friends and I thought we'd add a bit of culture to our lives and go to Hong Kong. One of my school friends used to live there (and still has relatives out there), so we were well prepared.
We got the flights in the BA World Sale in January 2005 for about GBP400 each.
For those of you who aren't familiar with BA's operations at LHR, most long haul flights depart from Terminal 4. However, a few years ago the bods at BA did some statistical analysis to work out which long haul flights had most connecting passengers for BA's short haul network and vice versa. The end result was flights to HKG, JNB, LAX, SFO and NRT were transferred from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1, and flights to AMS, BSL, BRU, CPH, GVA, LYS, OSL, CDG, RIX, TLV, VIE and ZRH all now operate from Terminal 4.
The route between LHR and HKG is a very busy one - BA, QF, VS and CX are all well represented, and VS and NZ have recently announced extra frequencies from Autumn 2006.
BA's three daily 744s depart in the evening from LHR, arriving in HKG in the afternoon/evening of the next day. They sit on the apron for a good few hours before departing HKG near midnight, arriving early the next morning in LHR.
London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) – Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok (HKG/VHHH)
Boeing 747-436 G-CIVR
Monday 4th July 2005
Scheduled departure: 1825 Actual departure: 1927
Scheduled arrival: 1315 Actual arrival: 1345
Photo © K.L.Yim
Photo © Ralph Duenas - Airplanespotters
Two photos of our aircraft shortly before and after our trip; the first is in HKG, the second in LAX.
We arrived at LHR T1 at about 15:00, over three hours before our scheduled departure time. We checked in as soon as check in opened at 15:15 before proceeding to a restaurant for a late lunch.
We then strolled through departures and headed over to the windows that overlook 27L.
This Swiss flight to ZRH had one of our companions onboard. He found a cheap deal from LHR to HKG via ZRH, and would meet us the following day in HKG.
This aircraft (VS 744 G-VFAB) was full of world leaders on their way to the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
A range of short haul aircraft were sitting at their gates preparing for departure. The sky really was that dark!
At about 17:45, our flight was announced. We headed over to the Europier where the aircraft was waiting:
We decided to wait in the Europier to make the most of the spacious seats and the views of landing aircraft on 27R.
The queue became shorter so we joined the back, expecting to be the last few onboard. We walked the length of the plane and took our seats in the middle block in World Traveller. Seat 51F was to be mine. Possibly the worst seat you could ask for - no window and really near the back.
Before I carry on with the trip report, I think this is the point to mention an email I'd had. I had emailed a BA stewardess friend of mine months before our flight to see if she could bid for it. I got an email a few days before the trip to say she had tried to get on our flight, but had been called when on call so her roster had gone out of sync. Little did I know what was about to happen.
Back to the report. I barely had a chance to put my bag in the overhead locker before an announcement came over the PA.
"Could Mr Pritchard make himself known to member of the cabin crew immediately". I thought they were going to offload me!
I nervously got out of my seat and walked to the nearest galley.
"I'm Mr Pritchard" I said to the young lady.
The stewardess picked up one of the galley phones; "I've got him here".
An awkard silence followed, before she asked me who I knew who worked for BA. I told her the name of a stewardess I knew.
"You've got to be good" said the stewardess standing in front of me; "we're going to upgrade you and your friends to Club World".
In a state of shock I said "thank you, thank you, thank you".
"Get your bags and move subtly to Row 18" she said quietly.
This is where the fun began.
After we took our seats in Club, a steward appeared with a silver tray.
My friend looked at me; "I wish this flight was 22 hours not 12!".
The Captain then gave an announcement. He said we would be delayed by about an hour because of a storm over London. Our take off slot was now 19:25.
"Never mind" my friend and I said together. The champagne carried on flowing...
The luxuries continued throughout the flight: a fillet steak with oodles of red wine shortly after we reached the cruise, a 6ft flat bed to sleep on, a Molton Brown wash bag..... the list is endless.
We took off at 19:27 on 27L and turned right immediately after take off. Our routing took us north over Buckinghamshire before turning right again to fly over Hertfordshire and Essex.
The sun set behind us has we flew east over the North Sea and I tucked into my four course meal.
I slept remarkably well during the flight; possibly due to a combination of the comfortable bed and the fact I made the most of the free bar.
I awoke with about two hours to go. The lights were still off in the cabin and the window blinds were still closed, but it was daylight outside.
Just after we entered Chinese airspace, I got up to take this photo from the window in one of galleys.
The lights in the cabin were switched on with about 90 minutes to go and the crew came round with hot towels and assisted us oh-so-lazy passengers to put our tables out in front of us.
We were then served Mango and Passion Fruit smoothies; just what the doctor ordered.
Breakfast consisted of fruit salad, pastries, a croissant, a full English cooked breakfast, orange juice and coffee.
We landed at HKG a little late due to our late departure from LHR, but we were in no rush so it didn't bother us. The total flying time was 11 hours and 18 minutes.
"Welcome to Hong Kong. The local time is a 1.45 in the afternoon and the temperature is 32 degrees celsuis.".
The stewardess took photos of us in both Club World and First, but I won't bore you with those photos here.
A little tired, jetlagged and hungover, we walked off the plane into a cool terminal building. It felt very early in the morning, but it was actually afternoon. Most odd.
Our plane at the gate at HKG:
The holiday in Hong Kong was absolutely fantastic. For those of you who have never been to Hong Kong, you should go. It's a great place.
