Hi there, my name is Toby, I've been logging onto this site on and off for a couple of years now so I thought I would ‘bite’ the bullet and subscribe!! Anyway, I thought the best way to introduce myself was to write a recent trip report I had from LHR to HK. I'm a BBC or British Born Chinese and so I go back to my parents’ hometown in HK at least once / twice a year.
I normally fly with BA as the flights tend to be much cheaper than CX, well in China Town where I usually buy my tickets they are! However, I got wind of a recent Cathay promotion for return flights to HK from as little as £380 and thought I would choose CX. Why not hey, you only live once!
The last I flew with CX they were still flying to MAN! Just to boast I was on the very last CX flight bound to MAN, they had the 747 painted in these colours with kids running around! I was still young then and was not really into planes haha (scandalous!)
Oh, a word of caution they're no photos to HK as my idiot of a sister left my camera in her bag at her friends house, suffice to say I was p*ssed off!!!! But I bought a new camera in HK so I'm happy! Also it was a night flight so there wasn’t much to see, apart from a dark cabin! (o_^)v
I was planning on being on the very first flight to land at Heathrow’s new T5 from HK but realised that I would have to pay more and spend less time in HK so I thought I would give it a miss. Does anybody know if the passengers on that particular flight got anything special like a card or something or just an extra piece of chocolate with their meal lol!!!
So I booked the tickets and waited a few months until departure time. A couple of days before my flight, I was invited to check in online and choose my seat and print my boarding card.
Online Check In
The day of departure (12 March) the whole of UK was buffeted with really strong winds, like 80 mph and Breakfast news on BBC mentioned don’t travel unless it was urgent! I thought, Crikey! What if my train is late and I miss my flight! My father was flying to HK too but with BA travelling on a later train. We decided to go to the train station to enquire if trains to Kings X were still running. Luckily they were and informed us that due to the weather we could catch any train on the day!
Train journeys are boring! Full stop! GNER (or whatever they are called now) were giving away free munchies (score!)!! However, I was stuck for 2 hours at this station (the name escapes me) not because of the wind but because of the rail tracks (damn those people at Network Rail) and we had to go back 2 miles in the end! I really thought I was gonna be late to check in! After arriving in Kings X, I took the underground to Heathrow and tried to watch planes land! Without much luck!
CX check in desks are located on aisle B, next to Saudi Arabian Airlines, I think and opposite American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. I must say, VS check in desks look very smart!! The lady at the first class counter called me over, I thought I was gonna get upgraded; a short lived dream!!! Lol!!
After checking in I wondered around Terminal 1 and went to a French restaurant with my dad upstairs where the check in desks are located; not too sure of the name but the food was horrible! They said it would only take 15 minutes for the food – more like 40 mins!! I then went back to T3 and headed through security. Seriously, Heathrow needs to sort out its security. I was pushed from one long line to the next; when I thought it was over there was another security procedure! So after a boarding pass check, a bag check, a passport check there was the shoe check until reaching T3 shopping mall!
I don’t know who said it here but I thought it summed up Heathrow perfectly, it went something like: Heathrow is just a shopping centre with space for planes to park!! Hahaha I love whoever said that! I waited until the gate numbered appeared: gate 34. What I dislike about T3 is that you can't spot planes easily and you are put into a ‘holding area’ until you board the plane, so you can't get up, close and personal with what's happening outside. Oh well, onto the first flight!!
As I don’t have any photos, I'll keep this part short and sweet!
LHR-HKG (12 March 2008)
CX256 – Cathay Pacific
Scheduled Departure Time: 20:50
Actual Departure Time: 21:30
Scheduled Arrival Time: 16:10
Actual Arrival Time: 15:50
Flight load: 100% choca block!!
The flight was unbelievably full and actually there were not many Chinese people, I think many were connecting to other exotic locations?! The ground crew boarded families and special needs passengers first followed by seat numbers from the back of the plane. It was well organised and I was very impressed with the professionalism of the ground crew! When my row was called I waited in line to board. I walked towards the back of the plane and threw my stuff into the overhead lockers and settled down into my seat.
