Just a quick report comparing various airlines that we travelled on recently. I won't go into any great detail, just the main features, good and bad, of each airline. All flights were on time unless otherwise mentioned. Sorry, no pictures at the moment.
It was our honeymoon, and having travelled Oasis Hong Kong before, we thought we'd try it again. They had a two-for-one offer on business class which worked out, in total, just a few pennies more than flying economy class with the likes of Cathay or the other full cost carriers on the route.
So at Gatwick we got entry to the Servisair lounge. This isn't anything out of this world, just a couple of fridges with some beer, wine, snacks, etc. A good view of the apron and part of the runway though. We strolled the long walk to the satellite terminal and walked straight onto the plane - upstairs on the B744! I wasn't expecting much, and reclining seats was what we got. Not so much recline as I thought though.
Champagne was offered copiously (free) and consumed (freely!). A couple of small dainty pastry things (smoked salmon nibbly things) preceded the main meal, which was a choice of pork or chicken. Not a great meal but, again, I wasn't expecting too much with Oasis being a low-cost airline.
About 2.5 hours after take-off, we passed slightly to the north of Moscow. Being late at night, we could see the lights of the city laid out 35,000 feet below us. Absolutely spectucular sight - imagine a spider's web lit up in orange. We were too high to see detail like the Kremlin though.
A nice surprise on landing was the bulkhead TV
monitors showing a nosecam view of the landing at Hong Kong. Being "up top" we asked the captain for a cockpit photo and he really welcomed us in to view and take photos.
Next flight a few days later was to Siem Reap via Siem Reap Airlines (operated by Bangkok Airways). Although the website had offered a meal selection, I wasn't really expecting food. But indeed we did receive a very pleasant Khmer hot meal.
Visa on arrival consisted of giving USD$20 and your passport to one official, and twelve officials later, receiving the visa at the other end. Laughable but at least it was pretty quick. Off-topic, but it's well worth going to Siem Reap before the tourists really discover it (they expect visitor numbers to DOUBLE this year, and double again the next year also).
Bangkok Airways again to Suvarnabhumi airport. Short flight but still received a pre-packed cold meal. Immigration took quite some time and they really hadn't allocated enough space for the queues. Not impressed. In fact, I didn't like the airport's look inside as it was very grey and dull, looking unfinished. Even Don Muang, despite being old and frayed, had more character than this airport.
Now for the only bad flight. Thai Air Asia to Singapore. Baggage allowance just 15kg per person (we had to pay THB640 - about GBP£10 or USD$20) for 4 additional kilos of baggage. The bad part came to boarding the plane with unassigned seats. Now, I can't remember whether it was an A319/A320 or a B737. What I can remember is that plane was nearly full and we had a single bus taking all the passengers to that plane. That bus was more of a coach than an airport bus with low floors and wide doors. Apart from squashed standing room only, there is also no provision for the elderly, infirm, or those with small children. Arrival at the plane consisted of a scram to get off the bus. A north American behind me was forcefully pushing me, whereupon I nearly descended the steep stairs head first. My saving grace was an overhead grab rail - which resulted in my elbow making rapid contact with his jaw (unintentionally but I was not unhappy). His loud complaints for people to get moving immediately ceased. Once onboard, service was minimal to say the least, with dirty seats and uncleaned toilets.
Next airline: Jetstar Asia to Manila. Now, we'd reserved Cebu Pacific tickets from Manila to Hong Kong over the phone because, for some reason, their website would not accept UK credit cards. We were due to pick the tickets up upon arrival in Manila. But Philippine immigration require you to have proof of onward travel which I obviously did not have (and Cebu Pacific's reservation systems are not available to Jetstar). Jetstar, quite rightly. refused me travel unless I bought an onward ticket - to anywhere. I insisted on a fully refundable ticket (minus service charge) to ensure that I could get my money back upon arrival in Manila. But whilst booking using Jetstar's computer, the agent noticed I had a Filipino passport with me and asked why. I said that it was my wife's whereupon he thought for a moment, asked whether I had the marriage certificate (luckily, yes), and then said "oh, in that case you don't need an onward ticket"! So after a mad dash through the airport, we managed to board and get to Manila without further incident. I have no complaints on Jetstar; they were simply doing their job - and they did assist me rather than leave me stranded.
Now on to Cebu Pacific. Three flights, Manila to Dumaguete, Bacolod to Manila, Manila to Hong Kong. The former two were fairly straightforward in terms of picking up the tickets. The latter was more problematic. First they were reserved, then only requested, then I really don't know what happened. The agent in Bacolod said we'd have to find out when we reached Manila. I was not happy about this but had to accept it. He quoted "agent error". Indeed, upon check-in at Manila queries were raised over our tickets which we had bought in good faith from Cebu themselves. There were mutterings of a USD$30 change fee per passenger but quotes of "agent error" soon got that cancelled. In all that confusion they overlooked our 10kg overweight baggage. To this day I still don't know what was wrong with the tickets. But we got to Hong Kong safely, so that's the main thing.
Finally, Hong Kong to Gatwick. The CNAC lounge at HK
was quite pleasant and conveniently very close to the gate. We could look over the balcony to see when boarding started and just stroll down at our convenience. I made full use of the wine and snacks available, plus free internet access.
Boarding and departure were 20 minutes late due to some technical glitch upon arrival from Vancouver. We settled into our (better) seats upstairs. I know Oasis bought planes from different suppliers so I expect this one was from a different supplier to the one we flew out on. The recline was far better and had more automatic controls. More champagne was offered but not quite so liberally as on the first flight, though I was quite sedated enough already anyway.
Despite a late departure, landing at Gatwick was 15 minutes early... only to wait for half an hour near our gate due to another plane partially blocking the gate. No nosecam view on landing though, but we wouldn't have seen much being low cloud and chucking down with rain.
From my own experiences, and seeing those of other travellers, I really can't stress the importance enough of buying tickets for low cost airlines direct from their own websites. A couple I saw had trouble with forged Jetstar tickets who bought from a travel agent instead of booking online. There simply is no reason to buy through a travel agent as they will only charge commission. So book direct if at all possible. And have all your confirmation paperwork/tickets with you for immigration requirements.
All in all, quite a range of airlines and experiences!