Whilst away, we managed to miss the 2012 Olympics announcment, the London bombings and a whole load of other things that happened in Britain during the fortnight. We had to rely on the South China Morning Post; marvellous newspaper.
Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok (HKG/VHHH) - London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
Boeing 747-436 G-BNLB
Friday 15th July 2005
Scheduled departure: 2345 Actual departure: 0002
Scheduled arrival: 0535 Actual arrival: 0519
Photo © Mark Ralph
Photo © Mike Moores
We made the most of the Hong Kong Airport Express train service before our flight back. We had a few notes left and felt like a bit of luxury anyway. I was quite impressed with the trains - seatback TVs and a little journey tracker thing. Very good.
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, at 20:45. We followed the signs to the BA check in desks, and were seen very quickly. I was in seat 32A - by the window. I wasn't expecting to be upgraded again, but I thought it would be rather nice if we were.
After a quick meal at "Popeye's New Orleans Spicy Chicken restaurant", we headed through departures. I found a good deal on Bombay Sapphire Gin (whilst watching a BA stewardess purchase what looked like thousands of cigarettes - quite why most stewardesses smoke is beyond me), sprayed myself with some aftershave I'll never be able to afford, and went to find gate 17.
There were two BA 744s next to each other - the 23:15 departure (G-BNLE) and the 23:45 departure (G-BNLB).
At 23:00, the "British Airways flight to London Heathrow" was announced. But which one?! We assumed it was the earlier flight, but both gates 16 and 17 had queues forming before long. A few minutes later, a friendly lady stood on a chair and said it was BA026 that was boarding, and customers for BA032 should continue to wait in the lounge.
Even so, the queue at gate 17 stayed right where it was. I stayed sitting down - I had a reserved seat so I wasn't bothered about getting on the aircraft first.
Other aircraft at nearby gates included a VS A346, a Swiss A340 and a UA 744.
Apologies for the complete lack of photos at HKG. I only had a few photos left on my memory card and I wasn't really clued up about night photography last year.
We boarded our flight at 23:30. Just after I sat down (in 32A) I looked out of the window to see a third BA 744 (G-BNLL) being towed up next to us; the 00:35 departure.
We were pushed back at 23:45 and were rolling down 07R just after midnight. During the taxi we passed numerous CX 744s and A340s and a few Dragonair A330s.
A sharp right turn very soon after take off put us on a southerly track for a bit, before we turned left. We were now south of Hong Kong Island, tracking east.
Another left turn after we had passed Hong Kong Island, meant we were heading north. The views of Hong Kong at night were spectacular.
We carried on north as we climbed to 34,000ft, our initial cruising height. The meal was served (I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was your average economy long haul hot meal - I remember thinking it wasn't quite as good as the Club World delights we had sampled on the outbound flight, but it was still very tasty). The cabin lights were soon dimmed, enabling passengers to get some sleep.
It was then that I noticed some flashes on the horizon - there were enormous thunder storms away to the west, which must have been why we were still heading north.
I watched the map on the PTV for quite a while. We flew over Shanghai, and just east of Beijing, before making a sharp turn west.
Our flight had taken a very northerly routing, so it wasn't long before the first signs of daylight appeared.
I surprised myself and managed to sleep for most of the rest of the flight and didn't wake up until about two hours before landing.
I opened my window blind (we were told we had to shut them soon after the cabin lights went out - normally mine would stay open!) only to see a beautiful sunrise.
The PTV told me the local time at our destination was 03:20, so I set my watch back to English time. We were now cruising at 39,000ft.
I watched a few tacky American comedies on the television, and before long the cabin lights were turned on in stages to wake the rest of the passengers up. Most of us were already awake as our body clocks were still on Hong Kong time, so it felt like mid morning.
The infamous BA all day deli boxes were handed round at about 04:00, which contained a hot bacon cheese wrap thing (very nice by the way), a muffin and a mini cup of orange juice. Coffee was also served during breakfast.
Once breakfast had been cleared away, the Captain greeted us with a "Good Morning" announcement. He said we had made good time overnight considering our very northerly routing, and were scheduled to land at 05:20, some 15 minutes early. This was, of course, subject to holding patterns, but at that time in the morning, holding patterns are rare.
We made a few turns over the North Sea to line us up for very long finals for 27L at LHR. We bumped through a few layers of thin cloud, and a sleepy East London appeared below.
When coming into land on 27L, the best views of London can be seen from the right of the aircraft, but as I was on the left I didn't get to see all that much in the way of landmarks.
We touched down on 27L at 05:19 with a nice lot of reverse thrust and spoilers. Our total flying time was 12 hours and 17 minutes.
We turned right off the runway, and taxiied past the new control tower and some short haulers that had been parked up for the night at Terminal 2 and Terminal 1. The sun also appeared above the terminals as we taxiied in.
We parked on the Europier once again (possibly at the same gate we left from actually).
The aircraft a couple of stands along (where you can see "IRWAYS") was G-BNLE, which I had seen at HKG some 12 hours earlier.
We then collected our bags in T1 before going for a coffee and waiting for our lift home.
All in all, BA were excellent. Even if we hadn't been upgraded to Club World on the outbound flight, I would still be very impressed.
In both Club World and World Traveller, the BA long haul product is a lot better than many other airlines I have travelled on, and I will continue to see them as my first choice when travelling long haul.
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome, as usual.
Watch out for my next trip report - another BA long haul experience, but this time to EBB.