I sat next to this middle aged German lady from Munich. Her PTV was not working so she asked me if I could fix it!!! Fix it! I can't do lego let alone fix things! Hahaha DIY is a black art to me!!! The seat on the A340 was quite good actually, I have been reading skytrack and a lot of the reviews commented on the crampness and lack of comfort, but I experienced the opposite, maybe I'm weird!! It’s economy so I didn’t expect a throne but I thought the seat pitch and comfort of the seat was good, not brilliant but not poor either. I always fly on the 747 with BA so it was a nice change to fly on an airbus on such a long route.
Anyway, my seat neighbour was really nice and because I'm learning German we had a 12 hour German lesson in the sky!!! I've come to realise my German is so poor and I've been learning for 2 years now !!! We talked a lot and she even managed to give me her email address and a euro as I've never seen one before! Everybody just loves me or maybe she was flirting with me lol!!! She was travelling onto Brisbane with a 6 hour stop in HK to see her daughter on a student exchange or something.
We pushed back a few minutes late and waited at the end of the runway. The captain announced that we were 7th in line for takeoff so I watched various other airlines take off, including a SV 777, Jet Airways 777, LH mini airbus and BA mini airbus (sorry I can't tell the difference with the small airbuses!) and we did not take off until 21:30!
The flight was nothing to write home about; the cabin crew served the meals and then I knocked myself out for 6 hours. I woke up somewhere over Northern China and decided to take a wonder. On another note, BA’s route to HK is markedly different from CX, I thought they shared the same route. I remember with BA they fly over Beijing whereas with CX we didn’t come close to it. The galley area is at the back of the plane and so the crew were constantly going up and down carrying arm fulls of food, I thought it looked very strenuous and hard work. The options were Pork Stew, Sauteed Chicken or Penne Pasta. I opted for the chicken and to be honest I cannot remember what it tasted like. I don’t really eat aeroplane food so I probably just picked at it until it was taken away.
My sister used to work for CX as a flight attendant (London based) and predominately worked on the 747 between HK and London; she has quit now but if you want to know any inside goss let me know and I'll ask her!! Hahaha!!
We arrived 20 minutes early which was unbelievable considering we were almost 40 minutes late taking off. I have a HK ID card so I was through immigration in no time and collecting my bags and out the door in about 20 minutes!
I was planning to meet my father at the arrivals hall and later found out his flight (BA27) was delayed by 2 hours so I ditched him and caught the A43 service to Shueng Shui (my hometown) with no way of telling him I left the airport (oh well!).
HK Airport have two terminals, I don’t really understand why cos you still have to go back to terminal 1 to catch your flight but on the top floor of T2 is an airport museum and it’s amazing! On a side note, go the dumplings restaurant they have opposite Burger King – they’re not bad! They have a 4D cinema as well as the ‘Sky Deck’ where you can go and watch planes take off and land. Here are a few snaps of my time here. I must apologise that I am a useless photographer, so please excuse the poor quality photos. I'm planning on taking an evening class on how to take good photos!!
In T2, go upstairs to visit the Sky Deck
An Interactive Wing!
I like this shot! (o_^)v
I spent a total of 3 ½ weeks in HK so I decided to go with my folks to Taiwan. I've never been to Taiwan before so we decided to go check the place out with a tour group to Taipei. The flight was with China Airlines (a first for me) so I was really excited to fly with them. I was a little sceptical about their safety record but I pushed that aside.
I arrived at the airport at 9am and went to the group check in counter for CI as the tour group I was with would check my luggage in.
The airport was not that busy but was told that the flight was full as at this time all the school kids are on Easter break and Taipei is a popular destination as it’s just a short flight from HK.
Not my ride, unfortunately!
My ride to Taiwan
I went through security very quickly; I didn’t have to take my shoes off which I thought you had to do?! Anyway HK is always a delight to fly from as it’s so modern and bright and you can watch what's happening outside. The liquid restriction is a pain as I couldn’t find anywhere that sold water after security so I did without until the flight.
HKG – TPE (23rd March 2008)
CI604 – China Airlines
Seat 40G (but moved to a window seat and can't remember the seat number!)
Scheduled Departure Time: 11:30
Actual Departure Time: 11:35
Scheduled Arrival Time: 13:05
Actual Arrival Time: 13:05
Load factor: ~90%
First, I have to say the seat pitch on the A330 is amazing! I've never had so much leg room in economy! Too bad this flight was only 1hour 20 mins long and not longer.
The seat has so many ‘quirky’ designs like a personal mirror and coat hook which I thought was very nifty! I don’t think the captain said one word throughout the journey and instead the cabin crew played an automated recording.
One thing that annoyed me were the passengers sitting opposite me who brought some fast food on board and the aircraft reeked of burgers and chips, not pleasant. I was initially assigned a window seat but this little brat (I mean child) wanted to sit there so I let him. However our tour group leader had a free window seat and ushered me across just before we lined up on the runway (I know I was naughty I should had waited until we were airborne). The take off was not very powerful and we were airbourne in no time. For such a short flight, we were served a hot meal and drink. There were no choices- you got what you were given! We were given a selection of dim sum which I did not eat but it looked ok. Apols, I didn’t take a photo of the meal.
I then decided to take a quick tour of the aircraft. I went to the gallery area at the back and tried to speak with one of the cabin crew but she just ignored me! I didn’t get much of an opportunity to play with the inflight entertainment as my tour guide kept talking to me and I felt obliged but I think you can play games from your seat.
Thank Heavens haha!
Before I knew what hit me we were preparing to land! Once we touched down we had an unbelievable short taxi to the terminal before setting foot on Taiwanese soil! Taiwan Airport is unbelievably depressing, especially the baggage reclaim area. I thought I had set foot in the 60’s (not that I was born in that decade) but it was really outdated and bland.
I must say Taipei is an amazing city, similar to HK in some respects but much more expensive. I found the prices quite steep, but maybe because the tour company took us to the touristy areas. Oh, if you're near Jiantan metro station, go to the ShiLin Night Market across the road and try out their dumplings, they're amazing!!!!! Also if you're adventurous try the chicken feet – although the ones in HK taste so much better!
We also visited Jiu Fen, Shui Tan, Taipei 101 and some museums and of course the spa. I was amazed at the number of motobikes speeding around the city but the underground is no where near as good as HK MTR! Before I knew it, it was time to head back to HK.
Our tour group dropped us off at Terminal 1 at Taipei airport and we made our way to the opposite side of the building where the CI check in area is located. I must say the Taipei airport is one of the oldest airports I've ever seen! The airport lacks any distinguishing features, it did not appeal to me at all! One long corridor is all Taipei airport is! Even after security was not much cop! Each gate has a holding area which you access via stairs or the funky light up lift! Shops were almost non-existent in the departure area and viewing the apron was very difficult as you have to make your way downstairs to the holding area of each gate.
We seemed to wait ages for our tour group leader to get all the necessary boarding passes, well there were 32 of us, so I took this opportunity to walk round the terminal. One weird thing I explored were these stairs with the Burger King sign on the top that leads to nowhere. I walked up these stairs and it suddenly got all dark and I got a little scared and went back down! Strange! We then all made our way to check in our bags. In HK the tour group leader did this for us but evidently we had to do it here.
Once we reached the check in counter we had to wait until the checked in bags got screened and if the machine beeps we have to open them. This was a first for me to have my checked in bags screened. Luckily my bag was ok. You then travel up the escalator to reach security. Whenever I go back to HK, I have to use my HK ID card so my passport never gets any stamps; I now have a Taiwan stamp!! I'm so happy!!
I also wondered around T2 and I must say it’s much better than T1: brighter, modern, more shops and free internet access. I never knew so many international airlines flew into TPE! Do CI also fly into T2 too? I think many American bound flights leave Taiwan late night as the majority of the departures seem to be flying to the American west coast. I was seriously thinking of trying to stow away onto the Los Angeles flight as I really want to visit LA! Oh well, I made my way back to T1 and to gate A5. Seriously, it’s like stepping back in time when you walk along T1 departure hall!
Taipei to Hong Kong (26th March 2008)
CI619 – China Airlines
Gate : A5
Scheduled Departure Time: 21:15
Actual Departure Time: 21:30
Scheduled Arrival Time: 23:00
Actual Arrival Time: 23:05
Flight Load: ~90%
Again, I was very impressed with the seat pitch and all the little extras around the seat, like the mirror and coat hook. It was pretty much a full flight with the majority of passengers on tours like me either flying home or visiting HK. We made a quick taxi to the end of the runway and had great views of the coast of Taiwan all lit up once airborne. The flight time was just under 1 hour 20 minutes.
We had a PTV but I must admit I didn’t really watch it; I listened to the music channels or just watched the flight progress. As it was a night flight there was not much to look outside and the forward camera only showed emptiness. One cool feature I liked was that the TV is touch screen, not very responsive when you touch it but I did like the ‘destinations feature’ showing a video of the cities CI fly to! A shame they do not fly to LHR. Why is that? Eva Air flies to LHR why can't CI??
The crew quickly performed their duties and served the inflight meal (if you can called it food, is beyond me!) oh well, I wasn’t going to starve and can put up with not eating on this flight!
I like the CI colours, kinda like a light pink that matches the crews’ uniform; I thought it looked very smart. The crew must really work their socks off on such a short flight, having to serve meals to a full plane load and then do the duty free sales and perform all the necessary safety checks – it must be tough.
The flight went really quickly and totally dispelled my security concerns as they seemed to act very safety conscious. I also bought a Herpa Wings plane with the Fruits and Lavender set for £25. I don’t like that Herpa have made the wheels of their 1:500 series immoveable. I realise its meant to be more representative of the size, but I find they break so easily!
We landed pretty much on time and disembarked from gate 26 I think.
I cannot believe how busy the arrivals hall was at 11pm!! There were a lot of people. When I arrived on my CX flight there were not half this many people. Apparently the NW plane lands around this time and so there were a mass of American passengers. I got talking to this American lady whilst waiting for my mum at the toilets and she had such a deep accent I couldn’t understand half the stuff she said, I just nodded and smiled and pretended I couldn’t speak English!
I had to wait 15 minutes just to use the biometric scanner machine thing! My bag came out quickly as the last bus back to my home leaves at midnight so I was a little fearful I would miss it and have to take the expensive airport train into the city. Luckily, I made it on time and went home to bed.
Overall I had a pleasant flight with CI, I would have loved to have flown on their 747 on such a short route but not to worry. The seat pitch and all the accessories such as the mirror was simply genius (I'm easily pleased!). I think CI have a fantastic product and their marketing guys really need to sell this, particular as the route is quite saturated and I would most definitely choose CI over CX. BR also fly this route and I have yet to experience their product so if the opportunity arises I would like to try out BR!
My uncle has recently moved to Shanghai to work and I wanted to go visit him so I decided a weekend break to shanghai would do me good. I left the tickets really late and with Easter holidays still on the calendar, flights were pretty solid. I rang around the various travel agencies (my Cantonese is average at best – so I spoke in Mandarin – thank god for the handover!) and managed to find an OK fair which included a hotel room. I like my uncle but living with him would be too much. Plus I wanted to meet my friends and go to xin tian di and my uncle would probably give me disapproving looks.
The flight was with China Eastern; an airline I have flown with many times on domestic routes within China but never flown on an international setting with them. The itinerary I received stated that I would be flying on an A340-300 outbound and A340-600 return – or so I thought! I have been to HK airport so many times over this past few weeks that I was getting sick of travelling there and even the sight of a jumbo jet didn’t get my going (ok, I lie there!) I think maybe the magic was lost after so many repeated visits!
I had my Chinese visa stamped in my passport, my renminbi and my camera, I was set! I took the bus again to the airport and arrived around 10.00 and went to the MU check in counters. They were not many passengers queuing and I checked in painlessly. There was a trainee check in person at the desk being supervised by someone and so it was a little longer than usual. For some reason she kept looking at my visa (maybe she has never seen a Chinese visa before haha!) I considered taking my bags on board so I didn’t have to wait for them at the other end but I felt lazy having to carry them around with me in the airport.
Again, the usual routine of taking all liquids out of my bag into the little clear plastic bag was required. When will this silly rule be scrapped? Again, through the biometric scanner to leave HK and onto the full body scan. I always get ‘beeped’ whenever I go through the metal detectors, I'm sure they’re rigged. Next time I'm gonna wear a bin liner and see if it does the same!
Surprising the airport was not that busy and I took a wonder through the departure level to see what planes I could spot. I walked all the way to gate 60 odd and back for my flight to leave gate 15.
My ride to Shanghai
Hong Kong to Shanghai Pu Dong (28th March 2008)
MU - China Eastern
Seat: 24G (but moved to a window seat)
Scheduled Departure Time: 12:40
Actual Departure Time: 12:40
Scheduled Arrival Time: 14:55
Actual Arrival Time: 14:55
The flight was only a quarter full however I was assigned an aisle seat even though I requested a window seat from the check in person. I asked the flight attendant if I could switch seats but she told me to wait until after departure. I didn’t follow her advice and went and changed anyway! We took an awfully long time to reach the runway as I think we were parked on the opposite side so I got to see a lot of other aircrafts as we passed the control tower.
Does anybody know what this airline is, I've no idea!
I am a little confused: do the pilots also serve as flight attendants? They were two male flight attendants wearing what looked like pilot uniforms with the stripes on their shoulders – I was alittle perplexed. This particular aircraft did not have the PTV (do any of MU’s fleet have PTV?) so I was stuck watching the TV from the ceilings.
After take off we were served slop – that’s the best I could describe it.
The crew could not speak Cantonese so I tried my best to translate to an old lady sitting opposite me what she wanted to eat to the crew. Chicken or fish and both looked the same to me. I chose the fish and the lady opposite me chose the chicken. I didn’t eat mine but I did eat the Hagaan Daaz ice cream served afterwards! I was actually surprised that we were served such a well respected brand of ice-cream with MU!
The flight was about 2 ½ hours so I listened to my MP3 and played on my games console until landing. I have been to Shanghai many times before but I still love going there. I think it is very different from HK: the people, the culture and general way of living. After landing we had another long taxi to the airport building following behind the Emirates flight from Dubai (EK302 – the only reason why I know this is because I was on the same flight number a few years back!) We parked next to Emirates and disembarked.
Immigration is a NIGHTMARE, especially after arriving behind the packed Emirates flight. I was waiting for 1 hour – no joke! as some passengers from Emirates were having some trouble with their visa or something, I was quite p*ssed off at having to wait such a long time! By the time I reached the immigration officer all I could muster was a grunt at him (I was in a mood!) and after his stamp that was it! It’s not that difficult people come on sort out your paperwork before queuing up!
As I was so late the baggage had been and gone so I had to go to left luggage counter to retrieve my bags. Luckily my uncle’s driver was waiting at the arrivals hall to meet me. He was telling me how Shanghai has so many American, British, Korean and Japanese expats in the city. It was rush hour so it took nearly 2 hours to reach my hotel in Pu Xi.
We went to the Yu Yuan Gardens for a meal at one of the restaurants and then I ditched my uncle to meet up with some old friends. As I have already visited all the touristy places we decided to chill out on the second day. We had a meal at a Xin Jiang restaurant and I was gutted that they forgotten to order my Da Pan Ji (hahahah) – Chicken on a big plate!! It’s really nice!!
On the third day it was time to head back to HK. My uncle’s driver drove me to the airport in like 40 minutes and he was telling me about the Shanghai Expo in 2010! Anyway, I reached the airport quite early but still able to check in. PVG was busy as usual so I quickly checked in and just wondered around the check in area. A massive group of students on the Air Canada flight were also checking in with their musical instruments and making quite a lot of noise! Lol! On a side note, how many AC flights are there to PVG? – I saw at least 3 aircrafts I'm sure!
After the security check I just milled around air side. PVG airport is very futuristic looking but the way it has been designed means taking photos is not always convenient. The AA flight to Chicago I think was boarding as I waited round there seeing if I could stow away but the flight looked pretty full!
what do the poles dangling from the ceiling represent?
Shanghai to Hong Kong (30th March 2008)
MU711 – China Eastern
Scheduled Departure Time: 17:10
Actual Departure Time: 17:25
Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:40
Actual Arrival Time: 19:45
On my flight itinerary given to me by the travel agency I booked with, it stated an A340-600 back to HK and lo and behold at gate 14 was an A340-600 in the special 2010 Expo colours- I was quite excited! I was getting a little concerned as we did not start boarding until 10 minutes before departure and I thought we were never going to depart on time! A French passenger enquired at the desk and the desk person said we were boarding now.
Is this a new airline company?
From the looks of things it was going to be a full flight back home! To board the aircraft you have to go down some stairs and to the actual gangway bridge to board the plane but there was some confusion ahead of me. Gate 14 was open but a ground crew was say ‘xiang gang, xiang gang’ – Hong Kong, Hong Kong and standing at gate 13 and waving us over. Some people were confused saying is this the flight to HK and I asked in Mandarin and she nodded to board the plane from gate 13.
Looking at the aircraft I realised it was still an A340 but not the 600 series, a similar aircraft to the one we flown to Shanghai, I was well gutted!! So after having my hopes dashed I realised my window seat had black scratches on the outside – how did that happen!?, so looking at the window hurt my eyes!
Even though we boarded super late we were only 10 mins behind schedule. That’s the Chinese queuing system for you, cram them in quick, quick, quick!
The crew on this flight were surprising mean and unfriendly. They barked at passengers and an old lady was carrying a bag and the crew said ‘deng ji ka, hou bian’ or boarding card, go to the back! Oh well, again no PTV so I played with my games console. Food was the same slop served on the way there but this time we got what we were given. I opened it up and realised it was fish so asked if they had chicken. The same crew person said no all gone or ‘mei you’. I then overheard her asking another passenger behind me if they wanted chicken or fish!!!! I thought what the heck! I must have a face that offends people hahahaha!!
We arrived on time and waited agggggges for my luggage to appear. Seriously HK airport is usually quick when it comes to luggage but I waited 40 mins for mine! Oh well, all well that ends well.
MU is an average airline, but I think they need to update their product. Having a friendly crew is kinda hit or miss and I would hate to fly them long haul! At least I got there safe and sound so I'm not complaining!
After a few more days in HK it was time to head back to UK. Initially I was going to fly back on the 28th March on CX255 but decided to stay a little longer. After calling CX I was told the only available seat on my fare type was the very early CX257 leaving at 9.45 plus a £50 charge – I'm sure all they do it click a few buttons to change my ticket and I was charged £50 for that pleasure!!!
Waking up at 5.30am was very painful for me but I managed to crawl into the shower and catch the 6.20 bus to the airport. Upon reaching the airport I saw we were to depart from gate 63 – wow that’s far! I'll already be half way to London by the time I reach that gate lol!!! I managed to find a watsons that sold water so I bought a couple for the long journey home.
CX ground crew perform the passport checks whilst passengers queue up and then stamp your boarding card to say it’s ok. I like this idea as it allows quicker boarding rather than being held up at the boarding gate for ages. Onto the flight!
Seriously dude! I swear!